The Arizona Star, May 10, 1998
Arizona Dept. Of Economic Security
Date: June 28, 1995
To: Eric Bost
Protective, Social and Community Services
Manager, Licensing Unit
Administration for Children, Youth and Families
From: Martin Wesley, 940A
Community Care Iicensing Specialist
Administration for Children, Youth and Families
Subject: Monthly Report on Activities at Boys Ranch
On June 1, 1995, I was present for a CPS Exit Interview where ABR was allotted the opportunity to express their concerns over a CPS investigations. Bob Thomas, Denise Fitchie, Kaja Jezycki, their lawyer, and a stenographer were all present for ABR. Bob Thomas and the other ABR representatives disagreed with the finding of "potential abuse". He spoke of the lack of due process and how their agency has not been able to be involved in the process of the development of licensing standards.
On June 5, 1995, this worker visited the Queen Creek facility. I was able to see boys in various stages of their program. I visited the Mesa transition home and spoke privately to some residents.
On June 7th, I was present for the "Rules Meeting". At this meeting ABR decided to send 10-12 representatives instead of the usual 1 or 2. At this meeting. I was notified that on 6/5/96, at approximately 10:00 p.m. three (3) young men attempted suicide simultaneously by cutting their upper arms with a broken Bic razor. Incident reports and interviews would follow over the next three weeks.
On June 14th I visited the Ranger Corps Program at Indian Springs next to Kohl's Ranch. I spent two nights in a staff tent I went out with a work crew and worked alongside the boys. I was involved with every aspect of the program during my 3-day stay. This program was very open to me. I witnessed a staff meeting. I interviewed formally and informally several staff and residents. I also spoke to the placement supervising P. O. For San Bernardino, Richard LaCues. Accompanying him was another P.O., Richard Konior. They spoke very highly of AZ Boys Ranch and especially of Ranger Corps. They stated that Ranger Corps is their best placement. I went over the facility with the health inspector from Flagstaff who found only minor infractions. This visit proved to be quite valuable for me. I was more impressed by this camp than by any other, primarily due to its openness and quality of staff. The Ranger Corps will now be receiving its first full operating license.
On June 19th, Linda Castillero, Bob Huffman and I, visited the Oracle campus to complete the annual licensing study for that facility. We reviewed records that were incomplete. Staff explained that the Main Ranch has all missing records. We interviewed staff and residents. I personally spoke to one of the three boys who had attempted suicide earlier on 6/5/95. He stated that he had been in the program for 2 1/2 years and was tired of being lied to by staff about leaving. He said that he cut himself as a method of getting out of ABR. He stated that Bob Thomas came to the hospital and told him he would help him get out of the program sooner. He said Bob Thomas "bribed" him into staying so the incident wouldn't "go public". His arm was healing and he was continuing to be watched by extra staff.
On June 20th Bob Huffman and I visited the Main Campus in Queen Creek. We focused on documentation and records for that day. I asked on several occasions and in different ways for incident report logs and restraint records. I was told that these records are produced, sent to P.O. then destroyed. It was very obvious that I was being lied to, so it became obvious to them that I was inquiring more about certain issues that would be normal. Eventually, I did find some incident reports kept for the orientation boys after they attempted to keep them from us. At the end of the day it was obvious to me and to Bob that they were not cooperating in the area of producing these records. Only minor things were missing in other records. However, in one staff record I found an incident report written by another staff member and witnessed by two other staff members. The report, dated in 5/93, stated that this staff member was "grasping" the young man by the "neck and head in an unsafe manner". It further stated that the young man was put in a dangerous position". This employee received an evaluation the following month in which the man was taken off of probation and given a raise with absolutely no mention of the incident.
The next day we were again joined by Linda Castillero. We all finished with some of the records and began to interview staff and children. I originally had asked for a representative sample of the children who had been in the program only a few days up until one or two years into the program. After our interview with the children, I conferred with my licensing peers who had begun the interviews with staff. I discovered that not only had I not been given residents that had newly arrived, but Bob and Linda had not seen these residents either. I then asked for two additional boys from the orientation cottage. In one of these interviews I was told that a staff member had "addressed" this young man the week prior. He stated he had been choked by the staff's hand and robe. He sustained a scratch that did bleed on the lower area of the neck. The mark was clearly visible to this worker. This incident occured allegedly over the resident responding with a "hug?". After this interview I returned with Bob and Linda who were interviewing staff. Low and behold, the staff member who was involved with the earlier incident was being interviewed. I asked the staff member about the incident. He gave a very vague answer. I was then cut off by Kaja Jezycki. who was present for all of the interviews. I then asked to return to the orientation cottage so that I could review records concerning this incident. I was told that they would look for the report and bring it back. To this, I diplomatically insisted to go with our tour guide to see the record for myself. The record shown to me had no mention of the incident in the daily log nor was there a report made. We left again feeling that we were being held from some information.
On 6/22/95 Linda Castillero and I went to the office of John Mangum, lobbyist attorney and secretary of the Board of Directors for ABR. I, myself, had scheduled this visit three weeks in advance. We walked in the door and ahead of us was a sitting area. As we walked through the front door, a chime went off to announce our arrival to the secretary. However, no secretary cam. Instead, I heard my name from a nearby office. It was Bob Thomas on a speaker phone with John Mangum. Bob told Mr. Mangum he should keep his eve on me and take good notes of mu review of the minutes. He stated that he had checked on my past. He told him I had worked as a houseparent at another group home in Mesa and they were glad to be rid of me. He stated I was a typical CPS type worker and the only one that would want me as an employee was D.E.S. By this time I was obviously becoming quite uncomfortable. I didn't want to be discovered nor did I want to continue listening if it would be unethical for me to do so. I then proceeded to no down a hallway to find a secretary. She escorted us into a conference room where we were seated. We were asked for our business cards and within 5-10 minutes, John Mangum came in to tell us that according to his schedule we were not to arrive until tomorrow at this same time. He gave an excuse that the minutes were not available at that time and were being signed by the Chairman. Of course, it was obvious that we were being given the run around so I said I would return tomorrow, on a day I had scheduled off. The next day, on June 23rd, we again visited with John Mangum. He appeared to be a different man. The day prior he stood tall and spoke with self-confidence. Today he was so subdued I asked him if was physically sick. It is my opinion that yesterday he had no idea that we may have heard his conversation. Later, his secretary had probably told him that we had been in the foyer for some time and could have heard the entire conversation. The minutes were very general and not very specific. Mel MacDonald's name was at nearly all of the Board meetings over the last year. The minutes did state he was being paid by the hour at his law firm's rate. Eric, the minutes also mentioned your talk with the Board and how DES is attempting to build trust with the ABR organization. Later in the day on Friday, I called in the referral to CPS Intake concerning the alleged incident I was told about on Wednesday.
Over the weekend I was personally dreading the Exit Interview with the ABR staff that I had scheduled for Monday at 10:00 a.m. I had also scheduled a personal visit with Bob Thomas himself. My plan was to talk to him "man to man" about any concerns he might have about me and my work over the last couple of months.
On Monday. June 26th at 9:30 a.m., I met with Bob Thomas in his office. During the discussion I underhandedly slipped in some statements that only he would understand. He knew I had heard some or all of his conversation in Mangum's office. Actually, I believe this and my openness and honesty helped me to accomplish mv objective to build some trust. This trust of course, is only in the infancy stage and it is only with me personally and not with DES; but I believe its a start. When I left to enter the Exit Interview, I was surprised to see 12 or 13 ABR administrators to welcome me to the meeting. I jokingly stated that I felt out-numbered and one person responded by saying "Now you know what it feels like". Before we started, Bob called Kaja Jezycki and Denise Fitchie out of the room. When all three returned, Bob opened by explaining to the group to take it easy on me and to listen to my suggestions. During the meeting there were several exchanges with some staff. However, I was totally elated at the outcome of the staffing. I was very up-front and honest with them. I explained my role, the role of DES Licensing and my interpretation of the nd philosophy of ABR. I explained that during the licensing study I was getting the run around and individuals, from my perspective, were being less than honest with me. I suggested a plan in which the issue with the incident and restraint logs could be remedied. I also told them that I called CPS about the incident I was confronted with the previous week. I further stated that if proper documentation was in the file at the time of the inspection, this may have had a bearing on my decision to call CPS. Again, I believe the meetings went well. I was able to build trust by being diplomatic but not comporomise my message. Bob Thomas later sent a letter to thank me for the meetings. A copy of this letter is enclosed.
After the meeting it also should be mentioned that over the weekend a staff member in the orientation cottage beat a child with his fist and elbow up to 30 times. He was allegedly fired and the police were called. Another staff member that was present and did nothing to stop the incident was going to be fired later that day. Craig Balzer has the report and will be investigating.
In conclusion, I have been very active in all phases of the ABR operations. I believe that this is a quality run organization that hires normally quality staff. The program is a very successful alternative to a locked up juvenile facility. One cannot help themselves but to like a program that takes a very hardened criminal youth and teaches him respect and discipline where he answers you with "Sir". However, ABR has a problem with giving DES information that is necessary for proper regulation.
Another area of obvious concern is in the Orientation Phase. This week Craig Balzer is involved with two separate CPS referrals that involve three different staff from the orientation cottage. Two of these staff members have been fired over the alleged abuse. ABR contends that they are involved in a "hands on" approach, especially in the orientation phase. However, they would say this does not equal abuse. I am of the opinion that it is true, that "getting in these young men's faces" and possibly grabbing there shirt in an effort to bring fear into these boys may not be abuse. However. when one gets so very close to abuse and everyone's emotions and adrenaline is high, a child is very vulnerable to maltreatment. I personally believe the Oracle and the Main Campus of ABR will always be having reoccurring incidents in which a young man will sustain minor injuries due to an "addressing" gone to far. I should also mention that I do not see ABR changing there "hands on" philosophy for DES.
I did see a vulnerable side to Bob Thomas. In my meeting with Bob he appeared to be to be afraid of the power of DES as well as that of the courts. He appeared especially fearful of the press and reporters who "are trying to make a name for themselves and win a Pulitzer Prize."
I believe the temporary appointment of a ABR liaison has helped to get to know the organization better and to build some trust with key personnel. However. as you are well aware, we have not heard the last of ABR, for they will continue to be a (as Bob Thomas puts it), "thorn in our side."