Company: Agency Hid Kids' Files
Jun. 04, 2002
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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ A company hired to help the Department of Children & Families investigate its backlog of child-abuse cases accused state workers Tuesday of hiding files to conceal shoddy work and serious allegations that were never investigated.
Officials from the nonprofit Florida Task Force told a state legislative committee investigating Florida's troubled child-protection system that DCF workers in Lake County hid files in the ceiling so no one would know they weren't being investigated.
In other counties, accusations of sexual abuse and violent beatings were not investigated for up to two years before being sent to the task force, company officials said.
``The things I have seen and witnessed are not just in one location _ it's the same all over the state,'' Tracy Loomis, vice president of the Florida Task Force, told the committee.
DCF Secretary Kathleen Kearney said what occurred between Task Force and the agency remains in dispute.
``Obviously, if there is any truth to what she said, we will look into it,'' Kearney said.
The task force was hired in 2000 to tackle 50,000 backlogged child abuse cases the department had not been able to investigate itself.
Loomis said the worst violations were in Lake County. She said some cases were handed over without any paperwork and others had important documents missing.
Company officials said they had complained to the department nearly two years ago about mishandled cases, but soon found themselves the agency's target.
In March, DCF canceled its contract with the Pinellas Park-based company and sued it a month later for more than $12 million, alleging it took state dollars for services it never provided and that its own workers falsified documents.
The company filed its own lawsuit against the state, saying it is owed more than $400,000 for completed work.
DCF Inspector General Giuseppe Betta told the legislative committee that some of the allegations from the company were supported in a series of investigations, but the claims that files were hidden in the office's ceiling are new and haven't been investigated.