Lawyer: DCYF not turning over documents despite court orderBy DAVE SOLOMON
State House Bureau
May 17. 2017 9:44PM
The attorney suing the Division for Children, Youth and Families on behalf of the grandparents of two abused children is calling on the state to stop stalling and start turning over documents as ordered by a judge last month.
“Starting before the suit was filed, DCYF has been obstructing efforts by the plaintiff, the adoptive parents of (the children), to ascertain how, while under the care of DCYF (the children) could have been subjected to horrific sexual abuse at the hands of their biological parents, some of which occurred during supervised visits with their biological parents,” writes Bedford attorney Rus Rilee in a motion filed on Tuesday in Hillsborough County Superior Court.
Despite a clear ruling from Judge Gillian Abramson on April 13, denying the state’s request for confidentiality in the case, the state has been reluctant to provide the documents Rilee is seeking as part of the discovery process leading up to a trial.
In his motion, he complains that DCYF has been “unresponsive and evasive, in keeping with their continuing efforts to keep the facts about how these girls were exposed to harm from seeing the light of day.”
According to the complaint, DCYF has refused to turn over training policies or manuals that were in force during the time of the abuse, copies of witness statements and certain correspondence.
The material is being withheld despite Abramson’s ruling that the appeal for confidentiality by DCYF “is motivated purely by their own self-interest in minimizing public exposure of their alleged errors.”
“Where DCYF is making groundless objections to the production of documents to which the plaintiffs are entitled, the court should order it to produce complete and unredacted copies of the requested documents forthwith,” Rilee states.
The lawsuit was filed by Rilee in October in Hillsborough County Superior Court on behalf of the grandparents, who are now the adoptive parents of the abuse victims.
The children were ages 4 and 18 months at the time of the abuse. The lawsuit claims that the DCYF, case workers from Easterseals and advocates from Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) disregarded complaints from the grandparents and warning signs in police reports and allowed unsupervised visits by the biological parents that resulted in horrific physical and sexual abuse.
Rilee won a landmark ruling in the state Supreme Court last year allowing him to bring the lawsuit in open court, followed by Abramson’s ruling on discovery in April.
“Yet when DCYF subsequently responded to plaintiff’s discovery requests, more information was withheld than was produced,” Rilee states
Other requests still outstanding include copies of documents relating to the internal review of DCYF’s handling of the case and copies of witness statements.
Rather than produce the documents after the April 12 ruling by Abramson, DCYF filed another motion for a protective order to keep the material confidential.
“The plaintiffs have made reasonable, even run-of-the-mill discovery requests of DCYF, only to be met with obstructionist tactics designed to hide the facts from view,” according to Rilee’s motion. “Such conduct should not be tolerated by the court.”