Former CAC employees ask commissioners to reconsider control of funds, seek forensic accounting of DA's office

By Elisabeth Slay
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A legal representative for former employees of the Child Advocacy Center requested Monday that Pottawatomie County commissioners reconsider their stake in control of funds they provided for the CAC and do a forensic accounting of the district attorney's office.

In public comments, attorney for the former employees, Michael Ashworth, asked county commissioners to put these requests as an action item on the agenda for a future meeting.

The requests come two weeks after county commissioners awarded up to $400,000 in use tax money to the CAC, which did not receive any of its usual grants for the operation of 2022.

At the previous meeting where commissioners approved the funds, District Attorney Allan Grubb said the money would be used to pay the salaries of the Child Advocacy Center employees and for supplies such as examination beds, comfort items and other operational needs.

Pottawatomie County Courthouse.

Ashworth said a week after commissioners approved those funds, the DA's office terminated the employment of CAC Executive Director LaTrenda Sanders.

Ashworth said at the same meeting where the board approved the allocation of up to $400,000, commissioners also received a letter from Sanders requesting the funds and explaining why the CAC didn't receive its usual grants.

Sanders explained while she wasn't officially given a reason when she was fired because Oklahoma is an at-will state, and though she requested it numerous times, she feels she was terminated for sending commissioners the letter.

In addition to Sanders, Ashworth on Monday said Clinical Nursing Director Carolyn Parks has been locked out of the CAC facility. Parks said she has been a S.A.N.E. nurse at the CAC for 24 years.

More:Pott. County commissioners to provide up to $400,000 to Child Advocacy Center

The family advocate for the CAC, who is related to Sanders, was also locked out of the facility, Ashworth told commissioners in Monday's meeting. 

Ashworth said he and the former employees ask commissioners to reexamine how the funds they're providing are controlled.

"What I've requested is at the earliest convenience of the county commissioners they put an action item on that essentially says that 'we gave all this money to One Safe Place and we gave all this money to CAC and now that things have dramatically changed we need to take a look at something because something's not right,'" he said.

He explained he also hopes commissioners will consider a forensic accounting, which is a "law enforcement type of accounting specifically designed to find what went where, how it got there and did it get there in the right way," Ashworth said. 

The CAC conducts forensic interviews with children under the age of 12 who are victims of sexual, physical or mental abuse. In addition, Ashworth said the CAC also helps adults.

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Ashworth explained the he, his clients and others involved feel victims are not currently receiving the proper services they need from the CAC. 

The legal representative said he spoke with one of the commissioners before Monday's meeting and explained what he and his clients would seek.

"The commissioner very quickly realized that the legal advisor for the county commissioners being the district attorney cannot advise them as to this matter," he said.

For this reason, the request couldn't formally be put on Monday's agenda. Ashworth said the commissioners need to discuss the matter with independent counsel and after that they will hopefully put it on the agenda for an upcoming meeting.

"In some fashion, with a certain number of agencies, there's going to have to be multilayers of government involved in this because all the departments here that send their charges to the DA's office will have an interest and the county has an interest," Ashworth said.

Additionally, he explained the state has an interest as the DA's office is a state system.

Ashworth said he is also appealing to the Lincoln County commissioners. 

"I have consulted with some members of Lincoln County," he said. "I know some of the agencies over here have been in contact with folks at Lincoln County. I think you'll see a similar approach as you see here."

Check back for updates.

Elisabeth Slay is a Reporter with The Shawnee News-Star. She can be reached at (405) 214-3926 or eslay@news-star.com