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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, sued by Brownwood man: Is their a Brownwood Media Blackout on this ?

Strayhorn sued, accused of misleading state agencies
8/29/2006 7:52 PM
By: Veronica Castelo

Carole Keeton Strayhorn announces her 'Forgotten Children' report.
Amy Watts worked as a childcare worker at Woodside Trails Therapeutic Camp for troubled teens for about three years. The wilderness camp is located between Smithville and Bastrop.
"Staff turnover was high and it was hard to get days off. Just like with any other agency, there were things that could have been improved on," Watts said.
While work was difficult at times, Watts said the kids always came first. Allegations of sexual abuse and neglect were not true, Watts said.
"I would have no reason to believe there was any sexual abuse going on. Neglect? I guess it depends on how you define it. Two counselors for 12 kids? I bet there were children out there who didn't get the attention they would have liked," Watts said.
However, in August 2004 the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services closed the camp by revoking its license. They did so after state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's "Forgotten Children" report was released. The report targeted abuse at foster care facilities and accused Woodside Trails of sexual abuse and neglect.
Now, two years later, former camp director Betty Lou Gaines filed a lawsuit against Strayhorn and nine other state officials.
Gaines said the report was misleading, inaccurate and resulted in the camps' closure. The false facts could not be ignored, she said.
"I took this step with great reluctance and lots of thought. I feel it's necessary for the future of the children who are in the care of the state of Texas to make sure this never happens again," Gaines said.
Gaines will address the public and answer questions about the lawsuit during a press conference on Thursday at the Capitol.
Comptroller Strayhorn's spokesperson Will Holford declined to comment and directed questions to the Attorney General. Strayhorn's political spokesperson, Mark Sanders, did not return phone calls.
The lawsuit states two judges found the Department of Family and Protective services had no evidence of sexual abuse and claims Strayhorn targeted the camp and used her political power to pressure state agencies to act.
According to the lawsuit, Strayhorn and other state officials "knowingly and intentionally distorted the facts about Woodside Trails and Plaintiff for Strayhorn's political advantage."
The lawsuit continues to say "Strayhorn's campaign against Woodside Trails went far beyond the normal agenda of a powerful, ambitious, and unscrupulous politician seeking higher office."
Watts agrees the abrupt and aggressive manner Strayhorn used on the camp convinced her the children may not have been Strayhorn's priority.
"It didn't seem or have a feel that this was being done to protect children. It kind of had a feel that this was about power. I think that when you have an agency that is needed but needs some support you don't shut the facility down you learn to work with those people and make it the facility that you want it to be," Watts said.
Gaines is asking for an unspecified amount of money for damages.
Watts hopes the state takes steps to replace the camp they closed so the children can get the help they need.

Accused becomes the accuser; Says civil right violated
1/26/2006 12:52 AM
By: Hermelinda Vargas

Two years ago, Woodside Trails Camp was caring for 40 boys, many under state custody, with emotional and sexual issues.
Jackie Reynolds Jr. was a counselor to those kids. Today, he's unemployed and the camp, open for 20 years, is shut down.
The camp's downfall began when State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn put the spotlight on what she called poor conditions at the outdoor therapeutic camp. Reynolds and another counselor were also accused of sexual improprieties with two boys, in two separate cases.
Reynolds says the accusations are false.
"I know I didn't do it, God knows I didn't do it and some days that has to be enough," Reynolds said.
But that isn't enough, Reynolds said. Nor is it enough that Bastrop prosecutors eventually dropped charges against him. The stigma still affects him personally and professionally, he said.
It's hard to get a job because employers use the internet to supplement their background checks and the accusations against him are easy to find, even if the charges were dropped.
Starting next week, Reynolds and Woodside Trails CEO Bebe Gaines will make their case in state civil court against Strayhorn and the Texas Department of Families and Protective Services --among other state entities.
Reynolds also filed a federal lawsuit against those entities.
"I filed what they call a Section 1983 lawsuit, which basically is a fancy way of saying some people with state authority violated my civil rights, particularly didn't afford me due process," Reynolds said.
The old Woodside Trails Camp is no longer operating, though Gaines tried opening up a boarding school under a different name. Depending on what happens at the civil hearing, she may consider opening up the old camp once again.
Even a victory in civil court might not be enough to regain her camp's reputation, she said.
"The damage they have done is permanent. We can vindicate ourselves and it can all come out that it wasn't right and Woodside Trails can get its license back. But going back into business, I don't know that we'd ever be able to do that," Gaines said.
Gaines will charge on against the state to get Woodside Trails cleared in writing. Most of what happened in 2004 was due to pressure from Strayhorn, she said.
"Under ordinary circumstances, I think these allegations would have been seen for what they are, which were false, but because there was such political pressure behind all this, they didn't actually investigate them well," Gaines said.
A spokesperson for Strayhorn says the Comptroller was not available Wednesday to comment on the story. But she may be able to comment on her role in closing down Woodside Trails, in the next few days.
The state's Department of Families and Protective Services says it can't comment on either case because of confidentiality and also because it doesn't comment on pending litigation.
Prosecutors dropped sexual assault charges against Reynolds in March after the accuser changed his story.
The other former counselor, Robert Meuth, is still charged with sexual assault and indecent conduct with a different boy than the one who accused Reynolds.

CPS pulls boys out of camp
2 ex-workers at facility for foster kids held on sex abuse counts
The Dallas Morning News
August 14, 2004
AUSTIN - State Child Protective Services removed 22 foster boys from a Bastrop County wilderness camp Friday after the local sheriff said two former camp employees sexually assaulted youngsters at the privately run facility.
The problem-plagued CPS has contracted with the 100-acre camp to care for children, who have been placed under its watch, for at least the last 13 years.
Bastrop County Sheriff Richard Hernandez said his office and the state Child Care Licensing Division are jointly investigating allegations of sexual abuse occurring at Woodside Trails Therapeutic Camp near Smithville.
Geoff Wool, spokesman for the state Department of Family and Protective Services, which oversees CPS, said the state had received some complaints about Woodside Trails through the years "but nothing as serious as what we're looking at now."
Bebe Gaines, the camp's director, did not return a phone call Friday seeking comment, but she told The Associated Press, "We're cooperating with the investigation every way we can."
The sheriff said Robert Carl Meuth, 26, of San Marcos was arrested in that city on Aug. 5 and charged with second-degree sexual assault of a child.
Jackie Dewayne Reynolds Jr., 36, was arrested in Brownwood on July 22 and charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child, a first-degree felony, Sheriff Hernandez said. Mr. Reynolds posted $50,000 bail the next day and was released from the Brown County Jail, a jailer there said.
Primitive conditions
As early as 1996, legislators began questioning placements at Woodside Trails because the camp has no electricity or hot water and makes residents - boys 10 to 17 years old - live outside year-round and build their own wilderness shelters.
Last spring, state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn criticized the agency for allowing foster children to live in unsanitary conditions at the camp for years.
At a House hearing last week, state child-care licensing chief Diana Spiser confirmed that some children lived at wilderness camps, of which Woodside Trails is the most primitive, for up to three years. It lacks running water and flushing toilets.
On its Web site, Woodside Trails says: "Most children need at least one year to complete their treatment. Sometimes it takes six months just to orient the child to his issues."
Ms. Gaines told WFAA-TV (Channel 8) last month that the average stay is 14 months.
WFAA quoted a former camp employee as saying that a 14-year-old offender last fall sexually assaulted a 9-year-old.
Ms. Strayhorn said her office requested that the 9-year-old be removed but that Child Protective Services ignored the request.
Ms. Gaines denied that any campers have sexually assaulted one another and defended mixing boys with records of sexual offenses with other boys.
"It helps both sets of populations to understand the range of problems everybody has in the system," she told Channel 8.
Ms. Strayhorn welcomed the removal of the 22 boys.
"It's about time," she said. "I hope this is the beginning in a change of attitude at the agency."
Ms. Strayhorn's office has investigated foster care for nearly a year, and a scathing report it issued in April contained a photo of an outdoor latrine at Woodside Trails. The latrine violated state standards because it was "only a few feet away" from a sleeping area, not the 75 feet required, the comptroller said.
Camp cited in April
On April 15, state inspectors cited Woodside Trails for having "expired food" stored in the kitchen, failing to give a boy his medication, not giving each boy his own bar of soap and failing to keep two cats and a dog current on their rabies shots.
"They've had their share of minimum-standard violations," Mr. Wool said.
Early Friday, he said, CPS notified juvenile probation authorities, who had placed 10 offenders at the camp, and adults responsible for three private-pay residents about the criminal investigation and state concerns about the camp.
Ms. Gaines told the AP that she expected the 10 juvenile offenders to be removed from her camp soon.
CPS has come under fire after disturbing reports of abuse, neglect and deaths of youngsters in the Dallas area and statewide. On July 1, Gov. Rick Perry ordered a sweeping review of the agency's failings. The governor acted a day after a South Texas grand jury indicted the department overseeing CPS for failing to prevent sexual abuse of three young sisters. The in-house review by the state's human services agency is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

Media Release


Jackie D. Reynolds, Jr.
Brownwood, Texas 76801
Phone: 325-998-6116


Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Sued For Civil Rights Violations

A Section 1983 lawsuit was filed in federal court recently alleging that the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and Republican gubernatorial candidate, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, deprived a therapeutic wilderness camp employee of his civil rights under the color of state law.
(PRWEB) August 14, 2004 -- A lawsuit was filed in federal court Friday naming the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and Republican gubernatorial candidate, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, as a defendant.
The plaintiff, Jackie Reynolds, filed the lawsuit on his own behalf alleging that, among other things, Mrs. Strayhorn deprived him of his civil rights under the color of state law.
Mr. Reynolds was arrested and indicted last summer on two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child stemming from his work as a counselor at the therapeutic camp Woodside Trails in Bastrop County. The facility was closed after being targeted by Mrs. Strayhorn in her "Forgotten Children" report released in April of last year.
The 109-page, 18-count lawsuit alleges that the charges against Mr. Reynolds were "motivated by ill-will toward Woodside Trails and its former or current employees and was undertaken on behalf of and as a direct result and consequence of the reckless and wanton abuse of power and authority by Defendant Strayhorn."
Other defendants in the lawsuit include the Department of Family & Protective Services and the Bastrop County District Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Office.
In addition to the deprivation of civil rights charge, other counts include conspiracy, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, abuse of process and defamation of character.
The Section 1983 lawsuit was received by the United States District Court, Western District of Texas, Austin Division on August 12, 2005, at 2:34 pm. It was assigned case number A05CA638 LY.
Mr. Reynolds is requesting immediate injunctive relief prohibiting DFPS from harassing him or his family and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for his pain and suffering.

A copy of the lawsuit can be viewed at