LIMA — The Allen County Children’s Services board of directors — without comment save for a written statement issued after the fact — on Friday terminated the employment of Executive Director Cynthia Scanland, effective immediately.
The probe found Scanland and two program administrators failed to follow protocol because of their “close relations” with a pair of foster parents now facing felony charges relating to alleged sexual abuse of children. They stopped short of saying the agency covered up accusations in the case, though, instead saying those relationships “clouded these employees’ perceptions.”
Scanland signed an agreement that will provide her with three and one-half months’ severance pay.
The unanimous board decision followed a 90-minute closed-door session that also resulted in the acceptance of the resignations of Program Administrators Brent Bunke and Staci Nichols. Separation agreements will be executed with Bunke and Nichols. Board attorney Marc Fishel of Columbus declined to discuss those agreements, saying only that the documents will be part of the public record once they are completed.
Board President Dr. Jennifer Hughes declined all comment following the meeting, as did other board members in attendance: Jason Stolly, Jacqueline Fox, Chauncey Long, Chris Provanzik and Melissa Holthaus.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation visited Allen County Children Services on May 27 and 28 to interview employees and gather materials in a larger investigation involving Jeremy Kindle.
In July 2018, Kindle and Scott Steffes, his partner, were foster parents and adopted three boys, ages 3 through 8, through Children Services. Kindle and Steffes already had legal custody of three boys between the age of 14 and 17 at the time, according to a story published in The Lima News at the time.
However, an Allen County grand jury in July handed down a combined 127 felony charges — including counts of rape, sexual contact with a minor and sexual battery — against the two men.
Steffes, 38, and Kindle, 35, were charged with 62 and 65 felony counts, respectively. The charges were based on a series of alleged incidents that led the three Children’s Service employees to be placed on administrative leave.
The statement issued Friday by the Children Services board said the investigation “found reason to believe that agency staff failed to follow established protocol by not reporting allegations made about Kindle and Steffes on two occasions prior to their arrests in May. The investigation found no evidence that any employee thought that sexual abuse was occurring and covered it up. Rather, it appears that close relations between the foster parents and the agency clouded these employees’ perceptions,” the statement said.
Hughes called the board’s action a disappointing but necessary decision.
“Our top priority is to keep kids safe and that means zero tolerance when employees show poor judgment as in this case,” Hughes said in the prepared statement. “I believe our employees had the best intentions, but procedures — especially these — are in place for a reason and by board action today we sent the message that we will not tolerate deviation from our own internal rules and common sense.”
Hughes said the board will work to ensure new safeguards are in place to avoid similar incidents in the future.
The agency will continue to be led by interim Executive Director Sarah Newland while the board considers a permanent replacement.