Kansas should sever ties with homestay contractor

Kansas should sever ties with homestay contractor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The pinnacle of a Kansas legislative panel desires to finish the state’s contract with its greatest foster care contractor, after two former executives had been charged with conspiring to defraud the group at the very least $4.7 million.

Federal indictments this month in opposition to the Reverend Robert Smith, the previous CEO of Saint Francis Ministries, and William Whymark, its former chief info officer, capped a sequence of points with the group, together with children forced to sleep in offices and workers falsifying documents to indicate visits with households that by no means occurred.

‘I’m horrified by the extent of devious conduct by Saint Francis,’ mentioned state Rep. Susan Concannon, Republican for Beloit and chair of the Joint Committee on Youngster Welfare System Oversight, forward of a gathering on Wednesday. .

“The extra you study, the extra you understand that you do not know! They don’t need to pursue a partnership with Kansas State in any capability,” she mentioned.

Saint Francis Ministries, which sued Smith, Whymark and his former chief solicitor earlier this 12 months in a bid to get better cash, mentioned in a press release it revered the prison justice system to resolve the case.

“We don’t want to make any feedback which will intrude with justice or due course of for the accused,” the group mentioned.

Mike Deines, a spokesman for the Kansas Division of Youngsters and Households, didn’t instantly reply to a cellphone message in search of remark.

Late final 12 months, Nebraska did what Concannon advised and introduced it was terminate his contract with Saint Francis to supervise the care of abused and uncared for kids in two counties within the Omaha space.

Saint Francis had exceeded Nebraska’s workload necessities and finally admitted that he had underbid his contract with the state. It was obligatory ask for more money. The Nebraska Division of Well being and Human Providers mentioned in a press release that it was a mutual resolution to switch these administration features to the state.

Saint Francis, which additionally operates in Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas, has sought to distance itself from Smith and Whymark since leaving in 2020 after a whistleblower got here ahead.

However wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and cash laundering fees have pushed previous scandals into the information. The costs carry a sentence of as much as 20 years in federal jail.

Within the indictment, prosecutors allege Smith employed the agency Whymark to assist revamp Saint Francis’ pc techniques after which authorized inflated invoices.

Whymark, 50, of Mount Kisco, New York, is accused of utilizing fraudulently obtained funds to assist pay for an roughly $4 million residence, luxurious automobiles and jewellery, and to make money withdrawals. species.

Smith, in the meantime, used firm bank cards to withdraw money and pay for garments, jewellery and household journeys, in response to the indictment.

Smith, 50, beforehand filed a counterclaim in opposition to St. Francis officers alleging defamation. His legal professional, Lance Sandage, didn’t instantly reply to a cellphone message in search of remark.

Smith took a go away of absence from the Cathedral of Christ in Salina, the place he went to work after leaving Saint Francis. The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, which oversees Smith, had restricted his capability to function a priest for a few of the time he was there. After the indictment, the diocese barred him from any ministerial workplace or entry to church funds.

Mark Cowell, who employed Smith and is bishop of the Western Kansas Diocese, requested for prayer and “justice to be served.”

No legal professionals are listed for Whymark in on-line court docket information.

Kansas’ foster care system has lengthy been plagued with issues. Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, has pledged to make adjustments to the system and known as for an investigation into the demise of Cedric Lofton, a 17-year-old who was held face down for greater than 40 minutes in 2021 at a Wichita juvenile shelter after his adoptive father known as for assist as a result of {the teenager} had hallucinations. Saint Francis was among the many companies concerned.

An impartial analysis printed this fall confirmed that some enhancements had been made to the system, with kids shifting between placements much less steadily.

However the state’s 4 contractors proceed to report that some kids are sleeping in desks and the workload stays too excessive, in response to the evaluation, which is a situation of the state’s settlement of a category motion lawsuit. federal with the advocacy group. Kansas apple seed and others.

Republican State Senator Molly Baumgardner of Louisbourg described Smith as a “wolf in sheep’s clothes” and the allegations as “completely past horrific”.

Baumgardner, who additionally sits on the Joint Committee on Oversight of the Youngster Welfare System, mentioned the pinnacle of DCF ought to step down and the company wants a frontrunner who will maintain contractors accountable.

“There was no motion by the governor or the secretary to unplug St. Francis,” she complained, including that it “has failed the kids of Kansas miserably.”

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