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DA, board investigates Youth Ranch
Jun 15, 2006 12:00 am
June 9, 2006 – Circumstances surrounding the alleged sexual assault of a female employee at a West Wilson County facility for troubled teens are now under investigation by the county sheriff's department and the district attorney.
Both agencies are investigating the failure of the Youth Ranch's managers to report an alleged sexual assault of a female employee, Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe said.
Roughly one month ago, a female worker at the Mt. Juliet facility was allegedly sexually assaulted by two juveniles who reside at the facility, the sheriff said.
"We had a lady file a sexual assault complaint on two teenage boys there," Ashe said Thursday. " … The victim said they (Youth Ranch officials) were going to report it on her behalf. They did not report it. They instead dismissed her."
State Rep. Susan Lynn, one of the newest members of the Youth Ranch's board of directors, said the victim was told by the facility's managers to take one week off following the incident. When she returned, she was fired.
After hearing Youth Ranch officials neglected to report the incident to a local law enforcement agency, Lynn and the facility's board of directors called an "emergency meeting."
"The director did not report this crime to the police," Lynn said. "The first that (Ashe) heard about it was when (the employee) walked into his office last week and reported it."
Lynn explained the Youth Ranch's board of directors voted Tuesday to suspend the facility's executive director Ron Smith, pending the results of an investigation. The board appointed Youth Ranch Administrative Director Bill Story to serve as the facility's interim executive director.
"This investigation is probably going in two different directions right now – on the alleged offense itself and if there was an attempt on someone's part not to officially report this incident, which I take very seriously," Ashe said.
District Attorney Tommy Thompson confirmed his office is looking into ranch administrators' failure to report the incident.
"It's kind of odd that somebody would be supposedly assaulted and be told to take off a week and calm down and then come back and … they fire her," Thompson said. " … Why wasn't this stuff reported to the sheriff's office or the Department of Children's Services (DCS)?"
At this week's emergency meeting, Lynn noted the Youth Ranch's board of directors passed a handful of new resolutions relating to the reporting of incidents in addition to suspending Smith.
"We have a resolution that all staff and board members, of course, should fully cooperate with DCS and with law enforcement," she said, noting the ranch is a contract provider for the state's department of children's services. (See related story.)
DCS Executive Director of Communications Rob Johnson said representatives from the department, including DCS Commissioner Viola Miller, have made several trips to Wilson County in recent weeks to discuss the issue.
Thus far, he noted, DCS officials' discussions with Youth Ranch officials have been "fruitful and productive."
A call to Story at the Youth Ranch office in Mt. Juliet was not returned Thursday.
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at email@example.com.