Perjury by Iowa Dept. of Human Services Case Manager

October 21, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Here’s a case that’s sadly not uncommon (U.S. News, 10/9/18).  So why write about it?  Two reasons that I’ll get to later.

A case manager for the Iowa Department of Human Services has been found to have lied under oath and otherwise fabricated evidence in order to strip a mother and father of their parental rights to their four children.

Gray delivered fabricated reports and trial testimony that helped convince a judge to terminate the legal rights of the mother and father of four northern Iowa children, District Associate Judge Adam Sauer ruled on June 12. The judge said Gray’s testimony was riddled with “lies and misrepresentations.”…

Gray, who had served as the case manager for the family, claimed that she attended monthly visits with them as required by DHS policy but failed to do so, Sauer found.

Gray also claimed to have spoken with the kids’ teachers regarding troubling behaviors they were exhibiting at school. The teachers later said they were never contacted by Gray, and Sauer ruled that “that false testimony is of grave concern.” Gray also gave false information about whether the mother had complied with the terms of her probation and tested positive for drugs…

Nichole Benes, an assistant Cerro Gordo County attorney, notified the court last spring after discovering discrepancies in Gray’s testimony and reported them to DHS and the attorney general’s office. She later told the court that that a review of Gray’s cases had been completed and uncovered 10 known instances in which she gave false information.

It’s a new case, but not a new issue.  Some child protective employees seem to feel entitled to lie under oath and in other ways in order to meet whatever goals they or others have set for them.  I should be clear of course that presumably most do not.  It’s fair to assume that the great majority of case workers play by the rules.

Still, it’s hard to forget the video image of a hapless Orange County, California county attorney trying to explain to an incredulous three-judge appellate court that caseworker Marcia Vreeken and the agency she worked for should be excused for her lying under oath and fabricating evidence.  According to the lawyer, Vreeken shouldn’t be expected to know that false testimony is wrong.  It’s just as hard to forget Houston Judge Michael Schneider ordering two CPS caseworkers to write essays for him demonstrating that they understood the constitutional rights of parents.  They’d repeatedly given false testimony to the effect that children should be taken from their parents without a prior hearing. 

And of course there are countless others.  So what’s significant about Chelsie Gray?  Just this.

Chelsie Gray left DHS payroll on Sept. 23, two weeks after The Associated Press asked about her status, department spokesman Matt Highland confirmed.

He said Gray wasn’t fired or forced to resign, and therefore the agency cannot disclose any information about her departure under Iowa law. The agency also declined to release the findings of a review of Gray’s cases that the state launched after learning about her false testimony last spring.

Yes, Judge Sauer ruled Gray’s testimony to be “riddled with lies and misrepresentations” all the way back on June 12.  And of course she’d been reported to the District Attorney and DHS long before that.  And yet she remained on DHS payroll until September 23rd.  Indeed, it appears likely that she’d still be there but for the inquiry made by the Associated Press into whether she was still working for DHS.

That’s a lot of intentional wrongdoing by Gray that seemingly went unpunished by DHS.

It makes me wonder where she got the idea that, after working for the agency for barely two years, she could get away with such blatantly illegal and unethical conduct.  Or maybe I already know.  Perhaps she’d seen others do the same or heard tales.  And of course, until the AP started snooping around, it looks like she was right.  It looks like DHS had no intention of disciplining her for a little thing like multiple perjuries.

It also looks like the District Attorney has no intention of filing charges against her.  Perjury isn’t always easy to prove, but in this case, it should be easy.  Gray testified to having done things she hadn’t done and that are easy to prove she hadn’t done.  That makes them lies under oath.  The only additional element of the offense of perjury is that they be material to the issue at hand.  And those lies were clearly material to the issue of whether the parents should have their rights terminated or not.  Ergo, Chelsie Gray should be charged with perjury and likely convicted.  If she were, DHS employees might be encouraged to tell the truth when they testify.

That’s reason number one for writing about the case.

The second aspect of the case that’s worth mentioning is, as usual, the secrecy that cloaks almost everything child welfare agencies do.  So what happened in those 10 other cases in which Gray may have violated the law and/or agency regulations?  We’ll never know because the law says we’re not entitled to know what the agency was up to in those cases.  Did managers or supervisors wink at Gray’s wrongdoing?  We the People aren’t entitled to know.

And, as I’ve said so often, that essentially guarantees that similar outrages will occur in the future.  And that means I’ll write future “ho-hum, more perjury by CPS” pieces.

Friends and neighbors, this is no way to run a railroad.

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