February 6, 2010
Four Philadelphia social workers, Mickal Kamuvaka, founder of MultiEthnic Behavioral Health Inc and employees Solomon Manamela, Julius Juma Murray and Mariam Coulibaly are on trial for allowing Danieal Kelly to starve to death under their supervision. Part-time co-worker Kim Cooke, not on trial, has testified in the case that, on orders from Kamuvaka, she regularly falsified written reports.
Ex-Phila. caseworker tells of false reports
By Nathan Gorenstein, Inquirer Staff Writer, Posted on Sat, Feb. 6, 2010
A former caseworker for MultiEthnic Behavioral Health Inc. testified yesterday that she regularly falsified reports about home visits that never happened, but said she was never explicitly told to do so.
Rather, supervisors said to “do what you have to do” to complete records required by the city, said Kim Cooke, a part-time employee at the agency that closed in 2006 after the death of Danieal Kelly, a 14-year-old who starved to death in her mother’s home.
Four MultiEthnic employees, including two cofounders, are on trial in U.S. District Court, charged with falsifying records and destroying documents to hide that they failed to provide care for at-risk children, including Kelly, who had cerebral palsy.
Between 2000 and 2006, MultiEthnic was paid $3.7 million by Philadelphia to provide in-home social services for about 500 families.
Witnesses testified that the agency was effectively run by Mickal Kamuvaka, 60, who holds a doctorate in social work from the University of Pennsylvania.
When Department of Human Services officials scheduled an audit of agency files, Kamuvaka allegedly would call the staff members together and urge them to help each other fill out the required paperwork. “We are all in this together. . . . They can close us down,” Kamuvaka said, according to Cooke.
Did you create false records? asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Bea Witzleben. “Yes,” said Cooke.
On cross-examination, Kamuvaka’s defense attorney, William Cannon, asked Cooke, “Did anyone say to create a document?”
“Not like that,” replied Cooke. “To me, it felt like you had to do what you had to do, you had to fill in the file.”
She said one defendant, Solomon Manamela, told her to do what was “necessary” when he learned that Cooke had not made all of the required home visits. Manamela, 52, is also a MultiEthnic cofounder.
“He never asked me specifically,” she said, but said, “do what you need to do.”
“I started out as a good social worker,” said Cooke. “I wasn’t so good a worker at the end. You just got tired and burned out. . . . Paperwork-wise, no, I don’t think I was a good worker.”
Cooke said she was working three jobs at the time – one with the Philadelphia School District, one with another social-services agency, and 15 hours a week at MultiEthnic. When she could not visit a home, she said, she typically would contact the family members by telephone and quiz them.
Yolanda Carr, a receptionist and typist, said she worked 24 hours straight typing up quarterly reports in preparation for DHS audits that occurred about once a year.
Another former employee, Blendenna Carter, was hired as a receptionist and later promoted to caseworker, but said she received “not much” of the supervision promised by Kamuvaka. In the office, Kamuvaka “would be grading papers” for a teaching job at a local college, Carter said.
Once, Kamuvaka had her forge another employee’s signature, Carter said. “She told me to practice, because I didn’t write like that,” she said.
Cooke said some documents bearing her signature were signed by someone else. Looking at a report from May 2006, she said the signature was not her own. “No, I write more loopy,” she said.
Contact staff writer Nathan Gorenstein at 215-854-2797 or firstname.lastname@example.org