The Time Line of the Corruption in Rabun County GA DFCS

Rabun DFCS crisis timeline
Thursday, June 8, 2006 9:32 AM EDT
The Rabun County Department of Family and Children Services became the target of a state investigation in December. The Tribune first began hearing complaints about DFCS two years ago. A timeline of how things progressed, at least as far as news coverage is concerned, is listed below:

� April 22, 2004 – A man whose two young children were taken into state custody questioned the authenticity of verbal court orders. Director Linda Gragg said her agency would do its best to have written orders in hand before involving officers when picking up children.

� July 28, 2005 – Donna Terry, a DFCS liaison for the sheriff’s office, took out a reckless conduct warrant against case worker Melinda “Mindy” McCoy after the latter didn’t remove children from a home Terry deemed to have substandard living conditions. Chief Deputy Mike Carnes refused to serve it, and the warrant was dismissed at a prewarrant hearing. Terry testified she didn’t go inside the residence on the day specified on the warrant; the children were staying with a relative down the street. She went to the residence in question with Andrea Phelps, an employee of Creative Consulting Services of Northeast Georgia Inc., to conduct a drug test. McCoy, an 18-year employee, was placed on paid leave after Phelps and Terry reported the situation to a DFCS supervisor. The fallout from the disagreement over a seemingly discretionary matter served as a watershed event by drawing attention to how the agency and its drug-testing contractor operated.

� Aug. 4, 2005 – Law enforcement officials met with DFCS workers in an attempt to iron out differences in how each agency needed to work together. DFCS was requesting officers to accompany them on up to 10 calls a night. The backlog occurred, in part, because Terry, a full-time Clayton police officer, was removed from her duties as a DFCS liaison for the sheriff’s office. Deputy Cary Brown questioned why he needed to go on calls in which drug samples were being obtained. Gragg said her office had the highest number of referrals in her 23 years as an employee; she also was one case worker short because McCoy was on paid leave.

� Aug. 4, 2005 – A Tribune editorial raised questions about potential conflicts involving businesses DFCS has contracts with, including the drug testing company. “A question exists whether people related to a (DFCS) employee should be allowed to provide such services,” the editorial charged. Gragg said nepotism rules only covered those within the agency and those who are dependents on an employee’s tax return. The Georgia Department of Human Resources, which oversees DFCS, was asked for an opinion on the matter.

� Aug. 18, 2005 – McCoy, a case worker for 18 years, was fired by Gragg. McCoy said she wasn’t given a reason for her termination. Her lawyer, Brian Rickman, said she was fired for voicing concerns to DHR about how the agency was being run.

� Dec. 8, 2005 – State Sen. Nancy Schaefer announces her plans in holding a forum for people to air complaints about the local office. Rickman said his office was receiving calls from people unhappy with DFCS at least every other day. He also said a common complaint stemmed from the perception of “a significant conflict of interest with personnel at DFCS and personnel who assist with DFCS.” Seven people came to The Tribune to announce they had started a petition drive for people unhappy with DFCS.

� Dec. 15, 2005 – Schaefer and Rickman said they were receiving an even higher number of calls from people dissatisfied with DFCS.

� Dec. 22, 2005 – Schaefer secures plans to hold her forum Jan. 3 at the Rabun County Library. She would be joined by state DFCS Director Mary Dean Harvey. Lawyer Michael Cummings detailed the conflict of interest concerning Creative Consulting by referring to a September deposition he conducted. Case worker Nicole Allen testified that her mother, Judith Mendoza, her sister, Andrea Phelps, and her friend, Terry, worked for the company. She also admitted she lived with her mother and Terry and denied any money from the drug screening business went toward house payments. Gragg said she had researched the conflict “from top to bottom, and there’s no conflict.” Cummings said: “That is all a gross conflict of interest that is as glaring as the sun, and somebody needs to recognize that. If the state office can’t figure that out, there’s no help for them.”

� Dec. 29, 2005 – A Tribune editorial praised Schaefer for organizing the forum for people who felt they had been taken advantage of by DFCS. “While it’s difficult to judge the merits of individual cases, the sheer volume of complaints is cause for alarm.”

� Jan. 5 – Harvey and Schaefer heard complaints from three dozen people, some of whom waited in line for hours at the library. Those unloading complaints did it behind closed doors. Leslie Joiner and her daughter, Amber Fountain, drove up from Florida to explain their three-year battle in trying to get custody of Joiner’s grandchildren. The children, 3 years and 7 weeks, were taken based on an anonymous complaint that was never verified. It was this case, called a “legal kidnapping” by Joiner’s lawyer in an October hearing, that piqued Schaefer’s interest in DFCS. DHR investigator Carol Durham told Rickman she was looking into the conflict issue.

� Jan. 5 – A Tribune editorial praised Harvey for coming to Rabun and criticized her for not allowing a reporter to be present at the forum. “For healing to occur, Harvey needs to understand that the public’s trust has been shaken locally. If the relationship is to improve, light needs to be shed upon aspects of the agency’s operation.”

� Jan. 12 – Gragg was reassigned to another DFCS office, and Harvey severed ties with Creative Consulting. Regional Director Sid Jessup was assigned to oversee the local office, and State Social Services Director Wilfred Hamm was sent to Rabun to look into “operational procedures.” Harvey confirmed that DHR opened an investigation in the fall. She also confirmed that the drug testing company had been getting paid on a per-test basis. “My jaw dropped when I heard that because that clearly creates a serious problem,” Rickman said. He also said people reported being tested multiple times and that testing continued even after results showed no drug usage. Harvey said she was “saddened” by what she heard at the forum. Schaefer said she was “stunned” about what she heard. The situation had gotten the attention of Gov. Sonny Perdue.

� Jan. 19 – Harvey visited The Tribune to discuss ongoing changes to ensure the Rabun office delivered quality services. The ongoing investigation had no timeline. In her strongest language yet, Schaefer said “DFCS has got to work to unite families, not obliterate families. What we saw on that Tuesday (Jan. 3) were many families that had been obliterated.”

� Jan. 19 – A Tribune editorial asked people to be patient and give the state agency a chance to clean up its own mess. “(W)e all need a strong office that seeks the community’s trust.” It also pointed to Juvenile Judge Joanna Temple’s validation of verbal orders as the initial source of the problems.

� Feb. 2 – Four DFCS workers, Gragg, Allen, Sonya Neely and Sabrina Ritchie, were suspended with pay. DHR inspector Alan Tennant said he was returning to Rabun to continue his investigation. Schaefer suggested for completely new staff to be brought in to run the office. She was still getting calls from families unhappy about their cases.

� Feb. 23 – Based on records obtained through the Open Records Act, The Tribune reported that the Rabun office paid Creative Consulting more than $82,000 for conducting drug screens between January 2005 and Jan. 23. Rickman, Cummings and Richard Tunkle accused the company of excessive testing for profit. An e-mail McCoy sent to the state about the time she was suspended showed she had lodged a complaint detailing abuses that had been the source of most of the complaints about DFCS. “Children are removed in the county if the parents refuse a drug screen or if their home is dirty,” she wrote. Tunkle said everyone in the county who had to take a drug test for Allen had a claim in a class action lawsuit against the state based on conflict of interest, invasion of privacy and fraud. DHR human resources manager Rebecca Burton wrote that statements from Phelps – an employee of Creative Consulting – were used in the decision to fire McCoy. Rickman said he was giving “heavy consideration” to filing a wrongful termination lawsuit on behalf of McCoy.

� March 2 – Jessup asked the Rabun County Board of Commissioners for $23,793 in additional county funding for the current fiscal year to account for a 40 percent increase in the number of children entering foster care. Rabun had 56 children in foster care.

� March 9 – The five-member DFCS board oversees the spending of the county’s tax dollars. The board is asking the county for $80,500 for fiscal year 2007, a 54 percent increase over the 2006 request. It also represented the first substantial increase in more than eight years.

About Yvonne Mason Sewell

Background:  The eldest of five children, Yvonne was born May 17, 1951 in Atlanta, Georgia. Raised in East Point, Georgia, she moved to Jackson County, Ga. until 2006 then moved to Port St. Lucie, Florida where she currently makes her home.  Licensed bounty hunter for the state of Georgia. Education:  After a 34 year absence, returned to college in 2004. Graduated with honors in Criminal Justice with an Associate’s degree from Lanier Technical College in 2006. Awards:  Nominated for the prestigious GOAL award in 2005 which encompasses all of the technical colleges. This award is based not only on excellence in academics but also leadership, positive attitude and the willingness to excel in one’s major. Affiliations:  Beta Sigma Phi Sorority  Member of The Florida Writer’s Association – Group Leader for St Lucie County The Dream:  Since learning to write at the age of five, Yvonne has wanted to be an author. She wrote her first novel Stan’s Story beginning in 1974 and completed it in 2006. Publication seemed impossible as rejections grew to 10 years. Determined, she continued adding to the story until her dream came true in 2006. The Inspiration:  Yvonne’s brother Stan has been her inspiration and hero in every facet of her life. He was stricken with Encephalitis at the tender age of nine months. He has defied every roadblock placed in his way and has been the driving force in every one of her accomplishments. He is the one who taught her never to give up The Author: Yvonne is currently the author of several novels, including:  Stan’s Story- the true story of her brother’s accomplishments, it has been compared to the style of Capote, and is currently being rewritten with new information for re-release.  Tangled Minds - a riveting story about a young girl’s bad decision and how it taints everyone’s life around her yet still manages to show that hope is always possible. This novel has been compared to the writing of Steinbeck and is currently being written as a screenplay. This novel will be re-released by Kerlak Publishing in 2009  Brilliant Insanity – released by Kerlak Publishing October 2008  Silent Scream – Released by October 2008- Slated to be made into a movie Yvonne’s Philosophy in Life - “Pay it Forward”: “In this life we all have been helped by others to attain our dreams and goals. We cannot pay it back but what we can do is ‘pay it forward’. It is a simple
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11 Responses to The Time Line of the Corruption in Rabun County GA DFCS

  1. Yes i thank that rabun county DFCS should go to hell for what they have done to me and my family. They took my three kids from me with out a warent from the judge they just told me they did not need one because they had a verble one that was good enough for them well i did not want them to have my kids but they had about seven or eight clayton cops there and they told me that if i did not give them my kids that they was going to put me in jail so i had no choice. But i foult for four long years almost to get them back and every time that i went to court they would try to find something elce to keep my kids. Well the last time that i went to court i was going to get my kids back well thats what my no good laywer was telling me they TPR my kids and between allthis i had a nother baby and they thought that just because they had my other kids they was goiing t take him to well they did he was five montes and i was brest feeding and they took him from me and the stupid judge said i was not going to get them back and the foster family they all four went to she had adopted them and i thank that dfcs should go to hell for ever.


  2. patti mvallister says:

    My daughter Katie Weizer was lied and tricked into signing her parental rights away.a ex Rabin county defacs worker and her husband bought a baby.April and Todd duvall of Franklin n.c
    Kept telling lies and had to keep paying lawyers to keep my grandson Keith Colby Weizer born Sep.26,2006 Gainesville Georgia.Rabin county defacs never drug tested my daughter.April duvall waned a baby.and got telling lies.she left Rabin defacs after she got my daughter Katie Weizer to sign her parental rights away,while high on crystalmeth. The judge was cornwell and his friend the lawyer Richard tinkle. Friends doing favors to sell a. Woman’s baby. No justice in georgia


  3. patti mvallister says:

    It makes me sick how a ex Rabin county defacs worker has my grandson,Keith Colby Weizer.born Sep. 26,2006 at Gainesville Georgia. April duvall should be ashamed of herself. Keeping a child from his real mother and grandparents.I Patti Mcallister would have taken him home right after court on June 4,2006 many lies were day Keith Colby will want to know his real family.what will the duvalls tell him? I hope I live long enough to go find him when he turns 18.I will tell him the truth how these people got him.I have his baby pictures.clothes he wires in pictures.I can’t wait to see him. I’m still his grandma and he has a sister. Patti mcallister


    • patti mvallister says:

      I hate Rabin county defacs.I went down to court to get my grandson Keith Colby Weizer.the lawyer tinkle and judge cornwell were friends and in my opinion a favor and maybe some money was in return.we hired two lawyers to get that baby back with his real family.weaver and bagwell.they did do their job and we got no justice. My grandson was born 9-6-06 I still miss him til this day we have a birthday party for him every year.I wish I’d never moved to Georgia and so glad I much crime


  4. patti mvallister says:

    I’m glad they all got caught.I still wish they had call me to come get my my opinion a ex fefacs worker April duvall got s favor to keep her mouth shut about selling kids out of Rabin defacs. The favor was to get my grandson Keith Colby Weizer.they lied to my daughter about a open adoption.soon as she signed her rights away the duvalls of Franklin n.c. would not let her see Colby.


    • patti mvallister says:

      When you keep giving money to lawyers, to keep a women’s child.we went to court three times.the judge was cornwell,their lawyer was tinkle many lies were told.the truth was never told.Rabin defacs knew something was wrong with my daughter.crystalmeth is what she was on.Rabin never drug tested her,and could day all the real truth will be told.this boy will want to know his reafamily.and he will come and find do you think he will feel then? He will hate these people who got to keep him from his mother because they had more money.when judges and lawyers are friends,people do not get just


  5. MARILYN DALE says:



  6. donna fisher says:

    i can truly say i know how you feel our defacs system along with our police dept and most importantly the crooked judges and lawyers in our so called court system have caused me so much heartache and grief since 2002 with my 2 older children and now they have started all over again with my 2yr old when is enough enough why wont someone do something about this crooked county guess their scared nancy shaffer did and ended up dead murder suicide by her husband my ass


  7. Christopher hoskinson says:

    Rabun county DFCS has taken my child gone In front of judge that has felony chsrges and lied about me and my mother their has been old cases that have been UNFOUNDED and not proven and they still want to use that against us what can we do I just want my ddaughter home with me I miss my 5yr old she does not need to be in fostercare in rabun county this happend from judge cullifer and jessica and julie Whitney dfcs workers also mellisa woodall nothing but a big ass scandal in Rabun county georgia please help me get my lil girl home im all she has got


  8. Marilyn says:

    Well. It been 7 year my granddaughter got adopted out. My daughter to be old enough to read and no wht did happen when they took,her all lies god know she will will be told. I had some one went to school with her try to tell her I did not give her away but she was already told I did not love her like her dad witch was a lie dfc.lie to all this children and still doing. .HARLEE Marie
    Hoskinson we did not lie to u,we no,ur name been change but hang on sweet remember the cross on the Mountail. And u LOVE so my h we fight for u the judges and dfcs. Will not have no hole on u grandson love u very much and grate uncle loves u never stop and we will all be together if god lets u old enough to no the truth ur UNLCE Michael. Hope u ant sick


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