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June 18, 2010 permalink
One of those social workers who claim to be the alter ego of Florence Nightingale and Mother Teresa has been charged with lying. Wisconsin CPS investigator Todd O'Brien was caught cutting corners on his reports six times and is facing criminal penalties.
Child abuse investigator charged with fabricating reports
The six cases
The charges against fired child protective services investigator Todd O'Brien stem from six cases. Information was taken from the criminal complaint against him filed Thursday in Racine County Circuit Court.
- March-April 2008: The Human Services Department received a letter saying a woman with a day care sexually assaulted her younger sister and was mentally unstable. O'Brien was assigned to investigate, and reported he visited the woman's home and spoke to each child there. He found the allegations unsubstantiated. The woman told HSD officials this year that O'Brien had never come to her house.
- December 2008: A hospital told HSD that a baby had been born with marijuana in its system. O'Brien reported he found the home "modest, well-kept, fortified for children, with food, diapers, clothing, crib and other necessary items," and that he did not see any safety concerns. When investigators spoke to the woman this year, she said she never saw anyone from HSD after her child was born.
- January 2009: O'Brien investigated a report that a couple was physically abusing a child. O'Brien's report says he visited the home and spoke to the girl, who said she was not afraid of her step-father, and that he was a "nice guy." This year, the couple told investigators no one came to their house or interviewed them about abuse allegations.
- January 2009: A 17-year-old girl was treated at the hospital for scratches on her arm. O'Brien's report stated the girl had fought with her mother over a party the girl had thrown, and that there was no issue. He wrote he met with the girl and the mother at their home. During the follow-up investigation this year, the woman said no one from HSD had come to their home.
- January 2009: A student at the Mack Center reportedly had an injury to his face. O'Brien's report on the incident said he spoke to the boy and his mother at their home on Jan. 23, and that he had no injuries. In a follow-up investigation this year, the boy's mother said no one came to their home. School records show the boy was in school at the time O'Brien said he visited the home.
- September 2009: A school employee reported a 5-year-old boy had a bruise under his right eye. O'Brien's report said the boy told him he was wrestling with his father and brothers, and that there was an accident. His report stated the "child was happy" and the "clean and appropriate." The mother told investigators this year that no one from HSD came to her home or interviewed her or her son.
Todd P. O'Brien
Address: 9305 S. 29th St., Franklin
Charges: Six counts of misconduct in public office, making a fraudulent record or statement
Possible maximum penalty: Nine years prison and $60,000 fine plus 12 years extended supervision
Allegation: O’Brien was a veteran child protective services investigator for Racine County who allegedly made up reports showing he investigated claims of child abuse. The people he said he investigated later told officials that O’Brien never came to their homes to speak with them.
RACINE - A former Racine County Child Protective Services investigator was charged Thursday with fabricating reports in six cases where there were allegations of abuse against children.
Todd P. O'Brien, 37, of Franklin, is charged with six counts of misconduct in office for making a fraudulent record or statement. Each count carries a maximum possible penalty of 1 1/2 years in prison.
O'Brien was a veteran investigator with the Racine County Human Services Department when his work came under scrutiny earlier this year. He was subsequently fired by the county.
HSD began looking into his work in February after someone being considered as a possible placement for a child who needed a new place to live had a flag on their file from a previous investigation. HSD workers saw the person had been previously investigated for possible sexual abuse of a child, and asked the woman about it. She told them no one had ever spoken with her about anything like that. O'Brien's report from the 2008 allegations said he spoke with the woman and interviewed the children in her home. He found the allegations unsubstantiated.
After that incident, county officials looked into other cases where O'Brien determined an abuse suspicion was unsubstantiated and found five other cases where they suspected O'Brien fabricated information. In each of those cases his reports contained detailed information about interviews with people against whom abuse allegations had been made, but where the people involved said he never came to speak with them.
O'Brien made his initial appearance on the charges against him on Thursday. He remains out of custody on a $5,000 signature bond. If he violates the conditions of bond - including having no contact with any of the victims in the case and making all his court appearances - he would likely have to pay the full amount.
HSD has hired someone specifically to look into O'Brien's cases.
"Every case from 2007 forward we've pulled," said Kerry Milkie, manager of the youth and family division of the Racine County Human Services Department. "Any case that he worked alone is being assigned to this individual and he's making phone calls to those contacts to ensure from a quality assurance standpoint that A, those contacts happened, and B, the family received the service they needed and if they didn't, that they now receive that service."
HSD Director Jonathan Delagrave said they are being "very diligent and very careful" with regard to O'Brien's cases. Milkie said there are in excess of 250 cases that are being reviewed. No one has been hired to fill O'Brien's vacated position. The person who's looking into his other cases has been with the county for about a month, and has so far reviewed approximately 50 cases.
Delagrave said he was not ready to share what, if anything, the investigator has found, though expects the results of the investigation to be made public at some point.
Milkie said the department is taking this very seriously: "We're going to work until it's done, until it's resolved. We're going to ensure these families' needs are met."
In a previous statement through his attorney O'Brien asked people to withhold judgment until all the facts are available. The case is due in court next month for a preliminary hearing on the charges.
Source: Racine Journal Times