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Mentally Disturbed Criminal Snatches Children
January 20, 2015 permalink
What kind of conduct is permissible for a social worker? Georgia DFCS investigator Paige Newsome was convicted of forgery, reckless driving and pointing a gun at a motorist, but remains on the job. She also stated under oath in court that she suffers from a mental or emotional disability.
DFCS has no problem with investigator's criminal record
CANTON, Ga. – A state investigator responsible for ensuring the safety of Georgia's children can be convicted of forgery and pulling a gun in a road rage incident and still keep her job. That's the answer from the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services to questions raised by the 11Alive Investigators.
DFCS child protection investigator Paige Newsome was hired last year by the Cherokee County DFCS office even after the agency learned she had failed to report her conviction on a 2011 gun charge. The state requires applicants to report all convictions and pending charges on a security questionnaire and loyalty oath. Newsome had reported four traffic convictions, but omitted her guilty plea for drawing a revolver on another driver in I-20.
According to documents obtained by the 11Alive Investigators, the West Monroe Police Department in Louisiana arrested Newsome after the other driver called 9-1-1 and reported Newsome had pointed a gun at him after she cut him off on the interstate. As part of her guilty plea, she was required to turn over the gun to police. The missing conviction was found as part of a criminal background check by the state on May 1, 2014 -- the day Newsome was hired.
A month after she started working in a position that would send her into the homes of at risk children, Newsome was in court again. She pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery in the 4th degree for signing her father's name to checks without his permission. Newsome had reported the pending charges on her application, but explained that her plea under the Georgia First Offender Statute would not involve a fine or probation.
Newsome is currently serving 12 months probation and she was fined $250 by the court, contrary to her statement when applying for the DFCS job.
As part of her guilty plea, Newsome was required to answer several questions asked by the court. While employed as a DFCS investigator, she answered "yes" to the question, "Do you now suffer from any mental or emotional disability?"
A spokesperson from the Georgia Department of Human Services which oversees DFCS told The 11 Alive Investigators that Newsome's mental issues are protected under federal law and can not be discussed by the state. DHS issued a statement to 11 Alive, copied below, but the agency had no issues with Newsome's criminal history or what she failed to report.
The DHS spokesperson called Newsome a model employee, adding she's had no disciplinary actions during her time at DFCS.
The agency also knew about Newsome's 2012 arrest for driving under the influence on I-20. She reported it as a conviction for reckless driving – the final disposition -- but a copy of the DUI arrest report was in Newsome's personnel file. She supplied an explanation the day after signing her application.
Newsome wrote, "I had an accident…I was charged with suspicion of DUI though the breath-a-lizer (SIC) showed nothing." Georgia State Patrol records show a portable breath test reading of 0.11% blood alcohol level, well above the driving limit of 0.08.
Court records show Newsome was arrested by the state trooper at the scene of the one car crash, and she pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of reckless driving while a blood test was still pending.
DFCS officials accepted her explanation without question and she was hired as an investigator, even though the agency had the GSP report showing a completely different blood alcohol result.
Similarly, records indicate that DFCS didn't have a problem with Newsome completely omitting the gun charge. Emails obtained by the 11 Alive Investigators under open records laws show a human resources manager was concerned about the omission as recently as last month, but still recommended "continued employment."
A former DFCS official told us the agency follows its employment policies to the letter because of fear over lawsuits from terminated employees. Department of Human Resources Policy #504 lists several charges that would disqualify an applicant, but if an applicant or employee is convicted of a charge not listed in the policy, they can be hired or keep their job of they're already working for the agency.
DHS lists forgery in the first and second degree in Policy #504, but forgery in the fourth degree is perfectly acceptable for its employees and prospective employees. Likewise, pulling a gun during a road rage incident is not on the list and therefore it has no effect on a child protection investigator's employment.
Even though Newsome reported the forgery charge on her application, she didn't have to do so. The application says charges handled under the First Offender Statute do not need to be reported.
The emails discussing Paige Newsome's job included some confusion on the part of a DHS regional HR manager. She wrote, "we may be speaking about another employee situation. We truly have too many problem children." She included the :) emoticon for a smiley face at the end of the sentence.
The emails also show a discussion of pulling Newsome from her child protection duties during the agency's investigation, but as of this week Newsome was back at work at the Cherokee County DFCS office and The 11 Alive Investigators found her repeatedly parking in the Employee of The Quarter parking space.
DFCS said she is not the Employee of The Quarter.
We reached out to Paige Newsome for her side of the story but she did not reply.
They're hired to protect Georgia's helpless children, but how many DFCS child protection investigators have criminal records? That's the $64,000 question. WXIA
State lawyers replied to our open records request for the loyalty oaths of only those DFCS employees with criminal records, saying we would have to pay more than $64,000 to get copies of the records.
The agency released the following statement to 11Alive:
"The Division of Family and Children Services hired Paige Newsome as a social services case manager in May 2014. Her qualifications and history deemed her eligible for employment according to the policy at that time.
After initial hiring, employees are evaluated based upon their ability to perform assigned job duties and by their adherence to agency policy and procedures, including the standards of conduct for employees.
Agency policy regarding personnel and child welfare practice is always under review, and the agency takes action to revise those policies when appropriate."
Source: WXIA-TV Atlanta