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NYT: Public Sector Unions Defending Workers Accused of Abuse and Sexual Assault

4:00 PM, Mar 14, 2011 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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The New York Times had an eye-opening story about abuses in state-run homes for the elderly and disabled in New York this weekend. In particular, the article highlights how unions are aggressively defending those workers accused of very serious crimes:

The Times reviewed 399 disciplinary cases involving 233 state workers who were accused of one of seven serious offenses, including physical abuse and neglect, since 2008. In each of the cases examined, the agency had substantiated the charges, and the worker had been previously disciplined at least once.

In 25 percent of the cases involving physical, sexual or psychological abuse, the state employees were transferred to other homes.

The state initiated termination proceedings in 129 of the cases reviewed but succeeded in just 30 of them, in large part because the workers’ union, the Civil Service Employees Association, aggressively resisted firings in almost every case. A few employees resigned, even though the state sought only suspensions.

However, it's the specific examples in the story that are truly horrifying:

At a home upstate in Hudson Falls, two days before Christmas in 2006, an employee discovered her supervisor, Ricky W. Sousie, in the bedroom of a severely disabled, 54-year-old woman. Mr. Sousie, a stocky man with wispy hair, was standing between the woman’s legs. His pants were around his ankles, his hand was on her knee and her diaper was pulled down.

The police were called, and semen was found on the victim. But the state did not seek to discipline Mr. Sousie. Instead, it transferred him to work at another home.

Roger Macomber, an employee at a group home in western New York, grabbed a woman in his care, threw her against a fence, and then flung her into a wall, according to a 2007 disciplinary report. He was then assigned to work at another group home.

Mr. Macomber, in fact, was transferred to different homes four times in the past decade for disciplinary reasons. It was not until last year, after he left a person unattended while he went into a store, that he was put on employment probation and eventually dismissed.

Over the past year, the state agency overseeing the homes, the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, has repeatedly declined to make its top officials available for interviews. A spokesman, Herm Hill, said that the vast majority of the agency’s employees were conscientious, and that its hands were often tied because of the disciplinary and arbitration rules involving the workers’ union. Mr. Hill emphasized that the agency takes allegations of abuse “very seriously.”

Emphasis added. It turns out that Sousie had also assaulted a co-worker in 1992 and stayed on the job. And believe it or not, after being caught with the disabled woman, Sousie was allowed to return to work -- no doubt thanks to union disciplinary and arbitration rules:

The inquiry by the Hudson Falls police foundered. It took the department nearly 10 months to get a DNA report on the seminal fluid from the state police laboratory. But during that time, officers never obtained a specimen of Mr. Sousie’s DNA for comparison.

The case then sat dormant for nearly a year and a half, during which time Mr. Sousie was allowed to return to work at a different home. The Washington County district attorney, Kevin C. Kortright, and the Hudson Falls police chief, Randy Diamond, said DNA technology was not sufficiently advanced in 2007 to make progress in the case, even though it was in widespread use at the time.

Finally, in 2009, an enterprising police detective took up the case, and a court order was obtained to get a DNA sample from Mr. Sousie. A case was brought against him in county court, including a felony sodomy charge, only to be dismissed after a judge ruled that the district attorney’s office withheld evidence from the defense.

The state moved to fire Sousie but instead it reached a settlement with the union:

He was placed on probation for two years, had 80 hours of back pay withheld, lost six days of leave time and was ordered to undergo counseling. But he remained on the job.

If the Hudson Falls detective had not revived the sexual assault case and sent him to jail, of course, Mr. Sousie would, presumably, still be employed.

In the interview, Mr. Sousie, who was released from the county lockup last year, said he was now looking for work and looking forward to collecting his state pension.

“Today’s another day, you know,” he said. “I’m waiting till I get old enough to draw my retirement.”

I'm sure taxpayers in the state of New York feel great about paying this man's pension, and even better about the union bosses who kept him employed long after he was credibly accused of sexual assault.

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