By Ed Runyan
A Girard woman accused in a recent lawsuit of engaging in sexual conduct with girls she supervised at Trumbull County Children Services was accused on several occasions of making inappropriate sexual comments on the job.
Rita Watson, of Girard, who no longer works for the agency, was accused in late 2003 of making such comments to three co-workers and two juveniles, including two of the girls who filed the suit.
The lawsuit doesn’t give a specific time frame for the alleged acts but says Watson took two of the girls to her apartment and engaged in sex acts with them.
Tim Schaffner, Children Services executive director since April, said the agency investigated allegations of that type against a youth leader about four years ago and reported the allegations to the Warren Police Department, but no charges were filed.
Watson does not have a published phone number.
A memo from Kelly Glodziak, Children Services human resources supervisor, in October 2003 says Watson asked two of the three girls who filed the lawsuit about kissing and then told them not to tell anyone about the conversation.
“Both residents stated that Ms. Watson first questioned them as to whether or not they have ever kissed a boy,” said the memo, obtained by The Vindicator through a public-records request.
“Later, Ms. Watson questioned them as to whether or not they have ever kissed each other. Both girls were uncomfortable sharing this information as they stated that Ms. Watson had them promise that they would not tell anybody about this conversation,” the memo said.
The girls were in their early teens and living in a residential unit at Children Services at the time. Watson was a part-time on-call youth leader, meaning she supervised children there.
“Ms. Watson did admit to having these conversations with the girls,” the memo says. Watson defended her actions by saying she asked the questions because of concerns about what may have happened to the girls while they were “on the run during the summer.”
“Ms. Watson was reminded that this was the second incident where residents at the Juniors’ Unit have reported that she asked them to keep secrets,” the memo said.
Watson received a written reprimand in September 2003 for an incident a couple of weeks earlier in which she took a child with her from a residential unit at 9 p.m. and performed a personal errand with her out of county on work time.
The child also “surmised from your conversation with her” that “you could get in trouble if she told where the two of you had been,” the reprimand said.
In September 2003, Glodziak received complaints from three of Watson’s co-workers about sexual comments the workers said Watson made to them, according to the memo.
Watson had suggested having sex with one of the co-workers and her husband or just with the female co-worker, the memo said.
Another co-worker reported that Watson “asked her if she would like for her to lick the ketchup off of her shirt.”
Watson also was accused of making a sexual remark to another co-worker regarding “what a good kisser you are,” the memo said. The accuser said the remark was made in front of juvenile CSB residents.
In all three cases, the remarks were unwelcome, the memo said.
Watson filed a grievance in November 2003, saying one of the three co-workers was slandering her because of ongoing disagreements between the two.
A performance evaluation in June 2004 said Watson had worked as a youth leader since May 2001, when she was 22 years old, was “mostly accurate, fairly thorough and flexible in completing assignments but had to be cautioned about making off-color/sexual comments.”
Watson earned $11.53 per hour just before she left the agency in 2007.
She also was described in one work evaluation as “almost an enigma at times over the past year,” because she “can be cooperative and effective one day and be just as obstinate and contrary the next.”
The evaluation says Watson “should be very careful” about off-color and sexual comments “or it will impinge on her ability to work in any of the Units.”
Watson received an eight-hour suspension for an incident in June 2006 in which three females from the girls unit had gone into a vacant area formerly used as a boys unit while Watson and another employee were supposed to be supervising them.
Records indicated the girls used a phone in the room eight times over nearly four hours.
In October 2007, Watson notified Children Services that she was “unavailable to work” any further at CSB.
Watson’s letter said allegations made against her in June 2007 were unsubstantiated but that it appeared the agency did not want her back.