Lawsuit against children’s agency dismissed

Federal lawsuit against Children Services dismissed

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against the Trumbull County Children’s Services agency and and a former female employee by three women who said the employee engaged in sexual conduct with them while they were in agency custody.

By Ed Runyan


A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by three women against the Trumbull County Children Services agency and a former female employee.

The women claimed the employee engaged in sexual conduct with them while they were under 18 and in agency custody.

Judge John R. Adams of Akron ruled Thursday the statute of limitations had run out on the complaint because each of the women turned 18 more than two years before the lawsuit was filed last September.

Atty. David Engler, who filed the suit, argued the statute of limitations ought to be 12 years.

The statue of limitations for a sexual assault is 12 years after age 18 in Ohio, Engler said.

But Judge Adams ruled that the type of lawsuit filed in this case should fall under the heading of “personal injury,” so the Ohio statute of limitations of two years would apply.

The three women, Shamia Fudge, Kenya Kennedy and a woman listed only as T.W., alleged in the lawsuit that the former employee, Rita Watson of Girard, took “at least two of them” to her apartment and had them simulate sex acts with one another while the employee watched.

They alleged the employee, then a youth leader or dorm mother, also engaged in sex acts with the women.

Tim Schaffner, Children Services executive director since April, said the agency investigated allegations against a youth leader about four years ago and reported the allegations to the Warren Police Department, but no charges were filed.

A review of the woman’s personnel file showed Watson was accused on several occasions of making inappropriate sexual comments on the job, including to three co-workers and two of the women who filed the suit.

A memo from a CSB superviser in 2003 said the employee admitted to asking two of the women involved in the lawsuit whether they ever kissed each other and then asked them not to tell anyone about the conversation.

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.

In September 2003, Children Services 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.

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.

Watson filed a grievance in November 2003, saying one of the three co-workers was slandering her because of ongoing disagreements between the two.

Watson was disciplined in 2006 for improper supervision of girls from her unit. She resigned in October 2007.

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