State Looks to Close Hanna Boys Center
By Paul Payne
January 4, 2018
License revocation proceedings have begun against Sonoma Valley’s embattled Hanna Boys Center following a year of controversy in which a former top manager was charged with molesting four children, a second employee was accused of having sex with a youth and the facility was slapped with numerous civil lawsuits containing further allegations of abuse.
A six-page complaint filed late last month by the Community Care Licensing Division of the Department of Social Services seeks to stop the 73-year-old, Catholic Church-based center on Arnold Drive from operating as a group home while stripping its former clinical director, Kevin Scott Thorpe, of the ability to ever work in a state-licensed facility again.
Thorpe, 39, of Rohnert Park was arrested in June after a former resident came forward alleging Thorpe sexually abused him over a five-year period. An investigation turned up three more former residents who claim Thorpe molested them at the facility and during off-site, solo outings, in incidents dating back to at least 2006.
Thorpe, who also ran a youth ministry program as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, remains in jail awaiting a February preliminary hearing with bail set at $1.8 million.
Now, the complaint from state regulators filed Dec. 21 will be assigned to an administrative law judge who will hear evidence and issue a ruling, said Michael Weston, a Department of Social Services spokesman.
The facility was the subject of five complaint investigations last year and received eight citations, including two classified as posing an immediate risk to health and safety or a personal rights impact.
A hearing date has not been scheduled.
“When the department is seeking to revoke a license that would be the highest degree of action the department can take,” Weston said.
Hanna Boys Center officials plan to contest any revocation.
Brian Farragher, executive director, said lawyers will respond with a list of corrective steps taken over the past six months to make sure the facility is safe for its up to 100 at-risk youths.
Among the steps was a retraining of staff and residents on recognizing signs of sexual abuse and installing GPS devices in facility vehicles to track the transportation of minors, he said.
“We’re confident we will be able to work this out,” Farragher said. “It’s been an important place for thousands of kids over the years. The current kids and families see us as a crucial resource for them.”
Hanna Boys Center, founded in 1945, is associated with the Santa Rosa diocese of the Catholic Church. Bishop Robert Vasa, who sits on the governing board, did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment. In their complaint, state group home regulators claim Thorpe “regularly sexually molested” seven children over a more than 10-year period. They blame the center for failing to protect the personal rights of the children and failing to provide adequate supervision.
They also allege the center knew about the inappropriate relationship between another employee, Angelica Malinski, and the 17-year-old but did not take steps to prevent it.
The facility came under scrutiny beginning early last year after it was revealed that Malinski, then 22, was charged with having unlawful sexual intercourse with a 17-year-old boy. She was fired, and her misdemeanor case is pending.
Months later, Thorpe’s predecessor, 31-year-employee Timothy Norman, filed a whistleblower lawsuit, alleging he was wrongly fired for complaining about a lack of supervision over minors involved in bullying. That case is ongoing.
Then in June, Thorpe, a former youth counselor and caseworker who replaced Norman, was arrested on two felony counts involving lewd and lascivious acts against a minor.
That minor was 23 when he told detectives he’d been abused by Thorpe numerous times from 2006-2011, when he was 13 to 18 years old. The alleged incidents occurred on campus and at Thorpe’s then-Sonoma home.
Subsequent investigations led to more allegations from three other former residents. Thorpe now faces 34 felony and two misdemeanor counts.