Dallas Resources – July 1998
By Brooks Egerton and Ed Housewright
Parties in the landmark sex abuse and conspiracy case against the Catholic Diocese of Dallas have tentatively agreed to settle remaining claims for $ 22.5 million, sources familiar with the negotiations said Wednesday.
The deal - which remains incomplete while attorneys argue over matters other than the dollar figure - would bring the total settlement for abuse committed by suspended priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos to $ 30 million. That's one-fourth of what a civil jury awarded 11 plaintiffs last July, in what was the largest clergy-abuse judgment in history.
Even $ 30 million would stand as the largest amount ever paid in connection with a single religious leader's misdeeds, said the Rev. Tom Economus, who heads a national network of clergy-abuse victims.
And he said the case will live on as an international reference point: Unlike hundreds of similar ones brought against Catholic dioceses, it wasn't settled before trial and featured public testimony alleging that church leaders ignored or concealed evidence of Mr. Kos' abuse.
"The case in Dallas showed the bigger picture of the scandal, not just in the United States, but around the world," the Chicago priest said.
Three of Mr. Kos' former altar boys agreed in March to share $ 7.5 million, saying they wanted to avoid years of appeals that might also reduce the judgment dramatically.
The tentative new deal covers the remaining eight plaintiffs whose case was aired for nearly three months last summer in a Dallas County courtroom. No figure has been agreed upon for a 12th young man who said he was molested by Mr. Kos but who sued after jurors returned their verdict.
That issue and at least two nonmonetary matters still must be worked out before a settlement is made final, sources close to the negotiations said.
Diocesan attorney George Bramblett would not discuss those issues in detail but indicated that they are serious. Resolution of the 12th case is essential to the broader settlement, he said.
"We're pretty close," Mr. Bramblett said. "We have not settled. It's all pretty fragile."
Windle Turley, the lawyer representing the eight plaintiffs, characterized the situation this way: "We're very close. I hope it gets done this week."
One remaining issue, the sources said, is whether the plaintiffs will agree to vacate the jury's judgment. That would take it off the legal record, making it easier for the diocese to obtain credit and defend itself against potential future clergy-abuse plaintiffs.
Another major issue, Mr. Turley said, is his clients' demand for an independent study of the diocese's ability to prevent sexual abuse.
"We don't trust them to police themselves," said plaintiff Jim Sibert, who as a teen lived with Mr. Kos in the rectory of All Saints Catholic Church. "They haven't in the past."
Mr. Sibert expressed concern that such a study might have no teeth.
"But it's the least they could do," he said. "If they can't agree to this, then the whole trial is for nothing."
Mr. Bramblett declined to comment publicly on the question of an independent study.
After reaching the earlier agreement to settle with the three clients represented by attorney Sylvia Demarest, Bishop Charles V. Grahmann said he was glad to "end this long period of sadness."
"We have asked all Catholics to pray for victims and to see ways to prevent abuse occurring anywhere in our community," he said in a written statement.
How the latest settlement would be funded remains unclear. In the deal with Ms. Demarest's clients, the diocese agreed to pay $ 3.1 million of the amount, with insurance companies covering the remaining $ 4.4 million.
Mr. Kos was also found liable for damages but is destitute and not expected to pay anything. He was convicted of child molestation this spring and sentenced to life in prison.
Dismissal of Kos, 2 Others Raises Due-Process Issues
By Brooks Egerton
Three times in recent weeks, Pope John Paul II has responded to his church's pedophilia crisis with a rare and extreme measure: defrocking priests without benefit of a church trial.
Some Catholic scholars said Wednesday that the actions - involving Rudolph "Rudy" Kos in Dallas and two Massachusetts clerics - show that the Vatican is finally heeding American bishops' pleas for faster, tougher action against the child molesters in their midst.
Papal officials haven't commented on the moves, which occurred after Dallas Bishop Charles V. Grahmann and Boston Cardinal Bernard Law asked that ordinary disciplinary procedures be bypassed.
"Because of the way the church in the past did not handle these cases very well, I think it's going to have to deal with the cases that are coming up now very firmly and clearly and decisively," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, an internationally known expert on American bishops.
"I think . . . [Bishop Grahmann] has done it, and I think he would have a lot of support for doing what he did."
Other experts see a troubling precedent in forcing priests back to layman's status without giving them a chance to defend themselves.
"It was done without what we would call due process," said the Rev. John Beal, a canon law expert at Catholic University in Washington D.C. "I see this as compounding the injustice of the situation."
Of the three dismissed priests, only Mr. Kos has been convicted of child molestation, Father Beal said. One of the Boston priests has been accused in lawsuits that his archdiocese has paid millions to settle, while the other hasn't been publicly identified.
Why would the Vatican dismiss these three men out of all the priests who've been accused or convicted of child sexual abuse?
"I think the common thread is access to the Holy Father," said Father Beal. Bishop Grahmann, for example, has long cultivated the Roman hierarchy and visited the pope late last month.
One of Mr. Kos' canon lawyers, a California priest who spoke on condition of anonymity, offered a different view Wednesday. He suggested that the two dioceses involved had long failed to respond effectively to abuse allegations and ended up in desperate financial straits.
"There are lots of cases where there's no publicity" and church leaders move quickly to help victims, he said. "The Dallas situation got out of control."
The Rev. Charles Curran, a prominent dissident Catholic theologian who teaches at Southern Methodist University, also pointed to last year's abuse-conspiracy trial of the Dallas Diocese.
"This is the most public case in the United States," he said. "That explains it, it seems to me."
The civil trial ended with a $ 119.6 million judgment against the diocese and Mr. Kos, the largest clergy-abuse verdict of its kind. Parties in the case have tentatively agreed to settle for one-fourth of that amount and avoid years of appeals, though no final decision had been announced by Wednesday evening.
Mr. Kos, now serving a life term in state prison, can't make or receive phone calls and faxes, Texas authorities said. He probably doesn't even know yet that he has been removed irrevocably from the priesthood, his canon lawyer said.
The Dallas Diocese petitioned last year to nullify Mr. Kos' ordination - seeking to show that he never validly functioned as a priest - but switched to the dismissal strategy on advice from the Vatican. The diocese announced the pope's decision with a statement issued by the LeMaster Group, a public relations firm it hired last year.
"I hope this action will bring some closure for the victims and their families as well as for all of us," Bishop Grahmann said in the statement. "This forced laicization sends a definitive signal the Diocese of Dallas will make every effort to see that this abuse does not happen again."
Bishop Grahmann declined, as he has for months, to be interviewed about anything related to the Kos case. Neither the diocese nor Mr. Kos' canon lawyer would release the dismissal decree.
Both sides agreed that the pope justified the unilateral dismissal by saying it would be impossible to proceed with the normal church-law process. Mr. Kos' canon lawyer said the reference puzzled him; diocesan spokeswoman Lisa LeMaster noted that a canonical trial would be difficult with Mr. Kos in prison and might "victimize the victims again."
Gail Pawlik, who has two sons who were molested by Mr. Kos, cheered the news of his dismissal. But she reacted angrily to the diocese news release, which also quoted a top diocesan administrator as saying that the civil and criminal trials showed how Mr. Kos "deceived and defrauded the diocese about his lifestyle."
"Rudy didn't deceive us," Ms. Pawlik responded. "It was the diocese who deceived us."
Referring to civil-trial testimony that Mr. Kos' sexual problems were known before he was even ordained, she said: "Rudy never could have become a priest without the complicity of the diocese."
Ms. Pawlik alleged that the diocese still hasn't accounted for all its pedophiles. "They're waiting for another lawsuit," she said, "and hoping one doesn't happen."
Besides Mr. Kos, at least five Dallas priests have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct with children:
* Robert Peebles, who voluntarily left the priesthood and, with diocese aid, became a lawyer in New Orleans.
* Suspended priest William J. Hughes, who has worked as a psychologist and for a Dallas-area computer business. His whereabouts is unknown, the diocese said.
* Suspended priest Patrick Lynch, who took a medical retirement and moved to his native Ireland in the mid-1990s. A relative, a neighbor and the diocese said Wednesday that they no longer know where he is.
* The Rev. Richard T. Brown, who was reassigned to an adults-only ministry out of state after undergoing therapy.
* The Rev. William Hoover, who died in 1996.
The diocese recently agreed to $ 5 million in civil settlements involving Mr. Peebles and Mr. Hughes. No civil or criminal cases are known to be pending involving the other three men.
Dioceses around the world have suffered through similar revelations of clergy abuse over the last decade. The scandals have reached some of Roman Catholicism's highest levels in recent months, with a cardinal in Austria and a bishop in Florida exposed as child molesters and forced to resign.
In the early 1990s, many American bishops began pushing Rome to expedite dismissal of pedophile priests. However, the bishops are not all of one mind.
In a civil deposition several months ago, San Antonio Archbishop Patrick Flores was asked why a convicted molester hadn't been defrocked.
"Well, he's fit for certain ministries" and could say Mass in prison, the archbishop said. "He could be a priest in isolation or in a monastery."
Vatican Defrocks Convicted Priest
Religion News Service
The Catholic Diocese of Dallas had requested the Vatican take the rare action against Kos, the Associated Press reported.
However, the Vatican did not take the additional step of nullifying his ordination, which would mean Kos never was a validly ordained priest.
As it stands, Kos can no longer be called father or reverend, but he remains a Catholic, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
Kos, 53, is serving a life sentence for molesting altar boys. The scandal led to a record $119.6 million verdict against the Dallas diocese, the largest award related to clergy sexual abuse in the nation's history.
The suit was filed by 10 former altar boys and the parents of an 11th who committed suicide.
Three plaintiffs have settled for $7.5 million and the remaining parties are nearing a settlement, the newspaper reported.
Remaining Kos Claims to Be Settled
By Ed Housewright and Brooks Egerton
Both sides in the landmark sex-abuse case against the Dallas Catholic Diocese will announce Friday that they've reached a $ 22.5 million settlement, sources familiar with the negotiations said.
"I want to say [that] tomorrow morning there will be an announcement, a very positive announcement," Bishop Charles V. Grahmann said Thursday night at the annual dinner for major donors to the Catholic Community Appeal.
"I hope the news tomorrow will begin a new journey for our church," the bishop said, without elaborating.
His statement was received with warm applause from the 300 people present, diocesan spokeswoman Lisa LeMaster said.
In a written statement Thursday, plaintiffs' attorney Windle Turley said he will hold a news conference Friday morning with some of the eight young men he represents who alleged sexual abuse by former priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos. They and three other plaintiffs were awarded $ 119.6 million by a Dallas civil jury last July, a record for a clergy-abuse case.
"We believe their announcement is important to the community," said the statement from Mr. Turley, who could not be reached to elaborate.
Diocese lawyer George Bramblett said, "There's going to be a very big, important announcement. Otherwise, I'm not going to comment."
Several plaintiffs said Mr. Turley's office called them Thursday afternoon to tell them about the news conference.
"I think things are agreed on," said Wade Schlossstein , one of Mr. Turley's clients. "I don't see any other reason why a press conference would be called."
At about the same time as the plaintiffs' news conference, Bishop Grahmann will make an announcement, Ms. LeMaster said. She would not give any details.
In March, the three plaintiffs represented by attorney Sylvia Demarest settled with the diocese for $ 7.5 million. They said they wanted to avoid years of appeals that might dramatically reduce the judgment.
Last week, The Dallas Morning News reported that Mr. Turley and the diocese had tentatively reached a $ 22.5 million agreement. Several of his clients confirmed that figure Thursday.
"I don't have a problem with that amount at all," Mr. Schlossstein said.
Another plaintiff said "that's probably all the money we're going to get."
"I think they [diocese officials] got off easy," said the man, who asked not to be identified. "But on the other notion , it's not just the money I'm concerned about. I want to see some changes" at the diocese.
He said part of the settlement called for church officials to take steps to ensure that clergy sexual abuse doesn't happen again. But he said he didn't know the specifics of the agreement.
Mr. Schlossstein said he "was not real happy" about the plaintiffs' agreement to vacate the judgment as part of the settlement. He said he was not "100 percent clear" on the legal implications of that agreement.
Vacating the judgment takes it off the legal record and makes it easier for the diocese to obtain credit and defend itself against potential future clergy-abuse plaintiffs, legal experts said.
The settlement also calls for a 12th plaintiff who filed suit after the verdict last year to receive compensation in addition to the $ 22.5 million. That amount was unclear Thursday night.
It's also unclear how the settlement would be funded. In the deal with Ms. Demarest's clients, the diocese paid $ 3.1 million and insurance companies covered the remaining $ 4.4 million.
Mr. Kos also was found liable for the damages but is destitute and is not expected to pay anything. This spring, he was convicted in criminal court of child molestation and sentenced to life in prison.
Mr. Kos was accused in the civil lawsuits of sexually abusing boys, some as young as 9 years old, at three Dallas-area churches from 1981 to 1992.
[Photo caption: Rudolph "Rudy" Kos]
By Ed Housewright and Brooks Egerton
A $ 23.4 million settlement of the Rudy Kos sex-abuse case announced Friday included a "profound" apology from Bishop Charles V. Grahmann and a pledge to prevent other sexual molestation in the Dallas Catholic Diocese.
"We rejoice that this tragic episode is behind us," Bishop Grahmann told about 40 employees in announcing the settlement. "We've acknowledged the pain and suffering of the victims in this case."
Windle Turley, an attorney for nine of the plaintiffs who sued the diocese, said it now has the chance to develop a model program to prevent sexual abuse.
"We believe this diocese - if it will seize this moment, and it has said that it will - is now positioned to . . . lead the Catholic Church and similar institutions toward the elimination of child sexual abuse," Mr. Turley said at a news conference.
Under the settlement, the diocese will pay $ 7.25 million of the $ 23.4 million, and four insurers will pay the rest. This settlement comes four months after three other plaintiffs who alleged sexual abuse by former priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos settled with the diocese for $ 7.5 million.
The diocese's share of both settlements totals $ 10.35 million. Its legal fees are close to $ 4 million, diocese spokeswoman Lisa LeMaster said.
Last July, a Dallas civil jury awarded $ 119.6 million to the plaintiffs in the largest clergy-abuse judgment in history.
Bishop Grahmann said the diocese will take out a loan to cover its part of the settlement, then decide what property to sell to pay off the loan. He emphasized that no parish assets or schools would be sold.
"We're broke," the bishop said in an interview after his 10-minute speech to employees. "We live from hand to mouth. We've always lived from hand to mouth."
Mr. Turley had vowed after the verdict to collect the entire judgment, which grew with interest to about $ 175 million. But he said Friday: "I'm convinced they have done all they can do. We do not feel the diocese is walking away."
The Kos judgment last year drew international attention. Even the reduced settlement is the largest ever in a clergy-abuse case.
"It was a sonic boom," said the Rev. Kevin McDonough, No. 2 official in the archdiocese of St. Paul, Minn., and a consultant to a national bishops' committee on sexual abuse.
Pope John Paul II has weighed in recently, taking the rare step of dismissing Mr. Kos from the priesthood without the ordinarily required church trial. Bishop Grahmann had pushed for the action, which the diocese announced earlier this week.
"We thought we had the pope's attention" last year with the verdict, Mr. Turley said Friday. "The action this week confirmed it."
Mr. Turley was joined at the news conference by several plaintiffs. Nathan Nichols, a 19-year-old former altar boy from Ennis, said "the pain will never go away."
"The dollar amount can't help that," he said. "The only thing that can is seeing the diocese change and knowing that I've done something that will help - not only the Dallas diocese, but the dioceses of the nation and in the world."
Mr. Turley said the diocese is "scared to death" of any future litigation. Because of that, he said he's confident that church officials will implement changes to prevent sexual abuse.
The settlement requires the diocese to undergo an outside auditor's study of its ability to stop abuse and to adopt the auditor's recommendations for at least one year.
"They have too great a financial interest not to" change, Mr. Turley said.
Ms. LeMaster said that church leaders did not have to be pressured to do the audit. She said a diocesan lawyer has already been interviewing prospective consultants.
Bishop Grahmann announced in a written statement that church officials have taken major steps since the verdict to prevent sexual abuse. These include establishing:
* A new personnel board with lay representatives.
* A board to review candidates for ordination to the priesthood and to review priests and deacons seeking to move to the Dallas diocese.
* A board composed of professionals in psychology and law enforcement to refer allegations of sex abuse to authorities.
* A review of hiring policies to include more extensive background checks.
"I can't say 100 percent that it [sexual abuse] will never reoccur," Bishop Grahmann said in an interview. "But I can say 99 percent that it won't reoccur."
The plaintiffs said they would put part of the settlement funds toward an Internet site, to be run out of Mr. Turley's office, that will provide information about institutional sex abuse. The site will be accessible both to victims and to organizations that want to reduce risk, the attorney said.
To obtain the settlement, the plaintiffs had to agree to vacate the judgment. Legal experts say that will help the diocese obtain credit and defend against other potential victims of clergy sexual abuse.
Instead of the judgment, Mr. Turley said, the plaintiffs now have a written statement in which Bishop Grahmann admits that the diocese made errors in dealing with Mr. Kos and continues:
"We accept the burden of the verdict. I regret very much what happened, and I am deeply sorry for your pain. The diocese acknowledges the trial, the verdict and the judgment."
At Mr. Turley's news conference, the father of a young man who committed suicide after years of sexual abuse by Mr. Kos said that he accepted the bishop's apology.
But "it isn't going to bring my son back," Pat Lemberger said of his son, Jay, who killed himself in 1992.
A man who sued the diocese after the verdict last summer said Friday that he hid his abuse for years because the people closest to him remained loyal to Mr. Kos.
"I was very enclosed, very violent," said 19-year-old Nick Porter of Irving, who spoke publicly about the abuse for the first time. "I still can't today even picture him [Mr. Kos] in my mind and not almost start to cry."
His lawsuit alleged that he was abused for the last time in late 1992, when Mr. Kos returned to the Dallas area while on leave from a pedophile treatment center in New Mexico. At that point, the diocese had not told parishioners why the priest had been sent away.
Mr. Porter said that made him feel betrayed, and he finds it harder to forgive the diocese than Mr. Kos. He said he no longer considers himself "much of a Catholic."
"Someday," Mr. Porter said, "I might be able to make it back to normal."
The 11 other plaintiffs alleged that they were sexually abused by Mr. Kos from 1981 to 1992 when he was at churches in Dallas, Irving and Ennis.
Mr. Kos, 53, was found liable for the civil damages but is destitute and is not expected to pay anything. This spring, he was convicted in criminal court of child molestation and sentenced to life in prison.
In his speech to employees at the diocese headquarters, Bishop Grahmann said he didn't want to "replay the past" and be a "Monday morning quarterback."
"I want to focus on the future," he said, speaking without notes. "I appreciate the overwhelming support you have given to me."
Robert Garcia, a church employee who heard the speech, said he thought the bishop's message was "very, very good."
"He is our pastor, the one who looks after all the Catholic community," said Mr. Garcia, the building maintenance supervisor at the diocese headquarters. "I think he's been carrying the burden."
Bishop Grahmann said Friday, as he had during the trial, that he removed Mr. Kos as soon as he became aware of his abuse. He said that most of the abuse occurred before he became bishop in 1990.
But he said that as the head of the diocese, he has to "assume responsibility for handling that, and I hope I have."
Bishop Grahmann, 66, said he never considering resigning as a result of the scandal and said he hopes to serve as bishop until he's 75. He said his health is fine following kidney surgery in December.
"The doctor says I'm doing super," he said.
The latest settlement was reached after about six months of negotiations with mediator Jay Madrid. He was appointed by state District Judge Anne Ashby, who presided over the three-month trial. Mr. Madrid was praised by all parties Friday.
"He just stuck with it for months and months and months when I think many mediators would have called an impasse or given up," said Brad Dickinson, an attorney for Interstate Fire & Casualty, one of the four insurers that were part of the settlement. "He just kept hammering all sides until they were able to come to common ground."
Mr. Madrid, a lawyer who has conducted mediations for 12 years, said this case was one of his toughest.
"It took a lot of time and a lot of dealings," he said. "While we ran into a number of roadblocks along the way, the parties never really gave up on the process."
[Photo captions: (1. - 2. The Dallas Morning News: David Leeson) 1. Windle Turley, an attorney for victims in the Rudy Kos sexual molestation case, speaks at a news conference with plaintiffs James Sibert (by window), Nathan Nichols (center),Nick Porter (head bowed), Michael Pawlik (seated right) and Pat Lemberger, father of abuse victim Jay Lemberger, who committed suicide. "The pain will never go away," said Mr. Nichols, a 19-year-old former altar boy from Ennis. "The dollar amount can't help that." 2. "We've acknowledged the pain and suffering of the victims in this case," Bishop Charles V. Grahmann said Friday].
Dallas Diocese Settles Suit
By Associated Press
Dallas (AP) - Bringing to a close one of the biggest sex scandals ever to hit the Roman Catholic Church, the Diocese of Dallas agreed to pay $23.4 million Friday to nine former altar boys who said they were molested by a priest.
The church had been accused of trying to cover up the allegations against the priest, 53-year-old Rudolph "Rudy" Kos, who is now serving a life sentence in prison. Earlier this week, the Vatican stripped him of his priesthood.
It is one of the largest settlements ever paid by the church in a sexual abuse case.
"For the moment, it brings an end to the very active phase of what took place - the trial, the aftermath and the settlement," Bishop Charles V. Grahmann said. "But a lot of healing has to take place, a lot of reconciliation."
The bishop also apologized for Kos' behavior and for the way the diocese handled the allegations.
Eight of the former altar boys were among 11 victims who won $119.6 million in a lawsuit a year ago in the biggest verdict ever against a diocese. A ninth former altar boy also shared in Friday's settlement.
The eight settled for less than the full judgment for fear the diocese would file for bankruptcy before paying out any money, their lawyers said. The diocese previously settled with the three other plaintiffs for a total of $7.5 million.
Nineteen-year-old Nathan Nichols, one of the alleged victims, said he was happier than he has been in more than six years.
"I believe it's a day of relief for everybody," he said. "Finding out that the bishop has apologized for the wrongdoing helps us get on with our lives."
He added: "The pain will never go away. The dollar amount can't help that. The only thing that can is seeing that the diocese is changing."
In 1996, the Archdiocese of New Mexico reported it was nearly bankrupt and was forced to sell some property after settling more than more than 150 molestation claims. The settlement amounts were not disclosed, but counseling costs and legal fees alone ran into the millions.
As part of the settlement in Dallas, the diocese agreed to take steps to reduce the risk of sex abuse in the church, including the establishment of review boards to handle assignment of clergy and complaints, and background checks of employees and volunteers.
Complaints about Kos' behavior first surfaced in 1992. Four victims told police they were molested about 1,350 times over five years. The parents of the victims claimed the church ignored the allegations and tried to sweep them under the rug.
Kos had denied the allegations but was convicted of aggravated sexual assault last year during a criminal trial and sentenced to prison.
After the civil verdict, the diocese said it could not pay the judgment, claiming it had only about $6 million in total assets.
Under the settlement, the diocese will pay $7.25 million, and insurance companies will pay the rest, the bishop said.
"This settlement brings closure to a long period of sadness for all of us. There are no simple solutions when confronting terrible acts such as those inflicted by Rudy Kos," Grahmann said.
Arlington Company May Identify Abuse Risks, Offer Prevention Ideas
By Brooks Egerton
The Arlington company that may carry out a key part of the Rudy Kos settlement has a six-year record of helping organizations around the country identify and prevent abuse, officials said Friday.
Abuse Risk Management Group proposes conducting a far-reaching review of Dallas Catholic Diocese practices - in churches, schools, charity programs and the seminary where prospective priests are trained. Then, said company vice president Dr. Monica Applewhite, it would implement "safety solutions" to protect against physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
She said the company has already done similar work for the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville and other groups, including YMCAs, a national foster-care agency and a local Methodist church day care. The company's Web site also lists clients such as orphanages, hospitals and several social service agencies.
The diocese has been negotiating a contract with Abuse Risk Management for weeks, church attorney Dennis Sullivan said. Although "it's not a done deal," he said that no other company is under active consideration.
"They can blow their horn pretty good," Mr. Sullivan said of the company. He said he viewed the task at hand as evaluating improvements the diocese has begun since the Kos litigation started more than five years ago.
Windle Turley, attorney for the Kos victims, who reached a $23.4 million settlement with the diocese on Friday, also spoke favorably of the business. So did Ben Casey, president of the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas.
"We've referred them to a number of Ys around the country," Mr. Casey said.
He hired Abuse Risk Management six years ago, after an East Dallas branch counselor was accused of molesting dozens of children. The company continues to survey risk-prevention practices every two years, Mr. Casey said.
Among other things, he said, it has visited all Y program sites, helped train youngsters on safety and checked with parents at home to make sure they're aware of anti-abuse policies. The Dallas Y system forbids staffers from being alone with a child and bans off-site fraternization between staff and kids.
Dr. Applewhite advocates "multiple layers of protection," in case pre-employment background checks fail. Her goal is for all employees to see themselves as "protectors of children."
She said her company does far more than review policies, to "not just see what's down on paper but see what's actually happening." One example: an organization that had a ban on corporal punishment, yet "everybody was spanking. The administration hadn't really done anything."
It's essential, she said, to use outsiders for the sort of reviews her company performs. That way, people "feel free to talk to us and tell the truth. . . . Anonymity is one of the most important parts of the job."
Dr. Applewhite said she is excited at the prospect of being part of "this moment in history."
"Dioceses all over the country are looking to see what Dallas is going to do," she said. "We'd like for Dallas to be the one that sets the standard."
Dr. Applewhite said that if her company is hired, she would lead the project. She said that Dr. Richard Dangel, the company's chief executive officer, would not be directly involved.
Dr. Dangel, a social work professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, was suspended without pay for a semester in 1996 after an internal investigation substantiated sexual harassment charges against him. His free-lance column, "Your Child in School," formerly ran in The Dallas Morning News .
Arlington Company Makes Watching Out for Victims of Abuse Its Business
By Steve Quinn, Staff Writer of the Arlington Morning News
What began six years ago as research for a group of Arlington social workers has become something far more -- a business dedicated to preventing child care abuse.
Abuse Risk Management Group Inc. appears to have carved a health-care profession niche, gaining credence from insurance companies and generating interest from child and adult care organizations nationwide. The group, formerly known as Child Safe Environments, is based in Arlington.
Abuse Risk Management assists organizations with identifying potential problems where abusemight occur and recommends a system designed to prevent problems, said Monica Applewhite, vice president and company spokeswoman.
Most requests for help are proactive, she said, but some organizations seek help after trouble has been identified. Those include the Dallas Catholic Diocese as part of the settlement involving Rudy Kos, a former priest accused of sexually abusing young boys.
"Some people think we are there just to find pedophiles," Dr. Applewhite said. "That's not the way it is. We go in there, set up a system and they are supposed to create and maintain the safe environment when we are not there. What we don't want is for them to depend on the consultant all the time."
It's nice to have decision makers come to the firm, she said.
"We are always trying to be advocates to have others care about what we care about," Dr. Applewhite said. "Now there are people who are coming to us because they are prepared to make changes."
One person can ruin a program or an organization that the community really needs, she said.
"In my community, we need sports programs, we need child care, we need foster care. We need those things. But one person can put an organization out of business, a business that the whole community needs," she said. "That really gets me mad; that is where my passion comes from."
Six years ago, Dr. Applewhite joined colleagues Richard Dangel and Wayne Deuhn to research why abuse in health care organizations seemed to beincreasing. They spent nine months researching more than 200 cases law libraries and other social agencies nationwide. "These studies are the foundation of our work," said Dr. Applewhite, a Fort Worth Southwest High School graduate who earned an undergraduate degree in social work from Texas Christian University and two graduate degrees from the University of Texas at Arlington.
"At first we thought we could find the answers in the [professional] literature because we are academics and that's what we do, but we had to conduct our own research because there really was none. I think that is what sets us apart."
Today, the organization is incorporated and has four board members: Drs. Applewhite, Dangel and Deuhn, and Arlington City Council member Pat Remington, who serves as the group's attorney.
Only Dr. Applewhite and Wayne Carson, LCSW, are full-time employee The group relies on a pool of consultants with specialties such as dealing with autism, working with the aged, working with foster care and speaking more than one language.
Abuse Risk Management appears to have the market cornered so far, and summertime business is atypically strong with six jobs being started or completed in cities such as Dallas, San Antonio, San Francisco and Seattle.
Other groups such as Nexus, of Fort Collins, Colo., do similar consulting, but Nexus works primarily with church groups. Abuse Risk Management lists clients such as the YMCA, social service agencies, churches and a national foster care agency.
"There are individuals that I know of that do this kind of work, but I know of no organizations set up to do tat primarily," said Judith Brown, communications director for the National Network of Child Advocacy Centers. "You could safely say it is one of the few, if not the only, organization doing that kind of work."
Consulting begins with a diagnostic "audit," a far-reaching examination of policies and procedures that include a review of the organization's resources, face-to-face interviews, surveying the clients, on-site observation and questionnaires.
"They were very thorough and very comprehensive," Ms. Strong said. They approach it from so many different ways. We are the largest child care provider in the state of Washington, and many organizations are looking to us to see how we are doing this.
"We checked into it a lot and a long time because it was a substantial investment -- and it was worth it."
Neither Dr. Applewhite nor her clients would discuss fees, but Dr. Applewhite said organizations are billed a flat fee that includes several factors. Those include the size of the organization, the number of programs sponsored by the organization, the number of clients, and expenses such as travel because most of her business is out of state.
C. Douglas Dickerson, a Fort Worth insurance underwriter for Higginbotham & Associates Inc., specializes in policies for social service agencies with children's programs. He said insurance companies are more willing to insure organizations that have taken preventative measures.
"In the last 10 years, child abuse has been an epidemic," he said. "Certainly in the eyes of insurance agencies, it is a great problem.
"Once it became an epidemic situation, insurance companies began to exclude this kind of coverage. Insurance companies have gone to organizations and said, "You've got to do a better job of hiring if you are going to have personal contact with children."'
Abuse Risk Management has grown out of this situation, Mr. Dickerson said.
"They are offering services primarily to nonprofit organizations to train employees to develop policies and procedures in dealing with interaction between adults and children and the wide rage of abuse," he said. "Many cannot afford coverage for abuse or molestation unless customers have taken time and trouble to instill time and training, and insurance companies are welcoming this kind of training."
Ms. Brown concurs.
"For one thing, it's smart business," she said. "Institutions are likely settings for abuse to be perpetrated. People are looking for ways to prevent this because of the publicity.
"When an organization sees itself in a position of liability, the idea to take steps to prevent that is a wonderful step that is a forward thing, visionary even."
Suspended Priest Sentenced to Probation for Parish Theft
By Brooks Egerton and Michael Saul
A suspended Roman Catholic priest has been sentenced to four years of unsupervised probation for stealing thousands of dollars from his Grand Prairie parish, Dallas County court records show.
The Rev. Richard Tullius, on a brief return to town from a St. Louis-area treatment center earlier this month, pleaded guilty to a reduced felony charge and avoided a trial. He is not available for comment, said an associate who answered the phone at the center Wednesday evening.
The district attorney's office would say little Wednesday about the plea bargain, which will leave no conviction on Father Tullius' record if he stays out of trouble while on probation. He was also fined $400.
First Assistant District Attorney Norman Kinne said he knew nothing about the case but was comfortable with the outcome.
"Four years' deferred adjudication for a priest sounds about right," he said. "This is somebody with obviously no record."
Father Tullius must stay in the Dallas County area, probation documents show. However, his cousin, Polly Sandlin, said he plans to be in Missouri for several more months of inpatient therapy.
Officials with the Catholic Diocese of Dallas said they don't plan to return him to duty here. They have said he is getting treatment for his financial excesses and an unspecified personal problem.
The center where Father Tullius lives is run by a religious order called Servants of the Paraclete and offers treatment for sexual, financial, chemical and other addictions.
Ms. Sandlin said she visited with her cousin recently, and "he seemed to be doing fine. . . . I think he got off pretty light, especially considering the atmosphere in Dallas" - a reference to the Rudy Kos cases, which ended this year with the former priest getting a life sentence for sexually abusing children and the diocese paying more than $30 million in civil damages.
The diocese issued a brief statement Wednesday saying that it supports the plea bargain. Father Tullius' attorney, Joanne Hurtekant, also had little to say.
"We're glad it's come to a resolution," she said, declining to answer further questions.
The priest, who went through personal bankruptcy in 1996, admitted misappropriating more than $1,500 but less than $20,000 from St. Michael the Archangel's bank account. When indicted in March, he was accused of theft over $20,000 and under $100,000.
The resolution of the case "is tremendously satisfying for all of us," said his accuser and successor in Grand Prairie, the Rev. Joe Lee. "We are relieved that this chapter at St. Michael is over."
Father Lee did mention one regret: that he didn't get to meet with Father Tullius while he was in town.
"I wish I could speak with him," he said. "Granted, he was not a good priest; granted, he hurt a lot of people. But there has to be compassion somewhere."
Father Lee said that he could document less than $9,000 in missing parish funds. "There's obviously more," he said, "but we just don't have a record."
The Catholic Diocese of Dallas has paid the parish about $40,000 to cover missing funds, officials have said. The diocese also paid an unspecified amount to individual parishioners, from whom he borrowed and did not repay untold thousands more.
Father Tullius was suspended last year after he disobeyed orders to stop soliciting loans. Estimates of his debts to parishioners range from $100,000 to $300,000, church officials say, though the amount parishioners asked to be compensated for is far less.
Church officials say they aren't sure what happened to all the money.
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