Ex-Priest Relieved As Drug Counsel

By Kevin Murphy
Kansas City Star
February 19, 2004

A former Kansas City priest is not being allowed to serve as a Jackson County drug court counselor pending resolution of a lawsuit alleging he molested boys and gave them marijuana.

Thomas Reardon is among about 10 counselors working for Addiction Recovery Services. Last week, the county renewed a $224,000 contract with the company for drug court counseling.

Six plaintiffs in a Jan. 21 lawsuit said Reardon abused them sexually and several said he gave them alcohol and marijuana in the 1970s and 1980s when Reardon was a priest.

Through an attorney Wednesday, Reardon denied the allegations. The attorney, Matthew O'Connor, said that a motion to dismiss the lawsuit would be filed soon. "One thing people are missing is that this is not a criminal case, and two it's just an allegation," O'Connor said. "It's a civil lawsuit, they are seeking money damages."

Reardon and former Kansas City priests Thomas O'Brien and Joseph Hart were sued by nine plaintiffs seeking unspecified damages for alleged sexual abuse during a three-decade period. The lawsuit also names as a defendant the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

Reardon, 62, left the priesthood in 1989. He went on to become a substance abuse counselor.

Addiction Recovery Services' counselors see clients referred to them by the Jackson County drug court. The clients are drug-case defendants whom the court requires to get substance abuse treatment.

Jackson County Prosecutor Mike Sanders wrote a letter to Addiction Recovery Services President Tim Donaldson three weeks ago, asking that Reardon "immediately cease any and all contact" with drug court clients.

"We would think with allegations like this, it would be prudent and wise to discuss these matters in the (Jackson County) Legislature," Sanders said Wednesday.

O'Connor said that Sanders' request, which Donaldson agreed to, was acceptable. "It's just an effort to reassure people," O'Connor said. "It's an effort by them to be overly sensitive."

The Legislature was not required to hold a hearing on the contract because it was a renewal. County Legislator Henry Rizzo is upset that the Legislature was not told of the lawsuit before it voted to renew the contract. Rizzo said that a hearing should have been held to air any concerns over Reardon or other issues.

Although the lawsuit naming Reardon was in the media, Rizzo said that the Legislature should have been told that someone with Addiction Recovery Services was accused of giving marijuana to youngsters.

Reardon is a certified substance abuse counselor in Missouri. One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit who alleged that Reardon abused him as a boy said that he was referred to Reardon for alcohol counseling in 1993 as an adult and was again the victim of sexual advances.

Reardon, who was not with Addiction Recovery Services at that time, denies that allegation, O'Connor said.

After publicity about the lawsuit, several people called the Missouri Substance Abuse Counselors' Certification Board, said Shelby Hearne, board administrator.

The board's committee on ethics and appeals will write a letter to attorneys for plaintiffs in the lawsuit to see whether any of them want to file a formal complaint against Reardon, committee attorney John Landwehr said Wednesday.

Reardon has not been the subject of disciplinary action in the past, Hearne said.

In Reardon's resume filed with his employer's proposal for the Jackson County contract, his references included Patrick Rush, a priest and vicar general of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Rush is the diocese spokesman on sexual abuse lawsuits and has helped investigate allegations. Rush and Bishop Raymond Boland are defendants in the recent lawsuit.

Rush, who said Reardon got counseling as a priest in the 1980s for multiple addictions, said that he did not know Reardon listed him as a reference and that he has never been contacted. "He is not someone I have seen or maintained any contact with," said Rush, who became vicar general five years after Reardon left the priesthood.


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