State report: OARC must fix handling of client abuse allegations | NevadaAppeal.com

State report: OARC must fix handling of client abuse allegations

by F.T. Norton
ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal
NEVADA APPEAL | NEVADA APPEAL

A state inquiry has found that a Carson City non-profit that offers services to developmentally disabled people mishandled an allegation of sexual abuse against one of its supervisors.

According to a report released Wednesday, the Division of Mental Heath and Developmental Services’ Rural Regional Center found that OARC failed to follow state reporting guidelines in handling allegations that supervisor James “Bud” Corbett fondled a 26-year-old developmentally disabled female.

Corbett, 63, was arrested March 12 on a warrant for two counts of gross misdemeanor open and gross lewdness. He did not return a call for comment.

OARC provides job placements, life skills and vocational training for people with developmental disabilities.

State guidelines dictate that an allegation must be reported within one hour, according to the report, but OARC Executive Director Mary Winkler waited 28 hours before notifying Rural Regional Center, after interviewing the victim and witnesses, the report indicates.

Jan Marie Brown, the victim’s stepmother, said she learned of the alleged incident when her stepdaughter slipped her a note on a torn piece of paper the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 1.

“I think you may want to know this Bud has been touching me inappropriatlly (sic)” the note read.

“I just felt the blood rush out of my face. I was just devastated, I didn’t know what she meant,” said Brown.

The woman told her parents, and later a Carson City deputy and an investigator, that on Nov. 24, she was at work when she complained to Corbett of chest pains. She said Corbett reached around her from behind and slid his hands under her bra and fondled her breasts, the police report states.

“(She) stated she told James to stop but he refused,” Detective Craig Lowe wrote in the police report.

The woman said that on Dec. 1, Corbett again put his hand down her shirt in view of other workers, “then sent the other employees to lunch.”

She said as she moved to leave, Corbett allegedly “cut her off and closed the door so she could not leave with everyone else,” according to the police report.

He then allegedly reached into her shirt and asked her if she liked it, the report states.

The woman told her parents and the detective that after she clenched her fists and told him “no,” Corbett let her leave.

Brown said she called Winkler the following morning and reported the incident.

“She said to me, quote unquote, ‘I would just as soon not bring Rural Regional or law enforcement into this. The authorities don’t (understand) our people,'” said Brown.

The following day, said Brown, Winkler called to say that Corbett wouldn’t be at work, and her daughter could come in.

When her daughter got home after work, Brown learned that Winkler, accompanied by a male board member, OARC’s female assistant director and a supervisor from the company where the incident took place interviewed the alleged victim and her co-workers.

Brown said Winkler “brought (my daughter) in for questioning with men in the room and asked her about a sexual abuse, then she said, ‘I’m sorry, I just don’t believe you.”

Brown said she immediately called Winkler, who told her no one could corroborate her stepdaughter’s story.

“She said Bud would be coming back to work Monday and if (my daughter) was comfortable working with Bud, she could continue to, otherwise she could go back and work at the thrift store,” said Brown. “But that was punishment, because at (this job) she was making $200 a week and at the thrift store, she only made $40.”

After that conversation, said Brown, who at the time was a member of the OARC board, she called Rural Regional Center and reported the incident.

Then she and her daughter drove to the police station and filed a report.

Detective Lowe worked the case and then forwarded it to the District Attorney’s Office for review.

A warrant was issued for Corbett’s arrest on March 10.

Winkler, who has worked for OARC for 36 years and has been executive director for 26 years, declined to discuss the details of state’s involvement or the allegations.

“I don’t want to talk about it. There’s just too many lies on it,” she said last Thursday.

Winkler said she intended to report the incident, but only after investigating it according to OARC guidelines.

OARC Board Policies, provided to the Nevada Appeal by Brown, state that if there is an allegation of neglect or abuse of clients, “The executive director will investigate to determine if further action is necessary and notify the board president of findings.”

It goes on to state: “The executive director, in conduction with the Board at Ormsby ARC will determine if the local law enforcement agency should be notified.”

The guidelines also state the suspected abuser “will be placed on administrative leave with pay, and if allegations are found to be true, employee shall be terminated.”

Winkler confirmed that Corbettwas placed on paid administrative leave during an investigation. When asked how long Corbett was on paid leave, Winkler said she did not have the information available.

She confirmed Corbett was eventually fired.

Winkler said she didn’t intend to dismiss the allegations, as Brown suggested.

“I was doing what my board said and what my state said,” Winkler said. “Jan Marie doesn’t know what I was going to do because she started screaming at me.”

Brown said she is saddened by the turn of events and she hopes that incident doesn’t reflect badly on OARC.

“I don’t want to hurt OARC. I know they are struggling financially like everyone else,” she said.

“I want OARC to learn from this incident,” Brown said. “I want to know that someday when my stepdaughter is left alone in this world, that the agency that is being paid to help her will listen to her and not assume she is lying or being a troublemaker the one and only time she comes forward and says somebody is hurting her.”

Ben Kieckhefer, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said a plan of correction was developed, delivered to, and implemented by OARC by Jan. 29.

“OARC is on target with completing plan action in accordance with specified deadlines,” states a memo from Barbara Legier, Rural Services agency director.e