Tied to Franklin Credit Case Spire Denies Chambers' Charge That Abuse Report Was 'Sat On'- Dec 20, 1988 - Omaha World-Herald
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Dec 20, 1988 Tied to Franklin Credit Case Spire Denies Chambers' Charge That Abuse Report Was 'Sat On'; [Sunrise Edition] James Allen Flanery Paul Goodsell. Omaha World - Herald. Omaha, Neb. pg. 1
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(Copyright 1988 Omaha World-Herald Company)
The Omaha Police Department and the Nebraska Attorney General's Office "sat on" a state report outlining alleged child abuse in connection with the failed Franklin Community Federal Credit Union, State Sen. Ernie Chambers said Monday.
Chambers said the report - compiled by the State Foster Care Review Board earlier this year - was submitted to police and attorney general's investigators July 25 by Dennis Carlson, vice chairman of the board.
Not until late November, after the Legislature decided to form a subcommittee to investigate the Nov. 4 collapse of Franklin, did authorities begin a serious investigation of issues raised in the report, Chambers said.
"We have not sat on anything," Attorney General Robert Spire said Monday night. "We received some very sensitive information and acted on it immediately. I'm proud of the promptness and thoroughness my office, the State Patrol and Douglas County Attorney's Office have shown."
Omaha Police Chief Robert Wadman first told a World-Herald reporter Monday that he didn't know anything about a Foster Care Review Board report to police. Hours later, he said he had received additional information showing that Omaha police officers had met with state officials in July to discuss some allegations related to foster care.
But Wadman said he still had seen no reports containing allegations that could be pursued further.
"The police division received some information, investigated as far as they could, and it did not result in any substantive charges or information," Wadman said.
Chambers said he based his comments on testimony given behind closed doors Monday to him and other members of the Legislature's Executive Board.
Testifying were Carlson and two other Foster Care Review Board officials - Carol Stitt, the agency's executive director, and Burrell Williams, chairman of the board and a McMillan Junior High School administrator.
Carlson also is counsel for discipline for the Nebraska Bar Association.
Commenting on the testimony to reporters after the more than three-hour session had ended, Chambers said Omaha Police Officer Chris Carmean started to investigate issues raised in the report.
But Chambers said Carmean, at the time a detective in the robbery and sexual assault unit, was "taken off the case" and transferred to a Police Department research and planning job.
That is not true, Wadman said.
"Officer Carmean requested his current assignment," Wadman said.
Carmean declined to discuss the matter.
"I can neither confirm nor deny any of that," he said. He referred questions to Wadman.
Chambers also said the testimony indicated that someone in Police Chief Robert Wadman's office telephoned Carmean's unit of investigators and asked "if a sensitive investigation of Larry King was in progress."
"The answer given to him was, 'No,' " Chambers said. "Why would a law enforcement agency have information and . . . the chief not be informed? The information was very precise and very detailed.
"I believe this information was being sat upon by various agencies and officials who had it," Chambers said.
Wadman said he did not inquire about an investigation of King until recent days after Chambers began to publicly discuss the allegations.
Chambers quoted Carlson as testifying that Carmean and a fellow Omaha police officer, Michael Hoch, met July 27 with Thomas Vlahoulis, an investigator in the Attorney General's Office.
Chambers said Carlson testified that Carmean indicated he would welcome Vlahoulis "to help with some things we don't want to do around here."
Wadman said in a later interview with The World-Herald: "How can I comment on that? I'm commenting on third-hand testimony. You're asking questions that make it seem like a big sinister plot. There has been no attempt at a cover-up."
State Sen. Loran Schmit of Bellwood, chairman of a legislative subcommittee that is in the process of being formed to investigate Franklin, said Monday's testimony indicated "that some state officials didn't do their job."
He said he was referring to people in the Attorney General's Office and other officials whom he declined to identify.
"We can't rush to judgment," Spire said. "We must look for correct evidence and proceed responsibly. We have done a very thorough and careful investigation on a number of matters."
Wadman said it would be wrong for him to discuss specific, unsubstantiated allegations.
"We're not going to contribute to the rumor mill," he said.
When first asked about foster-care allegations Monday, Wadman said he was unaware that police were given any information about the case. He said he had requested all reports related to the credit union, including preliminary investigative information.
Police had received allegations and investigated a case unrelated to foster care, Wadman said. But Omaha authorities wound up with nothing more than unsubstantiated "innuendo."
Later Monday, Wadman said he had learned that Carmean had given additional reports to his superiors, including allegations about foster care.
"I have seen a report that has some names," he said. "But it has no specificity with which to follow up."
In addition, Wadman said, the allegations were in the form of a letter to the Attorney General's Office. Police were given a copy of the letter.
Chambers told the Executive Board Dec. 12 that he had received information of "sexual and physical abuse" of children in connection with Franklin.
He went into greater detail during a closed-door session with the board on the same day. Monday's session was a continuation of the Dec. 12 session.
Last Tuesday, Nicholas O'Hara, special agent in charge of the FBI in Nebraska and Iowa, said his agency was investigating allegations of abuse of young people and adults.
Schmit said he and his fellow senators heard testimony Monday that some of the abuse involved children in foster care.
Schmit said those testifying provided specific names of children and of foster-care parents. He declined to divulge any of the names.
'Brought Tears to Eyes'
"The information brought tears to my eyes," Schmit said. "I don't necessarily cry easily. And I wasn't the only one moved to tears."
State Sen. Bernice Labedz of Omaha, chairman of the Executive Board, said she also was moved to tears. She declined to comment further.
Chambers described the information as "a very sensitive and specific kind" that he said deserved an immediate investigation.
Instead, however, leads in the Foster Care Review Board report were not pursued and "witnesses were not contacted."
He quoted Carlson as testifying that he had met with Assistant Attorney General William Howland in late November.
"His (Carlson's) impression was that nothing had been done," Chambers said.
Chambers said the formation of the special legislative subcommittee "embarrassed" law enforcement agencies into beginning a more vigorous investigation in late November.
Wadman said Omaha police are not now investigating any foster-care abuse allegations.
If Chambers can give specific information to police, he said, a complete investigation will be conducted.
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