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Sullivan DFS commissioner's legal battles in Ohio

By Fritz Mayer
June 21, 2013

When Dr. David Sager filed a lawsuit against Randy Parker, the commissioner of the Sullivan County Department of Family Services, on June 11, for allegedly firing Sager because Sager was looking into mishandled cases of sexual child abuse, it was not the first time Parker was named in a lawsuit.

He was named in at least three lawsuits in connection with his position as the executive director of Richland County Children Services (RCCS) in Ohio. Parker held that position for about 10 years and left in August 2012, shortly before taking up his current position in Sullivan County.

According to court documents, the first case was filed by Jeffrey McBride, a sergeant with the Richland County Sheriff’s Office (RCSO). McBride investigated claims of child abuse, and at one “he came under investigation himself by the RCSO for alleged wrongdoing.” McBride claimed that Parker asked that another officer be assigned to investigate RCCS cases and the sheriff’s office complied.

According to a ruling by the Ohio Court of Appeals, in his complaint, “McBride alleged that Parker published statements that McBride was a disruptive influence on Children Services; that he had inappropriate discussions with Children Services staff; that he was ‘sloughing’ off; and that he was guilty of other dishonest conduct.”

A state court ruled that Parker could not be sued because he was immune from prosecution. But in May 2012 the appeals court overturned that ruling and said that Parker was not immune from prosecution, and the case could go forward. According to a source familiar with the case, it was later settled.

A second case was filed against Parker by Alverta Williams, who owns and operates the Mary McLeod-Bethune Intervention and Enrichment Center in Richland County. At one point Parker removed a “ward” from the facility. In a decision issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the court wrote that “Williams alleges that the decision to remove the individual from the home was representative of a pattern of racially discriminatory behavior by RCCS in its residential placement decisions.”

As in the McBride case, Parker’s attorneys argued in both the lower federal court and the appeals court that because of his position he was immune from prosecution. Both courts disagreed, and the appeals court in July 2012 ruled that Parker is not immune and the lawsuit could go forward. Williams did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the current status of the state.

In May, Williams was indicted on 38 counts of theft from people who lived at the facility; she later pleaded not guilty.