Saturday, October 29, 2011

Kentucky - Social worker says she falsified records

By Valarie Honeycutt Spears

A former Kentucky state social worker indicted by an Anderson County grand jury in August has told investigators that she falsified records in abuse and neglect cases, according to a court document recently filed.

Margaret "Geri" Murphy, who resigned in January, is charged with nine counts of tampering with public records in her role investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Details of nine cases, several involving child sexual abuse, were outlined in a document titled the Commonwealth's Bill of Particulars, filed in Anderson Circuit Court Oct. 18 by Attorney General Jack Conway's office.

The court document says that in one case, which ran from December 2007 through April 2008, Murphy investigated an allegation of sexual abuse of an infant by the infant's mother's boyfriend. In deeming the allegation "unsubstantiated," Murphy allegedly documented that a state police trooper told her that a hair found in the baby's pubic area was tested and found to be dog hair rather than a human hair.

But the officer told an investigator that he never told Murphy that the hair was dog hair, and that it had not been tested.

Two agencies, including police, filed complaints about Murphy's actions in the case, the court document said.

The mother later reunited with her boyfriend, and the case was reopened in October 2010 on the basis of new allegations of sexual abuse by the boyfriend, the document said.

"During that time, Murphy attempted to take part of an interview and examination of the child at an agency in Lexington, and the KSP trooper told Murphy to leave and has indicated he believes Murphy's actions contributed to the child being abused again," the court document said.

Murphy's attorney William Patrick said Friday that he could not comment on the case. But Patrick said a pre-trial conference was set for November. Murphy was issued a criminal summons in August and has pleaded not guilty.

In abuse and neglect cases, social workers make findings about the validity of allegations and document their work in a report titled a "continuous quality assessment."

In a case involving the alleged sexual abuse of an 11-year-old child by her father, Murphy admitted to falsifying the continuous quality assessment, the court document said. In that case, Murphy is accused of documenting that the suspect had been interviewed by state police. Murphy also is accused of documenting that the perpetrator denied the abuse and passed a polygraph.

However, police told an investigator that the suspect had never been interviewed or taken a polygraph.

Murphy "stated that this particular case 'bothered her' because she had falsified information. She admitted that she believed the child had been sexually abused, but still unsubstantiated and closed her case," the court document said.

In 2010, Murphy investigated a report of the sexual abuse of a 7-year-old child and deemed it "unsubstantiated." She had said that the child made inconsistent statements and that she had interviewed the suspect with police, and that the suspect denied the allegations and passed a polygraph test, according to a court document.

But police said they never interviewed the suspect and the suspect never took a polygraph, according to the court document.

The cabinet will not respond specifically to the cases in the bill of particulars, spokeswoman Jill Midkiff said.

"However, upon discovering that there were problems with the way in which Ms. Murphy conducted her investigations in these and other cases not involving falsifications, the Commissioner of the (Department of Community Based Services) had Ms. Murphy's cases reviewed to ensure that appropriate action was taken in accordance with the policies and procedures of the agency," Midkiff said.

Officials in Conway's office would not comment Friday. But in August, Conway said that his office began investigating after receiving a complaint from a resident whose family was in a court case to which Murphy had been assigned.

Tampering with public records is a Class D felony punishable by one to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 on each count.

Here's a link to the court document:


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