The civil cases are piling up like cordwood against the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development over an Okanagan social worker’s misconduct.

In a scandal that could involve as many as 90 vulnerable youths and hundreds of thousands of dollars, four new suits were filed alleging the ministry was aware of previous misconduct by Robert Riley Saunders, that his supervisors failed to detect his misdeeds in a timely fashion, and that the ministry maintained inadequate safeguards.

The actions follow class-action litigation filed in B.C. Supreme Court in November by the Public Guardian and Trustee who claimed that Saunders manipulated numerous teenagers in care, mostly Aboriginal youth, into an “independent living” program only to pocket their benefits and abandon them.

The public trustee said that without protections in place to prevent Sauders’ misappropriation of funds, the young people were left without support — homeless and prey to predators.

In its legal response filed in December, the government admitted Saunders was “negligent, defalcated and converted the plaintiff’s funds, committed misfeasance in public office, fraud and breached fiduciary duties owed to the plaintiff and further admits the plaintiff suffered harm as a result.”

The ministry said at the time, and reiterated on Thursday, that since the allegations came to light it had offered support, including counselling, to the youth.

It said then, too, that it would work with their lawyers to “address these matters in a manner that does not cause further trauma to the affected individuals.”

The government agreed the court should award damages with interest.

Saunders admitted the conversion of funds in March 2018, the ministry said, a forensic auditor confirmed he had committed fraud, he was fired and the RCMP notified.

Once the misconduct was detected in 2017, however, the new lawsuits say the ministry failed for a period of eight months “to move expeditiously to review …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun – Politics


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