Family sues Social Services, claiming harassment

September 20, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

A second family has filed a federal suit against workers from the Carroll County Department of Social Services, claiming they were harassed by an investigator who seemed determined to find abuse where none existed.

Ronald and Carolyn Dorsey's suit asserts that they moved their family of seven adopted children from Carroll to Baltimore County in 1989 to get away from a persistent Social Services worker.

The Social Services worker, the suit claims, insisted on keeping their case open even though investigators found no evidence that they had abused their children.

Baltimore County Social Services officials, the suit says, closed the Dorseys' child abuse case soon after the family moved there.

The Dorseys filed suit this summer against Ruth Ann Arty, who has since become an investigator in the child abuse unit in the Carroll state's attorney's office.

Other defendants are Social Services worker Trevor St. Victor George Walford, department Director M. Alexander Jones, Assistant Director Alan L. Katz, Baltimore County Department of Social Services Director Camille B. Wheeler and State Secretary of Human Services Carolyn W. Colvin.

The Department of Human Services,which Ms. Colvin heads, oversees the regional Social Services departments.

Clarence Brown, spokesman for the Department of Human Resources, said he could not comment on pending suits.

This is the second federal suit against the state and regional Social Services agencies. David and Marsha Hodge of Taylorsville, the plaintiffs in the first suit, are preparing for trial. Their suit, filed in January, involves the family's right to see its files and be cleared from the state data base because an investigator ruled out child abuse in their case.

Both families are represented by Edwin Vieira Jr., a lawyer who specializes in constitutional issues.

Mr. Vieira said last week he believes the problems his clients and Mr. Burgher sued Carroll Social Services for occur across the state.

In addition to monetary damages for moving costs and psychological counseling, the Dorseys have asked the court to require Ms. Colvin to set up a local or statewide system that allows families to request hearings or reviews if they have disputes with the workers investigating them.

Mr. Vieira said that unless a person is charged with abuse or neglect, he or she has no recourse to dispute investigators' activities.

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