Thursday, April 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Former FamiliesFirst teacher files wrongful-termination lawsuit

By
From page A1 | July 14, 2013 | 1 Comment

Rob Oldham. Courtesy photo

A former employee of EMQ FamiliesFirst in Davis has filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the troubled group home, claiming he was fired after blowing the whistle on staffing and safety deficiencies at the 2100 Fifth St. facility.

Robert K. Oldham says he was terminated in January despite three successful years of physical education and classroom teaching at FamiliesFirst, which came under public scrutiny in June following the arrests of two of its teenage residents on suspicion of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl at a local park.

“Mr. Oldham asserts that instead of hiring more staff to rectify these violations, EMQ FamiliesFirst Inc. opted alternatively to ‘fire the messenger,’ ” Davis attorney Mary-Alice Coleman, who represents Oldham, said in a statement announcing the civil lawsuit’s filing Thursday in Yolo Superior Court.

EMQ FamiliesFirst representatives declined to comment on the legal action when reached Friday.

“We don’t comment on active litigation,” spokeswoman Kristine Austin said.

The civil lawsuit marks the latest blow to the embattled group home, which provides housing, education and mental-health treatment to children between the ages of 6 and 15.

Since reports of the problems at FamiliesFirst came to light, the California Department of Social Services has taken steps to revoke the group home’s license, while the Yolo County Department of Alcohol, Drugs and Mental Health has nullified its certification to provide mental-health services to children covered by Medi-Cal.

Both agencies cited problems with safety and staffing at FamiliesFirst, including frequent instances of children leaving the facility without permission. Davis police have said the runaways and criminal activity involving some of the home’s residents generated more than 500 calls for service from the department between Jan. 1 and early June.

Oldham claims in the 19-page lawsuit that his and others’ personal safety was compromised by low staffing levels at FamiliesFirst, despite some of the residents’ challenging behavioral histories.

Starting in late 2011 or early 2012, staff was being instructed to avoid the use of physical force to control students, “regardless if self-defense is warranted or otherwise justified,” the lawsuit says. At about the same time, “numerous incidents involving violence by students or threats of violence by students took place and necessitated plaintiff’s personal involvement and/or assistance.”

Complaints and concerns addressed to his superiors about the unsafe working conditions “fell on deaf ears,” the suit says, and Oldham claims he was reprimanded several times and ultimately fired for “improper contact” with students who were acting out aggressively toward him or others.

Darrell Evora, EMQ FamiliesFirst’s president and CEO, announced in early June that he had boosted staffing and security levels at the group home and hired an independent expert to inspect the facility and review its policies and procedures.

“We’re going to take whatever steps necessary to ensure that the kids are safe and the community is safe,” Evora told The Enterprise last month.

The nonprofit organization also is fighting the state’s move to revoke its license, saying in response papers that because the alleged crimes cited took place away from the Fifth Street campus, the state lacks jurisdiction in the case.

A hearing to decide the matter will be held before an administrative law judge but has not yet been scheduled. The state’s action also targets FamiliesFirst clinical director Audrie Meyer and capitol region executive director Gordon Richardson and seeks to bar them from future employment in a licensed group-home setting.

Meanwhile, roughly a dozen children remain at the group home, which has the capacity for 63 youths.

The two teens accused of raping the 11-year-old girl are being prosecuted in Yolo County juvenile court, along with a 17-year-old Davis boy who allegedly sexually assaulted a 13-year-old female FamiliesFirst resident at an East Davis home.

— Reach Lauren Keene at lkeene@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Davis wins USA Today Best Cycling Town honor

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

     
    Benefit set to help local bike legend

    By Adrian Glass-Moore | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Jury deliberates murder, elder-abuse charges

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

     
    State’s health care sign-ups beat projections

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

    For the record

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    California residents divided on drought solution

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A2

     
    For the record

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A2

    Three killed in attack on Ukrainian base

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Downtown post office set to reopen

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B3

    Run or walk to prevent child abuse in Yolo County

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Nominations sought for charity paint giveaway

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

     
    Scholar will discuss human trafficking in Friday talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Per Capita Davis: Now, for some good news

    By John Mott-Smith | From Page: A4

     
    Birch Lane hosts 50th anniversary party

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Hannah Stein reads poetry at gallery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Davis Food Co-op to offer free bags on Earth Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Get in the picture with school board candidate

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    KDVS hosts on-air fundraiser April 21-27

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Tickets on sale for Pence Garden Tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Fundraiser planned for Allen’s campaign

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

    Food Co-op board plans open house

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Davis Downtown hosts candidate forum

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A4

    Learn more about Google Glass at talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Barbecue celebrates winter shelter program

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Sign of things to come

    By Fred Gladdis | From Page: A8

     
    Davis Soroptimists celebrate 60 years

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    .

    Forum

    Fancy meeting you here …

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

     
    Don’t miss a Trokanski dance

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Frank Bruni: The oldest hatred, forever young

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

     
    Expert: Free parking is a myth

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    Have they really learned?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    A great community effort

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 2 Comments

    Public Health Heroes honored

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    .

    Sports

    Huge inning propels Pleasant Grove past DHS

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Giants edge Dodgers

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Foster steps down as Lady Blue Devil basketball coach

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    River Cats’ streak reaches six wins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Landry evolves into UCD women’s lacrosse leader

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Youth roundup: Martinez, Chan come up big at gymnastics regional

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Kings drop season finale to Suns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Angels get past A’s in extras

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Wineaux: Good deals off the beaten path

    By Susan Leonardi | From Page: A7

     
    Rockabilly phenom to play at The Palms

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    HellaCappella showcases a cappella singing

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    ‘One’ singular sensation to open at DMTC

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    25th annual state clay competition exhibit at The Artery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Tapan Munroe

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, April 17, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6