As the expert witness on this case that had been in litigation for five years, the Department of Early Learning (DEL) in Washington State offered to settle with these children about two weeks after the Attorney General's Office deposed me.
I give props to Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC law firm for their proper conduct in the handling of this case that resulted in telling the complete story of the failure of DEL in its licensing of the All Hours family home child day care in Marysville, Washington which resulted in the sunlight shining down like a laser spotlight on the failures of DEL managers in overseeing and managing child day care licensing.
As a former Department of Social & Health Services (DSHS) investigator of child abuse then a day care licensor for thirteen years as well as being a whistle blower intermittently through those years; when I went public on King 5 News in November, 2004 DSHS after a protracted time, DSHS dismissed me then within six months an attorney looking for an "expert in day care" found me; and off I went on my new career again keeping to my purpose the protection of children and the health and safety of the public through the work I've done for the last eleven years.
People throughout the last eleven years from time to time when I've shown up for depositions asked me, "Are you the attorney?" Like Erin Brockavich I say similarly, "Hell, no, I hate attorneys." With my new career as an expert witness some of my epiphanies about the legal profession have in part been slow in coming because I believe the best about people.
As law firms were not prevailing or only prevailing a bit, I was at a loss to know why (as experts we are not kept in the loop so to speak which is proper) and because in my thirteen year career in government I had never lost an enforcement action, in 2014 I was not going to do this career any more. I decided the next attorney who called me that I was going to yell at them. An attorney from Texas made that call to me. I told him no holds barred what I thought of attorneys. Ha, ha, ha then he told me no holds barred what he thought of expert witnesses. We were on the same page. He sent me a relatively small amount of documents. I reviewed them; called him and said, this, that, this and he said, "Stop! I would never have thought of that. Will you write out my deposition questions?" The other side settled quickly after that.
That seemed to bring in the some good energy and now attorneys who have integrity have contacted me; and my success rate (theirs really for doing proper attorney stuff) has moved in the direction of starting to rival my success when I was inside that government regulatory enforcement agency (DSHS now known as DEL).
With this case the law firm properly said, basically, to me, "Here are the documents, apply your knowledge and expertise and write a declaration for the case." My expertise comes in part not only from having done day care licensing for thirteen years, but in the years since by making a plethora of public disclosure requests my files are filled with copies of documents which tell the story clearly, compellingly and cogently. In addition, when the assistant attorney general (AAG) at the deposition asked how I got trained in part I was able to say to him the Washington State Attorney General's Office trained me.
It is an odd juxtaposition for me to sit across the conference table from an AAG explaining to him the laws and regulations that his office trained me on repeatedly over my thirteen years with licensing.
I give parents who stand up for their children kudos. It is a monumental act to even contact DEL and bring up a concern a parent witnessed in child day care. DEL has a history of protecting day care providers who per RCW & WAC, their licenses were a MUST to have never been issued or they were a MUST to have been revoked. The DEL website CHILD CARE CHECK page just recently after ten years made a change. Yes, I said TEN YEARS. Ten years after the legislature passed a law in 2007 that was a "SHALL" to post information to the public as to licenses DEL revoked (going back to when they were DSHS) on CHILD CARE CHECK not only did DEL not do it for ten years some of the few names that had been on there DEL removed including Edith Goetz where seven month old Jesse Hunt in 1994 died as a result of having been shaken. Sweet Jesse is on the cover of my book, "DSHS Secrets" that I wrote and published December 31, 2012. His mother, Michelle Hunt (she wrote the introduction to my book) and I wanted his sweet face to be out there to the world so he will be seen and remembered.
A month and a half after DEL settled with these four kids a child care center asked me to come out and consult with them about what the heck DEL was doing in marking so many items as a violation when in years past DEL had NOT done so. Looking over her "Facility Licensing Compliance Agreement" form I was able to advise her that most of the violations marked all referred back to lawsuits that parents had brought because their child had been injured, maimed or made dead in licensed day care in Washington State. Once she understood the history, the center owner got promptly to making the corrections while I was still there touring her facility. I liked her center. All the little ones in all the rooms were happy calm children, bright eyed and engaged with the world. They looked well care for and clean. It made my heart happy to see children who were happy because in my thirteen years I saw so many traumatized children in day care homes where my managers would not take action to protect children by taking the providers' licenses.
This center director was able to update me as well that the supervisor I had who I made a plethora of whistle blower reports on that never got fully investigated left the agency abruptly with no fanfare or goodbye celebration. Sounded like about a month after DEL settled with these four kids.
A couple of months after DEL settled with these four kids DEL finally posted per the requirements of RCW 43.215.370. Ten years. I have 2007 emails from the Attorney General's Office to DEL advising DEL the law was a "SHALL" and DEL must do it. DEL for ten years basically flipped off the Attorney General's Office. Ten years. What hubris by the unelected government agency bureaucratic managers. Ten years.
Ross Hunter, the now director of DEL as a state representative tried valiantly to get the State Auditor to complete my whistle blower reports. As well Mr. Hunter wrote a heroic letter to push for an investigation and/or audit as to why DEL was not conducting proper investigations of applicants and others associated with a day care home. He had the documentation I submitted to the State Auditor that he wrote and called "...the tip of the iceberg...".
When I read the depositions on this case licensors and supervisors essentially were turning on each other, kind of not my job or they indicated it was the attorney general's office fault. One supervisor eleven years, yes ELEVEN years after DEL was created under RCW 43.215 still thought and testified that DEL licensed under RCW 74.15.
I stopped by Olympia headquarters of DEL on Monday, June 19, 2017 to see if I could catch up with Mr. Hunter. I did not, but hope to in the near future have lunch with him and offer my skills and expertise to assist Ross in proceeding in the direction he had analyzed accurately; where he so genuinely had concerns and so heroically wrote that letter that put the health, safety and well being of the child in care first.