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Lt. Governor under investigation

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - A child abuse case got the attention of someone in power. And it's caused a criminal investigation to see if there was an abuse of the office.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - It was a child abuse investigation by police that took a life of its own.

A child abuse case was filed in Davis County juvenile court.
And it may have received close attention from Utah’s Lieutenant Governor.

There’s little information available about the juvenile court because those records are kept private. State law prohibits juvenile records from being released.

But according to documents released from an audit of the Division of Child and Family Services Lt. Gov. Greg Bell was behind the audit.

“The Lieutenant Governor's office asked for an independent review of the division of Child and Family Services (redacted) and the sufficiency of the Division's policies and procedures regarding (redacted),” the audit said.

Reportedly, the family involved in the child abuse case was a member of the same ward the Lt. Governor attends.

It appears the Lt. Governor ordered this audit of the division of children and family services after the case was filed.

“I would say it only has one intention and that's to tell the agency to back off an enforcement order and dropping the matter,” says David Irvine with Utahans for Ethical Government.

A spokesman for DCFS says audits normally are ordered from agencies with oversight.

“Typically the two places that request audits of us are the state Auditors office or the Child Welfare Oversight panel."

Government watchdogs say that's not the role of the Lt. Governor's office.

“That office is basically ceremonial and the functions and duties of the Lt. Governor’s office are prescribed by statute,” says Irvine. “That's the extent of his responsibility.”

According to the Davis County attorney there is a “criminal investigation underway.” He released a statement saying no charges have been filed and one is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

But in his statement Troy Rawlings says the investigation is to see whether “governmental power and public monies were abused.”

And he says the “FBI is providing support and assistance”.


Lt. Governor Greg Bell released this statement, Friday night.

"In ten years as an elected official in Utah, I have received multiple citizen complaints against the Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) from families who felt mistreated. Some of these complaints had more merit than others, DCFS operates in a very sensitive area, in that it may intervene to oversee childrens’ care or even take them out of their home. We are quick to criticize government when it doesn’t act promptly to protect children. On the other hand, one of our most fundamental rights is the right to have, sustain, and raise one’s family.

In 2011, a family contacted me to complain about the way DCFS had treated them. Their accusations against DCFS were serious and, if true, had to be addressed. I passed the information on to Palmer DePaulis, Executive Director of Human Services. Palmer checked on the case and told me it was being handled correctly. However, as additional information emerged, I could not reconcile the widely divergent accounts from DCFS and the family. If the family’s account was true, I would have been irresponsible not to investigate further. Based upon this information and other past criticisms of DCFS, I asked one of our staff auditors for a recommendation. He suggested we assign a team of state-employed auditors, as is often done, to evaluate whether an agency had followed its policies and procedures. This was a neutral, objective way to get to the bottom of the conflicting claims.

The audit focused not on the truth or falsity of the underlying claims against the family, but on what policies and procedures DCFS had in place to protect families, whether DCFS had adhered to its policies and procedures, and whether existing policies and procedures were adequate to protect Utah families.

My motivation was not to tilt the outcome, and this review did not do so. I wanted only to insure the integrity of the process and that DCFS was in compliance with the law. We are legally authorized to conduct such a review. I stand behind my actions."
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