2 Arizona child welfare investigators fired

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- State officials on Friday said none of the cases handled by two fired child-welfare investigators have been compromised.

Two investigators with the state Office of Child Welfare Investigations were recently dismissed after it was revealed their resumes had false or incomplete information.

Child welfare investigations office spokeswoman Jennifer Bowser told the Arizona Capitol Times that none of their cases are at risk of being invalidated.

Bowser declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding the dismissals.

Some attorneys, however, said false backgrounds of investigators who may have served as witnesses can raise credibility issues in criminal and juvenile court proceedings.

Bill Owsley, at attorney with the Maricopa County Office of the Legal Advocate who represents children in Child Protective Services cases, said questions about investigators' integrity can jeopardize information they gathered that nobody else can corroborate.

The allegations made against the fired officers include lying about prior employment and omitting the reason for a past departure. According to a summary of an Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board investigation, investigator David Neuss admitted to sending an explicit cellphone photo of himself to a girlfriend while he on duty at the Pima County Sheriff's Office. The report also shows that Neuss quit after the admission but was also officially fired.

Neuss told the Times that he didn't offer the information because Greg McKay, the agency's chief of child welfare investigations, never asked.

"If he didn't look into it, it's his problem," Neuss said.

Neuss also still believes his firing was because of a political spat between McKay and the Pima County Sheriff's Office.

Records show investigator Joshua Ekrem was dismissed after it was discovered he lied about being a former deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

"Based on conversations with this employee, OCWI Chief Greg McKay began to question the veracity of some of the information this employee shared with him," Bowser said.

Ekrem was not immediately available for comment.

The agency was established by the Legislature in 2012 after a task force recommended the idea in the wake of several high-profile child deaths.

A group appointed by Gov. Jan Brewer currently working on legislation to make Child Protective Services a stand-alone agency has not yet figured out what role the Office of Child Welfare Investigations will play.

The group last week removed language from a draft giving police authority to investigators.


Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, http://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com

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