In a speech on the House floor earlier this week, a state lawmaker blasted an unlikely romance between a Child Protective Services supervisor in Tucson and an abusive dad whom she met while working as a caseworker, assigned the job of protecting his kids.
"I was angry," Rep. Jonathan Paton, a Republican representing Tucson's eastside, said after his speech. "You find out the investigator ended up dating the person she was supposed to be investigating. And now we find out she's in charge of other investigators."
Paton said he was appalled when he read a confidential CPS report that had been leaked to the media, including the Tucson Weekly, in recent weeks. The report details a horrific childhood for three children whose drug-addicted parents have been repeatedly in trouble with the law for child abuse and other crimes.
In the opinion of one case worker assigned to the case, the kids "have sustained significant physical abuses and psychological damage; they are the most terrified children this investigator has interviewed."
The children's father--who has had repeated problems with alcohol, meth and cocaine--had previous run-ins with CPS as far back as 1995, when a separate, substantiated report showed that he hit his oldest daughter in the face, according to the CPS report.
The kids were taken into protective custody in October 2000, when the mother--who is now serving time in state prison for robbery--said she could no longer care for them. At the time, the father, who had several arrests for beating his wife, admitted he was using cocaine twice a day.
Amy Gile, now a supervisor with CPS, was a caseworker assigned the job of deciding whether the children should be reunited with their father. The Weekly is not naming him to protect the identity of his children.
Gile did not return a phone call from the Weekly.
The family reunification hit a snag in February 2001, when the father was arrested for disorderly conduct and illegally firing a gun.
With the support of his CPS caseworker and his attorney, the father successfully appealed to a judge to sentence him to one year of a work furlough so that he wouldn't lose his children, according to the report.
Although the kids were still under the legal protection of CPS, the father got physical custody of his kids in April 2002. Four months later, the eldest daughter "went to school with bruises and swelling on her face; she told the school counselor her father had hit her on the face," according to the CPS report.
The father denied the charges and said his daughter was lying, but police believed she was telling the truth. She also told the cops that her father hit her and the other kids with a belt.
Since the father was still on probation, he faced the possibility of going to jail. But the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, "and the city court prosecutor declined to issue charges against the father, saying it was in the 'best interests of the children and their overall family preservation,'" according to the CPS report.
In October 2002, the CPS dependency ended, and the kids were returned to their dad's legal custody. Gile would have played a key role in the final decision, according to a CPS worker who spoke to the Weekly on the condition of anonymity.
About two years later, in December 2004, CPS workers were called to a day-care center when workers noticed the father's 4-year-old son had nine or 10 red welts on his hips and buttocks. He told investigators: "My daddy whupped me," apparently because he had been jumping on his bed.
In an initial meeting with police and CPS investigators, the father denied hitting his son with a belt; a few days later, after the kids had been removed from his home, he changed his story and admitted that he had beat him with a belt four times, telling investigators: "If I knew there were marks, I would not have sent them to day care," according to the report.
The oldest daughter, then 10 years old, told investigators that their dad was now dating Gile, their former caseworker. Although the daughter said she liked Gile, she added that the couple often fought, and that Gile sometimes disciplined her brothers by spanking them with a hairbrush.
When investigators questioned Gile, she told them she had been dating the father since February 2004, which was more than a year after the agency's involvement with the family ended. She said that she had not seen him strike the children, although she said that he yelled profanities at them and forced them to wash their underwear in the toilet when they wet their pants. She denied spanking the children and said they often lied.
When she was shown the photos of the youngest boy's recent welts, Gile told investigators that the father "gets overwhelmed, he has a quick temper," according to the CPS report.
As a result of the CPS investigation, the children were once again removed from the home. Their current situation remains confidential.
Liz Barker Alvarez, spokeswoman for the Department of Economic Security, did not return a phone call to discuss this case.
Paton said the Gile affair is another topic he wants to explore during hearings on CPS this summer. Paton became interested in investigating the agency after the remains of Ariana Payne, a 4-year-old girl under CPS supervision, were found in a storage locker. Payne's 5-year-old brother, Tyler Payne, is still missing, and police have searched the Los Reales landfill in search of his remains.
The children's father, Christopher Payne, is facing charges of child abuse and first-degree murder.
"I think there's a lack of accountability, because the way the privacy and confidentiality laws work, it reduces the scrutiny on the agency," Paton says. "I think that's bad for kids and, at the end of the day, it's bad for the agency."