DHS commissioners voted Tuesday to pay a share of the $1.1 million settlement that is going to a young man who was sexually molested at a foster home.
DHS commissioners and attorneys kept secret from the public — for now — how much the state's share will be.
“I'm sorry I can't be of more help, but I understood that it was all confidential,” said Brad Yarbrough, who was picked by the governor in September to be the new DHS commission chairman.
Another commissioner, Steven Dow, said he was told the state's share will be disclosed when the judge approves the settlement and payment is made.
Dow said he voted against the settlement because he hadn't been given enough time to decide whether it was the right thing to do. He said he first learned of the lawsuit last week.
The victim — then 15 — was molested by his foster father and the foster father's live-in lover in 2006 in Oklahoma City. Both are now in prison for their sex crimes.
The victim — now 21 — sued the Department of Human Services in 2007. He also sued Shadow Mountain Behavioral Health System, which was paid by DHS to find foster parents and to provide children with psychological services.
He alleged DHS and Shadow Mountain workers left him in the foster home where he was molested even though they knew or suspected it was dangerous for him there.
Last month, days before the lawsuit was to go to trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse, attorneys told the judge the case had settled.
The victim's attorneys, David Van Meter and Tom Prince, would not discuss the settlement. Van Meter said the defendants — DHS and Shadow Mountain — asked that it be confidential.
The victim's attorneys last week complained to the judge that DHS and Shadow Mountain were delaying payment of the settlement without justification.
The attorneys blacked out the settlement amount in the court papers. The Oklahoman, however, was able to calculate the amount of the overall settlement because attorneys asked for $308.90 in daily interest until it is paid.
A confidential report on the DHS investigation of the foster father, Paul Stephen Hull, revealed a DHS worker found Hull's lover there alone with another foster boy on Feb. 3, 2006. The man would not give his full name, and the foster father later lied about him.
The worker also found the four boys at the home had unrestricted access to prescription medicine and dangerous tools such as saws, hammers and an ax.
The DHS worker and a Shadow Mountain official met with Hull that night and warned him not to have his friend in the home, according to the confidential report. The foster children were removed for the weekend.
The victim was returned to the house after a few days. The victim later said his foster father's friend, Erwin Swender, was in the house “the entire time that he had been back and that Steve wadded up the safety plan that stated Erwin was not to be in the home or around the kids and threw it in the trash.”
The confidential report shows DHS workers left the victim at the home even after they began to suspect on Feb. 6, 2006, that Hull's friend was Swender.
The workers knew then that Swender had been institutionalized as a teenager for killing a child and that Swender was in the process of losing his parental rights to seven of his own children.
The victim was removed from the foster home for good after he confided to a therapist on Feb. 13, 2006, that he had been sexually assaulted multiple times. The victim said the two men called him and boys his age their “candy.”
In other action Tuesday, commissioners set aside $1 million more to pay private attorneys who are fighting a federal class-action lawsuit filed against the agency. DHS already has paid outside attorneys more than $6 million to defend the lawsuit.