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Two DHS workers fired after mentally disabled woman forced to eat jalapeno peppers

Two DHS workers were fired in May after officials concluded a mentally disabled woman was forced to eat jalapeno peppers mixed into her food. The woman lives at the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley. The former employees are seeking reinstatement and deny the accusations.
by Nolan Clay Published: June 24, 2012

In the jalapeno case, England and Scott were longtime employees at the center. Their attorney, Dumas, said DHS had no solid evidence against them, only hearsay. He also said witnesses made conflicting statements. He is asking in their appeals to the Oklahoma Merit Protection Commission that they be reinstated.

“They do not have a single eyewitness that either Sheila or Patty put these jalapenos in anybody's food,” the attorney said. “My ... take on the whole case is it's a personnel conflict between shifts.

“Everyone that worked on the shift with Patty and Sheila said, ‘This didn't happen. This didn't take place.' All the people making accusations were on a different shift,” the attorney said.

“And, some of the people ... making these accusations and claims have now moved from their shift into the more desirable shift. ... The positions were made available by Patty and Sheila being gone.''

Jalapeno peppers are well-known as spicy. They regularly are used in Mexican dishes and on nachos. They can be difficult to eat, particularly without sufficient water.

The key witness, DHS worker Kathy Williams, reported to investigators that she saw jalapeno peppers in and on F.M.'s food on more than one occasion when England was cooking. She also reported smelling jalapenos in the woman's food at times.

Williams also reported she believed Scott was aware that peppers were being placed in the woman's food and that Scott made the woman eat them.

A DHS psychological clinician, James Stark, reported the woman went from having six behavioral incidents last August to 30 last September, most related to food or drink. The incidents dropped after Scott and England left the unit.

Four workers reported hearing Scott call the woman a derogatory name, records show. Scott denied that.

One worker also reported he heard Scott tell F.M. that she “hated F.M.'s guts and wanted to slit F.M.'s throat,” the records show.

Another worker testified at a pretermination hearing that Scott often made F.M. sit on her bean bag chair and demanded that F.M. not look at TV or out the window. The worker testified Scott occasionally made F.M. “sit with her head down between her knees.”

by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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