Parent accuses WVDHHR of defamation

By Kyla Asbury | Apr 23, 2015

CHARLESTON – A parent is suing the West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources after he claims it defamed his character and violated West Virginia statutes.

In November/December 2011, a Child Protective Services referral was made alleging that David Martin's home was unfit for the safety of minor children, due to domestic violence between Martin and Rebecca Parks; an aggressive pit bull being kept as a pet; an alligator being kept as a pet; and a wood heating stove, according to a complaint filed March 25 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

Martin claims as a result of the investigation conducted by the WVDHHR, he and Parks were provided parenting classes and services to improve their living conditions where were alleged to be an unsuitable environment for young children, such as their two children, C.M. and M.M.

Rather than closing the case at the expiration of the improvement period, after having met all requirements placed upon them, the WVDHHR contacted Martin and Parks to inform them that an allegation had been made regarding purported sexual abuse of the children from a daycare provider.

Martin claims it was alleged that M.M., who was 3, had claimed that her daddy bit her while having her diaper changed. Upon contacting the mother, Parks informed the CPS worker that the child often made up stories about being bit by dogs or people and that Martin had often played where he would put his teeth on her belly and act like he was going to bite her.

When the CPS worker, Bonnie Puckett, interviewed Martin regarding these allegations, eh denied any type of abuse and informed her that his older daughter, C.M., who was 4, had been talking about two boys playing with snakes at daycare and pointing to her behind, but the WVDHHR disregarding this information at the time.

In March 2012, the two children were removed from Martin's home and the counselor for the children was informed from the initial intake process by the DPS worker that Martin was a "suspected sexual abuser and drug abuser," according to the suit.

Martin claims the children were evaluated by a physician, who found no physical signs of abuse, but that the children exhibited developmental delays for their ages.

After a few months of living with a foster family and attending weekly counseling with WVDHHR's preferred provider, the children allegedly changed their stories to expand that M.M. had been bit on her privates by her father and that C.M. had associated snakes being put down her pants by boys at daycare, which was a metaphor to truly describe sexual abuse, which was also associated with Martin having perpetrated the same, according to the suit.

Martin claims on multiple occasions during transportation from Princeton to Beckley by employees of Second Chances, the agency that supervised visits, the children relayed that their foster mother had told them to say their "daddy can't touch my privates" and it was further discovered that the teenage daughter of the foster mother dressed the children in adult lingerie over their clothing and took photographs of them and then posted them to social media.

During the nearly one year period the children were out of Martin's home, the children's development continued as would normally be expected for children of that age, including an increase of vocabulary skills, according to the suit.

Martin claims Puckett seized upon this opportunity to plant ideas into their heads to have them associate biting and snakes as metaphors for body parts with sexual connotation.

Upon learning that Martin and Parks were not exhibiting any negative behaviors during their supervised visits with the children, Puckett requested the Second Chances worker be removed from the cause because "she had nothing bad to say about the parents," according to the suit.

On Feb. 14, 2013, an evidentiary hearing was held in Mercer Circuit Court and on Feb. 20, 2013, the court ordered that the WVDHHR failed to establish evidence that Martin had sexually abused his children and in March 2013, the children were returned to Martin's home.

Martin claims he and Parks attempted to establish a parental relationship with their children, who had been subjected to negative thoughts and ideas by WVDHHR, their counselor and their foster families.

As a result of the stress, anxiety and false allegations of being labeled a sex abuser, Martin lost his job and became severely depressed and frustrated, leading to the use of alcohol and a drunk driving incident that led to his license being suspected and he was admitted to the hospital for psychological care after having suicidal tendencies, according to the suit.

Martin is seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. He is being represented by Robert B. Warner and Tammy Bowles Raines of Warner Law Offices PLLC.

The case is assigned to Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 15-C-587

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