McKinney urges Malloy to rescind DCF rule allowing removal of names from abuse registry

June 19, 2014

Journal Inquirer
June 19, 2014

A Republican state senator who is hoping to challenge Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for the state’s top job has joined in the criticism of the Department of Children and Families’ decision to consider applications by people who want their names removed from Connecticut’s Child Abuse and Neglect Registry.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney of Fairfield, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, on Wednesday called on Malloy to direct DCF Commissioner Joette Katz to “cease and desist” from the new policy, saying it “may put Connecticut children at risk.”

Like Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, who had criticized the DCF policy, McKinney objected to DCF’s adoption of the change without specific legislative approval.

The General Assembly has failed in recent years to pass bills to create a procedure people could use to apply for removal from the abuse and neglect registry.

DCF officials, however, decided to start considering such applications under an existing provision of the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act that allows state agencies to reverse or modify final decisions “on a showing of changed conditions.”

“This law only allows a person on the registry to ask to be taken off,” DCF spokesman Gary Kleeblatt said this week. “Invoking the law does not trigger removal.

“The law only gives a right to a hearing at which the individual must prove that he or she no longer poses a risk to children,” Kleeblatt continued. “Only upon such a demonstration will the department remove the individual from the registry.”

But McKinney said: “It is frankly dumbfounding to me that the commissioner would choose to exercise her authority in a way that seems to put the interests of abusers ahead of the interests of our children.

“As the commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, it is her primary duty to protect the health and safety of Connecticut’s children, not to make it easier for past abusers to get jobs working with children,” he added.

Kleeblatt said, however, that the issue is one of rehabilitation and due process of law.

“This procedure provides an opportunity for people to prove that they have changed their lives in such a way that they no longer pose a risk to children,” the DCF spokesman said. “The burden is placed on the individual to demonstrate that he or she has addressed the issues that originally led to placement on the registry — often related to events that occurred many years ago.

“Typically these individuals are looking to have a fair chance at gaining employment, so this protects an important due-process right that is essential for the individual to be a contributing member of the community,” Kleeblatt added.

Ellington lawyer Michael H. Agranoff, who concentrates in representing people in dealings with DCF, has been a leading advocate of the new procedure. He has stressed that the child abuse and neglect registry is different from the state’s Sex Offender Registry, and he has blamed the legislature’s failure to adopt bills to create a removal procedure on confusion between the two registries.

Without using Agranoff’s name, McKinney referred to “a paid defense attorney representing child abusers and others before DCF.” Of the confusion claim, he said, “Not only is such a gross assumption insulting to many legislators, but it seems to trivialize non-sexually based abuse.

“While nothing may shock the conscience quite as much as the sexual abuse of a child, other physical and mental abuse can also be devastating,” McKinney continued. “Those who beat children with belts, put cigarettes out on their bodies, lock them in closets, or otherwise abuse and torment children should not be appeased.”