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Youth Authority Plans Inquiry

29 Mar 2005

By Michelle Roberts

Summary: The state agency asks child advocates and justice experts to examine how it handled warnings of sex abuse

Oregon Youth Authority officials said Monday they have asked a group of child advocates and justice professionals to "thoroughly and independently" investigate how the agency handled warnings of abuse involving a probation officer who later was charged with molesting five boys on his caseload.

The action comes after The Oregonian reported the juvenile department had received repeated and detailed warnings in 1995 about Michael Lee Boyles and his behavior with a 14-year-old boy on his caseload.

The warnings, received and responded to at a high level within the agency, went unheeded and predated all of the 71 felony allegations Boyles now faces, according to records obtained by the newspaper.

"We need to look at some of the questions raised by The Oregonian and in our subsequent conversations with legislators," Bob Jester, OYA director, said Monday. "We want to get an objective, non-OYA-state-government look at this situation. We want them to make recommendations about our rules, policies and practices to minimize the possibility that this kind of situation can occur in the future."

The group will be comprised of six to eight members who will be named next week, said Jester, director since 2004.

Boyles, 49, was arrested Feb. 15, 2004, and charged with numerous counts of sodomy, abuse and misconduct. According to police, Boyles frequently placed the boys under his supervision in the foster home of Jim Lyman, 67, so they would be available for sexual abuse. Lyman and two other men who frequented the home were charged in September with numerous counts of sodomy and sexual abuse.

The Oregonian discovered that 10 years ago -- long before Boyles allegedly began to abuse the five boys named in the indictment -- state officials received a detailed letter from the grandmother of another boy.

In the April 1995 letter, Margaret Holland wrote to the acting superintendent of juvenile parole and probation that she was fearful that her grandson was being molested by Boyles.

"I want (the boy) to be tested for sexual molestation . . ." she wrote. "In fact, I would like Mike Boyles taken off the case."

Top juvenile department officials promised to investigate Boyles, according to a letter sent to the family, and to remove the child from his caseload. But documents show that neither happened.

Full access to records

The Oregon Department of Human Resources' juvenile probation and parole division -- later reorganized into the Oregon Youth Authority -- also failed to report the suspected sexual abuse to police and child welfare workers as required by state law.

Jester said the group will have full access to the agency's records and will be encouraged to return their report and recommendations within 60 days so the Legislature has time to act if needed.

Jester said he has ordered that all youth authority employees receive additional training on the mandatory reporting law and that the topic be included in annual refresher trainings for all employees.

Jester said he wants the group to pay close attention to the culture of the agency. An affidavit filed by an Oregon State Police detective in February 2004 said investigators learned that co-workers had openly joked about Boyles' interactions with boys, saying he preferred "clean-cut boys ages 13 to 17."

Jester said that the independent panel also would be assigned to review how the agency logs complaints, including those that are abuse-related, and how workers document follow-up actions.

After The Oregonian's report, Jester said the agency began its own internal review and found that in February 1995, a caseworker had documented "sexually oriented art in (Lyman's) home that would be inappropriate for any foster home." Jester said the file contained no record of any follow-up or action taken.

Some charges dropped

In August 1998, another youth complained that Lyman had observed him getting out of the shower and made sexual comments, and there was "demented artwork" in the home. That matter was reported to the state police, which Jester said declined to investigate.

Jester said the youth was unable during additional review by OYA to recall specific information on the incident. The matter was referred to the foster home certifier, but the file contains no entry of follow-up action.

Lyman's home was certified to operate in early 1994 and continued until he retired in September 1999.

Earlier this month, a judge dismissed 20 of 91 counts against Boyles and all felony counts against Lyman and the other two men after one of the alleged victims, Aaron Munoz, committed suicide Jan. 28 at age 21.

Boyles, who worked for the state supervising children starting in 1993, remains charged with 71 counts involving sex crimes with minors he supervised as a probation officer. Five young men, including Munoz, were named as victims in the original indictment against Boyles, though law enforcement officials say they think at least seven additional victims -- including the boy whose family complained in 1995 -- are either unwilling or too emotionally unstable to testify.

Lyman was arraigned earlier this month on two new misdemeanor counts involving another alleged victim. He pleaded not guilty to one count of third-degree sex abuse and one count of furnishing obscene materials to a minor. He is free on bail.

Boyles' trial is scheduled to begin June 27.

© 2005 Oregonian Publishing Co. All rights reserved. Used with permission of The Oregonian.

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