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Report: Agency Cites Lapses in Abuse Case

By Michelle Roberts

Summary: A panel says the Oregon Youth Authority let warnings about Michael Boyles go unheeded.

An independent panel investigating the Oregon Youth Authority has determined that "several stages of breakdown" led to the failure of agency officials to act on warnings of abuse involving a probation officer later charged with molesting five boys on his caseload.

In a preliminary report released Thursday, the Youth Safety and Abuse Prevention Review Committee found that the youth authority does not adequately police itself.

"Complaints are not always given sufficient attention or weight and fall through the cracks," the report said.

The panel began its work in April, shortly after The Oregonian reported that the authority, a parole and probation agency for troubled youths, 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 by the agency's top managers at the time, went unheeded and predated the 76 state and federal felony allegations that Boyles now faces,according to records obtained by the newspaper. Boyles, 49, was arrested Feb.15, 2004, and charged with numerous counts of sodomy, abuse and misconduct against five boys.

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

The panel, which will continue to investigate the agency for the next few months, made several preliminary recommendations. The report said the agency must dramatically improve its hiring practices, including "thorough and professional" background investigations of both prospective and current employees, and require those who work directly with youths to have psychological examinations.

The group, which includes child advocates and justice professionals, took the agency to task on training, saying new employees receive only 36 hours of training within their first year on the job, and supervisors "are promoted or hired into their positions before they are suitably trained to assume those duties."

The committee also recommended that the agency hire an experienced investigator who can look into complaints against agency workers, and create an outside ombudsman's office that reports directly to the governor to "provide additional avenues of access for complaints."

"There were several stages of breakdown," the report said. "The committee believes that had some or all of these recommendations been in place,they may have prevented the crimes allegedly committed by Michael Boyles and the unacceptable conditions at the Lyman foster home."

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

The Oregonian discovered that 10 years ago -- before the alleged abuse of the five boys named in Boyles' 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 boy from his caseload. Documents show that neither happened.

Failure to report

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.

The grandmother and the aunt of another boy told the newspaper they tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to get supervisors to investigate and report their suspicions regarding Boyles.

The independent panel highlighted a need to train workers in how to recognize and report "grooming behaviors" -- priming victims for abuse with gifts and special attention.

An affidavit filed by an Oregon State Police detective in February 2004 said investigators learned that co-workers had been aware that Boyles frequently gave gifts to his young charges; the co-workers joked openly about Boyles'interactions with boys, saying he preferred "clean-cut boys ages 13 to 17."

Bob Jester, OYA director since 2004, said he was satisfied with the committee's findings and was working quickly to implement recommendations. Because some of them require extra money, Jester said he would seek help from the Legislature.

In March, a judge dismissed 20 of 91 state counts against Boyles and all felony counts against Lyman and the other two men after one of the alleged victims, Aaron Munoz, committed suicide at age 21.

71 state counts

Boyles, who began supervising children for the state in 1993, remains charged with 71 state counts involving sex crimes with minors he supervised as aprobation officer.

Five young men, including Munoz, were named as victims in the original state 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.

In May, Boyles, who is being held in a Multnomah Countyjail on the state charges, was indicted in federal court on two counts of transporting two minors across state lines to have sex, two counts of traveling with the intent to engage in sex and one count of possessing child pornography. The state fired Boyles several weeks after his 2004 arrest.

The federal crimes are alleged to have taken place between Dec. 26, 2001, and Jan. 31, 2002, and between June 1 and June 21, 1999, according to the indictment.

Lyman was arraigned in March 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' state trial is scheduled to begin June 27.

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

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