Davis group home owner vows to fight move to shut it down

Published: Saturday, Jun. 15, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2B
Last Modified: Sunday, Jun. 30, 2013 - 12:23 pm

The head of EMQ FamiliesFirst, owner of the embattled Davis group home the state is seeking to shut, vowed Friday to fight.

"We will be appealing the accusation," Darrell Evora, CEO of the Campbell-based nonprofit, said during an afternoon press conference at a UC Davis hotel.

A day earlier, the state Department of Social Services – which oversees community-care facilities – stated in a 16-page complaint that it was in the process of revoking the license for the Davis group home, which houses children with mental health issues.

Agency spokesman Michael Weston said that EMQ FamiliesFirst has 15 days to appeal the order to an administrative hearing judge before the state shutters the facility.

"If they take no further action, the revocation would go into place," he said.

The state complaint alleges violation of personal rights, lack of supervision and inadequate staffing as reasons for revoking the license. In addition, the document details numerous sexual assault and assault allegations involving minors at the facility.

Evora announced that the organization had launched its own probe of the allegations and that it had hired an outside consultant, Neal Sternberg, to ensure future compliance with state procedures.

"My role is to bring the best practices," said Sternberg, adding that he was at the facility Monday to train night staff.

If a judge sides with EMQ FamiliesFirst, the state could reject the ruling and close the facility anyway, Weston said. At that point, EMQ FamiliesFirst could sue the department in civil court, he said.

Weston previously said DSS began investigating the home after several rape allegations involving minors living at the group home. Davis police are now investigating about six cases of alleged sexual assaults.

Evora offered no details about the allegations or how the organization planned to fight the state's revocation order.

"Because we are appealing, this is active litigation for us. I can't comment," the CEO said, when pressed by reporters for more information.

Evora also declined to say whether any employees had been fired or suspended in wake of the controversies.

DSS also is seeking to bar both FamiliesFirst's clinical director and executive director from future employment with any facility licensed by the agency, noting that they had "endangered the health and safety of children in care by failing to comply with their respective responsibilities.

"We will defend them," Evora said.

Call The Bee's Richard Chang, (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.

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