Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Caseworker fired after mom charged

Agency: 'Inadequate' work preceded manslaughter case

By John Kiesewetter
Enquirer staff writer

HAMILTON - The caseworker assigned to a Middletown-area mother whose 7-month-old son died in a February trailer fire was fired Tuesday by the Butler County Children Services Board.

Victoria Baldrick was terminated for alleged neglect of duty on the recommendation of the hearing officer and Jann Heffner, agency director.

Baldrick was assigned to Aimee Leonard, 29, who has been charged with intentionally setting the Feb. 4 fire in the Catalina Manufactured Home Community in Madison Township, north of Middletown, which killed Justin Johnson Jr.

Baldrick's boss, Karen Jordan, has agreed to a demotion, said the Rev. Johnny Wade Sloan, board chairman.

The hearing officer ruled that Baldrick had done "inadequate casework. Basic follow-up work should have happened," said Douglas Duckett, county personnel director.

The firing will be appealed through the union's grievance process, said Tim Brannigan, chief steward for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3547.

Baldrick investigated a complaint against Leonard two months before the fatal fire. The agency previously had taken two children away from Leonard.

The Madison Township woman has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangering. She has been found competent to stand trial, but is undergoing a second mental evaluation.

Fire investigators said Leonard set an article on fire and threw it on the kitchen floor after arguing with Justin's father on the phone. She then left Justin in the burning trailer while seeking help from a neighbor.

During the meeting, union officials complained that the agency provided its internal report in March to county commissioners. Sloan said he will meet with commissioners "to agree on how information should be requested and received, so we have a proper process."


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