Contract released for law firm investigating Luzerne County Children and Youth

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Luzerne County Acting Manager Romilda Crocamo released a contract Monday with the Philadelphia law firm completing an internal investigation of county Children and Youth.

Crocamo sought the outside review due to recent charges against former Children and Youth director Joanne Van Saun, saying the county can’t regain the trust of families and the public “without first understanding what happened, how and why.”

Van Saun has been charged with endangering the welfare of children and two counts of obstruction in child abuse cases for allegedly directing employees in May 2017 to terminate at least 217 reports of child abuse and neglect received from the state ChildLine system without investigating them.

The county has retained Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP, commonly known as Troutman Pepper, to perform the internal review.

According to the contract with Troutman Pepper:

Firm attorneys Michael H. Reed and Richard J. Zack will be responsible for the investigation and may periodically seek assistance from other firm attorneys or paralegals to take advantage of special expertise and provide the most efficient and economical quality legal services, the contract said.

The firm said it will provide a 15% discount of its normal hourly rates to the county.

Including that discount, the current hourly rates are $778 for Zack, $665 for Reed, $570 for Christen Tuttle and $446 for Thomas Cordova.

“We are keenly aware of time expenditures and make every effort to achieve the most cost-effective mix of hours, rates and experience,” the contract said.

Crocamo said Monday there is no cap due to the uncertainty of the work that will be involved, but she is optimistic existing budgeted funds can be identified to cover most or all of the expense. She said it’s a likely possibility county human services funding also will be used.

To accelerate the investigation, the county already provided the firm with extensive records, she said.

The investigation will examine the allegations against Van Saun and also “how that could happen and why it would happen,” Crocamo said.

“Troutman Pepper also will look at the other processes involved in the handling of cases by Children and Youth,” Crocamo said.

Crocamo told council members she will be updating them on the status of the investigation during closed-door executive sessions.

The county also continues to cooperate with the state Attorney General’s Office, which filed the charges against Van Saun, and the state Department of Human Services (DHS), which licenses the county agency and launched its own investigation to “understand the scope of these alleged failings,” Crocamo said.

Troutman Pepper has handled numerous high profile and significant investigations for state and local government agencies, educational institutions and large public and private companies, Crocamo has said.

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