Colyer calls for removal of employee at facility housing children separated at border

Published: Jul. 6, 2018 at 1:34 PM CDT
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Kansas lawmakers say they are satisfied children separated from their parents at the U.S. border with Mexico are receiving good care from a Topeka non-profit organization.

Meantime, questions are being raised about a staff member at The Villages, Inc. who has a history of sexual misconduct allegations.

Jeff Montague is the Human Resources Officer at The Villages. 13 NEWS archives show he was granted diversion in Topeka Municipal Court for a 2007 arrest at Gage Park on a misdemeanor charge of Solicitation of Sodomy.

After reports surfaced of Montague's employment, Gov. Jeff Colyer called for him to be removed from his position there.

"While it appears that the rules governing federal contractors allow his continued employment at this facility based upon the technical letter of the law, it is our hope that The Villages will choose to do the right thing for the vulnerable children they serve and separate him from this position based upon the information publicly available," a spokesperson for Colyer, Kendall Marr, said.

"In the meantime, DCF will begin looking into the matter to see if other options to rectify the situation exist," Marr added.

The Villages executive director Sylvia Crawford said a former employee raised questions about Montague's past a year ago.

"At (that) time both DCF and the Inspector General’s office completed an investigation with no corrective action required on our part," Crawford told 13 NEWS in an email.

She did not say whether Montague might have interaction with children in his position.

According to a statement from DCF Director of Communications Taylor Forrest, Prior to today, DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummer was unaware of Montague's employment at The Villages, Inc. The statement also said, she is actively looking into the concerns.

The issue also resurfaced in 2014, when Montague, who is a local actor, appeared in a campaign ad for Democrat Paul Davis' gubernatorial campaign. At the time, the Kansas GOP released a statement stating Montague was banned from involvement with the Boy Scouts after the organization became aware of complaints of inappropriate conduct with a student at the school where he worked.

The Davis campaign immediately pulled the ad.

As for how the children separated from their parents are doing, House Minority Leader Jim Ward, said he and fellow Democratic legislators Anthony Hensley, Jarrod Ousley, and John Alcala, joined Gov. Jeff Colyer and Secretary of the Department for Children and Families Gina Meier-Hummel in a tour of The Villages.

"The facility director did ask if we would like to see the kids," Alcala said. "That's not a zoo setting, I don't want to go watch kids and look at them while they stand there. We could see them out in the field playing soccer and we were inside the living quarters and that was good enough."

Ward said the best place for children is with their parents or families, but he believes The Villages is providing the needed services.

"A placement like The Villages is a good option only after those have been exhausted," Ward said. "From what I saw, I think The Villages can provide those services. We still have questions and we will continue to ask questions because this is one of those things you have to continue to monitor."

The lawmakers had to wait two weeks between their request and their visit to the facility due to a federal guideline from the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The Villages has had a contract with the federal agency since February 2017 to house migrant children.

"I just think its ridiculous," Alcala said of the waiting period. "Especially, when you have elected officials who have to pass tons of stuff to get security into the capital on an ongoing basis."

"A lot can happen in two weeks," Ward said. "I'm not saying anything did happen, but that's the problem when you have such a long period between a request and getting in to a facility."

A statement from Gov. Colyer said he is confident that the facility is working hard to connect children with their families in a timely manner.

Ward said they have been reassured by the law firm contracted with ORR that the children are receiving legal representation.

Former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, who met with executives from The Villages in late June, said after his meeting that he was told 10 or fewer children detained in Kansas had been separated at the border and all but three had been reunited with their families.

It was not immediately known how many children remained in their care as of Friday.