Lawsuit refiled against CSB

WARREN – An attorney for three women who claim they were sexually abused as minors by a former youth leader with Trumbull County Children’s Services refiled a lawsuit against the agency Tuesday.

The case was filed in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court and assigned to Judge Lou D’Apolito. No hearing has been set yet.

Attorney David Engler, who represents the women, said the suit and the need to re-investigate claims from the women have been endorsed by local Urban League officials.

CSB officials, including Executive Director Tim Schaffner, have repeatedly pointed out that no criminal charges were ever filed in the case. ”The agency was aware of these claims earlier. They were reported to police, who conducted interviews. The claims were unfounded,” Schaffner said on more than one occasion.

A federal judge threw the case out almost a year ago.

U.S. District Judge John Adams ruled that the statute of limitations prevents the plaintiffs from making any claims after they reach age 20. The women are older than 20 now.

Engler said state or common pleas courts allow claims within 12 years after plaintiffs reach age 18.

The females were identified in the suit as Shemiah Fudge and ”T.W.,” both of Shalom Avenue, Warren, and Portia Pannell of Los Angeles. Engler said Pannell was identified as Kenya Kennedy in the previous suit.

The women claim that they had sexual relations with the youth leader six or seven times while they were in a CSB residential facility. The sexual contact occurred at an apartment in Boardman, Engler said, explaining why the case was filed in Mahoning County.

The youth leader, or dorm mother, identified in the lawsuit as Rita Watson, was named along with CSB as defendants in the action that sought $1 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages for each woman, who were minors at the time, according to Engler.

Watson has since resigned.

The suit also names as defendants Watson’s CSB supervisors Marcia Tiger and Tracy Miller, who ”failed to take corrective action in response to complaints of sexual abuse.”

The current suit seeks $1 million in compensatory and $2 million in punitive damages and states that Watson engaged in sex acts with each of the women, had them simulate sex acts with one another while she watched and asked each of them about gay sex.