WARREN - Three former female residents of Trumbull County Children's Services residential facility have filed a federal lawsuit claiming a former youth leader who supervised the girls had sexual relations with them six or seven years ago.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday by attorney David Engler, calls the sexual conduct ''inappropriate and unwanted'' and occurring over an extended period of time.
The youth leader or dorm mother, identified in the lawsuit as Rita Watson, was named along with CSB as defendants in the action that seeks $1 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages for each woman, who were minors at the time, according to Engler.
CSB Executive Director Tim Schaffner was not available to comment Thursday. Watson also could not be reached.
Kelly Lockhart, a human resources manager, said the agency is aware of a previous investigation involving Watson, who worked as a youth leader. ''And CSB cooperated completely with Warren Police Department in an investigation that followed,'' she said.
She said Watson had resigned.
The lawsuit lists one of the plaintiffs as ''T.W.'' of Shalom Avenue N.W., Warren, and the two others as Kenya Kennedy of North Park Avenue Extension, Warren, and Shamia Fudge, of the same address on Shalom.
Fudge appeared Thursday afternoon with Engler in the parking lot of CSB offices to announce the lawsuit that was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge John Adams and Magistrate Kathleen B. Burke.
''We didn't just wake up and make this up,'' Fudge said. ''It affects our lives today. I get scared now when my daughter goes with somebody. Why were we here (at CSB) if you don't protect us.''
Engler said the girls were between 12 and 14 at the time and supervised by Watson, who now lives in Girard.
''My clients are brave for coming forward like this,'' Engler said.
Throughout the period, the suit states, Watson ''groomed'' the girls through shopping trips, privileges at the residential unit, ability to drive cars, consume tobacco products and various other gift giving.
Engler said Watson, at one point, was given eight hours off work as punishment for lying to supervisors after one or more of the plaintiffs in the case walked out of the residential facility.
''She told her bosses they were watching movies and eating popcorn. But instead they were huffing aerosol spray cans,'' Engler said.
He said he called the Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office on Thursday to ask for an independent criminal investigation into the allegations.
The lawsuit comes one day after two other CSB workers were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in a lengthy investigation by Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Wednesday that a grand jury did not return indictments on the two workers at CSB following the investigation that followed indictments against a couple charged with raping an infant during a supervised visit at the CSB complex on Reeves Road.
''I'm glad no one was charged. But the investigation is not an exoneration. CSB fails to take the proper measures. They have to shut down the residential facility or run it better. They constantly have kids leaving the grounds,'' Engler said.