Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Letter from Vaughn Crowell to State Senator Rick Kolowski

Letter from NFF member Vaughn Crowell to his state senator, Rick Kolowski, in regard to the damage inflicted on the Crowell family by Nebraska's "excessive absenteeism" law and Douglas County Juvenile Court Judge Elizabeth Crnkovich.

Sep. 22, 2013


Senator Rick Kolowski
District 31
Room# 1528                                                                           
State Capital Building
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 86509
  
Dear Senator Kolowski:

No doubt you grow weary of my correspondence as do I grow weary of the effort. Nonetheless, as a constituent, I have the right and responsibility to bring my message to you as do you have the burden to listen. For months now, I have been vigilant in my effort to affect some form of justice in response to the egregious misuse of authority perpetrated against my family by multiple layers of officials and agencies which should serve as checks and balances to the others, but which appear instead to be working together, without any sense of ethics or accountability to the public apart from the integrity and candor of a select few to whom I am grateful.

I have continuously kept you informed about what we are experiencing. And, as our state senator, we turn to you for some sense of relief and support. Perhaps we can find some common ground as fellow Marines and seek ways toward meaningful progress.

As you are aware, I have filed three complaints to the Judicial Qualifications Commission regarding Douglas County Juvenile Court Judge Elizabeth G. Crnkovich. My first two complaints have been dismissed by the Commission. My third complaint, dated July 27, 2013 is scheduled to be reviewed by the Commission on Oct. 4, 2013.

Briefly, for the benefit of those who may not know this story (or if memories need refreshing):

I received a Notice in Lieu of Summons to appear in court, my wife received no notice but went with me as a concerned parent. We went to court on May 5, 2011 to address an unwarranted truancy charge, which had been filed against our son by Deputy, Douglas County Attorney Jordan Boler. Our son had missed 20 days of school, but he was never "truant" from school or home. As his parent, I had given my permission for him to be absent.

We did not bring our son to court for legitimate reasons, but primarily because he had no legal obligation to be there. He is entitled by statute, as noted in the Notice in Lieu of Summons he received, to have a Summons served upon him and then a 72 hours period before he is required to appear in court. Judge Crnkovich had a different opinion, and in her agitation, she decided to have us arrested. My wife and I were handcuffed, like criminals, and we spent the day in jail.

As we were held in jail, (what I claim to be) a false and misleading affidavit was drafted by NDHHS's Initial Assessment Unit using information from a CPS Hotline call and delivered to the Douglas County Attorney’s Office. A deputy county attorney, again Jordan Boler, then used that affidavit to move the Court to approve immediate custody of our son. The petition stated that removal of our son was “a matter of immediate and urgent necessity for the protection of said child”. Of course, this wasn't true and in fact our daughter also named in the affidavit was not removed. This action by the Court, Douglas County Attorney’s Office and NDHHS was in its purest form a collaboration to punish my wife and I (clearly outside of the law) for standing up for our rights and for insisting our son was not “truant” and that we be given an opportunity to prove it to the Court.

Shortly after my wife and I were released from jail, an armed Douglas County Sheriff removed our son from our home. (You might recall the passion with which I spoke to you in your office last January 2013 about this event.) The next day, May 6, 2011, a different Juvenile Court Judge reversed everything that had been done the day before, denied the County Attorney’s request to make our son a ward of the State, and returned our son to our home and our custody. That same day, on the advice of our attorney and with our permission, our son quit high school. The County Attorney subsequently dropped the truancy charge. I hope you would agree that this accounting reveals a troubling series of events - on too many levels. Whatever systems of accountability we citizens are told exist for holding accountable those who violate the public's rights and trusts do not appear to be working as they should, and that is why I turn again, back to you - my representative.

More than two years later, my third complaint (filed July 27, 2013) against Judge Crnkovich has all the components needed to pass muster with the Judicial Qualifications Commission. My complaint has names, dates, witnesses and supporting documentation. My complaint has a letter under the signature of the Nebraska State Ombudsman with statements such as “In my opinion however, the real problem with [the] Affidavit is not in its factual representations, but instead is in the more fundamental fact it was ever drafted, signed and submitted at all.” and other statements such as “[NDHHS employee] was only a “worker bee” in a situation where other, far more powerful, players were giving directionsAnd lastly, “My ultimate conclusion about [the] Affidavit is that it is a document that should never have been executed. The case at hand simply did not support a conclusion that temporary foster care was “a matter of immediate and urgent necessity” and did not justify the filing an Affidavit for Removal of Minor Children from Parental Home”.

Now, the Court (through Douglas County Juvenile Court Judge Kelly - a person whom we believe has a conflict of interest in our case) - on its own initiative and about one week before my complaint is to be heard by the Commission - has made the untimely and questionable decision (nearly half a year after my son turned 19) to seal his records (a hearing is scheduled for 9-26-2013). Additionally, the Douglas County Attorney’s Office (in a notice under the signature of once again, Deputy County Attorney Jordan Boler, dated 9-16-13 (interestingly enough, Ms. Boler was not even in the Courtroom on May 5, 2011)) will offer no objection to the Court. I do not believe the burden of Justice and integrity of the Judicial Branch should fall upon the shoulders of my 19 year old son to offer an objection. I have offered my own objection to sealing these records until such time as testimony has been given to the Judicial Qualifications Commission. However, I have been informed I have no standing in this matter. I insist that I do have standing as do you Senator Kolowski in uncovering the inconvenient truth in this matter. 

This action serves only to add a layer of bureaucracy to the testimony that could be offered by the witnesses I name from both the NDHHS and County Attorney’s Office. With these records sealed, their testimony may never be heard by the Commission. My son gains nothing by sealing these records. He hasn’t been convicted of any crimes, status offences or any other unlawful activities. He has not entered any diversion, mediation, probation, supervision, or other treatment or rehabilitation program in lieu of being charged with anything. He has never failed to appear in court, and has nothing to hide.

I am very aware you have no direct jurisdiction over the Courts or the County Attorney’s Office. My complaint will work its way through the system and the Commission will either act on my complaint or dismiss it.

You do, however, have some control over the laws that created this situation. Passage of LB800 resulted in an over-reaching and abusive law, which guts the rights of parents and poorly addresses actual truant behavior. We are hearing of stories such as mine from across the state; heart-wrenching stories of intimidation, threats, violation of rights and invasion of privacy with county attorneys and school administration quickly pointing fingers at each other when we ask our senators for help in sorting out this quagmire.

Senator Kolowski, you asked in your last e-mail to me what you could do to help.

You can help by introducing or supporting legislation to repeal this horrendous law and restoring the traditional definition of truancy and the Nebraska parent's right and responsibility to care for our own children, including our authority to best determine when our kids should be excused or not excused from school for legitimate reasons. I believe several other senators are also looking into this problem - such as Sen. Schilz from Western Nebraska, Sen. Dubas, Sen. Coash, and Sen. Chambers. Perhaps you can discuss my experience with them and others.

Simper Fidelis,

Vaughn Crowell
15286 Blackwell Dr.
Omaha, NE 68137

Cc:

Governor Dave Heineman
Nebraska Legislators
Nebraska Department of Education
Nebraska State Attorney General
Julie Rogers, Inspector General of Child Welfare
Nebraska Judicial Qualifications Commission
Douglas County Attorney’s Office
NDHHS
Douglas County Commissioners

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