Social worker files 'whistleblower' suit against state

A state social worker filed a "whistle-blower" lawsuit Friday alleging that Kentucky officials disciplined him because he reported violations by fellow social workers, including the placement of children in the homes of registered sex offenders.

In the suit, filed in Franklin Circuit Court against the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Clay Clement said that in September he complained to the cabinet's inspector general about two cases in which children younger than 4 were placed in the care of registered sex offenders without the cabinet taking any safety precautions or notifying law enforcement.

Clement, who lives and works in Madison County, also alleged in the lawsuit that social work managers changed documents "to justify this dangerous placement of children."

The lawsuit does not provide specifics about the registered sex offenders.

Cabinet for Health and Family Services spokeswoman Vikki Franklin said the cabinet does not comment on pending litigation.

In January, Clement was given a five-day suspension for "a lack of good behavior" and unsatisfactory performance of his duties, according to the lawsuit.

The suspension was in violation of the Kentucky Whistleblower Act, the lawsuit says.

Clement said he told the inspector general that he was removed from a case in August after he criticized managers who forced a parent to put her children in the care of a neighbor who she thought was abusing and neglecting them.

In the lawsuit, Clement said that he also told the inspector general that a cabinet supervisor gave false testimony about the case and withheld critical information from the court.

Clement said he was retaliated against because in March 2009 he gave a deposition in another whistle-blower lawsuit filed by a state social worker. In that deposition, he said managers were falsifying documents and placing children at risk, according to the lawsuit.

"It's a continued pattern. Practices of the cabinet are placing kids at risk, and those who do the right thing and come forward are punished," Shane Sidebottom, a Northern Kentucky attorney who represents Clement, said Friday.