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Kelowna  

New accused at ministry

The direct supervisor of a social worker accused of stealing from youth in his care is facing allegations of her own, while she remains employed at the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Three aboriginal women that were formerly youth in the care of Kelowna social worker Robert Saunders alleged in lawsuits this week that his supervisor, Siobhan Stynes, had “direct knowledge” of the theft of money from joint bank accounts they were encouraged to set up with Saunders.

Stynes also “directly inflicted emotional and psychological abuse on the plaintiff[s],” the lawsuits allege.

Castanet News has learned that shortly after Saunders was dismissed as a social worker in January, Stynes was removed as team leader and shuffled into a new role within the Okanagan-branch of the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

But as recently as last month, she was managing the the hiring of social workers and social worker's assistants in Penticton and Kelowna, according to online job postings.

In a brief statement, the Ministry confirmed her continuing employment.

“While we cannot comment on matters that are before the courts, in a situation where there are serious allegations facing a staff member an employee investigation would be guided by the BC Public Service Standards of Conduct,” the statement continued.

Stynes could not be reached for comment.

A total of five civil lawsuits, one of them a proposed class-action, have alleged Saunders abused or stole money from high-risk aboriginal youth in his care. The lawsuits claim he coerced youth to open joint bank accounts that he used to fund personal expenses.

One client alone is alleging $47,000 was stolen from him.

The lawsuits allege negligence right up to Victoria at the office of the Director of Child Welfare for failing to properly supervise Saunders and Stynes. Lawyers say more civil claims are likely.

The Office of the Representative of Children and Youth says they have 14 advocacy files opened on the case, and there could be more victims.

An RCMP investigation is underway, but questions remain unanswered about when the police were called in. The ministry has said it informed the Public Guardian and Trustee — who initiated the class-action lawsuit —  in March 2018. The Child’s Representative was informed of the allegations in June.

Both the RCMP and provincial government are refusing to comment on when police got involved.

Saunders is now working in adult special education at Okanagan College in Kelowna.

None of the above allegations have been proven in court, and responses have not been filed by defendants in any of the cases. 



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