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Published: Thursday, 3/21/2002

Ex-social worker for Lucas County investigated over file flap

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A former Lucas County social worker is under investigation by the county prosecutor's office for allegedly removing client files from his office to his home.

Steven A. McKenzie, 40, formerly of 1763 Bigelow St., resigned from the Job and Family Services Department in December and has since left Toledo, department officials and authorities said.

In early January, sheriff's deputies were sent to the Bigelow Street home Mr. McKenzie had rented and found 85 files containing client applications for day-care services and for vouchers that help cover utilities and other expenses.

“I'm not aware of it ever occurring [before],” said Jim Fosnaugh, the department's assistant director. “I don't even know why he would take this stuff. I don't think there was any purpose, other than maybe he was hiding a backlog of work.”

Unlike case files, which contain detailed information about potential welfare services clients, the files found in Mr. McKenzie's house were not as comprehensive, Mr. Fosnaugh said.

The vouchers people had applied for were issued and day-care services were provided, but the paperwork never was filed, Mr. Fosnaugh said. Some of the paperwork was up to six months old, he added.

Mr. Fosnaugh turned the files over to Peter Kanios, an assistant county prosecutor assigned to the family services department.

Mr. Kanios said he is exploring whether Mr. McKenzie committed theft in office or violated client confidentiality. If so, he could turn the case over to the grand jury.

No complaints have been filed by welfare clients, Mr. Kanios said. “I'm not going to say nothing is going to happen. We'll take whatever action is necessary if there has been criminal activity,” he said.

He said he believes Mr. McKenzie has moved out West, but he has not yet tried to contact him.

Attempts by The Blade to locate Mr. McKenzie were unsuccessful.



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