DENVER - Denver Department of Human Services originally denied there were any concerns over background and FBI fingerprint checks of homes where children were placed. But now, emails obtained by the CALL7 Investigators confirm the department is involved in a detailed review to ensure the state-mandated fingerprint checks are being completed by case workers.
In interviews, both DHS Director Penny May and the head of her Child Welfare Department, Joe Homlar, denied any failure to conduct background and FBI fingerprint checks for child placement homes. Neither would address the concerns about fingerprint checks. Instead, they stuck to the same talking points over and over again.
CALL7 asked when Homlar became aware of cases where fingerprint checks were not done prior to placing children in a home, Homlar stated, "No system is perfect, John. If something comes to my attention, there's checks and balances, if something comes to my attention, we course correct."
Homlar's pat response made sense once the CALL7 Investigators obtained an internal email from Director Penny May. Sent last Tuesday, it asked Deputy Director Jeff Holliday to meet with PR consultant and political operative Sue Cobb and Joe Homlar.
The email stated, "Joe, can you free up some time tomorrow to meet with me and Sue to develop talking points on fingerprinting and background checks per Penny's request?"
Clearly, Homlar stuck to those scripted talking points in our interview. CALL7 again asked, "When did you become aware that fingerprints were not being done, or had not been done as policy demands in this department?"
Holmar responded, "It, it ... It's never been the case."
One day after the interview, however, Homlar became concerned that the CALL7 Investigators might report a higher number of cases involved than those of which he was aware. So through consultant Cobb, he sent an email hoping to persuade us not to run the story.
Homlar's email referred to "homes we have double-checked for fingerprinting" and noted that he did not know how many homes were involved because "as our team conducted reviews, they weren't focused on a count but on outcomes and next steps needed."
He wrote, "we need to collect and analyze data from both electronic and physical files."
But Homlar refused to confirm the additional review or admit any "next steps" planned by DHS to resolve the apparent problem during our interview.
Homlar's email demonstrated he has no idea how many homes might not have had proper fingerprint checks, or how many homes and cases are being reviewed. And, the email makes clear that DHS is concerned that Denver children might be at risk.
Sources confirm that since our interview, caseworkers and supervisors are now being asked to gather the numbers. They also tell us there have been approximately 300 individual fingerprint checks conducted in the past 6 weeks.