DENVER -- It’s not often that board members of any organization walk out in the middle of a public comment period, but it happened last week in Fort Collins and it was caught on tape.
The Foothills Gateway board walked out in a tiff with the parent of a former client, who had some bad experiences at one of Foothill’s group homes.
Foothills Gateway is a Community Centered Board serving 2,500 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Larimer County.
Keith Liddle alleges that Foothills was negligent in providing residential treatment and care for his son, Jason.
He said that on December 26, 2012, Jason developed a rash and that it took several days before a nurse checked the symptoms and several more before he was diagnosed and treated for shingles.
Liddle also said that on December 18, 2013, Foothills Gateway admitted a new resident to its Lakeview Group Home who ended up being rather aggressive.
“(Jason) was punched in the stomach and it woke him up in the morning,” he said. “He has life threatening seizures when he’s startled.”
Liddle said Jason, 29, contracted spinal meningitis when he was three months old and that as a result, he is non-verbal, has autistic tendencies, is bi-polar and suffers seizures.
Liddle said he attended the board meeting August 16 to again ask the board for an apology.
Board President John Haley said the state investigated Liddle’s complaints and recommended some changes. He said those changes have been made and that as far as the board is concerned, the matter is settled.
Liddle said the matter is from over.
“My stance is that, morally, they have an obligation to apologize and do something about it,” he said.
But the board thinks differently.
“We do not feel that we have anything that rises to the level where we need to give him an apology,” Haley said.
Haley said the board is comprised of 13 volunteers.
“Five of them are parents,” he said. “Two are self-advocates.” (People who are receiving care.)
The riff over the apology is what led to the tiff on August 16. Liddle appeared before the board and again asked the board to take responsibility. The board president told him he had five minutes to speak.
Liddle said he hadn’t reached the five minute mark, but Haley says he had gone over.
“I told him three times that he was past the five minute mark,” Haley said.
That’s when board members got up and left.
They came back, when Liddle was finished.
“In hindsight, maybe the other night we shouldn’t have walked out on him,” said board vice president James Disney. “But we’ve been dealing with him since May and he keeps saying the same thing over and over and over again.”
Liddle said he just wants the board to accept responsibility for what happened.
Board members said he wants more than that.
“I know that in the spring of this year he sent us a demand letter requesting a substantial monetary donation to him and his family,” Haley said. “If we gave him that donation, he said he go away, basically.”
Liddle told Denver7 that he considered filing suit earlier, but didn't because of his own health issues.
Haley said quasi-government agencies have some protections from lawsuits and that the statute of limitations had expired.
Liddle said he asked Haley for a copy of the rebuttal letter sent by Foothills Gateway to the state at the conclusion of its investigation.
“Instead of receiving a copy of the rebuttal letter, I received a letter from their lawyer stating that state law doesn’t require them to disclose the information,” Liddle said. “It’s amazing this reasoning is used… to not divulge information to a parent/guardian of a child in their care.”
Disney replied that what’s amazing is that Liddle wants to damage an organization that does so much good in the community.
“In the 15 years that I’ve been on the board,” he said, “we’ve only had two parents complain.”
Liddle said he simply wants other parents to know what his son went through.
Haley said he’s not sure what Liddle’s endgame is.
“He keeps bringing the same thing up over and over again,” the board president said. “Now it’s out in the public forum. His son hasn’t been here for two and a half years.”