'We didn't drop the ball on this one'

Date: 2005-09-17

September 17, 2005

Erich Dumbeck, who has held his DJFS post since the middle of last year, also wouldn't confirm or deny whether the agency fielded complaints that at least one woman claims to have filed in 2001 and 2002 alleging mistreatment of the adopted children of Michael and Sharen Gravelle.

"One, I haven't reviewed the file myself, and two, I can't relay that information once I get it because of the ongoing investigation," said Dumbeck. "Our first real involvement with the family was last week."

The couple has not been charged. The Huron County prosecutor filed 11 non-criminal complaints of child abuse and neglect Monday to authorize the placement of the children in foster care. A hearing has been set for Oct. 27, and a judge will decide if the children should be permanently removed from the home or returned. The children are currently divided between four foster homes.

Laurie Oney, of SR 18, who allowed Michael Gravelle to stay with her and her husband when the Gravelles were having marital problems in 2001, said Thursday she made two complaints to the department concerning spankings with a broken broomstick and inappropriate discipline for bed-wetting.

"If that's the case, that people have made complaints, we get complaints all the time that aren't necessarily always accurate or true. And, I'm not saying what the complainant said wasn't true," said Dumbeck. "... It was either screened out or potentially we screened it in as a complaint and reviewed it and found that it wasn't something that we can substantiate."

The Gravelles' attorney, David Sherman, said yesterday he would not comment at this time on Oney's remarks.

Dumbeck denies the agency has treated the Gravelle case negligently.

"Definitely, I'm letting (the public) know now," he said. "And, that's not to say we don't make mistakes once in a while, but I can definitely tell you, we didn't drop the ball on this one."

Dumbeck also wouldn't confirm or deny allegations that the department conducted a home study to complete an adoption.

"For investigations, we can't really talk about all this stuff," he said.

"It is possible we've done home studies in the past," said Dumbeck, adding home studies expire within six years from the date the study was performed.

Home studies conducted by Dumbeck's employees would have included a search of the entire house, he said.

Dumbeck said he would "probably" have answers at the conclusion of the investigation.

Meanwhile, the DJFS is expected to conduct a home study of Lisa Gravelle, the adult daughter of the Gravelles.

Sharen and Michael Gravelle requested the court remand custody of their adopted children to her, according to Huron County Juvenile Court Administrator Chris Mushett.

According to Mushett, Lisa Gravelle requested custody of the 11 children at the shelter care hearing on Sept. 12.

"The parents wanted her to be considered for (custody)," he said. "She was brought in at the request of her parents by their attorney."

However, the judge presiding over the case said he did not know enough about Lisa Gravelle to grant her custody, so the Department of Job and Family Services was ordered to conduct a background check, according to Mushett.

Mushett could not comment on the status of a background check, but said when it completed, and if there are no red flags, Lisa Gravelle can continue with her request for custody.

"We're still where we were on Monday," Mushett said. "Nothing additional has been filled or done (within the court)."

No one answered the door yesterday at Lisa Gravelle's home.

Morning Journal Writer Beth Stallings and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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