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Kansas investigates shelter for migrant kids that employs man with history of sex crimes

The Kansas Department for Children and Families says it "takes this situation very seriously."

A woman holds her daughter tight as she speaks to the press upon arriving in San Pedro Sula (Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman holds her daughter tight as she speaks to the press upon arriving in San Pedro Sula (Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images)

The Kansas Department of Children and Families is “actively looking into” The Villages, a shelter for unaccompanied migrant children in Topeka, Kansas, after a ThinkProgress investigation found that its human resources officer, Jeffrey J. Montague, has a history of sex crimes.

“The Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) takes this situation very seriously,” spokesperson Taylor Forrest said in a statement to ThinkProgress. “Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel is actively looking into the concerns and issues concerning Mr. Montague’s employment at The Villages, Inc., and she remains committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of children in Kansas.”

The state’s governor, Jeff Coyler (R), also called Friday for The Villages to fire Montague.

“While it appears that the rules governing federal contractors allow his continued employment at this facility based upon the technical letter of the law, it is our hope that The Villages will choose to do the right thing for the vulnerable children they serve and separate him from this position based upon the information publicly available,” spokesperson Kendall Marr told TV news outlet WIBW on Friday.

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“In the meantime, DCF will begin looking into the matter to see if other options to rectify the situation exist,” Marr reportedly added.

Montague, 63, is also a stage actor in Topeka. As ThinkProgress reported last week, he was banned from the Boy Scouts of America in 1989 after allegations that he had made sexual advances on an exchange student at a high school where he worked. The school didn’t renew Montague’s contract, according to Boy Scouts records.

In October 2007, police charged Montague with solicitation of sodomy in a Topeka, Kansas park, court records shows. He entered a diversion agreement one month later in Topeka Municipal Court.

Montague’s history first came to light in 2014, after Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis (D) hired him to appear in a campaign add. ThinkProgress first reported Montague’s employment at The Villages, which has a $5.9 million contract with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to house unaccompanied migrant children.

Two former employees told ThinkProgress that Montague has regular contact with children at the shelter despite his position as a human resources officer. They also said that they warned The Villages about Montague’s troubling history but had their concerns brushed off by administrators.

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“I’m not going to go searching for Jeff’s background,” the shelter’s lead case manager, Judette Padilla, told one former employee in a recording obtained by ThinkProgress. “I am not concerned, because I know he passed all the background checks he needed to pass to work with kids.”

The former employee, who spoke with ThinkProgress on condition of anonymity, asked Padilla whether she would leave her own children with Montague.

“Well, yes I would, because I know Jeff,” Padilla answered. “So, I mean, in that aspect of it, I’ve known his family and him for thirty-plus years.”

Montague and Padilla did not respond to requests for comment.

In a statement to ThinkProgress last week, The Villages’ executive director, Sylvia Crawford, defended her decision to keep Montague on staff.

“As is standard procedure for all of our employees, Mr. Montague has passed all background checks required by Kansas licensing regulations as well as all Federal [sic] requirements,” Crawford said.