9/01/09 – TG: Alamo lawyers question DHS administrator, again

Texarkana Gazette
September 1, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Alamo lawyers question DHS administrator, again

An Arkansas Department of Human Services administrator had to submit to a second round of questions from a Tony Alamo Ministries lawyer Monday because of a ruling from a federal judge.

Miller County Administrator Steve Mason was first asked Aug. 24 about his activities relative to the custody cases of Alamo loyalists with children in DHS care.

At that time Mason denied any knowledge about the case and said his responsibilities at DHS are limited to overseeing the building where he offices.

According to documents filed by Florida attorney Phillip Kuhn on the ministry’s behalf, Mason was either less than truthful during the first deposition or didn’t understand the questions he was asked.

DHS lawyers argued in a motion filed Sunday that Mason didn’t lie last week but rather was “ineptly” asked the wrong questions by Kuhn.

“If plaintiffs intended to equate ‘the Tony Alamo case’ with the Krantz and Seago state court cases, they could have and should have said so,” DHS argued.

The ministry and two fathers, Bert Krantz and Greg Seago, are suing Mason; Gwen Lovelace, who is Mason’s counterpart in Fort Smith, Ark.; and John Selig, the agency’s director, in federal court in the Texarkana division of the Western District of Arkansas.

The suit alleges the civil rights of Alamo loyalists whose children were removed by the state have been violated.

Federal courts can’t get involved in ongoing state court actions, like custody cases, except in rare circumstances.

U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes gave Kuhn until mid-September to collect evidence to support an allegation the administrators have acted with bad faith toward Alamo devotees.

If Barnes agrees bad faith exists, the case may continue in federal court. If not, Barnes will likely dismiss it.

During his six-minute deposition Aug. 24, Mason’s answers led Kuhn to remark that the wrong DHS employee might have been named as a defendant.

Mason said Aquanet White, who is not named in the suit, is the supervisor over the DHS division that investigates suspected child abuse cases in Miller County. However, Mason reportedly has met with Krantz regarding his case and had telephone conversations concerning it with Krantz, Krantz’s wife and mother-in-law and other DHS employees, according to documents filed by Kuhn.

DHS argues the documents Kuhn has given to the court support their position that Mason really has no authority over custody cases, explained his limited role with DHS to the Krantzes long ago and that subjecting him to a second deposition amounts to harassment.

But Barnes gave Kuhn the green light to question Mason again and a second deposition was held Monday afternoon.

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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