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Arts officials didn't report alleged abuse

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POSTED April 1, 2013 9:11 p.m.


WALNUT CREEK (AP) — Four employees of this Northern California city are facing possible charges after a law enforcement investigation concluded they failed to report suspected child abuse by another city employee.

That employee, Jason Pedroza, was fired from the city-owned Lesher Center for the Arts in November after managers learned about the suspected abuse. But a parent, not Lesher Center employees, first told police of Pedroza's alleged crimes, according to a March 15 police memo obtained by The Contra Costa Times and reported on Monday (http://bit.ly/14zJJ8U).

The four officials — Lesher Center manager Scott Denison, Walnut Creek Arts, Recreation and Community Services Director Barry Gordon, his assistant director Kevin Safine and city Human Resources Director Sally Rice — have been placed on paid administrative leave while the city conducts an internal investigation, said City Manager Ken Nordhoff.

A message for Denison on Monday was not immediately returned. Nordhoff said he could not disclose Gordon, Rice and Safine's personal contact information.

Denison, Gordon and Rice didn't respond to requests for comment from The Contra Costa Times. The newspaper reported that Safine could not be reached for comment. According to the memo, Gordon told police he was not aware of any requirement to report suspected child abuse.

Rice allegedly said she forgot about a November memo Safine sent her about the alleged abuse by Pedroza and did not know who in the city was required to report suspected child abuse. Police consider Denison, Gordon and Safine mandated reporters, but it's not clear if they put Rice in the same category, the Times reported.

The 27-year-old Pedroza, an actor and theater teacher, was charged in February with felony abuse involving two underage girls, including using a minor for a sex act. He has pleaded not guilty.

Last fall, the parents of an alleged victim of Pedroza's told Danville police that they suspected he had inappropriate contact with their child, according to the police memo.

Denison allegedly learned about the allegations, notified his bosses Gordon and Safine, and fired Pedroza on Nov. 8. But the memo says none of them reported the allegations to police.

The parents of a second child then came forward to report alleged sexual misconduct by Pedroza to Pleasant Hill police, who determined some of the alleged crimes occurred at the Lesher Center and contacted Walnut Creek police. That was the first time Walnut Creek police learned about the allegations, according to the memo.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Nancy Georgiou said the District Attorney's Office is still considering the matter.

 

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