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State probe sought for two West Seneca group homes

Assemblyman Michael P. Kearns is seeking a state investigation into how sex offenders were placed in two West Seneca group homes after the release of records revealing several violent and disturbing incidents at the homes.

The Buffalo Democrat is asking the Inspector General’s Office to investigate the two homes and review of the state’s programs and procedures on placement of sex offenders in the two homes on Leydecker Road.

The records, which detail confrontations between residents of the home and employees, as well as a sex offender running away from a home, show that the state’s screening process is flawed and that the residents are a danger to the people who work in the homes and to the community, Kearns said.

“I just think we need an independent investigation,” he said.

Kearns was unsuccessful in State Supreme Court in seeking information from the state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities regarding placement of Level 3 sex offenders at the two homes in West Seneca. But he was contacted by a downstate woman with similar concerns in her area, and she requested documents in a Freedom of Information Law request.

The state turned over more than 1,100 pages of documents to the woman, some of them concerning the group homes at 510 and 526 Leydecker Road.

The state relocated seven men, all from Erie and Niagara counties and all of them sex offenders, from a locked and segregated section of the state’s Monroe Developmental Center near Rochester to the two homes in December 2013. Town police were contacted with the addresses of the registered sex offenders, as required by law, but efforts by the Town of West Seneca and Kearns to learn more about the placements were unsuccessful.

“Residents are in danger; the people who work there are in danger,” Kearns said. “It’s really bureaucratic arrogance that they refuse to answer any of our questions.”

But Helene DeSanto, deputy commissioner of the state disabilities office, said at a legislative hearing in 2014 that “safety of people is of paramount importance to us. We have a very rigorous process by which we assess individuals’ needs and put the necessary kinds of supports and protections in place so they can live successfully in the community.”

Kearns said the disabilities office told the community that it would screen the residents for those who would not pose a threat to the safety of the community.

He said he does not know how many people currently live in the two homes or whether all of them are sex offenders. A check of the state Sex Offender Registry shows a total of four Level 2 and 3 sex offenders living at the two homes.

“They were wrong, because we have proof of residents being violent in the home and escaping into the community,” Kearns said.

The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

The eight pages of records relate incident reports from 2014 and 2015 concerning residents acting out, being aggressive toward employees and, in one instance, running away from a home. In another instance, an employee left a client alone in a van with the keys in and the engine running.