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Allegheny County knew foster child transport contractor was convicted felon

Friday, May 23, 2003

By Barbara White Stack, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The transportation company that hired as a driver a convicted felon who is now charged with raping a foster child is owned by a convicted felon, and Allegheny County's Office of Children, Youth and Families knew that.

Willie Slaughter, president of G&S Transportation and Cleaning Inc. of East Liberty, was convicted of several robbery charges, including one count of robbery with serious bodily injury, in 1982. He was sentenced to two to 10 years in state prison.

CYF contracted with Slaughter's firm in 2001 to transport foster children to visits with parents, but did not know at that time that Slaughter had a 20-year-old criminal record. CYF has paid the firm $119,000 for trips in the past 10 months.

Though CYF later learned of Slaughter's record, it continued to use his transportation service because Slaughter was not supposed to ever have direct contact with children.

Earlier this month, Slaughter hired Theodore Washington Jr., 55, also known as Theodore Woodson, as a driver. Washington has a criminal history dating to 1965, including convictions for robbery, burglary, gun and drug violations. Agencies such as G&S are required to perform criminal background checks on applicants to prevent those convicted of such felonies from having contact with children.

Washington was charged this week with raping a 16-year-old foster child he was transporting to a visit.

CYF terminated its contract with G&S on Wednesday because Slaughter failed to perform a proper criminal check on Washington.

Marc Cherna, Allegheny County's director of human services, said yesterday that despite the incident, he is not sure he will change the agency's policy to stop contracting with firms operated by people with criminal records.

"Willie Slaughter didn't do anything to this child," Cherna said. "I do not want to jump because of one incident. I want to think this through."

He said he was not sure it was appropriate to forbid a contract in a case like this in which the company director had a very old record and no contact with children.

He said CYF is checking the criminal records of employees of the approximately 200 agencies with which it contracts. The records of workers who have contact with children will be examined, but not those of company directors, he said, adding that CYF does not know how many directors have criminal records.

Cherna noted that many child welfare agencies do not provide transportation at all, making it difficult for impoverished parents to visit their children in foster care.

Barbara White Stack can be reached at bwhitestack@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878.

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