A Massachusetts congresswoman who once led a state child care case against the boarding school run by Sheriff Paul Babeu stands by her comments that he obstructed an official investigation.
“(Babeu) was there. I met him at the school, and he absolutely knew what was going on both with students, the abuses they were suffering, and also with the litigation that was involved,” said Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA).
Before she was elected to Congress, Clark worked as general counsel for the Massachusetts Office of Child Care Services (OCCS).
She was the lead attorney on a state licensure case against the DeSisto School in Stockbridge, Mass. that uncovered students were subjected to abusive, dangerous and inhuman disciplinary practices.
“It was truly a place of horrors,” said Clark, who also called the school’s practices “ritualistic child abuse.”
Clark made her comments in a news conference Monday in response to attacks against her and denials made by Babeu in his own news conference two weeks ago.
At Babeu’s news conference, he announced that an attorney for his campaign filed a bar complaint against Clark because of an interview she did with ABC15 earlier this year.
The bar complaint was dismissed four days after it was filed.
In her earlier ABC15 interview, Clark said she remembered meeting Babeu at DeSisto and said he obstructed the state’s case.
“When he was there he really stonewalled our investigation at every turn,” she said.
Babeu defiantly denied the allegations at his news conference and called them a complete lie. The Sheriff also said he expected an apology from ABC15.
But Clark said court records support her claims.
Babeu worked at DeSisto from 1999 to 2001, serving as headmaster and later as executive director.
In May 2000, Massachusetts launched its lawsuit and investigation against DeSisto directly in the middle of Babeu’s tenure. The state’s ongoing lawsuit -- to force DeSisto to become licensed and stop abusive practices -- eventually drove the school to shut down in 2004, records show.
From 2000 to 2001, a superior court judge found that the DeSisto School repeatedly withheld records and violated court orders. The school’s actions also led to sanctions, court records show.
In a new statement Monday, Babeu’s campaign said Clark’s comments are a “clear partisan attack” and that he never met her.
(Read the full statement below)
However, the statement doesn’t address whether Babeu was involved in DeSisto’s violation of court orders or withholding of records. It only states that Babeu didn’t “block any investigator from coming to the school.”
Babeu’s time at the DeSisto School continues to dog his congressional campaign in what is supposed to be a highly-competitive district. Democrats are flooding Arizona with attack ads on the issue using an ABC15 investigation.
The station’s investigation exposed a 1999 home video showing Babeu praise DeSisto’s extreme discipline.
Regarding Rep. Clark’s statements, the campaign for Babeu’s democratic opponent, Tom O’Halleran, released a statement.
“Today we saw Congresswoman Katherine Clark further expose the lies Paul Babeu continues to tell Arizona voters,” said Jacob Becklund, campaign manager. “ We've known for months that Babeu was lying because of the home video where he specifically supported the abusive practices employed by the DeSisto School. Now we have even more evidence that Paul Babeu's lies about his time running an abusive school flat out disqualify him from representing Arizona's families in Congress."
Here’s the full statement from Babeu released through his campaign:
“This is a clear partisan political attack by Democratic congresswoman from Massachusetts. In a 1,700 page of her investigation, I’m not mentioned other than the fact I had a take home car. No one was found responsible of any such abuse and the state even issued the school a license. I have never met with Ms. Clark nor did I ever block any investigator from coming to the school. Ms Clark's lies show the Democrats will do anything to keep Congressional district 1 from being held by a Republican. Democrats will say and do anything to try to keep this seat, false attacks from 16 years ago rather than talking about issues that concern Arizonans like jobs, cutting taxes, securing the border and caring for our veterans.”
Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at firstname.lastname@example.org