Behind-the-scenes: Exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation spends 6 months probing abuse records

How we broke the story

CLEVELAND - An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation spent 6 months probing abuse records maintained by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities.

They include inspection and compliance reports involving service providers across Ohio that serve those with disabilities, records involving ODDD hearings into revocation and suspensions of provider certification and adjudication orders that detail everything from misappropriation of personal belongings to physical and sexual abuse.

Our investigation found that most families were unaware that such records even existed and ODDD does not provide access to them on its website - nor does it routinely publish them.

Instead, information on service providers for Ohio's 90,000 people with disabilities is limited to mailing address and contact  numbers.

That remains in stark contrast to information that is readily available online regarding child care and nursing home inspections.

The spark that started it all

The NewsChannel5 Investigative Unit first began looking into abuse in July 2010, when we uncovered a manager of a group home for the disabled who was stealing social security checks from his patients.

We found the manager was previously in prison on a theft charge, but still was hired by a service provider - who failed to check criminal backgrounds.

The question arose: who is hired to provide services for the disabled, and how effectively does the state oversee health and safety regulations that providers are required to comply  with?

The documents that tell the story

Last April, we began requesting documents under the Ohio Open Records Act.

For six months, we pieced together a widespread  pattern of non-compliance.

We began by requesting all documents regarding individuals who were placed on a statewide "abuser registry."

The registry contains information limited to name, date of birth, type of offense, date placed on registry and whether criminal action has been taken.

But there are few details - and no information about the service provider they hired them.

So, we requested more documents.

And, inside one known as an "adjudication order," we learned disturbing details of the rape of a Stark County woman with a severe disability.

Daryl Scott Burton was described as the assailant and court records were referenced that ultimately led us to police reports detailing the crime as well as contact information.

In other documents , we found a Summit County service provider had its certification suspended, and then restored.

By requesting additional records, including compliance, inspection reports and court documents, we learned of the deaths of three persons with disabilities who were served by the provider.

We also reviewed 1,100 pages of compliance reports and compiled our own data base of violations.

We found service providers routinely ignore even basic health and safety regulations, including  nearly 900 compliance violations ranging from  failure to check criminal backgrounds and lack of CPR and first aid training to failure to check abuser registries.

The results

Relying on data provided by ODDD, we created our own searchable database so that families can more easily discover the identifies of those on a state abuser registry.

We published a three-part series on the information we uncovered.

And now, a legislator is pushing to pass a law that wold require providers to publish this data online and make it easily accessible to consumers.

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