Domestic abuse case entangles Oregon DHS
As an Oregon Department of Human Services child welfare worker, Katie Sichley was in charge of determining whether children should be removed from abusive or troubled households.
But for more than a year, the Gresham mother of two concealed a troubled and abusive household of her own, according to testimony and evidence leveled against her meth-addicted live-in boyfriend in Multnomah Circuit Court.
In a hearing on Monday, Judge Eric Bergstrom made it clear that Sichley's boyfriend, Michael Sutton Chastain, is likely headed for prison, saying the evidence showed he'd rammed Sichley's head into a door hinge last September, knocking her unconscious, and hit her then-14-year-old daughter with a metal pole.
What he didn't say is that Sichley, who recently resigned her state child welfare post, may face charges as well. That's because while she was on paid leave from her full-time state job — and required to be at home, available for work — she took a second job as a drug counselor at the same nonprofit where Chastain had been assigned on parole. Drawing a state salary improperly is the sort of benefits fraud that prosecutors sometimes go after.
The revelations from the Chastain case show the power of abusive relationships. And they come as DHS is under heightened scrutiny over a string of revelations that have highlighted mismanagement at the department as well as unsafe conditions in the state's underfunded foster care system.
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