Denver NBC affiliate KUSA went ahead with a story about Denver’s Department of Human Services handling of an alleged case of child abuse despite warnings from a city attorney the station could face criminal charges for doing so.
The story, reported by Chris Vanderveen, involves a Denver couple who had their children taken away from them in 2009 after the kids were found dirty and unable to communicate. This year, that same couple had four children taken away from them after they too were found unable to communicate and living in dirty conditions.
KUSA interviewed the original case worker who claims in the report, his concerns about the couple were ignored.
On its website, the station posted the story with anchor Kyle Clark saying, “When we started asking questions of a Denver Human Services handling of a high profile child abuse case we expected, at the very least, a call back. What we did not expect was to receive not a phone call, but a letter from that agency’s attorney warning us that we risked criminal prosecution if we aired an interview with one of their former case workers. Tonight, we have chosen to air that interview.” You can watch the story after the jump.
In his report, Vanderveen said he doesn’t think what they talked about was confidential.
KUSA also talked about the story around the story on its website:
9News has continually sought comment from DDHS on the matter, but a spokesperson has repeated her office is unable to comment on specifics due to confidentiality issues.
In the decision to air portions of the interview with O’Neal, 9NEWS and O’Neal believe nothing in his statements should be considered confidential as much of it can be independently verified through court records and other interviews.
Even still, the letter from Shaklee warned of the potential of criminal prosecution should the story involve the release of information “considered confidential under (state) law.” The letter suggested any violation of the law would be a “class 1 misdemeanor…punishable, at minimum, by six months imprisonment, or five hundred dollar fine, or both.”
TVSpy contacted both KUSA and DDHS for comment. We will update when we hear back.