Credit union told to turn over documents for Kelowna social worker accused of abusing foster kids | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Credit union told to turn over documents for Kelowna social worker accused of abusing foster kids

Lady Justice (the Goddess of Justice in Greek mythology).
October 18, 2019 - 8:30 AM

One of the Okanagan women who alleges that she was physically, psychologically and financially abused while she was a youth in foster care has won a partial victory and uncovered a potential issue on route to a larger legal battle.

The woman, whose name is covered under a publication ban, filed a lawsuit naming the Ministry of Children and Family Development and Director of Child Welfare, Interior Savings Credit Union, and several other unnamed individuals. While that suit is still before they courts, she scored a small victory in her effort to have her former social worker Robert Riley Saunders’s banking documents turned over.

She was looking for everything from Saunders’ mortgage documents to bank statements for each of the 18 people who have accused the former social worker, in a larger civil suit, of wrong-doing.

Interior Savings had already produced statements relating to the woman’s account. It did not, however, produce account documents for the other alleged victims of Saunders or his mortgage documents and other banking documents not directly related to the case at hand.

Interior Savings took the position those documents are irrelevant and contain personal information of third parties who have not been given notice of the application, triggering court action.

For the most part, the court agreed not all the information requested was germane to the case at hand, though Interior Savings was ordered to hand over some documents they’d not previously chosen to do.

In the decision posted this week, the judge said the woman tendered a copy of a “Personal Member Application” signed by Saunders as the applicant and an Interior Savings employee as a witness.

Beside the plaintiff’s name, over the words “Applicant Signature”, someone wrote “NOT A SIGNER”.

The plaintiff argued that this document was evidence that Interior Savings allowed Saunders to open an account in her name without her signature. One of the main allegations in her suit — and suits filed by many others — was that Saunders created or helped create bank accounts for them to receive government assistance, then took that money through his own access to the accounts.

“She argues that this was contrary to Interior Savings’ policy, which required that a beneficiary sign a Personal Member Application and consent to an account being opened," reads the decision.

Interior Savings said that the account opening document before the court is not for a joint account, which is the allegation in the notice of civil claim, but rather for a trust account.

“Its policy requires a beneficiary’s signature and agreement if a trustee asks that a personal account be opened for the beneficiary; however, the beneficiary’s signature is not required, Interior Savings says, for a trust account,” reads the decision.

“The distinction between a joint account and a trust account may be an issue at trial.”

For the present purposes, the judge wrote, the document did offer some evidence that Interior Savings allowed Saunders to open an account for the woman without her signature or agreement.  

Interior Savings was ordered to produce any further account opening documents on which one of three alleged victims of Saunders is “NOT A SIGNER” or the alleged victim’s signature is left blank. It was also required to produce account statements for those accounts that Saunders opened without the signature of the alleged victim.

“These documents may help the plaintiff to establish a pattern of conduct or knowledge relating to the matters at issue in this action,” the judge wrote.

“Beyond these specific documents, however, the plaintiff’s demand for all of the account documents for all of Saunders’ alleged victims is overbroad and unsupported by the pleadings or evidence.”

The notice of application identifies 17 additional victims but does not set out how Saunders is alleged to have victimized those individuals or how his conduct in relation to those individuals is relevant to his conduct or the knowledge of the defendants in this action.

The allegations have not been proven in court. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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