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Lawsuit filed against St. Jude’s Ranch, state in alleged sexual assault

A former St. Jude’s Ranch for Children worker who accuses a former foster care worker of sexually assaulting her in 2013 is suing the ranch and the state because of its oversight role of Clark County’s child welfare system.

Jodi Lynn Fennell, who worked as a child specialist at St. Jude’s, filed a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas on July 31.

Aldrin Antonio West, who worked as a house parent at St. Jude’s when Fennell alleges he assaulted her, faces three gross misdemeanor charges for open or gross lewdness. He has pleaded not guilty and his jury trial is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 16.

St. Jude’s is a county-licensed therapeutic foster care agency. Clark County officials declined to comment because they do not do so on pending litigation, said Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa.

“Without exposure to these things, change is not going to happen,” Fennell, who is representing herself, said Monday. “I’m seeking to expose the problems that need to be repaired.”

The suit claims West, who was Fennell’s supervisor, had previously been investigated for “inappropriate sexual conduct involving two teenage girls,” but returned to work after completing a “boundaries training class.” After returning to work, West is accused of assaulting Fennell more than once. He was terminated from his job.

The lawsuit claims Fennell’s constitutional rights to due process under the Fifth Amendment were violated by the involved agencies failing to properly investigate prior complaints of sexual misconduct toward teenage girls involving West. Both the Clark County Department of Family Services and St. Jude’s also failed to take appropriate action to protect the public, employees and the children residing at St. Jude’s, the lawsuit alleges.

“St. Jude’s Ranch for Children owed a legal duty to protect its employees and the children residing at the ranch,” according to the lawsuit.

After Fennell filed a complaint with the Boulder City Police Department, she was placed on indefinite, unpaid administrative leave by St. Jude’s, the lawsuit states.

Fennell is seeking special damages for personal injury to be determined at trial, compensatory damages for loss of gainful employment to be determined at trial, legal expenses and further relief as the court may deem proper.

Contact Yesenia Amaro at yamaro@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3843. Find her on Twitter:@YeseniaAmaro.

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