For weeks now, Joal Traynor has spent part of most days standing on street corners in downtown Albany, holding up a sign complaining about the state Department of Human Services. I’ve talked with him at his house and scanned some of the mountain of paperwork he has collected. And it looks to me that he got a raw deal.
The story is sad and highly personal, and while the details are important, I won’t dwell on them here to honor the privacy of others involved. Suffice it to say that Traynor, 37, has had custody of his children since 2005, and the court removed their mother’s visitation rights a few years later.
He has expectations for how children should behave. Last November, he twice spanked his then 13-year-old daughter with a belt, once because of inappropriate attire he had told her not to wear and once over a cell phone he had forbidden her to have. He and his present wife were summoned to her school, where two Albany police officers arrested him and took him to jail for assault and criminal mistreatment. But the Linn County district attorney dropped the case because, DA Doug Marteeny told me, “we did not believe we could prove the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Officials of DHS, however, after two reviews, persisted in a finding of physical abuse. They also placed the girl with the mother who had lost visitation rights before.
For 16 years Traynor worked in corrections for the Oregon Youth Authority, and as a result of the DHS conclusions, he lost his job. He says he’s filed a tort claim against DHS and intends to sue. He believes he did not get a fair hearing, and what I saw of the written record bears him out. (hh)