By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE — A nursing home’s decision to suspend several black men on its payroll after a woman claimed to have been sexually abused drew criticisms and a harsh media spotlight last week.
The paid suspensions were limited and brief, said Reginald Hartsfield of Advantage Management Group — which oversees Southgate Manor, a Trenton Road nursing home — and in accordance with federal law.
“It’s common protocol,” Hartsfield said. “The first thing you do is secure the environment to make sure the resident is safe. If there are people who fit the description of the alleged abuser we have to put them on suspension in order to keep the residents safe.”
On Monday a resident of the 100-patient facility claimed to have been sexually assaulted by a staff member. The victim’s daughter contacted Southgate Police and said the only description of the alleged abuser was that he was a black man.
Hartsfied said that proper procedure required the action that was taken.
“Our first response was to secure any black male that could have had contact with that resident,” Hartsfield said. “That’s what we did.”
Hartsfield said the media reports were greatly exaggerated. No more than six employees were temporarily suspended — other black men working at the facility who did not have contact with or access to the woman were not affected — and within two days most were returned to duty.
“Some within 24 hours,” Hartsfield said. “The story got blown way out of proportion. We did not suspend all black males, just people who had access to that resident. It’s a federal procedure, it’s the law. The description the resident gave just said it was a black male.”
Southgate Public Safety Director Thomas Coombs said police were contacted Monday by the daughter of the alleged victim, who claimed to have been raped. The description provided was limited to race and gender: a black man.
“They called and wanted to make a police report through normal channels,” Coombs said Thursday. “They’re still trying to determine if, in fact, it happened in our city. There are evidentiary things that have to take place.”
Coombs said a detective expected to interview the woman Thursday or Friday. Hartsfield went to the facility Thursday to clarify the investigation and meet with staff.
“The police have their investigation and we’re following their lead,” Hartsfield said. “We’re cooperating and will follow through the process no matter what.”