Canadian Co. Judge Defends Detention Center Dir. At Heart Of Controversy

Friday, November 15th 2019, 8:08 am
By: Grant Hermes

The judge who oversees an El Reno juvenile detention center defended the center’s director who is at the heart of an ongoing misconduct investigation.

In a recent guest article in the El Reno Tribune, Canadian County Judge Bob Hughey, charged with running the El Reno Children’s Justice Center, confirmed Director Dan Kern was a high-level official at the notorious and now closed Walnut Grove detention facility in Mississippi.

According to a 2012 DOJ investigation, federal investigators found "sexual misconduct that was among the worst that [investigators had] seen in any facility anywhere in the nation" at Walnut Grove. Previously, News 9 was able to link but not definitively prove Kern worked at the facility.

Kern was later named in a lawsuit filed against the Mississippi center as the Deputy Director. But, In his article Hughey said linking Kern to the widespread misconduct and alleged criminality was “off base.”

"There was no reason for this lawsuit to raise any red flags related to the employment of Dan Kern. Kern was recognized as an expert, with the knowledge and experience to correct the problems of Walnut Grove,” Hughey wrote.

However, the problems at Walnut Grove persisted and the center was closed in 2015. Kern was later dismissed from the lawsuit.

Kern has been accused by current and former staff members of harassment, retaliation and using sexual language about students at the center. Two former employees are now suing, saying they were wrongfully fired.

“I was not given a reason why. Still to this day I don't know why," former center employee Ronda Moss said about her firing.

According to one source, who has asked to remain anonymous, the alleged retaliation has continued by sequestering employees who made complaints in their offices and subjecting them to surprise drug tests, something the source said was out of the ordinary.

Kern remains on the job, despite the allegations and a county investigation. Repeated attempts to reach Kern have been made but have gone unanswered.

Read Related: Canadian Co. Officials Respond To Allegations Of Misconduct At Juvenile Center