Romney Cans Golden Goose Over Abuse
September 5, 2007
By John Cook
Romney / Lichfield news ...
Mitt Romney has asked his Utah
finance committee co-chair, Robert Lichfield, who is affiliated with
a controversial network of schools for troubled teens and has been
dogged by allegations of abuse and fraud, to step down, Radar has
Ken Kay, the president of the
Worldwide Association of Specialty Programs (WWASP), a nonprofit
group co-founded by Lichfield that provides consulting services to
schools specializing in "behavior modification" for wayward teens,
said in an e-mail that Romney has asked Lichfield to stop
participating in fundraising activities for the campaign.
Lichfield was named in a June 2007
complaint filed in federal court in Utah by the families of 133
children who have attended schools associated with WWASP, alleging
that they were subjected to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
One plaintiff, Chase Wood, claims he was fondled, forced to eat his
own vomit, and locked in a dog cage at the Cross Creek Center for
Boys, a school that Lichfield founded in the late 1970s.
"Gov. Romney has asked Mr.
Lichfield to step down and not be involved in any more fundraising
until the lawsuit is resolved in the positive, which we are
confident will happen," Kay said.
Lichfield is Utah's largest
political donor. He organized a fundraiser in February in his
hometown of St. George that netted nearly $300,000 for the Romney
campaign, and members of the Lichfield family have donated $17,000.
According to a class-action lawsuit
filed against him in New York in 2006 for fraud, Lichfield makes $90
million a year through a complicated network of businesses based
around behavior modification and has owned or operated a total of 26
schools worldwide, some of which have been closed by local
authorities for mistreatment. The lawsuit claims that the Academy at
Ivy Ridge, a school that sits on land owned by Lichfield and for
which he has provided consulting services, admitted students for
five years without any accreditation as an educational institution
from the state.
Last week Randall Hinton, an
educational counselor who has worked at Cross Creek and many other
schools affiliated with WWASP, was convicted of third-degree assault
and false imprisonment for slamming the head of a 15-year-old
student at Royal Gorge Academy in Colorado into a stairwell and
forcing a 17-year-old to lie flat on his stomach for so long he had
to vomit. Hinton faces up to three years in prison.
Kay, a longtime associate of
Lichfield's, says WWASP simply provides marketing and other business
services to schools, does not deal directly with students, and is
not responsible for any mistreatment.
Lichfield could not be reached for
comment. A spokesman for the Romney campaign did not immediately
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