Judicial Council in Reno Settles Federal Complaint

RENO, Nev. (AP) - A nonprofit agency that trains juvenile and family court judges has agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a complaint by the U.S. Department of Justice that it fraudulently obtained grants and used the money to hire ghost workers and employees' spouses.

Under the settlement, the Reno-based National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges does not admit wrongdoing.

In a related matter, Serena Hulbert, a special projects manager at the council who was fired after questioning the group's billing practices, filed a separate lawsuit last week saying she was wrongfully terminated for questioning the bogus grant transactions, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported Wednesday.

Hulbert's lawyer, Mark Thierman, said although the organization was ordered to pay $300,000, the government investigation found $2.4 million in misused funds.

He said he hoped federal prosecutors would follow-up with a criminal case.

"My client shouldn't be made to suffer because the Justice Department made a deal," Thierman said. "I'd like to see the individuals who are responsible make up the difference."

Judge Susan Carbon, who heads a family division for the council, said in a statement that it has cooperated during the federal investigation.

"The NCJFCJ takes these allegations seriously and has reviewed its administrative and training policies to ensure that the DOJ will not have such concerns again," she said.

"This allowed us to focus on improvements to our administrative procedures and to continue doing the quality work that helps judges
all over the country," she said. There was no admission of liability."

Based on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, the council was founded in 1937 by a group of judges who wanted to improve the nation's juvenile and family courts, according to its Web site.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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