The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 3, 2013

Trinity Daycare negotiating revocation settlement

New citations issued in June for training, equipment violations

By Dan Nienaber
The Mankato Free Press

---- — A North Mankato day care that had its licensed revoked last year is in negotiations to settle its violations with the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Renee Thomas, owner of Trinity Daycare and Preschool, said Friday the revocation has been settled and she is just waiting for paperwork to be completed. She referred any additional questions to her attorney, Elizabeth Weinandt, who couldn't be reached for comment.

Jerry Kerber, DHS inspector general, described the situation differently in an email after the department was asked to confirm the settlement. He said there was an Aug. 20 hearing addressing the order for revocation, but the hearing was continued. Any settlement that allows the day care to remain open also will include major changes to the way the facility is operated, he added.

“Discussions of a final settlement are underway but no final agreement has been reached,” Kerber said in the email. “Any settlements of revocation cases by the (DHS) that do not end in program closure always result in dramatic changes to the operation of the licensed service that will be verified by DHS.”

The original order issued on Sept. 7, 2012, said Thomas would be required to close Trinity two weeks later. Extra time was provided to allow parents to find alternative care. The closing was put on hold after Thomas appealed the order.

Thomas and her staff were accused of several violations ranging from falsifying records to verbal and physical abuse. She denied the allegations at that time and said it was “very common” for a day care to have repeat violations. Investigators from DHS said then that it's rare for a day care to receive a large number of citations for serious violations. They also said no other license revocation orders had been issued to child care centers in Nicollet and Blue Earth counties during the previous five years.

Staff members were accused of using derogatory names for children. They also were accused of grabbing them by the arms, slapping them and spanking them. There were a total of 19 violations cited, including several violations of failure to provide proper training.

A correction order was issued to the facility again in June after five violations were found during a DHS licensing re-inspection on May 17. Three of the violations were for not providing documentation showing staff had been provided adequate training for sudden infant death syndrome, shaken baby syndrome and CPR methods. A fourth violation was for not having infant cribs that met federal standards. The final violation was for not having an annual inspection for a fire extinguisher (a tag said it had last been inspected in October 2011).

Thomas issued a request in July to have the citations reconsidered, except for the CPR training violation. A letter from Karen Erickson of the DHS Division of Licensing Legal Office, which was sent to Thomas on Aug. 8, denied that request. It said DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson had reviewed the case.

“The Commissioner finds there is sufficient evidence in the record to support the citations and they are affirmed,” Erickson said in the letter. “The correction order is affirmed in its entirety. This is a final agency decision.”