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Executive at a Texas foster placement agency kept job despite sex abuse allegation

 Texas Foster Care & Adoption Services headquarters in San Antonio
Paul Flahive
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TPR
Texas Foster Care & Adoption Services headquarters in San Antonio

Despite a child sexual assault investigation, a San Antonio foster executive kept his job at Texas Foster Care & Adoption Services.

This is the second story in TPR's three-part series "Justice Ignored: Texas has a long way to go in helping child victims of sex crimes." Read the first story here.

An executive at a foster placement agency headquartered in San Antonio was accused in 2020 of sexually assaulting a child. But TPR learned his employer kept him on staff — as the highest paid employee — months after the allegation.

Even after the state child welfare investigators found “reason to believe” he had sexually abused his great niece for eight years in June 2020, his employer delayed acting. Also, several former staffers said his departure from a leadership role even extended past when the agency said he had been terminated.

Gerald “Jerry” Monroe was the chief financial officer of Texas Foster Care & Adoption Services when he was arrested in December 2020 for the alleged repeated sexual assault of his great niece, Shawna Rogers. TPR learned that Rogers wasn’t the only woman who accused the now 71-year-old Austin resident of sexual impropriety.

Shawna first came forward in 2020 with allegations that the man molested from the age of 8 years old. But the case against Monroe was dismissed in 2022 due to Rogers' death.

 Shawna Rogers with one of her nephews
Courtesy Robin Farris
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Shawna Rogers with one of her nephews

TPR’s investigation of Monroe, his employment and the allegations made against him was based on multiple interviews with former colleagues, relatives, legal officials, prosecutors, along with reviews of tax documents and hundreds of other records.

SHAWNA 1.jpg Criminal Justice Raped, abused, and trafficked but no one to blame? How Texas failed Shawna Rogers. Paul Flahive

According to five former Texas Foster Care & Adoption Services employees, managers knew about allegations against Monroe but did not tell the staff.

“It was hush-hush,” said Eric Cartegena, a former member of Texas Foster Care & Adoption Services management staff in San Antonio. “There wasn't very much transparency with that. They didn't discuss it with any of the other staff.”

Cartagena said CEO Karen Perez instructed him not to tell any other staff members. He described Monroe as a remote worker who was rarely if ever in the office but who wielded a lot of influence throughout the organization.

The nonprofit’s tax returns confirmed that Monroe worked there through 2020.

The state does not mandate that an organization entrusted to care for children terminate someone accused of – or even arrested for – a crime against a child.

But prosecutors of crimes against children told TPR these accusations usually result in termination.

“Yeah, it’s very unusual (for them to stay on staff),” said Nick Socias, a special victims prosecutor in Kendall County. “I've prosecuted a foster parent who, the second the allegation came to light with him, all children were removed. His license was pulled. A teacher -- same exact thing. A CPS worker -- he was terminated that day.”

One foster placement official with a larger agency said a “reason to believe” abuse finding with the state was very serious, and it was unlikely that person would remain employed with their agency.

And yet, Texas Foster Care & Adoption Services waited six months, telling state licensors that it fired Monroe the day before Christmas 2020, two days after he was arrested by Austin police for sexual assault of a child.

“I’m not going to discuss this with you,” Perez said when TPR asked her about the gap.

TPR highlighted problems in the police investigation of Monroe in part one of this series.

Jerry Monroe
Jerry Monroe

Police waited eight months to arrest Monroe. Rogers died in a car accident in October 2021. The sexual assault case against Monroe languished and was ultimately dismissed in early 2022. According to court documents, it was dropped because of Shawna’s death.

Monroe maintains his innocence.

From the time CPS launched its investigation in early April to his arrest in December, his role at the agency did not appear to change, five former colleagues said.

One former employee said that Perez confided not long after his arrest that Monroe hadn’t passed his background check in early 2021. But rather than fire him, they scrubbed his name from agency documents.

“His name was removed from everything, and I never heard he had been fired. I kept in contact with other folks there (after departing), and he is still working there,” said the former employee, who wished to remain anonymous.

Cartagena said Perez told him that Monroe was removed from the nonprofit’s board of directors after the allegation was made.

But Monroe was present at board of directors meetings through 2020 and by all appearances able to continue in his role at the agency — which included him weighing in on decisions, employees said.

“They were still discussing programs and agency things that they needed to be done with him,” he said.

It wasn't clear what Monroe's involvement was after spring 2021, Cartagena said, but through his tenure that ended in March 2022, he was never told Monroe was fired.

Amanda Benavidez, another former employee, confirmed the account and said staff didn’t talk about Monroe but if a decision needed to be made — he was called. She said she thought it continued through 2021.

“Any big decision, and Jerry’s name came up and he was consulted,” she said.

It wasn’t clear if they were or still are paying Monroe. At the time of publication of this report, the agency had not filed its 2021 tax returns. The 2020 filings indicated his salary may have been removed from the executives section.

“He doesn’t work here,” Perez said, “Probably a while ago, almost two years.”

TPR emailed a dozen questions to Perez for this story after she declined to answer them on the phone.

They included queries about when the agency learned about the allegations, whether or not Monroe or his wife still work for the agency, and whether they took action to limit his access to agency youth after allegations surfaced.

Texas Foster Care & Adoption Services 2016 tax form. Despite Karen Perez being elevated to CEO the following year, neither her name nor her salary were listed on subsequent tax forms. One expert called that a "red flag."
IRS
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Texas Foster Care & Adoption Services 2016 tax form. Despite Karen Perez being elevated to CEO the following year, neither her name nor her salary were listed on subsequent tax forms. One expert called that a "red flag."

‘Like listing your dog’

The organization had other irregularities on its tax filings, according to one expert.

For example, Karen Perez’s LinkedIn profile indicated that she was chief executive officer for more than four years. But she was not listed on any of the tax documents, which require key employees who are running the day to day operations to be listed along with their salaries.

Her absence from the documents is a red flag to the IRS that could trigger an audit, said Marc Owens, former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division.

“It’s like listing people who aren’t your child as a dependent on your 1040. It’s in that category, like listing your dog,” said Owens, who is a partner at Loeb & Loeb LLP.

Perez agreed with TPR that she was a key employee but said she didn’t sign the tax form, commonly referred to as a 990.

“I'm done with this conversation. We do have an attorney, and we'll make sure we get that number to you,” she said before ending the phone interview.

In interviews with past employees, they pointed to other issues they saw with the organization.

Perez hired her son to conduct fire and safety inspections. Former employees questioned the necessity of the position because the job used to be done by case managers. Also, staffers said for years they were told Perez’s daughter-in-law Sheila Perez was the nonprofit’s executive director. But she was not mentioned on the tax filings either.

Naji Pantibandla was listed in that position on the tax documents. Pantibandla did not respond to TPR’s request for comment, and the agency did not answer the questions TPR emailed it.

“That’s not surprising to me at all,” said Andre Scales, a former case manager speaking of the discrepancy in executive directors. “I always found it funny on paperwork. When it was time for the executive director’s signature, Sheila never really signed anything.”

Nepotism was one of several issues Scales referenced in a 12-page grievance he gave to the board of directors in 2020. Much of the grievance dealt with Perez’s treatment of Black employees, including racially biased comments.

Scales said after a July 2020 board meeting, Monroe spoke at length with Scales and Kim Bradley — who filed her own grievance about similar issues. This would have been weeks after CPS ruled there was reason to believe Monroe’s accuser. Monroe made promises of change but then never followed up. The two left the organization in September 2020.

Monroe was the highest paid employee for several years, according to the tax returns, making as much as $80,000 a year for working just one day a week.

In 2020, the year the allegations surfaced, Monroe received a raise in salary to $81,500 — making more than he ever had before — and the nonprofit also loaned him $1,000.

Monroe had left another foster serving nonprofit called FamilyLink Treatment Services, which does business as Legacy Ranch in 2011, according to other employees. The Legacy Ranch did not respond to TPR's multiple requests for comment.

In addition to being listed as chief financial officer for Texas Foster Care & Adoption Services, he played an outsized role in the organization. Monroe has been with the agency since soon after it opened its doors. His wife, Laurie Monroe, also worked for the nonprofit by processing payroll. The mailing address listed on multiple tax returns for the nonprofit was Monroe’s Austin home where he lives with his wife and granddaughter.

Texas Foster Care & Adoption Services was founded in 2011, and it grew from a few foster homes to dozens of them. The organization is considered small in relation to other providers. It makes about $2 million a year, 99% of which comes from payments from the state — mostly for foster placements.

TPR asked the agency about the nepotism allegations and issues over the tax filings and use of funds. Neither the nonprofit nor its lawyers responded to TPR’s emailed questions or several requests for comment.

 Bree Calvey told friends and family in 2013 that Monroe raped her as a teen.
Courtesy Joe Calvey
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Bree Calvey told friends and family in 2013 that Monroe raped her as a teen.

Allegations going back a decade

In 2013, another woman made an allegation against Monroe. Jordana “Bree” Calvey, Monroe’s stepdaughter, then 32, told multiple people that Monroe had raped her as a teenager.

TPR spoke to Monroe about the allegations. He said she was a liar. “Yeah, I heard that I raped her or some other shit,” he said.

He said Bree also claimed her mother hit her and other people molested her too.

“(She said) everyone molested her,” Monroe said.

He said no one molested the woman, and Bree didn’t like him because she thought he broke up her family.

Friends and family of Bree did not verify claims she had made multiple allegations.

Bree struggled with mental illness for years. She had substance abuse issues and had experienced homelessness.

As a result, when she made allegations against Monroe, many did not believe her, including her mother, Laurie, according to family members.

Laurie Monroe did not respond to TPR’s requests for comment.

But for Brittney Winkle, the conversation confirmed her childhood suspicions.

Bree and Winkle had been close childhood friends in Fort Worth, before Bree, her mother and Monroe relocated to Austin. The two kept in touch, and Winkle regularly traveled to stay with her at Monroe’s home. They also took vacations together.

“I would visit, and it was just little comments like, ‘Hey, don’t be alone with Jerry,’ ” she said.

Bree tried to stay in the same room, would bring her to the bathroom and wait outside.

Winkle never felt comfortable around Monroe. She said he sometimes made inappropriate comments about how the girls looked in outfits and in their bathing suits. She now sees them as “red flags.”

He always seemed to be around, Winkle said, wanting to hang out with the teens, wanting to be that “cool” older friend.

“He threw money everywhere,” Winkle said. “When we were in Austin, we could do whatever we wanted and had money to do whatever.”

She believed Calvey when she finally told her as an adult that he had sexually assaulted her.

Her mother, Laurie Monroe, thought Bree was lying, family members recounted, but she had enough doubt to ask her sister Robin Farris if it could be true.

Farris had trusted Monroe, at times, to babysit her own granddaughter. He had helped Farris with money when she moved to be closer to her sister Laurie. She couldn’t conceive of it being true.

“I’ll be honest, I defended him. I told (Laurie) I just couldn’t see it,” she said.

Years later, Farris was confronted by her own granddaughter, Shawna Rogers, who shook and sobbed as she told her a similar story about Monroe. As Farris recounted the memory in an interview with TPR, Shawna’s ashes sat nearby in Farris’ front room. She said she has come to terms with what she called her own blindness.

Shawna’s life spiraled into drug use and sexual exploitation. She died at 17 years old in a car accident.

Bree’s life would also decline into self-medicating through alcohol and hard drugs.

“They were good girls, they started out good,” said Lesley Chapman, Bree’s aunt. “Somebody just really took it all away from them.”

Bree got pregnant shortly before her 19th birthday and had a girl.

She was still living with the Monroes at this time, and friends and family said she was pursuing a career in modeling and acting. When she tried to move out, the Monroes kept the girl.

According to Winkle, they got custody.

During this time, Bree was able to get a few roles in indie movies and some modeling jobs.

Her mental state continued to decline, however, and her alcohol and drug use increased. She would end up living out of her car. Winkle didn’t see her for many years.

“She'd be doing really good and then all of a sudden she'd have a breakdown and things would be really bad,” Winkle said. “And when I reconnected with her, she was trying to get her life back together.”

Bree lived with her biological father in Haltom City, outside Fort Worth at the end. Winkle also lived in the area. The two began talking regularly. Bree started dropping hints that she was worried about her daughter living with the Monroes. She started making vague references to Gerald Monroe’s behavior when she was a teen.

Winkle said this concern led Bree to tell her that Monroe had sexually assaulted her. It quickly became all she would talk about.

“I will say that at the end and for the last year of her life, 90% of the time, she was worried for (her daughter), and her only focus was trying to figure out a way for (her daughter) to get out of that home,” Winkle explained.

Bree’s struggle with mental illness took a downward turn. Within a year of telling family and friends about her sexual trauma, she would put a gun to her head and pull the trigger, killing herself.

Her father Joe Calvey said his daughter suffered from bipolar disorder and depression. He said in her final year, she was paranoid. She took medications that contributed to her weight gain, and that continued to warp the former model’s sense of self.

The day she died, Calvey was working at the U.S. Postal Service, where he was a letter carrier.

He returned home, and the house was unusually still. The dog who often excitedly met him at the door lay quietly. All the lights were off. He navigated to his bedroom. He couldn’t see.

“I walked around the bed to turn on the lamp…I turn around and there’s my daughter laying there with two streams of blood down her nose and her eyes open, just laying there,” he said “And I just I lost it. I lost it.”

‘Look where it ended up’

No charges were ever filed against Monroe, Calvey said, because his daughter didn’t want to.

“It made my blood boil, but she didn't want to go into any details or anything about it. So it wasn't really, you know, I guess worth pursuing,” he said.

Seven years later Bree Calvey’s niece Shawna made similar accusations about Monroe. She also would die before any judgment was rendered.

Despite two females making accusations against Monroe over a ten-year period, at the time of this publication he remained free.

He helped to raise Bree Calvey’s daughter.

The lasting impact of the girls’ deaths — according to Robin Farris and Lesley Chapman— is that their family has largely stopped speaking to Laurie Monroe.

But even before the allegations, the two women sensed changes in their sister.

Laurie met Gerald Monroe as a coworker at a hospital in Fort Worth. She was fast in love, said Chapman, and quickly reoriented her life around his. Chapman, who credited Laurie for raising her, said everything about her sister changed.

An independent and strong-willed woman was replaced by one who called her husband at work multiple times per day and got worried when he didn’t respond to texts. Laurie had little interest in anything else, said Chapman.

“I just couldn't see somebody just drop her whole family like she did. And just make it all about him,” she said.

Bree’s family and friends saw a troubling pattern emerging for a third time with Bree’s daughter, now 22. For privacy reasons, TPR has withheld her name. The woman did not respond to TPRs request for comment.

Family said they see loose spending by Monroe on the woman and the potential for substance abuse.

Bree’s daughter wrecked a car while driving under the influence in 2019. and her family said Monroe spent lavishly on her too. Chapman said she asked her about Monroe.

“She swears up and down that nothing has happened,” Chapman said.

Joe Calvey said his granddaughter rarely speaks to him. One of the last times they spoke, Calvey said she raged against him, blaming him for the death of her mother. Bree shot herself in his house with his unsecured gun. And it hadn’t been the only time she tried to kill herself.

“I still feel responsible every day,” he said.

What remains for Bree Calvey’s and Shawna Rogers’ families after all the loss and pain is anger and bitterness — all directed at Gerald Monroe.

“Bree was a beautiful, talented girl that could have done a lot of things,” Chapman said, “and Shawna was so athletic. She was smart, funny. She was laughing all the time. (They) had so much possibility ... and look where it ended up.”

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Copyright 2022 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Paul Flahive is the technology and entrepreneurship reporter for Texas Public Radio. He has worked in public media across the country, from Iowa City and Chicago to Anchorage and San Antonio.