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Aquinnahs switch lawsuit to Federal Court - Mass. has a $2 million Powerball winner

Three fired, one suspended as Oliver case fallout continues - Republican Senate leader calls for independent review of DFC over Oliver case - Next-of-kin bill aims to prevent added heartbreak
Edward P. Prakapas of South Boston (left) claimed a $2 million prize after his Powerball ticket matched the first five numbers selected in the Saturday, December 28th drawing for the multi-state lottery game. Prakapas jointly purchased the winning Powerball ticket with his long-time friend Daniel E. McCarthy (right), also of South Boston. Mass. Lottery. photo

Aquinnah Wampanoags shift state suit to federal court

If the Wampanoag Tribe from Martha's Vineyard has its way, the month-old suit by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts against the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head will play out in federal court. 

Gov. Deval Patrick filed a lawsuit in early December seeking to block a proposed gaming facility on Martha's Vineyard.

Patrick is asking the Supreme Judicial Court to affirm a 1983 land settlement between the Commonwealth and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head in which the state contends the tribe forfeited its right to tribal gaming on the island.

The town of Aquinnah takes the view, outlined in a seven-page opinion, that the Wampanoag Tribal Council of Gay Head Inc. cannot operate a gaming casino in Aquinnah because the lands described in the Settlement Act are subject to the zoning regulations in effect at that time. - The Vineyard Times.

Next-of-kin bill aims to prevent added heartbreak

A new legal barrier to prevent an individual accused of killing a family member from claiming that person's dead body requires only Gov. Deval Patrick's signature to become law. The House and Senate on Monday enacted the bill (S 1099) filed by Sen. Karen Spilka, an Ashland Democrat and former social worker, who said she worked with Rep. Kate Hogan, a Stow Democrat. - State House News Service.

Three fired, one suspended as Oliver case fallout continues

After reviewing the case of a boy under state oversight but missing and feared dead, state officials on Monday fired an area program manager at the Department of Children and Families and suspended another DCF worker for three days without pay. See followup story "Missed visits, misleading reports cited after DFC probe of Oliver Case ".

State officials concluded the fired area program manager never ensured follow-up of a supervisor who was previously fired in connection with the case of Jeremiah Oliver, who has gone missing for months while DCF was supposed to keep watch.

Lack of followup

The lack of followup occurred despite official reports that presented "multiple risk factors to the safety of the children" in the Fitchburg household.

"She was aware of the poor compliance on home visits to families under the supervisor's caseloads, but there was no concrete plan developed with the supervisor to address the missed home visits," DCF wrote in a report released Monday, explaining the termination of the area program manager. Investigators determined the supervisor "should have noted and addressed the lack of home visits throughout the year and should have reviewed actions taken in response to the three 51A reported in June 2013."

Investigators further found the supervisor claimed the family's apartment was "clean and suitable even though the social worker had not visited the apartment" in September 2013. "Had the facts been properly documented and appropriate action taken by the social worker, the case would have been elevated for further action by senior agency management," the DCF report said. The suspended worker is an "area program manager of intake" who investigators said is responsible for making decisions on the disposition of 51A reports of child abuse or neglect.

"The APM decided to screen out critical reports without ensuring appropriate follow up was done and that the safety of the children had been assessed," according to the report, which notes further that the APM has been removed "from the decision making process through intake." Lawmakers, state officials and friends and family members of Oliver are eager to find resolution for the family and find out how the safety net failed the boy. Two weeks ago, the state's child protective services chief fired a caseworker and a supervisor for what she called a "serious failure" in the handling of the Oliver case. Patrick administration officials said they had concluded their review of the case and would turn information over to law enforcement. - State House News Service.

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