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In re: DCIS No. Redacted Redacted
Rachel McIntosh, Audit and Recovery Management Services ("ARMS")
Charlene Weinstein, Sr. Social Worker/Case Manager, Division of Social Services ("DSS")
Pursuant to the federal rule at 7 CFR 273.16, an individual may be disqualified from participation in the Food Stamp Program after a finding as a result of an administrative hearing that the person intentionally violated a Food Stamp Program rule. The violation, and intent to commit the violation, must be proven by clear and convincing evidence.
DSS proposes to disqualify Redacted, a resident of the State of Delaware, from participation in the Food Stamp Program for allegedly filing two (2) false and forged employment verification documents.
I find that the State does not possess evidence as required under the federal rule at 7 CFR 273.16(e)(3) that the Respondent received advance notice of this hearing within the time period set for receipt. (Notice of the hearing was sent by certified mail and was returned as "unclaimed.") The Respondent is not present for the hearing. Jurisdiction for this hearing decision is under the federal rule at 7 CFR 273.16. A hearing decision may be reached based on information provided by a Food Stamp Program office if the household member proposed for disqualification is unable to be located or fails, without good cause, to appear for the hearing. 7 CFR 273.16(e)(4).
Based on the testimony and evidence presented at this hearing I find that DSS and ARMS has evidence that one (1) Verification of Employment ("VOE") form (Form 170) (Exhibits 4) and one (1) New Hire form (Exhibit 5) were submitted by the Respondent for purposes of maintaining eligibility for the Food Stamp Program, but that neither of these two documents were actually signed by the listed employer.
Upon receiving the VOE form from the Respondent, Charlene Weinstein, DSS social worker testified that it was not consistent with what the Respondent had told her about the reason for a leave of absence. The Respondent had told her she was being tested for cancer, and the document suggested that she was on Post Partum leave, leading her to investigate on her own to determine the validity of the document. During her investigation, she looked at both the VOE and the Respondent's New Hire form, which had allegedly been completed by her employer, Diamond State Cleaning Service, on July 6, 2004. After reviewing those two documents, she noticed that the wage information was inconsistent. The New Hire form indicated that Respondent was being paid weekly, but the VOE showed only one pay period sometime in August 2003. Thereafter, she contacted Mr. Brittingham, the owner of Diamond State Cleaning Services, to clear up the discrepancies. She also sent copies of each form to Mr. Brittingham for his review to verify the information. Ms. Weinstein was called by Mr. Brittingham who explained to her that nobody from his company had ever signed anything for the Respondent and never would, that she had actually only worked for him a short time after being fired within days of being hired in June 2004, and that Cheretha Chandler could not have signed the VOE on August 12, 2004, because she was not at work during that time period. Based on the information she received from Mr. Brittingham, she completed a referral form to the ARMS unit for further investigation.
ARMS also testified that through investigation, by way of interview with Cheretha Chandler, an Administrative Assistant at Diamond State Cleaning Service, the Respondent's employer from for a short time in June/July 2004, the VOE was never seen by her on or prior to August 11, 2004, the document was not completed by anyone at Diamond State, and that nobody at Diamond State was authorized to sign the document. Finally, Ms. Chandler indicated that she definitely did not sign the document, even though the document bears her name. (Exhibits 4 & 7)
ARMS also submitted a copy of an internal e-mail sent between Felix Dobrzynski of ARMS and Ginny Kempski of DSS. (Exhibit 2) This document is dated September 14, 2004, and outlines the investigation performed by Mr. Dobrzynski with respect to the allegedly forged documents.
DSS contends that the forged documents along with the written statement of an employee of Diamond State Cleaning Service, supports the proposed action to disqualify Ms. Land from participating in the Food Stamp Program.
The standard of evidence used to determine if an intentional program violation was committed is that of "clear and convincing" evidence. In Slomowitz v. Walker, 429 So. 2d 797, 800 the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held that:
"Clear and convincing evidence requires that the evidence must be found to be credible; the facts to which the witnesses testify must be precise and explicit and the witnesses must be lacking in confusion as to the facts in issue. The evidence must be of such weight that it produces in the mind of the trier of fact a firm belief or conviction, without hesitancy, as to the truth of the allegation sought to be established."
The testimony and evidence in this action have produced a firm belief in my mind, without hesitancy, of the truth of the allegations offered by DSS and ARMS. The evidence provided by DSS/ARMS clearly indicates that the documents provided by the Respondent for purposes of continuing eligibility for the Food Stamp Program did not come from the employer source indicated by the Respondent. In fact, Cheretha Chandler, through her witness statement, indicated that the signature on the Verification of Employment form is not her's.
The documentary evidence submitted and testimony provided by DSS and ARMS rises to the level of clear and convincing evidence to support their request for disqualification from the Food Stamp Program.
Based on the testimony and evidence I am able to find clear and convincing evidence that supports a finding that the Respondent intentionally violated a program rule. The proposal to disqualify the Respondent from participation in the Food Stamp Program is, therefore, granted.
Date: February 12, 2005
STEVEN A. GREENSPAN
THE FOREGOING IS THE FINAL DECISION OF THE DIVISION OF SOCIAL SERVICES
Rachel McIntosh, ARMS
Charlene Weinstein, DSS
SUMMARY OF DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE