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Defendants in Harmony House lawsuit want case dismissed

DEVILS LAKE--Parties in a lawsuit stemming from claims of "cruel conduct" toward at-risk children at a Devils Lake youth care facility have been ordered to resolve the case without the help of a federal court, if they can.

DEVILS LAKE-Parties in a lawsuit stemming from claims of "cruel conduct" toward at-risk children at a Devils Lake youth care facility have been ordered to resolve the case without the help of a federal court, if they can.

However, all of the defendants have denied the accusations and have asked the case to be dismissed.

The order signed June 1 by Judge Alice Senechal asks Katherine Gray, who was fired as a direct care provider from Harmony House, and the defendants in the case to make an attempt at settling the case themselves before a pretrial scheduling and discovery conference set for July 5.

"The court will not hear any discovery motion unless the parties have made a sincere, good faith effort to resolve the dispute and all of the above-described steps have been strictly followed," the order states.

The order comes almost three months after Gray, who was employed with Harmony House from October 2014 through June 2016, filed a complaint against Devils Lake Public Schools and Lake Region Special Education-the two entities operate Harmony House jointly-as well as other defendants. She argues she was fired after telling the North Dakota Department of Human Services children allegedly were being verbally and physically abused by her co-worker. The "cruel conduct" allegedly included David Kosmatka walking in on children who were dressing or were naked, refusing children food and verbally bullying them.

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Gray also alleged Harmony House Director Barry Sundeen, who is a defendant in the suit, ignored her pleas to address the situation.

No one has been criminally charged in the case.

In her lawsuit, Gray contests a gag order placed on her by the Ramsey County District Court after Devils Lake Public School said she violated the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act by contacting children at Harmony House and talking about the incidents to others. She had attempted to go to the Devils Lake Police Department to report the claims.

She is seeking damages, citing humiliation, loss of reputation, lost career and business opportunities and "mental and emotional anguish and distress."

Legal counsel for Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and the Ramsey County District Court-both are named as defendants in the case-asked in a June 1 filing for a continuance for the pretrial scheduling and discovery conference, citing family leave, vacation time and a motion to dismiss the case against them, which was filed last month. Stenehjem's attorney said the allegations and relief sought against him are unclear. Stenehjem and the District Court also argue a federal court does not have jurisdiction in the case against them because they are "state defendants." That would include Ramsey County State's Attorney Kari Agotness.

Gray's attorney argued against the dismissal.

All of the defendants in the case have denied Gray's allegations in motions filed in late May. They want the case dismissed and are asking to be awarded reimbursements for court costs.

Stenehjem and the District Court are not named in those motions.

Related Topics: EDUCATIONCRIME
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