ANCHORAGE - An Oregon mother has sued the Alaska division of the Salvation Army, accusing it of allowing a former youth services officer to transfer to Oregon while knowing he had been accused of molesting young boys in Alaska.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Anchorage. In her suit, the Oregon woman says that the Salvation Army in Alaska knew Paul Fanning had molested children here and transferred him to Oregon "as a result of the reports of his sexually inappropriate conduct with children in Alaska."
Fanning, formerly a captain with the Salvation Army, was convicted in Hillsboro, Ore., last year of molesting the woman's son and an Alaska youth who visited Fanning in Oregon. The abuse occurred in 2000.
The suit says Fanning also sexually abused another of her sons. He was not criminally charged with that, however.
"These children have been terribly damaged and severely affected by being sexually abused by a person who is an authority figure, a religious figure, in their lives," said the woman's attorney, Michael Morey. "The Salvation Army knew that Paul Fanning was a highly potential danger to children. They should have never allowed him to have access to children."
Fanning was the Salvation Army's divisional youth and candidates secretary in Alaska from 1995 to January 2000, according to the complaint.
Dan Woods, a Los Angeles-based attorney for the Salvation Army, denied that the Salvation Army was aware of any abuse before Fanning went to Oregon.
"We're sorry it happened, obviously," Woods said. But "we didn't know he was doing this. We didn't know he was likely to do this."
The Salvation Army is not responsible for Fanning's actions, he said. Jenni Ragland, spokeswoman for Alaska's Salvation Army, said she couldn't comment on the suit.
"It's an unfortunate situation," she said. "We continue to be concerned for the families whose lives have been impacted."
The Oregon woman is seeking damages in U.S. District Court here under an Alaska statute that allows a mother to claim damages she suffered as a result of the injuries to her children, Morey said.
Morey said police reports from Fanning's trial show that Salvation Army supervisors knew as early as 1991 he had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with children.
Woods said the case doesn't belong in Alaska. He said he plans to ask a judge to dismiss it or move it to Oregon.
Morey has filed a separate suit on behalf of the plaintiff's children in Oregon. That suit asks for damages of $2 million for each child.
The Salvation Army last fall settled a damages claim out of court with the Alaska child Fanning was convicted of molesting, Woods said. At the Alaska mother's request, terms of that settlement are confidential, he said.
In Oregon, Fanning was a divisional finance trainee and was involved with the Adventure Corps, a Salvation Army program for children, the complaint says.
Fanning gave the children gifts and spent time with the family, Morey said. He took the children on outings and took the older child, who was 12 at the time, to Bend, Ore., for a weekend trip, the attorney said.
Fanning is serving 1212 years in an Oregon prison. A jury found him guilty of six counts of first-degree sexual abuse, six counts of second-degree sodomy and one of attempted sodomy.