A former employee of IFB Solutions who is accused of sexually abusing a 17-year-old boy with Down syndrome was cited twice by the agency for sexual misconduct but was not fired for it, a lawyer for the boy alleges in new court papers filed in a lawsuit.
John Dorsey Caldwell, 52, of the 1400 block of Bragg Avenue in High Point is charged with two counts of felony crimes against nature and two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery. Greensboro police arrested Caldwell in July on the charges. Last week, the Winston-Salem Police Department sent out a news release announcing the charges.
Andrew Fitzgerald, an attorney for the boy’s guardian ad litem, filed a lawsuit in May in Forsyth Superior Court against IFB Solutions Foundation Inc. and Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind, which is the former name for IFB Solutions. IFB Solutions is the nation’s largest employer of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The boy was participating in an occupational course study through the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system and as part of that study, he was placed with IFB.
The lawsuit alleges that IFB Solutions didn’t do enough to stop the alleged sexual abuse of the boy, including doing a proper background check on Caldwell and notifying the boy’s parents about the allegations after firing Caldwell in November 2017. According to the lawsuit, the boy’s mother found out about the allegations in 2018 when an employee of IFB told her while she was shopping at a local grocery store. The boy’s parents immediately notified Winston-Salem Police in August 2018, which prompted the criminal investigation of Caldwell.
Michael Cannon, attorney for IFB Solutions, has denied the allegations in court papers and sought to stay the litigation because of the criminal charges against Caldwell. Laura Burrows, a spokeswoman for IFB Solutions, said in a statement last week that agency officials were disturbed by the allegations and immediately took action once notified.
Steven Lucente, an attorney who represents Caldwell in the lawsuit, declined to comment. Cannon did not return a message Thursday seeking comment.
According to court papers filed last week, Caldwell was hired in 2004. On June 5, 2008, agency officials wrote Caldwell up because he was “seen in the bathroom by other employees performing sex acts on other employees,” according to an agency disciplinary report that a human resources manager filled out. That report is included as an exhibit in the lawsuit.
Caldwell admitted to the sexual misconduct and told agency officials that he would seek counseling. According to the report, he was given a warning and told that if it happened again, he would be fired.
In August 2015, IFB administrators caught Caldwell in a bathroom stall with another man and they suspected that Caldwell was “involved in sexual activities at work,” Fitzgerald said in court papers.
Caldwell denied that he was doing anything sexual but “indicated that he had a history of this type of behavior and was corrected for it several years ago,” Brent D. Burkholder, an employee relations manager, wrote in a report on Aug. 18, 2015. Caldwell said the other man made sexual advances on him but that he refused. The other man denied Caldwell’s version of events, and Burkholder said he was not able to substantiate that anything improper happened. The company took no action.
Fitzgerald said that in 2006, Caldwell was written up for wandering into a department where he had “no reason to be present” and in May 2007, he was cited for wearing an inappropriate shirt. Fitzgerald said in court papers that the company’s documents indicate this was not the first time he did this. Then in July 2007, he was written up again for “inappropriately entering departments where he had no business being.”
He was not fired for any misconduct until November 7, 2017, after the company learned of allegations that he had sexually abused the boy, referred to in the lawsuit as “S.” After the 2008 incident, the company appears to not have done anything to make sure Caldwell didn’t have access to other employees or that he did seek counseling, Fitzgerald said.
As part of the lawsuit, attorneys for the plaintiff sought to get certain documents. The company indicated in its responses that it didn’t have any documents that showed a background check on Caldwell had been done or that people listed as references on his application had been contacted, according to court papers. Fitzgerald argues that if the agency had done so, it would have uncovered the fact that Caldwell had been charged in 1995 with second-degree sexual offense. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of assault of a female.
Fitzgerald alleges that IFB Solutions covered up the alleged sexual abuse of the boy as it was trying to keep a federal contract with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. IFB had been providing prescription eyeware to the VA since the late 1990s. A federal judge recently denied a stay request that would have allowed the agency to keep one of its three optical contracts. That decision leaves 47 people without jobs.
IFB Solutions never notified the boy’s parents or the school system about the allegations of sexual abuse, the court papers allege. An executive with IFB Solutions did a tour of the facility with the boy’s parents in December 2017 and never mentioned anything about the boy’s abuse, Fitzgerald said.
Russell Moore, 48, an employee with IFB, told WXII that a co-worker told him about the allegations in 2017. When he saw the boy’s mother at the grocery store in 2018, he approached her and apologized for what happened to her son. The boy’s mother didn’t know what he was talking about, so he told her, Moore told the news station.
“I was not expecting her to not have been told,” he told WXII.
The Winston-Salem Journal contacted Moore Thursday but he said he didn’t have any further comment.
Fitzgerald said that the agency claims in court papers to not know the identity of the boy.
“IFB certainly knows who S is,” Fitzgerald said in court papers. “He is the young man with Down syndrome, whose name begins with the letter S, who was sexually abused at their facility in 2017 while working pursuant to a program with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, causing them to terminate John Caldwell. Hopefully, there is only one such person.”
A hearing on the lawsuit is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 28.