Two former employees of Piney Ridge, a juvenile in-patient treatment center, say a man once employed by the center was notorious for inappropriate behavior with kids.
They say a man once employed by Piney Ridge, which treats minors with sexual misbehavior issues, frequently exhibited inappropriate behavior with kids.
Rodney Thomas is accused of sending inappropriate text messages with a teenager once under his supervision.
Wednesday night, we spoke with two of Thomas’ former co-workers, who didn’t want to go on camera for fear it would damage their careers. They both provided damning testimonies about a man they say abused his power over the kids who trusted him.
“He is a sick individual.”
“He groomed kids.”
That’s how two former colleagues describe Rodney Thomas, a man once employed by Piney Ridge, a sexual behavior treatment facility in Fayetteville. According to an affidavit.,Thomas asked a 17-year-old boy, who he had met years ago when working at Piney Ridge for nude pictures.
“Would you be ok with me asking you for a nude photo,” Thomas asked.
After the teen said no, the court document shows Thomas persisting.
“Nobody will see it or anything my phone stay with me at all time.”
Thomas’ former colleagues say they saw Thomas acting inappropriately in-person. They say Thomas would kiss kids in bed.
One former colleague says she felt Piney Ridge was attempting to “sweep it under the rug.”
She went on: “Everybody knew, but they weren’t doing anything about it to get him out of there. Instead of firing him, they just moved him around.”
After multiple attempts to reach them by phone, I walked into Piney Ridge today to see if the administration could respond to these claims. They refused to answer my questions.
Only later did they e-mail me this statement:
“Every employee at the facility undergoes a comprehensive pre-employment screening and background check. In addition, we maintain a zero tolerance policy for any action that could endanger the physical or emotional well-being of a patient. Employees found to be in violation of our abuse and neglect policies are immediately suspended pending a full investigation and prompt disciplinary action – including termination – is taken as warranted.”
Adrienne Catalina, the CEO of Piney Ridge, says Thomas’ employment with the facility was terminated in 2015.
I also spoke with Judge Thomas Smith of Benton Bounty. He filled me in on his expectations for the facilities he sends juveniles to. He says moments like these lose trust in the care and professionalism of treatment facilities in Northwest Arkansas. To hear the full interview, click here.