July 08, 2005

Embattled director of boys' ranch to take leave



Associated Press

The embattled director of the Morning Star Boys' Ranch will take a temporary leave of absence after a newspaper published allegations of past physical abuse at the home for troubled boys.

The Rev. Joseph Weitensteiner, a 73-year-old Roman Catholic priest, said he would go on leave because of stress-related health problems.

During his leave, Morning Star's board of directors will bring in an independent investigator to look into the state-licensed facility's policies and procedures, said board president Bob Durgan.

Ranch spokeswoman P.J. Watters said the results will be made public.

In his first interview since The Spokesman-Review detailed allegations of physical abuse by Weitensteiner, the priest on Thursday apologized to former residents who said his corporal punishment left them bruised and injured. ...

Weitensteiner also conceded that in the 1970s, James West and a fellow sheriff's deputy who killed himself amid allegations of child molestation could have removed boys for outings without registering their names in ranch log books.

West is now Spokane's mayor. On May 5, the Spokane newspaper began publishing a series detailing chat room and e-mail conversations West had with someone he thought was an 18-year-old high school boy, who he encouraged to apply for an internship in his office. The recipient was, in fact, a computer expert hired by the newspaper. Two men have also accused West of molesting them when they were boys.

West, who has acknowledged having affairs with adult men, has denied the molestations and has not been charged with a crime.

Posted by kshaw at July 8, 2005 08:52 PM