The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Security chief charged with nursing home thefts

Joseph D. Allen, 64, head of security at Village on the Isle, an ELCA-affiliated nursing home in Venice, Fla., was arrested Oct. 26 and charged with stealing from elderly patients.

Police said Allen ordered employees to loot rooms of patients who had died or who suffered from Alzheimer's. He allegedly kept some stolen items, such as an oriental rug, jewelry and a refrigerator, in his home, police added.

Police are trying to determine if other home executives were involved. John Spittal, an ELCA pastor who is the executive director and Allen's brother-in-law, was placed on paid administrative leave by the facility's board of trustees.

In an Oct. 28 statement, board president Michael Hartley said the trustees were "shocked and deeply concerned" over the allegations. "The arrest of our director of security and the possible involvement of our executive director and chief operating officer allege activities that are absolutely unacceptable to us, and we will not tolerate them," the statement said. "If any of them prove to be true, we will join with our residents and their families in taking the most aggressive response possible against those who are responsible."

The board met with all of the residents after the arrest to assure them of continued care and services. It then held an open meeting with residents and their families Nov. 11.

"The ELCA has zero tolerance for poor quality care and any actions that jeopardize the welfare of those receiving services," said Charles Miller, executive director of the ELCA Division for Church in Society, in a Nov. 1 statement. "We are encouraged by the strong leadership being assumed by the facility's board of trustees. We hope for a speedy resolution of this situation."

The home is a related agency of the Florida-Bahamas Synod — its only corporate member. "The home's bylaws say that at least two-thirds of the trustees shall be members of [synod] congregations,' " said Ruth Reko of the division.


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