Officials confirmed today that supervisors at the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit day camp failed to alert senior management last summer after an employee expressed concerns about the same camp counselor who was accused by authorities earlier this month of abusing young children.
Michael Layne, a spokesman for the Jewish Community Center, said in a statement that they uncovered the disturbing information last Friday. Layne said the JCC is conducting its own internal investigation.
“In the summer of 2014, JCC camp supervisory personnel received a communication from a camp counselor which raised inappropriate conduct by the counselor who ultimately was charged with criminal wrongdoing,” Layne said. “The information reported was not passed on to senior JCC management. Supervisory personnel who did not act on this communication have been terminated. We have shared this information with licensing officials in Lansing and with the West Bloomfield police department.”
West Bloomfield Police Chief Michael Patton said his department is looking into the allegations.
“We’re looking at a number or things over there,” Patton said. “There were some allegations that something was reported to some of the staff last year. Whether that has something to do with the current investigation, we’re looking at everything. We’re not saying that there’s no substance to it. Someone raised a red flag… Our concern is, is this something that has evidentiary evidence?”
Patton said investigators are still trying to determine if there are more potential victims.
The new details come shortly after two sources told the Free Press that the JCC fired three employees on Wednesday over their mishandling of allegations of sexual abuse by Matthew David Kuppe, who was a counselor at the JCC day camp.
The West Bloomfield-based organization fired the 21-year-old Kuppe earlier this month after administrators found out he was being investigated for suspected abuse.
“We are heartsick that this matter has occurred,” Layne said. “Consistent with our long history of delivering positive experiences in our camp and early development programs, the safety of children in our care will continue to be our highest priority. We pledge to continue all efforts to be transparent and proactive in communicating with our camper families and the community.”
Patton said JCC officials have been cooperative with the investigation and have been in daily communication with police. Patton said he was aware of the firings, but he could not say whether they were related to ongoing investigation into Kuppe.
“Our investigation is still continuing into the allegations of what has occurred over there,” Patton said. “We’re looking at many different things. Mostly, the government’s concern and our concern right now is if there are more victims.”
Patton said it’s possible Kuppe can face charges on a state or local level, but it’s unclear at this point.
Kuppe appeared in federal court today for a preliminary examination. Kuppe spoke briefly, only to answer the judge’s questions. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.
A mother of a 7-year-old boy who participated in the camp and had direct contact with Kuppe, attended the hearing.
The mother, who asked not be named, said after the hearing that her special needs son cannot communicate well and it’s not yet known if he was abused..
“We don’t know,” the mother said. “It’s just very stressful. We’re living in the unknown.”
She said Kuppe taught her son “Minionese,” the fictional language used in the popular children’s movie, “The Minions.”
The woman said Kuppe was assigned to older children and was not supposed to be around small children.
“He was not supposed to be with my son,” she said. “He was granted permission when they were short-staffed… I am very concerned.”
She said she was informed recently that another counselor had reported “obscure, inappropriate behavior” by Kuppe last year but that he was hired back again this summer.
During today’s court hearing, the judge did not address a motion filed by Kruppe’s attorney, Walter Piszczatowski, asking that Kuppe be released on bond to the custody of his parents on specified conditions.
“Matthew Kuppe is a 21-year-old college student with no criminal history, strong family ties and a meritorious defense to the most serious charge, production of child pornography,”Piszczatowski wrote. “He remains incarcerated despite the fact there are numerous conditions that can be ordered as part of pretrial release to assure the safety of the community.”
Piszczatowski asked that the court schedule a hearing to address Kuppe’s detention.