Group Home CEO Suspended After Disabled Woman’s Pregnancy

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ROCKLEDGE, Fla. — The CEO of the company that ran the Brevard County group home where a caregiver impregnated a disabled woman has been suspended.

  • Board suspends CEO of group home where patient impregnated
  • DNA test determined caregiver is father of patient’s son
  • RELATED:

The suspension of president and CEO David Cooke was announced Friday afternoon in a news release by the Bridges board of directors.

The woman, whom Brevard County Sheriff’s investigators said in an affidavit had the “mental capacity of a small child,” was determined to be pregnant in 2015. She gave birth to a boy, who is now 3 years old and being cared for by the woman’s family. A DNA test determined that Willie Fred Shorter — a caregiver who had worked at the Bridges group home in Rockledge — was the father.

Shorter, 58, is out on bond but faces charges of lewd and lascivious battery on an elderly or disabled person.

“We were shocked to learn that something so terrible could occur involving one of our residents — and we have grave concerns about lapses in leadership that significantly contributed to this regrettable tragedy,” Susan Stokes Elmore, chairwoman of the group’s board of directors, said in a news release.

Elmore said in the release that Cooke’s suspension is effective immediately. She also said Cooke withheld information and didn’t immediately fire Shorter after learning of his link to the patient. 

“The Board is especially disheartened that critical information was intentionally withheld from us until only recently, even though it was determined four years ago that the resident had become pregnant. Similarly, the decision by our organization’s top leader to keep the employee on staff despite his possible role in the pregnancy, and the administration’s subsequent failure to keep Board members fully informed – almost until the employee’s arrest – is entirely unacceptable,” Elmore said.

In addition to an investigation by authorities, Bridges is conducting its own review. Other steps being taken include providing staff additional training on policies and procedures and assembling a panel of outside experts to develop additional safeguards that could be put in place.

According to the Bridges website, Cooke led a staff of 120 people who serve about 300 clients a day. He led the organization for more than 10 years. About 78 percent of Bridges’ annual budget comes from Medicaid; the rest comes from donations, grants, and fundraisers.

Bridges Vice President Lynn Hudson has been appointed interim director, the news release said.

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