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POLICE PROBE BURGLARY OF GOVERNMENT OFFICE

Police are investigating the burglary of a state government office that contains sensitive information about child welfare cases.

Someone who had access to the state building at 120 N. 200 West broke into the offices of a panel established to ensure that the Division of Family Services and other agencies follow the terms of settled lawsuits.The burglar or burglars entered the office of state monitoring panel auditor Lynn Cartwright after closing Tuesday and apparently rummaged through files in a locked cabinet.

Only Cartwright and her assistant had keys to the cabinet, which was recently equipped with a new lock after it was damaged during an earlier burglary, according to a police report.

However, the lock to the office and the cabinet's lock could be easily defeated, the report stated.

Cartwright had also placed transparent tape across the cabinet drawers so she would know if someone tampered with their contents. The tape had been disturbed, the report states.

The cabinet contained about eight case files on foster families, and the burglars may have been looking for the identities of confidential informants to the division, said monitoring panel member Pamela J. Atkinson.

"It's very curious because the identities of confidential informants weren't in those files and were never compromised," she said.

The informants provide DFS with information about the treatment of children in foster families and provide the basis for some investigations.

Atkinson said the files in the disturbed cabinet were "a real mixture" of cases that either could have showed lapses in the state's child protection system or contained examples of good administration.

The state was sued by the National Center for Youth Law in 1993. The lawsuit maintained that the state fails to protect and care for the children in its custody. It cited too-frequent placement changes, too long in foster care, lack of medical and mental health treatment and more.

The monitoring panel was established when the lawsuit against the state was settled. It was charged with monitoring the Division of Family Services and related agencies to see that the terms of the suit were carried out.

Last week, the three-member panel issued its first official report. The panel found that the child-protection system has seen some improvements but cited many areas where it is failing the children in its care.

The three people on the monitoring panel are: Atkinson, vice president of mission services for Intermountain Health Care; Sherrianne Cotterell, principal of Lincoln Elementary School; and businessman and former legislator Larry V. Lunt.

Deseret News staff writer Lois M. Collins contributed to this report.