Nonprofit Claims West Virginia Breaking Federal Laws


CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The advocacy group Disability Rights of West Virginia is firmly asserting that Governor Jim Justice and Department of Human Services Secretary Cynthia Persily have not been transparent about the death of 14-year-old Kyneddi Miller from Boone County one month ago.

A cease-and-desist letter filed on Thursday claims that state officials, Justice, and Persily are allegedly violating the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Congress amended this Act in 2010 to require states to disclose “information about a case of child abuse or neglect which has resulted in a child fatality or near fatality” to improve accountability for state protective services.

Disability Rights of West Virginia Legal Director Mike Folio said in an interview on Friday that withholding information about whether DHS or Justice knew of Kyneddi Miller before her death violates this federal law.

“The law itself is intended to be a shield to protect the children. What’s happened is that politicians and agency leaders have, I think, corrupted the law to use the law as a sword to conceal the fact that they’re not doing their job,” Folio said.

The cease-and-desist letter states, “Regrettably, the Governor’s office and DHS have knowingly subverted Congress’ clear CAPTA mandate in order to evade accountability, conceal DHS misconduct, threaten bogus criminal charges, retaliate against the press and others, and prevent ‘appropriate and effective systemic reform.’”

During a press briefing Friday, Justice addressed these claims, stating that he is aiming to be both transparent and careful as the investigation is still active.

However, he also stated, “I can assure you with all in me, from Jim Justice’s standpoint from my soul, there’s no way on the planet that I knew anything or that there was anything more that Jim Justice could have brought to you. But if there are people that have done something wrong, the investigation will show that, and we will deal with that.”

“How could you not know? This is a child who’s been homeschooled for a number of years. Two prior CPS referrals that now DHS acknowledges existed,” Folio said. “How could you not know? There are laws in place that require the ongoing review and protection of this individual.”

Earlier this week, state officials claimed they knew nothing about Kyneddi Miller before she died. The letter addresses two statements made by Justice and Persily, where it claims they referred to their attorneys on questions about the disclosure of information.

Governor Justice said, according to the letter, “We’ve got, basically, attorneys that are with [DHS] and they screw it up. And, when they give us information, then we’ve got to act on the information they give us.”

Secretary Persily said, according to the letter, “Our lawyers have traditionally interpreted the state and federal statutes as us not being allowed to disclose any information except to very limited groups … and we advised the governor as such, and we take full responsibility for that.”

“An attorney has a duty to represent a client, but an attorney can’t offer an opinion or do something for the client that’s unethical or unlawful. Federal law is crystal clear, and if any DHS attorney offered an opinion that there’s no duty to disclose this information, they may want to reconsider and seek a different career, because federal law is absolutely clear on this issue, that they have a mandatory duty to have public disclosure,” Folio stated.

Justice also spoke of the dispatch call released by West Virginia State Police in which a state trooper responded to a welfare check at Kyneddi’s home in March 2023. The governor says the trooper said he had personally driven to a CPS office to make a referral about Kyneddi Miller.

Justice said, “Here’s what I know, that there’s an officer that says that he drove, I guess his personal vehicle or whatever, and he drove to the offices and went in and made that report. At the same time, there’s no evidence that I can uncover so far that a report was made.”

Justice claimed there was “nothing that triggered DHS to go to the house.”

Disability Rights of West Virginia said they want to see a systematic change in DHS.

“CPS, those workers, like I say they are blessings, but they need leadership to step up to the plate and be leaders. Quit making stuff up on the fly, and quit trying to win a press conference, and actually work to focus on these children to make sure they have the protections they need,” Folio said. “Then if they do, the governor is always going to know about a person like this decedent.”

Jordan Mead
Jordan Mead
Digital Reporter. Previously, Jordan was a Multimedia Journalist for TV10 News, and she worked as an Editorial Writer for the Division of Student Affairs at Illinois State during her junior year at Illinois State University. Jordan graduated in December 2022 from ISU and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Journalism with a minor in Latin American Studies.

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