- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The former director of a central Indiana child welfare office lied to a federal grand jury investigating a high school counselor who’s charged with sexually exploiting students, according to charges announced Tuesday by federal prosecutors.

Michael Fleming, 58, was arrested Tuesday at his New Castle home on one count each of perjury and making a false statement, said Tim Horty, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Indianapolis.

Fleming appeared Tuesday afternoon before a federal judge who entered a not guilty plea on his behalf and released him on his own recognizance, Horty said. It was unclear if Fleming had an attorney and there was no telephone listing for him in the New Castle area.

Fleming had been director of the Indiana Department of Child Services’ New Castle office until last month, when the agency fired him, The Indianapolis Star reported (http://indy.st/1gnQaNl ).

Prosecutors allege that Fleming told a grand jury during testimony on Feb. 18 that he’d never heard complaints of alleged misconduct by Darrell Hughes, a New Castle school counselor who’s charged with sexually exploiting male students.

Fleming was fired by DCS on Feb. 22, for allegedly urging a subordinate to make false statements in the Hughes investigation, prosecutors said.

After Fleming testified before the grand jury, he allegedly told that same employee that he had provided inaccurate or incomplete information during his testimony.

“I didn’t tell them anything, I guess I told a little white lie, if anyone asks, don’t say anything,” Fleming told that employee, according to prosecutors.

Fleming’s DCS subordinate told agency supervisors that a complaint had been made against Hughes on at least one occasion and that Fleming knew about it, authorities said.

Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Fleming had “betrayed the public trust” in a case involving young victims.

“These charges allege that Mr. Fleming chose to lie rather than assist authorities as they investigated allegations of child sexual exploitation that took place under his watch,” Hartwig said in a statement.

Hughes, a counselor at an alternative school operated by the New Castle School system, was charged in February with three counts of sexual exploitation of a child and attempted exploitation of a child. That case involves five teenage boys he came into contact with through his work as a counselor at the New Castle alternative school.

Charging documents allege that Hughes gave the boys marijuana and alcohol and bought them clothing and other items. He’s also accused of taking videos of the boys showering at his home.

Fleming had been employed with the state’s child protection agency since 1981 and became Henry County’s DCS director in 1995.

Fleming is also a member of the New Castle school board and remains on that board because the district’s administration lacks the authority to remove Fleming from the post, said New Castle Superintendent Steve Fisher.

“Nothing will change until he resigns or the legal process runs its course,” Fisher said.

The school corporation’s website lists Fleming as the board’s vice president.

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Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com

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