The Cherokee County Board of Social Services minutes have a gap of three months in spring 2018 when meeting minutes are missing, right at the time the agency was under fire for child seizure procedures the courts have called "unlawful." Seen here are minutes leading up to the gap on the left and those following the gap on the right. Kate Martin / Carolina Public Press

Welcome to The Kicker from Carolina Public Press, a North Carolina news show bringing you conversations with journalists, sources and newsmakers from across the state.

In this episode, Carolina Public Press lead investigative reporter Kate Martin talks about her discovery that minutes from the Cherokee County Department of Social Services board meeting in 2018 went missing at the same time the department landed in hot water with the state over unlawful seizures of children that bypassed judicial approval. Some notes that have turned up about those meetings reveal discussions of criminal activity.

Cherokee DSS was using a form to take children from their parents called a Custody and Visitation Agreement through late 2017. Lawyers working with parents learned of these CVAs in December 2017 and challenged them in the courts.

The NC Department of Health and Human Services learned of this practice and advised anyone using a similar form to stop. In early 2018, a judge ruled the CVAs unlawful, an example of fraud and a violation of parents constitutional rights. DHHS temporarily took charge of child welfare issues at Cherokee DSS in early 2018 and the DSS board suspended director Cindy Palmer.

During this period, several months of minutes requested by Carolina Public Press could not be found. Some unofficial notes from some of the sessions did turn up. They reveal conversations about having someone take “cover” for another person’s actions and allegations that Palmer gave false testimony to the court. The State Bureau of Investigation has since completed a probe of Cherokee DSS and the NC Attorney General’s Office is considering bringing charges in the matter.


About The Kicker

The Kicker is a production of Carolina Public Press. It also airs weekly at 7 p.m. Wednesdays on WPVM radio 103.7 FM in Asheville. Send an email to thekicker@carolinapublicpress.org if you would like to contact the staff of Carolina Public Press about The Kicker.

Staff Reports

This release, story or event was developed through multiple sources and/or is from the staff of Carolina Public Press.

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