Maryland health officials deemed Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock's church-run summer camp unsafe to operate due to a spate of unreported child abuse allegations and safety-code violations, according to state records obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The records, from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, paint a picture of an environment where campers were routinely left unsupervised, staffers were not subject to required criminal background checks, and at least five cases of child abuse or neglect were brought against the camp's director, who was ultimately forced to resign.
The documents raise new questions for Warnock, who has faced scrutiny over his 2002 arrest for allegedly hindering and obstructing a child abuse investigation at the camp by Maryland State Police. In an arrest report published by the Free Beacon, police said Warnock interrupted police interviews with counselors, discouraged subjects from talking to investigators without the camp's lawyer present, and was "extremely uncooperative and disruptive." The charges against Warnock were later dropped by the state attorney's office.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene records indicate that during Warnock's tenure as the pastor for Douglas Memorial Community Church, the camp it operated—known as Camp Farthest Out—failed to properly report multiple child abuse incidents involving camp staff, leading the department to revoke its certificate to operate.
The camp's director, Brian Carter, was "party to several findings of indicated child abuse or neglect brought on behalf of the following individuals while he was a camp counselor for the Camp," according to a letter from Camp Farthest Out lawyer Paul D. Shelton to the county prosecutor's office on July 10, 2003.
The letter lists five Department of Social Services findings, with the alleged victims' names redacted, that were filed against Carter between January and March 2003. Shelton argued that the camp was not notified of the findings, which is why it had failed to properly report them.
That was six months after Warnock allegedly interfered with police officers who had shown up at the camp as part of an investigation into child abuse allegations.
Warnock was hired as the pastor for Douglas Memorial in September 2001. It's not clear when he left the church, but he said in 2018 that he served as pastor for "about five years." His leadership plan included expanding the church's summer camp.
"As part of his vision for Douglas, Warnock wants to attract support from corporations and foundations to expand Camp Farthest Out, a 50-acre facility in Carroll County that provides a residential camp experience for disadvantaged children," reported the Baltimore Sun in a Sept. 28, 2001, interview with Warnock.
Warnock's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
When inspectors from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene visited the camp site in 2002, they found multiple health and safety violations.
"Staff are not supervising campers," wrote a health inspector in a July 31, 2002, report. "Conversations w/ medical staff & pool staff indicate that this is routine among the counselors. It was observed during inspection today."
The camp had no fire marshal approval, no approval for the plumbing or electrical system, incomplete child medical records, inadequate child abuse reporting procedures, and insufficient CPR certification, according to the report. The health inspector observed around 80 children in the swimming pool with "only 2 lifeguards + 1 counselor present," calling this a "[r]epeat violation from 2001." A total of 11 violations were noted in the report.
In June 2003, the Department of Health denied Camp Farthest Out's certificate to operate a youth camp. One reason for the denial, according to the records, was that the camp failed to report at least five findings of child abuse or neglect levied against its director by the Department of Social Services. Camp Farthest Out appealed the decision.
Camp Farthest Out later reached a settlement agreement with the Department of Health to appeal the denial that same year. As part of the deal, the camp agreed to "immediately remove Brian Carter … as its director" and terminate any association with two additional camp staffers, Drenard Tucker and Corey Ferguson. In addition, Camp Farthest Out said it would comply with criminal record check requirements and child abuse reporting procedures.
In December 2003, a Maryland couple filed a lawsuit against Warnock, Camp Farthest Out, the Douglas Memorial Community Church, Tucker, and Ferguson in Baltimore. Details of the lawsuit are unavailable. The Circuit Court for Baltimore City told the Free Beacon that it no longer has the case records because they were transferred to the Maryland State Archives several years ago. The Maryland State Archives told the Free Beacon that it never received the records and is unable to locate them. An attorney for the Maryland couple declined to speak on the record.
The case was settled in May 2005. Two months later, Warnock was hired as the pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.