New IRB Director brings knowledge, experience to the role

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

Kathy Fincham

KANSAS CITY —Kathy Fincham has served in the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, as head of the Sex Crimes trial team, on a child homicide and in a Computer Crime unit, on adult sex crimes and child exploitation/pornography cases. She retired several years ago, but her wealth of experience and discipline impressed Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr., who recently asked Carrie Cooper, Director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection, to reach out to Fincham about directing the Independent Review Board.

Her parents were both from Atchison, Kansas, and after receiving her Bachelor of Arts in History from Georgetown University and her Law degree from Kent College of Law in Chicago, she returned to the Kansas City area to practice law. She was hired by the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in 1982. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The Independent Review Board was initiated in 1993 by then-Bishop Raymond Boland in response to allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests, deacons, lay employees and volunteers of the Diocese. Then chaired by former Kansas City Star editor Joe McGuff, the IRB, comprised of Catholics and non-Catholics, was tasked with evaluating charges of sexual misconduct involving priests, members of religious communities and employees of the diocese.

Today’s Independent Review Board is made up of clergy, religious, attorneys, therapists and law enforcement, and reviews reports of sexual abuse that have been deemed initially credible by law enforcement, the Children’s Division, if applicable, and the diocesan Ombudsman, Jenifer Valenti. In the event a civil investigation is already underway when Valenti is contacted, she will refrain from conducting her own investigation until the civil investigation is complete. Otherwise, if the allegation is deemed initially credible, the accused is placed on precautionary suspension until the investigation concludes. The Independent Review Board is notified upon the initial determination of credibility.

In explaining the investigative process, Valenti said, “If someone reports an allegation first to local law enforcement (which we hope they do), we ask the victim to report to me, but it is their choice. Law enforcement is under no obligation to make the Diocese aware of a report of abuse. A vast majority of the reports I receive are instances in which the victim has contacted me first. If that happens, I then report to law enforcement and the Children’s Division (if applicable).  

“Once the investigation is complete, the information gathered in the report is shared with the IRB in order for them to make a recommendation as to the credibility of the allegation. After the IRB reviews it, they will make a recommendation to Bishop Johnston for his review. He will make a final assessment of credibility.” 

As the bishop had requested, Carrie Cooper contacted Fincham in mid-December, and she met with Bishop Johnston shortly thereafter. Fincham, who attends Mass at St. Therese-North Church, views her acceptance of the IRB directorship as an opportunity to work for the protection of children and vulnerable adults and help revitalize the Church. She hopes to help strengthen trust in the church through a vigorous and fair response to allegations of abuse of children and vulnerable adults.

She expects her experience and expertise in investigations will assist her in her new role. “Over the course of investigation and prosecution, I have listened to and consoled victims and their families. I’ve seen the damage done through the eyes of the victimized. I have gained an appreciation for the damage and the longevity of that damage from sexual and physical abuse.

“I’ve become sensitive to victims, their rights and their problems,” Fincham continued. “I have an enhanced appreciation of the victims’ rights.”

Fincham met with the Independent Review Board for the first time earlier this month. She replaces Jim Corwin, the outgoing director of the IRB, and former Kansas City, Mo., Chief of Police.

Over the years she has developed some profiling sense of sexual predators of children. And she keeps honed “the discipline that prosecutors develop to be fair to suspects and to the process of accusations.”

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Tuesday
February 19, 2019
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph