One of the young victims who was allegedly sexually assaulted by YMCA employee Nicolas Lhermine in 2013 filed a lawsuit accusing the YMCA Silicon Valley of “egregious” violations of state laws and policies that are supposed to protect children from predators, according to the victim’s attorney.
The complaint was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court late Tuesday, May 27 by the victim and her father, neither of whom are identified by name in the court document. Named as defendants in the lawsuit, which is seeking unspecified damages, are the YMCA Silicon Valley and Lhermine, 20, of Morgan Hill.
The lawsuit alleges the YMCA violated state law by failing to ensure that Lhermine only worked under the direct supervision of a qualified teacher and that he was never left alone with children. Lhermine was “repeatedly allowed to supervise children alone in violation of California regulations and the YMCA’s own internal policies,” reads a press release from the victim’s attorneys Robert Allard and Lauren Cerri.
Furthermore, the YMCA Silicon Valley has ignored notifications of past violations and has been fined by state regulators for previous offenses, according to the lawsuit.
“We were astounded that a corporation this size would so blatantly violate multiple California laws—major violations of rules which are designed to protect kids,” added Allard, who specializes in child sexual abuse cases. “This is probably one of the more egregious situations we’ve seen as far as blatant violations of state laws.”
Lhermine was arrested in July 2013 at his home in Morgan Hill after a 6-year-old girl under his care at a YMCA-run facility told her parents and Morgan Hill police that he sexually assaulted her while the two were alone in the daycare center’s bathroom. The subsequent investigation found that Lhermine had assaulted or taken obscene photographs of a total of four children ages 3 to 7, and a 17-year-old girl, police said.
The 6-year-old victim who first disclosed the alleged abuse is the only plaintiff in the lawsuit filed May 27.
The daycare program where the alleged abuse took place was located on the campus of Paradise Valley Elementary School in Morgan Hill. Lhermine and other employees of the program worked for the Mount Madonna YMCA, which is a subsidiary of YMCA Silicon Valley.
YMCA Silicon Valley Executive Director Elizabeth Jordan declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday morning because she had not yet been served with the complaint. However, she acknowledged that a private investigator has contacted her staff in recent days, and she “anticipated” the contact was a precursor to a lawsuit.
Lhermine is charged with lewd and lascivious acts with a child younger than 12, oral copulation on a child younger than 10, possession of child pornography and production of child pornography. He remains in custody with no bail, and faces possible life in prison if convicted.
The incident with the 6-year-old victim allegedly took place July 12, 2013, according to authorities.
According to the complaint, Lhermine was left alone with the 6-year-old girl, identified as “Jane Doe” in the court document, and other young children that afternoon while the supervising teacher was performing housekeeping duties instead of supervising Lhermine as required to by law. “The law is intended to protect children by prohibiting supervising teachers from performing housekeeping duties that detract from their supervisory responsibilities,” reads the press release from Allard’s firm Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard.
The complaint also states the YMCA “violated the law by failing to provide a fully qualified teacher to maintain responsibility for the overall operation of the facility under the direction and supervision of the director of the childcare center.” The State of California’s Community Care Licensing division has previously fined the YMCA for numerous violations, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit alleges that, prior to the July 12, 2013 incident, several employees of the Mt. Madonna YMCA complained on numerous occasions about the lack of legally appropriate staffing levels.
“These complaints were ignored and the complaining employees were terminated from their employment with the YMCA approximately six weeks prior to Jane Doe being molested,” said the press release. On May 16, three of these former employees of the YMCA Mt. Madonna filed a wrongful termination and whistle blower retaliation lawsuit against the YMCA.
“The law is quite clear in that an aide must work under the direct supervision of a qualified teacher and must never be left alone with children. Based on our investigation, Nicholas Lhermine was given routine and unfettered access to children alone, allowing him to molest children at a daycare center,” Allard said.
YMCA staff have previously said that Lhermine worked for the organization in various responsibilities for about four years. He passed a background check and raised no red flags during the hiring process or while he was employed with the YMCA.