An employee of the Lodi Boys and Girls Club has been arrested on suspicion of molesting a 13-year-old girl at a local middle school.
Michael Porter, 21, has been accused of engaging in inappropriate sexual conversations and touching with the student, said Lodi Police Detective Eric Bradley. The alleged actions took place during an after-school Bridge program at Millswood Middle School where the victim is a student, according to Bradley.
Millswood principal Sheree Flemmer said a parent told her about rumors of possible misconduct by Porter, and an investigation into the incident was launched immediately on Monday. Flemmer called in police as part of the investigation, she said.
Richard Jones, president of the Lodi Boys and Girls Club and former Lodi Unified School District board president, put Porter on unpaid administrative leave Monday. Jones said the termination process is underway for Porter, and expected paperwork to be finished by Thursday.
Porter had been hired in August 2009, but Jones said he knew Porter as a boy when he was a member of the club.
"Because I did know Michael, (the allegations) hurt just that much more, because I saw him grow up in this club," Jones said. "I am sick to my stomach. I cannot believe anybody who works for us would (allegedly) do this."
Porter was arrested Wednesday by Lodi police and charged with lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14. Porter's bail has been set at $250,000.
Jones said all employees go through extensive background checks, which include criminal background checks, fingerprinting, drug and tuberculosis tests, and two interviews. Additionally, the club runs a check for the prospective employee through the Megan's Law sex offender registry.
"(Porter's) site director at Millswood never saw anything that would lead him to believe that something was going on like this," Jones said.
Porter was one of five club employees at the Millswood site, and typically worked in a 1-to-20 student ratio from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., five days a week, helping students with homework or playing organized sports, according to Jones.
Porter is not a Lodi Unified employee. Although the Bridge program is sponsored by the school district, at the middle school level it is overseen by community-based organizations.
Principal Flemmer sent out a mass phone message about the incident to Millswood student households Thursday, she said, and Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer planned to send a message out as well.
"Please be assured that immediate action was taken by school administration and the Boys and Girls Club to remove the employee from the campus, and to work with appropriate authorities on a comprehensive investigation," she said in a written statement.
"The district's primary goal is the safety of all of our students. It is very important for students to report to an adult any situations that make them uncomfortable, or don't sound or look right.
"Please encourage your student to report things of this nature immediately to you, the school administrator or other adult at school," Flemmer said.
Millswood students were also sent home with notes about the allegations Thursday.
Jones said he would likely send letters only to families with children who have attended the Boys and Girls Club within the past week, because getting letters to all 5,000-plus members would be practically impossible. He said no parents have approached him with any concerns so far.
"People know we provide a safe place for kids, and we do everything humanly possible to make that happen," Jones said, adding that in his 18 years overseeing the club, there had never been such allegations.
"There are going to be times when you just have no control, and this is one of those times," he said.
Although no other victims have been identified, Lodi police are urging anyone who believes Porter may have had inappropriate conduct with a child to contact an officer at (209) 333-6727.
News-Sentinel staff writer Jennifer Bonnett contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Fernando Gallo at firstname.lastname@example.org.