Judge Says Ranch for Kids Must Pay Fees, Obtain License or Face Closure

By Beacon Staff

A district court judge has set a May 20 timeline for Eureka’s Ranch for Kids to pay court-ordered attorney’s fees and submit paperwork for state licensure or face being shut down.

Lincoln County Judge James Wheelis issued an order requiring the Eureka ranch for troubled foreign adoptees to submit a completed licensing application, background checks for employees and an application fee, in addition to $24,974.89 in attorney’s fees, to the Department of Labor and Industry no later than May 20.

Following the submission of licensing paperwork, the ranch must grant an onsite inspection to the labor department’s licensing entity, the Private Alternative Adolescent Residential or Outdoor Programs board.

The Ranch for Kids has been engaged in a long-running legal battle with the labor department over licensing and building code infractions. In a February ruling, Wheelis said the ranch does not qualify for the state’s religious exemption from state oversight and must become licensed. The facility has operated without a state license since 2010.

Wheelis agreed with state attorneys that the ranch doesn’t fit the definition of an adjunct ministry, and said the state has a right “to take steps to protect children regardless of where they’re situated – a school, family,” or other places.

In a separate lawsuit with the labor department over building and electrical code violations, the ranch faces a preliminary injunction request as well as an October pretrial conference followed by a trial in December in Lincoln County District Court. The preliminary injunction motion requested Wheelis to order the ranch to quit using and shut down power to certain buildings where the state has concerns.

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