Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Teacher at Elder denies misconduct

By Richelle Thompson,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An Elder High School teacher and priest has taken personal leave for the rest of the school year following allegations of sexual misconduct, the Enquirer has learned.

        The Rev. James G. Kiffmeyer, 45, has been absent from the west-side school since April 23.

        That's one day after he met with an Archdiocese of Cincinnati official to discuss accusations by a former student that the priest made unwanted sexual advances and contact in the late 1980s.

        Father Kiffmeyer has denied the allegations, said archdiocesan spokesman Dan Andriacco.

        An unnamed man said the incidents occurred at the end of his senior year and after graduation from Middletown's Fenwick High School, where Father Kiffmeyer taught from 1985 to 1991.

        The accuser was 18 years or older at the time, Mr. Andriacco said.

        Father Kiffmeyer, who has taught religion and chemistry at Elder since 1991, did not return Enquirer calls.

        This is the second time in a week complaints of sexual misconduct have surfaced against a priest in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

        The Rev. Thomas Hopp was removed from ministry at a parish in Fort Laramie, about 45 miles north of Dayton, after a man accused him of sexual abuse. Father Hopp admitted that accusation was “substantially true,” Mr. Andriacco said.

        At the same time, the Hamilton County prosecutor's office also is poring over documents subpoenaed from the archdiocese about accusations of child sexual abuse, including those against “fewer than five” priests with a history of misconduct who are serving in priestly roles.

        What happens next with Father Kiffmeyer isn't clear.

        The archdiocese said it turned the letter of complaint over to Butler County authorities for further investigation. But Prosecutor Robin Piper said there's not much his office can do because the statute of limitations has expired.

        “There isn't really any need to do much investigation because it's not prosecutable criminally,” Mr. Piper said. The archdiocese “can do something administratively. The archdiocese hopefully has extreme concern for this situation and hopefully will be investigating it.”

        But Mr. Andriacco said the archdiocese hoped civil authorities would get involved.

        “Since they are not, we're going to have to look at our capacity to conduct an investigation. I don't know if we can or not,” he said. “We would like to resolve the matter so we can either clear Father Kiffmeyer's name or establish that he commited some misconduct. ... We would like to resolve the issue definitively, either way.”

        Elder senior Adam Schwager was a student in Father Kiffmeyer's religion class his sophomore year.

        “He's been nothing but awesome. He's a great teacher. He's always there when you need to talk to him,” said Mr. Schwager, 18, of Green Township. “I never noticed anything (to suggest sexual misconduct). And I don't even want to think about something like that.”

       Enquirer reporter Janice Morse contributed.


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