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County searches employee e-mail looking for communications with The Times. A good idea?


Behind closed doors, a majority of Los Angeles County supervisors moved to permit a top county official to look through e-mail messages of a county employee to investigate who has been providing information to the Los Angeles Times, which has been reporting on deaths of children whose families had been monitored by county workers.

The revelation, made by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky at Tuesday's meeting of the Board of Supervisors, reflected turmoil at the county Hall of Administration this week over a controversial investigation into what county officials call the “inappropriate disclosure” of information to The Times. The inquiry was made public in recent days amid concerns that the supervisors violated state law in recent weeks when they authorized the probe behind closed doors without informing the public.

Times columnist Tim Rutten weighed in on the op-ed page Wednesday, slamming William T Fujioka, the county's chief executive, and Department of Children and Family Services leaders for inducing the supervisors to launch a “witch hunt” to finger the source of The Times’ reports. Map shows cases child homicides The Times has been able to confirm tie back to families who had previously come to the attention of the Department of Children and Family Services. Some killings were caused by abuse or neglect, others were gang-related or had other causes.

For more than a year, the paper has reported on the deaths of children whose families had previously come to the attention of the county because of allegations of abuse and neglect.

Yaroslavsky, the lone dissenter Tuesday on a vote to order county departments to cooperate in the inquiry, condemned the investigation, saying Fujioka and the child services department seem to be more obsessed with “who leaked what” than the children's deaths.

Fujioka adamantly denied Yaroslavsky’s assertion, saying that “we have an equal obligation to those families to keep some of this information confidential.” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said “the quote unquote leaks … are not helping address the problems. They are creating more in the way of distraction.”

What do you think? Share your thoughts below. 
Comments () | Archives (13)

Really, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, the fact that DCFS's inability to do its job has been publicized is a distraction? To who exactly? It's obvious to anyone with a pulse that DCFS has in no way, shape or form lived up to any sort of basic standards in providing a minimum amount of protection to children who truly need it. The BOS has NEVER made a good-faith effort to deal with the long-standing issues within DCFS, the only difference now is that this has become such a public issue that they can't just sweep it under the rug. You would think that the time and resources would be put to deal with the problems that have been at the core of DCFS for far too long, but once again the issue is being bundled, with the energy being spent on finding out who the poor schmuck was who probably did the most ethical thing possible in contacting the Times. Disgusting.

The county has a right to see emails from county email addresses. That's a no-brainer. If the CEO disclosed to the Supervisors the names of employees whose email accounts he wanted to examine, of course that should have been done behind closed doors. That should be a no-brainer, too. If The Supervisor doesn't think the CEO is doing enough about the quality of child protection, that's another matter, and should be addressed separately. It's not a reason to prevent the CEO from gathering the facts, or to bash him for doing so. As he said, that's part of his job, too.

If an employee wants or needs to blow the whistle on a problem in a way that puts him/herself at risk, OK, let the facts out and the Supervisors and the public will have their say.

You should not put anything into a traceable e-mail account that you do not want on the front pages of the Times.

So when did the County CAO become the County KGB?

As a former worker of DFCS, I applaud the LA Times for alerting the public about the abuses of DFCS. There are many burned out social workers who are too lazy and need to to be fired for fraud or retire. I had to investigate one caseload as a student professional worker. A social worker collapsed in our office due to "too much work" and was on paid leave. I took over some of this person's cases. I went to do many unannounced home visitations on this caseload. Most of the foster parents stated they have not seen a social worker in over two years! These foster parents signed an affidavits stating they have not had any visitations from DFCS. Due to the great union DFCS has, this social worker is still on the payroll. I think the LA Times should continue their investigation and open more cans of worms. This department is infested!

Should they concentrate on the childrens well being? Yes.
Is it OK to search county computers to see who leaked the info? Yes. Anyone who assumes they have any privacy when it comes to info transmitted on a work computer, phone or PDA had better think again, because you usually have no rights.

Wow, how about the LA Times use quote-unquote when referring to "Supervisor" Mark Ridley Thomas? It's unbelievable the words that pour out of that man. It's astonishing that a man with the acumen of a high school junior got elected to the highest office in LA County; it's the equivalent of electing George W. Bush to a school board.

Ridley Thomas essentially said that he's distracted by dead children. Really? Just distracted? It's a miracle you and the rest of the board were able to pull together and setup an investigation into the DCFS and their fecklessness in caring for children under their jurisdiction. Maybe the LA Times should stop distracting poor ol' Ridley Thomas with stories of children dying, and instead focus on his $707 office renovation, or the $20K he coughed up to Who's Who in Black L.A.

Ridley Thomas is a coward for standing up for that kid who got killed by that illegal scumbag fresh out of jail now dead kids is a detraction what an idiot are theses people mad b/c the publicnow know what idiots they are

A distraction? The people's right to know when their tax dollars are going to incompetent workers such as Fujioka is not a distraction. It's an alarm. This child died wrongfully because the incompetence of the Department of Children and Families Services. Here's a tip for Fujioka, RESIGN! Because the longer you stay, the more in danger children under your regime suffer.

Defenseless Children that are supposed to be under the care of inept Los Angeles County Social Workers are dieing right under there noses. And four of the five Little Kings are more concerned with finding out who helped the LA Times make this public then being concerned why this Children are not being protected. Shame on you. I am an LA COUNTY worker if I see wrong doing in my work place by my superiors who am I supposed to report it to? According to those four LITTLE KINGS I better keep my mouth shut or ELESE.

Wow, the county seems to be opening itself up to huge 1st Amendment liability here.

Nothing about juvenile court or DCFS should be confidential. Court hearings and records should be public, period. That will be the day the rock gets kicked over and the corrupt officials scatter like so many cockroaches.

If children are dying AFTER it has come to the attention of the county that they are being abused by their families, and if this is a sufficiently regular occurrence that in the space of only a year, the Los Angeles Times has published multiple stories detailing the deaths of those children, then it is clear that the county is failing to protect those children.
It doesn't matter if they die because they're left in the care of the allegedly abusive families, or because they're put in foster homes, or because they're put in institutional care while the county figures out what to do with them. These are children, victims of abuse who are legally (and likely practically) unable to protect themselves. The county has more than the usual obligation, not only to keep the children safe, but to help them recover as much as possible from the physical and mental scars of such abuse. Instead of getting better, MULTIPLE children have died over the course of a year.
This, then, is not an isolated incident. It's a pattern. It SHOULD be exposed, so that it can begin to be changed. Personally, I fail to understand how the county has an "equal" obligation to "protect" abusive parents - who, after all, are adults, which makes it completely legal, normal practice to publish their full names and the charges against them - as they do to protect victims of abuse who are minors. If the Times was writing about juvenile abuse victims who were still alive, and publishing the names of the parents, that would be wrong, because it would be easy to identify the victims through the revelation of the parents' identities. But these children are dead, and there's nothing that can be done to hurt them now. Publishing their parents' names in connection with a revelation of the county's complete failure to protect them can't hurt anyone but a) the parents, who, as I've pointed out, are liable to have their names and alleged crimes published anyway, and b) the county.
The county failed these children and now they're dead. Since the victims are dead, wherein the obligation to protect the families? There is none, either legally (as I understand the law) or morally. This is a cut-and-dried case of a failing bureaucracy struggling to cover its ass. That they would try to hide their involvement and responsibility for the deaths of child abuse victims is despicable. That they would violate the privacy of their employees in order to try and discover who among them is holding them to a decent moral standard is utterly immoral. That they would be so completely dim as to assume that a source working for the county would use their work email to send messages to the Times is, perhaps, an indication of how some of these children were allowed to die - simply because the upper echelons of county employees are so stupid that they aren't able to recognize the obvious when it stands in front of them naked and on fire. If I were going to leak material from my workplace to a newspaper, I would a) buy an untraceable, pay-as-you-go cell phone, and not tell ANYONE I had it. Then I would use only that phone to communicate with whatever reporter(s) I was speaking to; b) create an anonymous email address with hotmail or gmail, which I would use to communicate with the reporter(s) ONLY if there was no other way to contact them; and c) give all my information to the reporter(s) face-to-face, not over the phone and CERTAINLY not by email. Just a thought...if they find anything in their witch hunt through the county employees' email server, I'll be saddened...but I won't think much of the brains of the source (not that that would affect my respect for that source; clearly he or she has more moral fibre than any one of his or her colleagues...except this Yaroslavsky person.)


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