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

August 18, 2010 |  3:27 pm


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.”

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