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L.A. County ousts head of troubled child welfare department

December 13, 2010 | 11:09 am

Trish Ploehn

Los Angeles County Chief Executive William T. Fujioka has removed Trish Ploehn as director of the Department of Children and Family Services, according to his spokesman.

Ploehn will be transferred to a new position in Fujioka’s office handling "administrative work that is unrelated to child welfare," said Ryan Alsop, Fujioka’s spokesman.

The decision ends Ploehn’s troubled four-year tenure as head of a department whose 7,300 employees are responsible for the welfare of more than 30,000 children under active supervision. The department and Ploehn have come under criticism for a series of mistakes that kept children in homes where they died, despite their families having previously come to the attention of the county because of allegations of abuse or neglect.

In a message to her staff, Ploehn said, "Effective today, my journey with the department comes to a close." She told employees that she remained "exceptionally proud of what we have accomplished together."

Ploehn, who worked for the department for 31 years, was one of the 200 highest-paid county workers, taking home about $260,000 last year in salary and other compensation.

Fujioka plans to request approval by the Board of Supervisors to appoint one of his deputies as interim director. That deputy is likely to be Antonia Jimenez, Alsop said.

Jimenez, who has little child welfare experience, arrived at the county earlier this year. She has previous experience as an senior manager at Deloitte, the management consulting firm, and in Massachusetts state government, including the governor’s office.

Since arriving in Los Angeles, she quickly gained the confidence of her superiors for her management expertise and has been admired for her reputation as a turnaround expert.


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Photo: Trish Ploehn in 2009. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times