NOTE TO SUPERVISORS: This just doesn’t look good:
Here’s the deal: It seems that the LA County Board of Supervisors have thumbed their collective noses at a subpoena demanding records pertaining to kids who died while under the supervision of LA’s long-troubled Department of Children and Family Services. Moreover, in doing so, they ignored a warning from the state auditor that they were committing a crime by refusing to turn over the records, which have been requested as part of a statewide investigation into whether systemic flaws are at the root of many of these deaths.
Monday’s LA Times has the story by Garrett Therolf and it’s mandatory reading for those concerned about the health and well-being of kids in the county’s care. Here’s a clip:
The inquiry was launched by the Legislature earlier this year after reports in The Times that more than 70 children had died since 2008 of abuse or neglect after coming to the attention of county social workers. Many of those deaths, county officials have confirmed, involved serious case management errors.
The audit is intended to be the most comprehensive probe in years seeking to identify whether systemic flaws contributed to fatalities in Los Angeles and other counties across the state. Lawmakers said it probably would result in legal reforms.
A lawyer at a special firm hired by the county to handle the matter said officials had provided dozens of boxes of records and allowed auditors to interview social workers but would not turn over documents that they believe are shielded by attorney-client privilege.
Just to be clear: the “clients” in the “attorney-client privilege” cited by the Supervisors are….them.
In other words, if I understand the situation correctly the Sups are not holding on to the records to protect families or minors, but to protect their own legal backsides. They’re afraid if too many people have access to the facts, the Sups are likely to be sued.
Here’s another clip:
County attorneys have privately told supervisors that a judge is not likely to agree that the documents can be withheld, according to two sources familiar with the deliberations. A majority of the board nevertheless urged lawyers to fight the disclosure because of fears that the material could be used in lawsuits accusing the county of failing to provide proper child welfare services.
Perception of the Sups choice to stonewall is not helped by the fact that the Board has recently decided to take over supervision of the agency, which has over the years seemed depressingly resistant to reform.
It’s late at night as I write this thus, admittedly, I still have a list of unanswered questions on the issue. But based on what I’ve gathered from Therolf’s story, the Supervisors do not appear to be on the righteous—or winning— side of this legal tug-of-war.