I recently reported on this incredibly tragic and frustrating story. If you missed it, please read here.
Four social workers repeatedly guilty of negligently turning a blind eye on one of their young wards—until he unnecessarily wound up dead, at eight years of age. Gabriel depended on the Department of Children and Family Services to insure his well-being. So did we, who pay our taxes to assure that youngsters like Gabriel are protected against what happened to Gabriel.
Senior representatives of the Department, after the fact (better late than never), fired the four remiss social workers. Three of them accepted their fate and moved on—getting off way too easy. The fourth had the gall to file a claim with the Los Angeles County Civil Services Commission to be reinstated.
At the heart of my frustration—and the frustration of any responsible citizen—is how the Los Angeles County Civil Services Commission unanimously decided to reinstate this social worker—with full back pay and benefits—after only a nominal 30-day suspension. The Commission seemed a lot more worried about the social worker than Gabriel.
In contrast, local prosecutors have finally filed felony criminal charges against the four social workers after investigating the matter for some three years—both for child abuse and for falsifying public records. Hard to imagine what took three years to investigate. To put this in context, in one year alone, 2011, 15 Los Angeles youths died of abuse while the social workers who were supposed to be protecting them were doing anything but protecting them. How many more died during this three year unnecessary delay in the decision to prosecute and shine more light on these obscene conditions?
In the face of the belated criminal charges, the Commission nonetheless stubbornly continues to defend its reinstatement decision as being the appropriate one for them to have reached.
What could possibly account for this egregious attitude? Actually, it’s not really all that hard to figure out:
The social worker employees of the Department of Children and Family Services are dues paying members of their SEIU labor union. Their dues in turn pay the salaries of the SEIU union leaders. Those union leaders are no doubt motivated—perhaps above all—to protect their salaries. By “their,” I mean the salaries of the union leaders. However, they have to protect the salaries of the social workers first in order to protect their own salaries.
Digging a little deeper, the Commissioners of the Los Angeles County Civil Services Commission are appointed to the Commission by members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors—the leaders we elect to run our county government. In turn, these Supervisors depend on donations from the labor unions to fund their election campaigns. It’s no small coincidence, then, that the track record of these Supervisor-appointed Commissioners is extremely pro County employee—including the social workers who failed Gabriel—whose union dues pay the salaries of the union leaders who make the election campaign donations to our Supervisors!
It is also interesting to note how untrained the Commissioners are to responsibly discharge their responsibilities. To illustrate: These Commissioners, woefully uninformed on the laws they are administering, incorrectly believed that the maximum punishment that could have been imposed on the social worker in question was a 30-day suspension. Simply not the case.
So, let’s see if we have this right. (It really does bear repeating, to make sure that no one overlooks this extraordinarily incestuous relationship. Conflict piled on top of conflict. And no one minding the store.) Our political leaders, the Board of Supervisors, appoint—and insulate—the Civil Services Commissioners from any accountability or oversight. In turn, the Commissioners protect the County employees, to a fault. The County employees, dues paying members of the SEIU labor union one and all, pay the salaries of the union leaders, who then cause the union to donate money to elect the Supervisors, and assure their salaries and perks. Very cozy. Very, very cozy. Everyone is taken care of. Except Gabriel. Whose safety our tax dollars were supposed to be assuring through the ultimate supervision of our political representatives.
Was this just a one-off situation, nothing about which we really need to be concerned? Hardly!
As mentioned above, according to the Los Angeles Times, in one year alone, 2011, no less than 15 Los Angeles children like Gabriel died from child abuse on the watch of Los Angeles County social workers. Some of the social workers were assigned to more than one of these dead children! In those 15 cases, only one social worker was terminated! How long is this going to go on?
Also according to the Los Angeles Times, numerous other Los Angeles agencies have also complained that the Civil Services Commission has interfered with and prevented them from holding their agency employees accountable for poor job performance. This problem goes way beyond just these coddled social workers. The same is true of our police, our firefighters, those who administer our juvenile delinquency programs and facilities, and on and one. Many if not most of these hard workers are terrific, but what about the ones who are not and are being protected by this all too cozy system?
Think about this the next time YOU decide who gets YOUR vote to sit on our Board of Supervisors. Make sure you know their position on responsible appointments to the Civil Services Commission before you vote. Give Gabriel and those others like him a voice to make sure their deaths were not in vain.
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