Inappropriate or unnecessary cell phone calls by child welfare workers
Los Angeles County to review employee cell phone use
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Reacting to a report that more than $500,000 was spent on inappropriate or unnecessary cellular telephone calls made by child welfare workers in 2009, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took action today to curb spending on more than 5,000 mobile telephones.
Auditor-Controller Wendy Watanabe found that about a quarter of the Department of Children and Family Services cellular telephone budget of more than $2.2 million went toward questionable charges.
Long distance calls, text messages and directory assistance calls that appeared unrelated to work were part of the problem. But the department also paid fees for features and services that employees didn't use, including monthly service fees on more than 1,400 phones that sat unused.
Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Gloria Molina called for all county department heads to review employee cell phone use. They also told the county's chief executive officer to make sure that DCFS implements Watanabe's recommendations.
The board voted its unanimous support for the plan, which will also require the CEO to develop a countywide policy for cell phone usage and reducing costs by pooling minutes and data access.
The changes are likely just one of many that DCFS will face as management changes hands.
Former director Trish Ploehn was replaced Dec. 14 by Antonia Jimenez, who had been the county's deputy chief executive officer responsible for child welfare. Jimenez will serve as acting director until a replacement for Ploehn is found.
The department has been working to improve training, reporting and interagency communication, but at least 67 children have died of abuse or neglect since January 2008 after being referred to the department, according to county statistics.
Officials have admitted that many of the deaths involved case management errors. In August, the county's Office of Independent Review issued a report that said Ploehn's department had not fully complied with a 2007 state law requiring the release of numerous records in fatality cases.
The county owns more than 17,000 cell phones, according to a posting today on Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's website. The board expects a report from the CEO in 30 days.
By Elizabeth Marcellino | City News Service
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Sheriff Lee Baca proposed today that prisoners to be paroled by the state be jailed temporarily in Los Angeles County jails.
The state’s release of low-level offenders to county supervision, set to begin Oct. 1, is part of a plan to cut state costs and to reduce the state’s prison population, which has been far higher than allowed by federal law for years.
When prisoners are paroled, they are given a bus ticket, $200 and an address to report to.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to use an anonymous $10,000 gift to support a fund meant to benefit children in foster care.
The cashier’s check, drawn on Banner Bank in Bellingham, Wash., was sent by U.S. mail, postmarked in nearby Everett and received by the county’s auditor-controller on May 5.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 today to take direct control of the child welfare and probation departments, which had been run on a temporary basis by county CEO William Fujioka.
Although it seemed a foregone conclusion after last week's 3-2 vote to approve the ordinance underlying the shift, Supervisor Don Knabe made another effort to postpone the decision today.
He argued that the CEO was given control of the departments in 2007 so they could be run more efficiently.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors said Wednesday it would designate one agency to track information on child deaths from abuse or neglect, and raised new questions about historical data.
The board directed the Department of Children and Family Services on Oct. 12 to provide 30 years worth of information on child fatalities. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who made the proposal, said the information was an important element in setting policy for the agency.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—A dispute has arisen between Los Angeles County and state auditors who want to see records involving the deaths of children who had been under the supervision of the troubled Department of Children and Family Services.
Despite a warning from California’s state auditor that they were committing a crime, Los Angeles County supervisors have defied a subpoena for records involving the deaths, the Los Angeles Times reported.