- Recall Thoughts
- Warriors Advance
- FIFA Busted
- Walmart Headbutt
- France Guilty
- Doak Update
- Bypass Photos
- Police Reports
- Yesterday's Catch
- Goodbye, Paul
- A Few Words
- Pot Talk
- Employment Rights
- Pipeline Negotiations
- Autism Author
- GJ on Children's Services
TUESDAY NIGHT'S MEETING of the Fort Bragg City Council featured a parade of speakers swearing allegiance to mayor Dave Turner and urging each other to urge their fellow Fort Bragg residents not to sign recall petitions. Councilman Hammerstrom also urged Fort Bragg residents not to sign the petitions.
IF YOU SHARE the consensus view that politics is non-violent warfare, angry people attempting to qualify a recall vote is a perfectly democratic means of expressing their unhappiness. You may not share our view that the recallers have ample grounds to chase Turner out of office.
TURNER leads a town where un-elected people make policy decisions and commit large sums of public money to these decisions. Conversion of an historic structure to a for-profit business disguised as a non-profit; commitment to the unneeded new transfer station; personnel decisions shafting the deserving local guy, as we saw in the selection of the new police chief.
HAD TO LAUGH at the number of speakers who cited the cost of a recall election as a strong reason for opposing the mere attempt to qualify it for the ballot. How about the cost of the San Francisco lawyer city management hired? Or any number of recent consultant-led investigations into projects that will never happen? (cf, the restoration of streams flowing through the old mill site to the sea? Etc.)
REX GRESSETT boldly strode in to Tuesday night's Fort Bragg love-in to nicely articulate the recall position:
“I would like to address the issue of the recall. What we have here (in the recallers) are people saying that they love Fort Bragg. That they want to take care of Fort Bragg. We love Fort Bragg. We love it so much that we put our money on the table and we spent our time and our energy doing things that no citizen would normally have to do — Filling out paperwork that was extremely complex, hiring lawyers, organizing, getting together, having meetings. We did not do it because we didn't love Fort Bragg. We did it because we do love Fort Bragg. We know that she needs to be protected. When I was at the budget meeting, I was the only person at the budget meeting other than the City Council. It was quite clear that the budget from the city was a convoluted, obscure undecipherable document that no member of the City Council even began to understand. I see Linda Ruffing over there laughing about it as though the complexity of government was over the heads of the normal people. Well, they are over the heads of the normal people because they make it that way. But they don't have to be. We know when we've been embezzled. We know when we've been cheated. We know when we come to the City Council with 1600 signatures and they are treated with disrespect and contempt. When the mayor says they won the court case which they haven't won — they are about to go up on June 4 against the demurrer — and we are definitely going to prevail. The reason that we're doing this, the reason we are taking this action, this definitely radical action, is because we believe that in the person of Linda Ruffing and in the person of Marie Jones, the people of Fort Bragg had abdicated their control of their city to technocrats who feel no responsibility to inform them of what's going on or to help them understand what's going on and that are operating in the interest of making money for themselves, running a complex machine that generates revenue for a few people and that have gotten behind them in this enterprise the City Council. That constitutes a violation of the spirit of the Brown Act if not the letter. They have skirted the edges of the Brown Act and it was very, very close. The intention of the Brown act is that the people, and I can almost quote it, that the people should not give up the right to control the instruments that they created. We did not give to the City Council to write to decide what is good for the people. We did not get to Linda Ruffing the right to make money on our backs without telling us how it's going to be done. We did not give the City Council the right to rule over us as rulers. We expect them to be our instrument and that's why were doing it and we do love the city of Fort Bragg.”
WEDNESDAY WAS BIG FOR SPORTS FANS, what with another win for the Giants and then the Warriors taking the Western Conference over Houston. About the Warriors, am l the only person to hear Klay Thompson say, post-game, he was still "a little dizzy"? He took a terrific shot to the ear during the game. It knocked him down and almost out. Thompson went to the locker room for a spell, returned to the game only to return to the locker room again because he was bleeding from the ear. Then, post-game, his statement that he was still dizzy. I found it all rather disturbing, frankly, that the Warrior doctors cleared him to play after that initial knee-blow to the ear. And, sure enough, today we learn that he suffered a concussion that had him vomiting and so foggy he couldn't drive home. Here's hoping the Warriors review their medical staffing.
LIKE A LOT of front runners, I hadn't paid much attention to the Warriors until this year when, like thousands of Bay Area fans, I began watching closely for the first time since Clifford Ray, Al Attles, Rick Barry and Company, the one and only previous NBA championship Warriors. Now in full pre-senilty mode — total recall of events long ago, little or no memory of what happened last week — I remember the Warriors playing at the Cow Palace and then downtown at what is now called the Bill Graham Auditorium. Tickets were under five bucks, way under, maybe three.
THE BEST, SMOOTHEST basketball player I've ever seen with my own eyes was Fred LaCour out of San Francisco, later with the Hawks. My own eyes, I tell you! Steph Curry is amazing but I've only seen him on tv.
DOWN GOES FIFA!
by Dave Zirin
It has been called “the day that FIFA has long dreaded”: the day that decades of graft and a level of ostentatious excess that would make Caligula blush caught up with the international soccer body. Fourteen people, including nine top FIFA officials, have been arrested on corruption charges levied by the US Justice Department. Seven were taken into custody in a dramatic arrest by Swiss law enforcement at a luxury hotel in Zurich. As the late Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano wrote two decades ago, “There are visible and invisible dictators. The power structure of world football is monarchical. It’s the most secret kingdom in the world.”
Well, the kingdom has been cracked open, and no one is sure what we will find out once all the deals have been cut and the whistleblowers have played their tunes. Make no mistake: We may look back upon today as the beginning of the end of FIFA as we know it. All of the 209 member representatives of FIFA had gathered in Zurich for their congress, which was expected to be “a boring affair,” where President Sepp Blatter would coast to re-election. Boring is the last word on anyone’s mind now.
The charges brought include money laundering, wire fraud, and international racketeering that alleges $150 million in bribes going back to the 1990s made by big sports-marketing honchos to get their brands associated with major soccer tournaments, but this will be just the tip of the iceberg. Here is what was said by US attorney general Loretta Lynch: “The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States. It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.” (Lynch said the selection of the United States to host next year’s Copa América was facilitated by $110 million in bribes.)
For those wondering how the Justice Department was able to facilitate these arrests in Switzerland, it used a prosecutorial authority often present in international terror cases. AsThe New York Times described, “Those cases can hinge on the slightest connection to the United States, like the use of an American bank or Internet service provider Switzerland’s treaty with the United States is unusual in that it gives Swiss authorities the power to refuse extradition for tax crimes, but on matters of general criminal law, the Swiss have agreed to turn people over for prosecution in American courts.”
In this case, the US connection is CONCACAF, headquartered in the United States and, of FIFA’s six regional confederations, the one that includes North America. Described as “an organization clearly in crisis” by Lynch, they are as of now the central focus of the investigation. (This part is important for those following the possible FIFA vote on sanctioning or even expelling Israel for its practices related to detaining players and coaches in the Palestinian Football Association. It is impossible to tell the fate of that vote or any votes based upon the chaos produced by latest charges, but CONCACAF was viewed as Israel’s most reliable defenders in the FIFA body.)
The indictments however, will seek information well beyond the workings of CONCACAF and could be the string that, if pulled, will tear FIFA’s cashmere sweater to pieces. The indictment also makes mention of bribery related to the much-criticized awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar. The oil-rich fiefdom of Qatar has been under fire for its use of slave labor and a shocking pace of deaths of South Asian migrant workers, building new stadiums without adequate water or safety regulations. Russia has conducted its own damning internal audits related to its soccer leadership. Yet already, in a show of staggering arrogance, FIFA has issued a statement that no matter what the investigation roots out, there will be no revote on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup. The hubris would be gobsmacking if we hadn’t heard it so many times in the past: the statement of blithely unaware confidence by a dictator right before the fall.
And speaking of dictators, the one name not mentioned in the indictments was that of FIFA chief Sepp Blatter: the sexist and homophobic troglodyte who has turned FIFA into a multibillion-dollar engine of corruption. His absence amongst the accused was so stunning that The New York Times headline reads: “FIFA Officials Arrested on Corruption Charges; Blatter Isn’t Among Them.”
Blatter was due to be reelected in a cakewalk on Friday, his only challenger Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussain, a 39-year-old Jordanian royal. Blatter’s power comes from strong support via Africa, Asia, and Oceania, where he has leveraged reverence like a mafia don by cagily distributing “sport for development and peace” funds, and then been none too concerned where those funds happen to land.
Already FIFA has issued statements professing Blatter’s innocence and assuring the world that in an organization caked in filth, he somehow smells of sandalwood. Blatter still will likely be re-elected on Friday, which will only turn up the volume on how mockable the organization has become.
Transparency International, the campaigning NGO, wants Blatter to resign and the election to be delayed. Managing Director Cobus de Swardt said in a statement: “The warning signs for FIFA have been there for a long time. FIFA has refused to abide by many basic standards of good governance that would reduce the risk of corruption. These scandals have taken place under Sepp Blatter’s watch, which spans almost two decades. For the sake of the fans, and good governance of football, it is time for him to step down. The elections for president are not credible if they are tainted with these allegations by the highest prosecuting authorities.”
FIFA is paying for a culture that valorized dictatorship and excess while disregarding the concerns of people like the millions who took to Brazil’s streets in 2013. It was willing to be a neoliberal Trojan horse for the nations of the world, yet FIFA's arrogance and perhaps its unwillingness to cut in the United States, which hasn’t hosted the cup since 1994, caught up with it.
For those who have concerns about the Justice Department’s attacking FIFA while corrupt bankers go free, not to mention Attorney General Lynch’s using the FIFA presser to defend FISA, I share those concerns greatly. Trusting this Justice Department to prosecute the wealthy and powerful is like trusting Fox News to tell the truth. But this is a case of FIFA shaking its behind and daring law officials to take a free kick, and they did.
I wrote this a year ago and I will say it again: “Soccer is still unquestionably the most popular sport on the planet. But a cloistered, corrupt society like FIFA cannot function in a WikiLeaks world. It is past time to abolish FIFA. It is like a gangrenous limb that requires amputation before the infection spreads and the beautiful game becomes decayed beyond all possible recognition. Soccer is worth saving. FIFA needs to take its ball and go home.” The sooner the better, for anyone who loves this game.
(Dave Zirin is the author of Brazil’s Dance with the Devil. contact him at email@example.com)
SHOPLIFTER HEADBUTTS WALMART ASSOCIATE
UKIAH, Thursday, May 28. -- Jury Trial Result: A jury returned from its deliberations just after the noon hour with a guilty verdict against Michael Ray France, age 26, of Ukiah. Declining to even take a break for lunch, the jury powered through and found the defendant guilty of criminal threats, a felony. After the jury was thanked for its service and released, the truth of whether France had served two prior prison sentences was then tried before Judge Ann Moorman. Based on documentary evidence offered by the prosecutor and admitted into evidence, the Court found true that the defendant had been committed to prison in 2009 for battery on a peace officer, a felony, and then again in 2012 for assault by force likely to inflict great bodily injury, also a felony. The matter has been referred to the adult probation department for a background study and sentencing recommendation. Pending sentencing, the defendant remains in custody at the Low Gap jail facility. Formal sentencing is now scheduled for July 10, 2015 at 9:00 a.m. in Department A. Anyone interested in this case is welcome to attend that hearing.
The prosecutor who presented the People's evidence at trial was Deputy District Attorney Jon Hopkins. The investigating law enforcement agency was the Ukiah Police Department.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BILLY DOAK CASE?
Doak took a plea in February and it flew under our radar screen because the only mention of it was on the DA’s “jury trial results” webpage which we don’t check often. The DA wrote: “On February 25, 2015, the day set for picking a jury for a third trial following two previous hung juries, defendant Doak instead admitted criminal liability for having falsely imprisoned the victim. The Court accepted the change of plea and sentenced the defendant to one year in the county jail. This conviction is weighed as a win.”
BUT considering that he was originally charged with “criminal mayhem” — i.e., shooting his girlfriend’s finger off — calling it a “win” seems like a stretch. Doak’s two prior trials had ended in hung juries and Deputy DA Kevin Davenport (of the Fort Bragg office) had announced after the second one that he fully intended to make a third attempt. But instead, it ended with the simple false imprisonment plea. The process has, among other things, pauperized Mr. Doak.
For more background:
RECENT AERIAL PHOTOS OF THE WILLITS BYPASS (Courtesy, Caltrans)
ON MAY 14 2015, at about 942 AM, Ukiah Police were dispatched to the 400 block of N. State St. for a report of a male subject exposing himself to passing traffic. When officers arrived the suspect, identified as Timothy Fischer, a 49 year old Ukiah transient, attempted to flee the scene but was detained by officers. Officers contacted witness and were told that Fischer had been seen pulling his pants down and exposing himself to passing traffic. Fischer was placed under citizens arrest and booked into the Mendocino County jail.
ON MAY 16 2015, at about 452 PM, Ukiah Police were dispatched to 1260 Elm St. (Vinewood Park) regarding a report of a physical fight involving multiple subjects. Initial reports indicated that this altercation involved approximately 200 people. Due to this Deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office and Officers from the California Highway Patrol responded to assist. Upon officers arrival they learned from witnesses that there were two large parties taking place and that this altercation involved a smaller group of male subjects who had approached two others near the basketball courts of the park. As this larger group approached witnesses reported that the five males were making gangs signs with their hands in an attempt to intimidate the two at the basketball court. As the two groups neared each other a physical fight broke out between them. No suspects were identified to the officers and no one wished to file any charges. Due to this officers searched the immediate area and located a screwdriver, which had been sharpened to a point and a pocket knife lying on the ground in the area of the altercation. Officers believed this was a gang related incident.
ON MAY 20 2015 at about 257 AM, Ukiah Police were conducting a security check of the Big Lots parking lot. Upon exiting the parking lot officers observed a subject dressed in all dark clothing attempting to hide under a vehicle in the 200 block of S. Orchard Ave. This male was later identified as John Avilla a 32 year old Ukiah transient. Upon contacting Avilla, an officer learned that Avilla is currently on probation and was in possession of tools commonly used to break into vehicles. Avilla was arrested for possession of burglary tools and violation of his probation.
ON MAY 20 2015 at about 915 PM, Ukiah Police responded to the pocket park at 855 S. Orchard Ave. regarding an adult female possibly "huffing" at the location. “Huffing” is a slang street term which refers to the inhaling of substances containing toluene or similar substances to create a short intoxication high. Upon officers arrival they contacted Cameo Smith-Harjo, a 20 year old Ukiah resident. Smith-Harjo was found to be in possession of four cans of “Dust Destroyer,” which contains a difluoroethane propellant, and reportedly admitted to officers that she had been inhaling the contents. Smith-Harjo was arrested for possession of toluene or similar substance.
CATCH OF THE DAY, May 28, 2015
JOLECA AUGUSTINE, Nice/Ukiah. Petty theft.
JOHN BIASOTTI, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.
JOHN BOLTON IV, Ukiah. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)
ERICA CERVANTES, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
JONI DEARING, Albion. County parole violation.
JOHN DRIGGS, Ukiah. Parole violation.
MICHAEL GILES, Willits. Pot cultivation, possession for sale, armed with firearm.
SKYLER GIST, Willits. Drunk in public.
GUYVEN REYES, Potter Valley/Willits. DUI.
BONNIE RICHARDS, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
JOSHUA STONE, Covelo. DUI, concealed weapon, suspended license.
WALTER STOUGH, Albion. Possession of controlled substance, probation revocation.
SO LONG, PAUL
To the Editor:
Just recently I wrote a letter to the editor that concluded by my stating that I was no longer listening to KZYX. I digress. This May 21 broadcast was Paul Lambert’s last show and his guest was the new BOS member Tom Woodhouse. Despite a techno glitch, many important bases were covered. Paul, I have to say that I didn’t always agree with your views but people aren’t supposed to agree all the time anyway. That would be boring, However, I have always been impressed by the way you took considerable effort to let opposing views have equal time and the way you bravely faced all the political winds of here and now. I also want to extend to you a truly deep felt ‘thank you’ for mentioning in your heartfully prepared statement, of your concern for how Mendocino County’s Pot Industry tends to ostracize anyone who expresses their concern for how the local pot industry is effecting children in and beyond Mendocino County, and its impact on our county’s lands. Best of luck to you Paul in any and all future endeavors. I would also like to extend a similar deep felt ‘thank you’ to Tom Woodhouse for expressing his concerns for the downside of an unruly pot industry on the minds, educations and hence futures of too many of our young people, and the environment. Best of luck to you in your daily efforts to make Mendocino County better and better.
Marc Parsley, Ukiah
A FEW WORDS IN DEFENSE OF OUR COUNTRY
I’d like to say a few words
In defense of our country
Whose people aren’t bad nor are they mean
Now the leaders we have
While they’re the worst that we’ve had
Are hardly the worst this poor world has seen
Let’s turn history’s pages, shall we?
Take the Caesars for example
Why within the first few of them
They were sleeping with their sister
Stashing little boys in swimming pools
And burning down the City
And one of ’em, one of 'em
Appointed his own horse Consul of the Empire
That’s like vice president or something
That’s not a very good example, is it?
But wait, here’s one, the Spanish Inquisition
They put people in a terrible position
I don’t even like to think about it
Well, sometimes I like to think about it
Just a few words in defense of our country
Whose time at the top
Could be coming to an end
Now we don’t want their love
And respect at this point
Is pretty much out of the question
But in times like these
We sure could use a friend
Men who need no introduction
King Leopold of Belgium. That’s right.
Everyone thinks he’s so great
Well he owned The Congo
He tore it up too
He took the diamonds, he took the gold
He took the silver
Know what he left them with?
A President once said,
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"
Now it seems like we’re supposed to be afraid
It’s patriotic in fact and color coded
And what are we supposed to be afraid of?
Why, of being afraid
That’s what terror means, doesn’t it?
That’s what it used to mean
You know it pisses me off a little
That this Supreme Court is gonna outlive me
A couple of young Italian fellas
And a brother on the Court now too
But I defy you, anywhere in the world
To find me two Italians as tightass
As the two Italians we got
And as for the brother
Well, Pluto’s not a planet anymore either
The end of an empire is messy at best
And this empire is ending
Like all the rest
Like the Spanish Armada adrift on the sea
We’re adrift in the land of the brave
And the home of the free
Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.
NORTHCOAST SOLONS DISCUSS LOOMING POT LEGALIZATION
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
The Gay Rights movement disguises the spread of “at-will employment” through-out the United States. Now, your employer can fire you for any reason at all, including your political views and religious convictions. Americans read all the news about gay rights and are led to believe that America is becoming a “more free” place where more types of minorities are protected. The reality is that NO ONE in America has any rights left in the work-place, so “gay rights” are largely irrelevant. Sure, they can get a parchment proclaiming “marriage,” and thus avoid the paperwork that was previously required to share property and make medical decisions for each other. But in the world of employment, no one has any rights anymore.
A BRITISH COLUMBIA FIRST NATION REJECTS $1.15 BILLION FOR A LNG PIPELINE ON THEIR LAND
The British Columbia government is strongly supporting the development of a natural gas industry and the Canadian energy industry has responded. Part of the development plan is for a liquefied natural gas ship terminal on land of the Lax-kw'alaams First Nation located near Prince Rupert. The location is an ancient site of this aboriginal band of about 3,600 members. Their community is centered around salmon which they fish for every year. Of particular concern to the band is their fear of environmental damage to the water grasses which are used as shelter from predators by juvenile salmon. The pipeline company which will transport the LNG sings the usual siren song about all the wonderful benefits the pipeline will bring to the band and don't worry about the environment. To sweeten the pie they have offered the band $1.149 billion payable over 40 years and the British Columbia government will give the band a large amount of land.
The band has rejected the offer although they have not closed the door to future talks. As the band has never signed any treaties they have to be consulted and accommodated when projects cross their land. In considering the environmental damage the energy industry has done around the world one hopes this band will continue to reject this project which will destroy their culture and way of life.
In peace and love,
Jim Updegraff, Sacramento
HANK SMITH ON AUTISM
On Wednesday, June 17th, at 7 pm, Mendocino County Library, Ukiah Branch, is presenting Hank Smith talking about his newly published memoir, Sticks and Stones: A Father’s Journey into Autism
“A child is diagnosed with autism every twenty minutes. It is the fastest growing developmental disability, with a staggering 1,148% growth rate. Stories like this one of my son are worthy of being told.”
Hank is a Kindergarten and Music teacher living in Northern California. Over the past twenty-one years, he has worked with an ever increasing number of autistic children. Living with his son has been a wonderful learning experience that not only has helped him in teaching the autistic children in his kindergarten and music programs, but has also given him valuable insight to share with their parents and his fellow teachers.
AS THE SUPERVISORS take more pay for less work, the children of the poor in this county are protected by under-paid, demoralized, ill-managed staff. Will the supervisors act? We wouldn't bet on it.
FAMILY AND CHILDREN’S SERVICES
Children at Risk
Mendocino County Grand Jury Report, May 19, 2015
The Mendocino County Family and Children’s Services Agency is one of the lowest scoring child protective services agencies in the State of California (State). In spite of a dedicated, caring, hardworking staff, the agency appears to be falling further behind. Every performance indicator points to understaffing as the main culprit. The understaffing has many causes: noncompetitive compensation, work overload, poor management, and low morale. Senior management is aware of the issues and their consequences but has failed to address them.
A number of the interviewees expressed the grave concern, that because of the current state of affairs in Family and Children’s Services Agency, “a disaster is waiting to happen.” The purpose of this investigation is to find out why and to publish the facts.
The Grand Jury reminds the reader that beyond the dry recitation of facts, beneath the numbers and statistics, behind the charts and graphs, there are real human lives involved. There are children in harm’s way. If the reader thinks this is sensationalism then he/she is referred to a front page article in the Ukiah Daily Journal under “Police Roundup” dated Saturday, January 30, 2015.
The Grand Jury received complaints about the performance of Family and Children’s Services in protecting the children of Mendocino County (County) from abuse and neglect. Family and Children’s Services (formerly Child Protective Services or CPS) is required by law to provide timely and appropriate services to children at risk. The complaints allege that these services are not provided in a timely manner, or not provided at all, due to staff shortages and management decisions.
Data were collected from multiple databases including the Child Protective Services California Management System and the California Child Welfare Indices Project. Board of Supervisors’ minutes, County organization charts, management report of employee retention records, and budgets were examined. State laws were researched, including the California Welfare and Institutions Code and the California Department of Social Services Social Work Manual of Policy and Procedures.
The Grand Jury looked at what happens when a child is referred to Family and Children Services. Particular attention was paid to the beginning of the process and the timeliness of intervention.
Over 15 interviews were conducted with staff, management, and present and former HHSA employees. The Grand Jury also looked at staff shortages, retention rates, and job satisfaction.
The Grand Jury examined the hiring, training, qualifications, and compensation of staff. Salary and benefits packages were compared with similar and neighboring counties. The Grand Jury also looked at the levels of responsibility vis-a-vis qualifications.
The performance of the County was compared to other counties in the State.
This report is about children in our community who may be at risk of bodily harm. It is about what State and Federal law say we are supposed to do and what we are, or are not, doing.
Family and Children’s Services (FCS) is the County name for the State and Federal mandated Child Protective Services program. FCS provides services to children who may be at risk of abuse or neglect. These services are funded in part by the State and Federal governments. FCS also administers other mandated programs.1 These programs require additional staff and management attention.
In 2011, Realignment changed the funding formula, tying it to State sales tax revenue rather than County need. Therefore, as a result, the County’s financial risk ranges from 15% of 2010 costs for FCS to 50% of all costs for all social services. If the economy worsens, the need for services may increase as sales tax revenue falls. There is no provision to address increased costs or increased needs.
By State measures, Mendocino County Family and Children’s Services is one of the poorest performing county Child Protective Services agencies in the State. FCS has experienced a significant decrease in the educational qualifications and work experience of the staff. This report looks at the resources and the level of service the County provides.
The Referral Process
This section describes what happens when a child is referred to FCS. The process is dictated by law and has been designed for the safety, protection, and well-being of the child. There are many mandated actions, all of which require sufficient qualified staff to adequately carry them out.
A report of potential abuse and/or neglect may arrive at FCS from a mandatory reporter such as law enforcement, a medical professional, or an educator. Also, it may come from any concerned person. The report may come in by letter, ‘walk-in’, or as a telephone call to the ‘Hot Line’ (707-463-7992). The call or report itself is called a Referral.
The Hot Line is staffed by an operator 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is a ‘Screener’, either on duty or on call. The Screener is a Social Worker III or higher. In addition, there is a Social Worker Supervisor either on duty or on call to address incoming referrals.
The Hot Line operator or desk person receiving the Referral either fills in a form (Hot Line Tool) or passes the call to the on-duty Screener. The Screener evaluates the information and decides what action should be taken based on the immediate safety and potential risk to the child. The choices for action are:
- an Immediate Investigation (within 24 hours),
- a Ten-Day Response (investigate within ten days), or
- Evaluate Out (dismiss as no action is required)
The Screener passes the form to the on-duty Supervisor who either verifies the Screener’s decision or overrides it. This should happen within a few minutes of the call. Then the Supervisor assigns the Referral to a social worker to contact and interview the child and the child’s caregivers. If the Referral has been designated for immediate investigation, and has not been initiated by a law enforcement call, the social worker will probably ask for law enforcement back-up for the interview(s).
If, during the investigation, the social worker determines that the child has been harmed, or is at high risk of harm, the social worker may call for immediate removal of the child from the environment. The child will then be taken to an emergency shelter. A Referral call from law enforcement always requires an immediate investigation and will almost certainly result in moving the child to a safe place.
The middle alternative is the social worker may decide that, while there is no immediate risk of harm to the child, the environment may not be conducive to the long-term wellbeing of the child. The social worker will monitor the situation until she/he determines that the Referral should be either Evaluate Out or that Family Maintenance is required. In the latter situation, the Referral becomes a Case and a team is assembled to evaluate the family and prepare a Safety Oriented Practices plan of action.
At the opposite end, the social worker may determine that there is no cause for agency intervention and the referral will be Evaluate Out.
The goal is the maintenance of the child in the family in a safe environment. All of the actions mentioned in this section can be initiated by FCS but may also be ordered by the court. The court always becomes involved when a child is removed from his/her home. Court involvement is initiated with the filing of a Petition for Removal within 24 hours of the removal.
Unless the decision is Evaluate Out, the child moves into Continuation care, which may include Family Maintenance. It may also include Family Reunification efforts, adoption, or foster care.
Emergency response performance is measured by three criteria:
- percentage of on-time Immediate (24 hour) Responses
- percentage of on-time Ten-Day Responses
- percentage of on-time Thirty-Day Closures
The more important of these criteria are the immediate responses and the on-time Ten Day Responses. The Thirty Day Closures are a measure of completion of action goals. A Statewide program tracks county-by-county performance.4 Input data is extracted from the Child Welfare Services California Management System (Management System) database. The data is entered by the social worker staff of the individual counties as each case moves forward. Mendocino County has one of the worst performance records in the state for the first two criteria.
Why is this important? The longer a child is in an abusive/neglectful situation, the higher the probability the child will come to harm. Because of privacy issues this report does not include specific case information on any child.
FCS has a specific policy requiring that data for each case contact be entered within two weeks.5 Management does not follow this specific policy due to staff shortages. The actual data entry by FCS into the Management System may be delayed an additional one week to one month beyond the receipt of data because of staff shortages.
FCS performed a test to see the impacts of late data entry on these statistics. In October 2014, the statistics for FCS from Management System data were: Immediate Responses 100% on time and Ten Day Responses 86% on time. In November 2014, FCS instituted intermittent overtime sessions to bring reporting up to date. Upper management approved the sessions and overtime pay. In November 2014 the statistics were: Immediate Responses 93% on time and Ten Day Responses 83% on time. In December 2014 the statistics were: Immediate Responses 71% on time and for Ten Day Responses 75% on time. For the fourth quarter 2014 the agency was 88% on time for Immediate Referrals, and 80% on time for Ten Day referrals.
State law requires case workers to file up to twelve different types of reports with the courts.6 Many reports have mandated time limits for submittal, and some require extensive background investigations. Each report is specific to an individual case and requires writing on specific issues of that case. In addition, some reports must be filed multiple times.
A late court report may lead to a hearing continuation. The erratic performance in filing timely court reports for the period of September 2013 through January 2015 is shown in Figure 3, which management and staff attribute in part to lack of experienced personnel and staff shortages.
Case workers are required to make periodic visits to the children under their care. Mendocino County FCS averages between 85% and 90% of visits on time. The State average is between 80% and 85% of required visits on time. In this instance, Mendocino County FCS is performing above the State average.
The staff of FCS is recognized for their work ethic and dedication to achieving the goals of FCS. This was stated by many individuals interviewed for this investigation.
To understand staffing issues in FCS it is helpful to realize there are primarily four classifications of employees:
- Clerical staff
- Social Worker Assistants I, II, and III – paraprofessional level staff of FCS
- Social Workers I, II, III, IV, and V who comprise the professional staff of FCS
- Supervisors I and II who directly supervise the Social Workers, Social Worker Assistants and Clerical staff
- Management who are responsible for managing the Supervisors.
A major problem for FCS is understaffing. More than one-third of the allocated social worker positions are unfilled. Many that are filled are filled by employing and using workers without the educational or experience requirements. Interviewees, management and staff, all acknowledged this problem. This issue was directly acknowledged by management with a change in policy concerning ‘Evaluation Out Referrals’ in February 2011:
“Due to staffing issues and budgetary constraints, the following issues have been identified as criteria for non-investigation of referrals effective February 11, 2011.”
Lack of staff has translated into work overload and a significant number of late or unscreened referrals, which may not be processed within the guidelines FCS uses. Lack of educated, experienced staff can translate into more time to complete a task and increases work for supervisors. For example, the time expended for preparation of court reports and accompanying new hires on investigations, whether immediate or ten day response, can increase.
The workload is growing. The average annual number of referrals (allegations of child abuse) to Family and Children’s Services has increased by over 12% in the last six years. Currently, Case Worker active cases are between 30 and 40 mixed Emergency Response Referrals and Continuation Cases. Best Practices recommends case loads for FCS social workers between 17 and 20 mixed cases.
The State has established educational requirements for FCS professional staff and supervisors9:
- a minimum of 50% of the professional social worker staff shall have a Master of Social Work (MSW), all are required to have a BA in the social sciences
- all professional social worker supervisors are required to have an MSW Although the State does provide for training and experience to be certified as educational equivalency, there are no County FCS employees at any level with such certification. As of mid-February 2015, the requirements are not being met:
- there were 24 filled professional social worker (non-supervisor) positions in FCS
- there were not 24 holders of a BA
- less than 50% of the professional staff have MSWs
- there are nine professional social worker supervisor positions in FCS
- there are not nine social worker supervisors holding MSWs
Further, eleven professional positions were vacant; Social Worker I (trainee level) applicants were being interviewed. FCS staffing did not meet the required ratio of at least 50% MSWs for non-supervisory staff in 2013 or 2014.
The State does allow a county to request a deferral from these staffing requirements each year. This request must be accompanied by a plan for a county to come into compliance, and document the results of the previous year’s efforts. Such a request was made in April 2007, but there was no plan on file with the State. The next request for a deferral was made by letter on January 6, 2015.10
Many of the County’s social workers assigned to Emergency Response hold only an Associate of Arts degree. The legal requirement for Emergency Response workers is a Bachelor’s Degree. Additionally, the requirement for Emergency Response workers to investigate, by themselves, is at least a year of experience. Yet many of these Emergency Response workers are new hires, without that important field experience. This requires much closer monitoring by senior staff, thus placing an added burden on supervisors.
There was an exodus of experienced staff in the period 2011-2014 (Figure 4). The base salaries were cut in 2011 by 10%. This cut was followed by the reorganization of FCS in 2013. This reorganization caused controversy among the staff and supervisors and also significantly decreased morale. Testimony termed the level of morale as “almost malignant.”
The staff losses over the period 2011-2014 represent a loss of about 300 years of experience with the County. This represents a loss both of institutional and individual case knowledge.
Social Services and Family and Children’s Services were reorganized in early 2013. Management calls this reorganization a reshuffling, but no matter what it is termed, the effects are still the same. The change combined the investigative duties with the court reporting duties of the employees. Interviewees stated expansion of duties with the shortage of staff has negatively impacted the morale, particularly the morale of experienced employees. Many employees expressed high concern about the changes and a number of experienced employees left.
Individuals affected were not given prior notice or allowed prior input to management decisions affecting assignment of personnel.
There is no apparent mechanism or effort to explain to staff what staffing changes are planned, or why. Interviewees expressed concern over the negative impact on morale of staff changes occurring “suddenly” and without consultation. Staff felt excluded from the decision-making process.
Prior to April 2011, a leadership team composed of line supervisors and program managers gave advice to Management. At that time, the leadership team was directly involved in making personnel and staffing decisions.
Former staff believes that Management was making poor decisions to the detriment of the Agency. They believe that the decision to place an emphasis on hiring MSW level social workers decreases the ability to adequately staff Family and Children’s Services with social workers at lower levels. However, this emphasis by Management is an attempt to bring the County into compliance with State standards.
In response to the loss of experience, Management has increased Core training and advanced educational opportunities for staff moving into higher positions. Many interviewees praised Management for providing additional training opportunities.
In interviews, various levels of Management gave three primary reasons for staffing shortages:
- salary levels
- two separate personnel systems: County Human Resources and State Merit System
- Mendocino County is “not a desirable place to live.”
The interviewees did not mention whether there was an outreach effort to recruit Social Workers. This was compounded by the failure to post ads for Social Workers. The County website showed no mention of openings for Social Workers under “Employment Opportunities” when the Grand Jury reviewed for postings. Also, no link or reference to the State Merit System services website was found.
In fact, there were no postings or advertising for Social Workers for the three months prior to January 1, 2015. As of January 11, 2015, there were postings and ads to fill positions in FCS. As of January 12, 2015, there were also postings on the State Merit System Services website for positions in FCS. These positions were to be open for two weeks.
This changed. As of February 15, 2015, the Social Worker positions listed for Mendocino County were to remain open until filled. Whether this recruiting has been successful is not clear.
Upper Management expressed concern that staffing issues in Mendocino County may be related in part to the general living conditions, living environment, and compensation issues, to wit:
- salary differential and benefits
- the lack of a 4-year university
- inaccessibility to a major airport
- a low housing inventory
- high home prices
- poor shopping opportunities
Many management, staff, complainants, and past employees believed that low salary levels contributed to the inability of the County to hire and retain Social Workers. Specifically mentioned was a perceived compensation differential between Mendocino and surrounding counties.
A survey by the Grand Jury found that entry level salaries for Social Workers in Mendocino County were higher than the adjacent counties of Humboldt and Lake. But starting salaries for these counties and Mendocino County were more than 20% lower than in Marin, Napa and Sonoma. When the pay differentials are considered for the level of SW II through SW IV, this pay differential is more pronounced.
Multiple interviewees also cited benefits as being lower in Mendocino County than in the neighboring counties. The Grand Jury found this to be a complex issue. Mendocino County is the only county of the neighboring counties that has a county-managed system, the rest contract with CalPERS for retirement fund management. Under the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013, the counties can only pay up to 50% of any new employee’s retirement benefit. The counties can not subsidize the new employee’s contribution. This is the same handling of pension benefits being used by Mendocino County. The perception of a difference in the benefits offered to new employees is not supported by the evidence.
All interviewees, especially Management, expressed concern that many new employees would receive their training, paid for by the County, and then depart (called ‘train-and-trot’ by several of the interviewees). Upon review, the Grand Jury found that for the five year period since 2010, there was a 25% loss of social workers within two years of being hired.
Morale has been a continuing concern. Every interviewee, except for very top management, stated that morale was poor. However, some stated that morale is improving.
When asked why morale was so poor, every interviewee listed among the factors the perception that Management had received back their 10% pay cuts, whereas staff had not. HHS Management has not received back their 10% pay cut. Further, the 10% pay cut has been made permanent. Several interviewees stated that they considered the recent raises given upper County Management as a slap in the face.
FCS currently works a four-day workweek. In an attempt to address client access concerns, a proposal was made by users of FCS services to return to a five-day work week. During discussion of returning to a five-day work week in a Board of Supervisors meeting, there was anecdotal evidence offered that, because of the 10% pay cut, some staff have taken second jobs.
Other factors affecting morale include:
- loss of collegiality
- loss of the leadership team consultation
- abrupt personnel changes
- lack of adequate staff
- lack of adequate equipment
- lack of respect for experience and dedication
- fear of retribution
There is a Policy and Procedure in Social Services calling for “respectful communication” (No. 06-03). Former staff did not believe that Management followed this Policy and Procedure. The Grand Jury reviewed confidential documentation establishing a lack of respectful communication. Interviewees also stated that this lack is present in communications during the normal workday. The failure by Management to follow this Policy has added to morale problems.
There is documentary evidence of Management statements and/or actions that could be considered retaliatory in nature. There was a lack of response from higher Management when the issues of retaliation were brought to their attention. Staff continues to fear retaliation if they are forthcoming with issues of concern. This fear was evident in the difficulty the Grand Jury had in getting employees to appear as witnesses. Fear is always a morale problem.
F1. A major problem with FCS is understaffing.
F2. FCS ranks at the bottom for two of three State measures of job performance for FCS agencies.
F3. One of the two measures where FCS meets or exceeds State averages is Case Worker periodic visits for children under their care. Unfortunately, this does not address the understaffing concerns of the areas where FCS does not even meet State averages.
F4. A failure to meet required investigation deadlines is a symptom of understaffing. A failure to timely investigate referrals poses an increased risk to children.
F5. The statistical performance of County FCS, when compared to that of the other counties in the State, is an embarrassment to our community and should be an embarrassment to our County government.
F6. Short term (monthly) performance statistics are skewed by untimely data entry; long term statistics will not be skewed. Whether poor performance is due to late investigations or late entry of data, the underlying cause is the same, understaffing.
F7. A significant number of FCS professional and supervisory staff do not meet State educational standards for their positions and are considered under-qualified by State standards.
F8. The failure of FCS in Mendocino County to conduct timely investigations is directly linked to the shortage of qualified staff.
F9. The County’s use of inexperienced and under-qualified staff to conduct Emergency Response investigations places an additional burden on supervisors and increases the probability of children or staff coming to harm.
F10. FCS has an erratic record in preparing timely court reports.
F11. Late court reports often result in hearing continuations, which lead to lost time for the Court, the child’s representatives, the parents and their representatives, and the case workers. Late court reports represent an added expense to the County and cause unnecessary friction with the Courts, the legal community, and the families involved.
F12. Late court reports are another symptom of understaffing and under-qualified staff. If done correctly and thoughtfully (as they should be for the sake of the child), the required reports are time-consuming to prepare and demand greater time involvement by supervisors.
F13. FCS has almost one third less staff than the August 2014 Table of Organization shows.
F14. This Table of Organization itself does not show any staff increases since 2008 to meet the increased work load experienced over the last six years.
F15. Senior Management has known of the lack of staff for years. Failure to actively recruit exacerbates this problem. Recruiting is haphazard at best. Failure to address this problem has led to the current state of affairs.
F16. Current FCS professional staff are carrying nearly double the recommended Best Practices case loads for quality service to children.
F17. The problems associated with understaffing are worsened by the loss of experienced and qualified staff.
F18. Management has responded to the loss of job experience by increasing Core training and the availability of training opportunities toward advanced degrees for staff.
F19. FCS is not in compliance with State-required educational standards for social workers handling child abuse/neglect cases.
F20. The County has been aware of its lack of compliance for years.
F21. As of December 31, 2014, HHS had failed to perform even the minimal reporting requirements of the State since 2007.
F22. HHS did file a request for deferral and a plan of action meeting the letter of the law in January 2015.
F23. Because the January 2015 plan of action does not include any requirements of action from the CEO or the Board of Supervisors, the Grand Jury finds the plan does not address the problems.
F24. HHS is attempting to upgrade the educational levels of current FCS staff.
F25. Mendocino County pays more than Humboldt and Lake Counties for starting social workers.
F26. The private sector pays significantly higher for social workers. It is likely that the difference between public sector salaries and private sector salaries impacts the ability of the County to hire sufficient numbers of Social Workers.
F27. The more populous counties of Napa and Sonoma pay significantly higher salaries than do Humboldt, Lake, and Mendocino. It is probable that this difference leads to the loss of professional social workers to those counties.
F28. The problem of ‘train-and-trot’ is real. Within two years of hiring or promotion, one out of four employees has left the job. A loss of 25% of employees, after less than two years of service and training, would not be sustainable by a private agency. This is an unacceptable strain on the HHS budget.
F29. The higher paying counties are a major magnet for ‘train-and-trot.’ Also, the atmosphere in which the employees work has contributed to the ‘train and trot’ phenomenon.
F30. Benefit packages vary widely from county to county, and are very complex. The Grand Jury was not able to determine if differences in benefit packages were significant from county to county for counties of equivalent size.
F31. The 2013 ‘reshuffle’ of job assignments and responsibilities and the renaming of functional units was in fact a reorganization of FCS.
F32. Along with the 2013 reorganization of FCS, Management moved to a top down management (command-and-control) style. A lack of communication with subordinates about personnel and staffing decisions is a hallmark of command-andcontrol management.
F33. Command-and-control decreases collegiality and is not a good management model for Social Agencies. It leads to a lack of transparency of management actions up and down the chain.
F34. Combining functions by requiring individual social workers to cover both Emergency Response and Court functions is an attempt by Management to deal with staff shortages and inexperienced staff. This has hampered the workers’ ability to perform the tasks necessary for the safety and well-being of the children.
F35. While there is a lack of recruiting activities, the increased emphasis on the educational qualifications in consideration of potential new hires by requiring MSWs was a decision based on the need to meet State mandated requirements.
F36. Management took retaliatory action against workers who disagreed with them.
F37. Staff is reluctant to speak out on issues for fear of retaliation.
F38. Lack of respectful communication was cited by more than one interviewee, and the Grand Jury was presented documented evidence.
F39. FCS underwent a time of turmoil which resulted in negative impacts on staff morale and loss of senior staff.
F40. Though too few in numbers, the current staff is dedicated, hard-working, and caring in their efforts to meet the needs of the children.
The Grand Jury recommends that:
R1. Management bring to the attention of the Board of Supervisors the ranking of the County with respect to all measures of FCS performance as compared to the rest of the State. (F2, F3, F5, F6)
R2. Management bring to the attention of the Board of Supervisors the consequences of late investigations. (F4)
R3. Management bring to the Board of Supervisors recommendations for correcting the problems listed in the findings. (F1, F2, F4. F6 through F17, F19, F24, F28, F32 through F 34, F36 through F39)
R4. FCS consult with stake holders to identify and prioritize the most important reports for completion on time. (F10, F11, F12)
R5. Management report to the Board of Supervisors the consequences and County costs of late Court reports. (F10, F11, F12)
R6. Management continue and strengthen efforts to provide training opportunities for staff. (F18)
R7. HHS identify and assign staff to monitor and maintain compliance with the requirements of the State regarding the required education levels of staff (SWMPP §31-070.1) and regularly report the results to Management. (F19)
R8. HHS identify and assign staff to monitor and maintain compliance with the reporting requirements of the State (SWMPP §31-070.2) with a regular reporting schedule to Management. (F19, F20, F21, F22, F23)
R9. HHS report to the Board of Supervisors that the County has not been, and currently is not in compliance with the staffing requirements of SWMPP §31-070.1. (F19, F20)
R10. HHS report to the Board of Supervisors on a fixed schedule (at least twice a year) the compliance status of the County with respect to SWMPP §31-070.1 (staff education ratios). (F19, F20)
R11. HHS report to the Board of Supervisors on a quarterly basis what is needed in terms of budget and staff to meet the State requirements (SWMPP §31-070.1). (F19)
R12. HHS report annually to the Board of Supervisors the FCS standing in the State with respect to Emergency Response measures. (F2, F8)
R13. The Board of Supervisors supply HHS with the resources necessary to provide adequate services to the children of Mendocino County. (F1 through F35)
R14. HHS institute an active, continuous, and well publicized effort to recruit qualified staff. (F1, F3, F4, F6 through F9, F12 through F16, F40)
R15. Human Resources contact social workers who rejected employment offers with the County FCS. HR should request specifics as to why the Mendocino County offer was rejected. (F26, F27, F30)
R16. Human Resources perform exit interviews to establish the extent of ‘train-and-trot.’ (F28, F29)
R17. HHS continue efforts to improve morale and reinstitute the collegial atmosphere to address the issue of ‘train and trot.’ (F29, F32, F33, F40) R18. Supervisors and managers review on an annual basis Social Services Policy No. 06- 03, and how it is being implemented within their respective sections. (F38, F40)