On Friday, David Wert, Public Information Officer for the County Administrative Office for the County of San Bernardino, sent an email to members of the board of supervisors and county department heads with talking points to use in response to the Fox11 Los Angeles report on the Department of Children and Family Services (CFS). Fox News aired a scathing report after a 3-month investigation by reporter Gina Silva.
Silva’s report contains numerous images of dead and abused children that whistleblowers say were victims of the system—a system without sufficient manpower to protect them combined with incompetent supervision and management. In some instances cases loads are more than double that of case load standard, thus not allowing for adequate supervision. In other instances social workers are simply not allowed to do what is necessary to protect children.
One whistleblower reported that social workers are being told to leave children in homes that are unsafe. Because of it, children are dying.
Despite the extremely graphic nature of the report, which aired on Fox 11 Los Angeles on Thursday night, no member of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has issued a statement or called for an investigation. They appear to be no hurry and have expressed no concern and no outrage.
“The CEO has scheduled a meeting with County Counsel and CFS leadership on Monday morning to review the status of this situation. The CEO will brief Board members following the meeting,” according to the email.
The tone of Wert’s email suggests the county is more about damage control than anything else. “Last night’s segment was sensational and graphic, with the gist being the County ‘ignored evidence of abuse and let children die.’”
“The report also confirmed indications that the station had no intention of airing a fair story: The reporter said she investigated for three months, but she did not contact the County until three days before the story aired, when she did contact the County she would not ask specific questions or cite specific cases, and she never asked for any documents to verify the accuracy of what she received from her confidential sources,” Wert continued.
Wert went on to say that CFS is verifying the authenticity of the information showed during the broadcast and will do its best to portray the cases “in an accurate light.” However, he said they are not comfortable “subjecting” county personnel to an on-camera interview with Fox11 because “we believe Fox11’s intent is to ambush and embarrass rather seek balance through facts and meaningful answers.”
Instead, the county is planning to produce its own video interview with the CFS Director Marlene Hagen and Assistant Director Jonathan Byers “presenting the County’s side of the story, as well as a more-detailed written statement and FAQs. This content will be offered to Fox11 in lieu of an on-camera interview.” The county provided a brief written statement to Fox11, which Fox11 posted to its website.
One insider told atombash.com who will remain anonymous for fear of retaliation that for San Bernardino County Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux it is about image. “He doesn’t want the media or residents to believe there is anything substantial to investigate so it is about damage control. He doesn’t want the county imaged tarnished even if it means children die.”
Wert included the following short statements to Board of Supervisor members and department heads, along with a number of other points, if they should decide to discuss the issue with constituents or the media:
- Protecting our children is the County’s highest priority.
- Tragically, child abuse and neglect occurs in every county and every state.
- The law did not allow the County to remove the children in the TV story from their homes.
- Our County works tirelessly to constantly improve our ability to protect children.
Wert also noted that as of the time he wrote the email, two citizens had contacted the Clerk of the Board wanting to communicate their concerns. He also said the CFS hotline received two emails, both of which could be considered to be threatening and that the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department had been notified.