Two months before reports surfaced that the head of L.A. county's embattled child services division was slated to be replaced, her lawyer sent a letter to county CEO William T. Fujioka warning there was a "smear campaign" in the works against Trish Ploehn and that it has created a "hostile work environment" for her.
Ploehn's leadership was called into question by some county supervisors following reports in the Los Angeles Times indicating a crisis of minors' deaths and child abuse allegations affecting the Department of Children and Family Services.
The Times states:
In August, the county's Office of Independent Review issued a report that said Ploehn's department did not fully comply with a 2007 state law requiring the release of numerous records in fatality cases. Workers responsible for the disclosure were not communicating properly with other sections of the agency, the report found, and the breakdown led to a "a virtual paralysis of the statute's intent."
Last month, Fujioka's office issued a report to supervisors that said a persistent backlog of child-abuse investigations in Los Angeles County has led to a "crisis," with four in 10 open inquiries stretched beyond the state's two-month deadline. The Times reported Friday on those findings, which were publicly released this week.
The paper also reported an increase in "abuse and neglect" deaths of children who had at one or another been under the care of DCFS.
However, those numbers were quickly disputed, with some criticizing the paper for comparing apples and oranges and arguing that the true numbers actually did not increase.
Ploehn's lawyer, Howard Z. Rosen, argued in the Sept. 8 letter obtained by the Weekly that she "has successfully managed this large and complex department."
Rosen goes on to describe an "orchestrated" campaign against his client that he says included "illegally" leaked confidential documents cited by the Times.
Added: The letter and an attachment single out county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, citing comments and opinions against the DCFS he's made during board meetings, via his blog, and to the Times.
"I guess the issue for me is the accuracy and the truth and ... the conclusions that are being reached by the Department of Children and Family Services," Yaroslavsky is quoted as telling the Board of Supervisors.
Similar comments would end up in the Times.
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That the letter bookmarks the alleged campaign against Ploehn seems to indicate a possible reason why she's reportedly being transferred to another gig rather than being told to hit the road.
The letter makes it sound like someone had it out for Ploehn from the git-go.