Supervisors to oversee 2 departments directly
Christina Villacorte, Staff Writer
Created: 05/17/2011 09:34:50 PM PDT

A month after one of his deputies sparked the anger of Los Angeles County supervisors by defying a direct order, the board voted Tuesday to seize authority over two troubled departments from county CEO Bill Fujioka.

The Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to require the departments of Children and Family Services and Probation to report directly to them, instead of to Fujioka.

In a separate action, the board also decided to lay off about 200 probation employees – even though the county may need to hire back three times as many in just a few months.

Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, Gloria Molina and Michael Antonovich backed the takeover, while Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas opposed it.

Knabe, who represents Diamond Bar, filed a motion to delay the vote by 45 days until a group of board and CEO representatives could be assembled to study the proposal, but a majority of the board rejected his plan.

Knabe said the decision to proceed with takeover without “proper vetting” was a “haphazard and dangerous approach” that could harm the children under the care of both departments.

“I am not yet convinced that replacing department oversight by one boss with five bosses will make things better, and the reasons for doing so seem more punitive than productive,” he said.

Fujioka declined to comment.

The power struggle comes a month after Antonia Jimenez, a Fujioka deputy who was appointed interim director of DCFS, angered Yaroslavsky, Molina and Antonovich by defying a board order to sign a contract.

Molina represents Pomona, and Antonovich represents San Dimas, La Verne and Claremont.

Jimenez opposed a provision in the memorandum of understanding that barred her from sharing the findings of child fatality investigations with her staff.

She resigned April 19 to avoid signing it.

Jimenez said DCFS staff needed to review the documents in order to improve performance, but Yaroslavsky warned that could breach attorney-client privilege and increase the risk of the documents being leaked to the press.

Tuesday’s agenda also included the first mass layoffs in county government since the recession began.

The board voted unanimously to lay off 207 probation workers, mostly detention officers rendered unnecessary by the steep drop in the juvenile hall population over the last several years.

It is unclear, however, whether pink slips will actually be handed out.

Laying off county employees can take months because of complicated seniority rules, and the board ordered department officials and union representatives to try to preempt it – or at least mitigate it – by meeting every other week to develop an alternative plan that would produce comparable savings.

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