By Mark Gutglueck
Posted on July 16, 2016
A backlog of evidence and witnesses being accumulated by investigators with the California Attorney General’s Office looking into criminal acts and negligence in San Berardino County’s Children and Family Services Department implicates San Bernardino District Attorney Mike Ramos and one of his employees, deputy district attorney Michael Dauber in an effort to obstruct justice, information provided by some of those witnesses shows.
Among the witnesses having already provided or poised to provide information that Ramos and Dauber moved to terminate the 2015-16 San Bernardino County Grand Jury’s inquiry into abuse of children by their guardians and foster parents, including cases in which children died while under the purview of Bernardino County Children and Family Services Department, is the former San Bernardino County Superior Court presiding judge who has since been elevated to the State Appellate Court, as well as Children and Family Services Department case workers who sought to bring the incidents of abuse to light.
Going back as early as 2013, there were rumblings within the San Bernardino County Children and Family Services Department about both abusive biological parents as well as abusive foster parents entrusted with the care of children who were in the process of being placed for adoption. In several cases, those Children and Family Services Department employees’ concerns were not adequately addressed. Complicating the issue were the confidentiality restrictions imposed on the case files, making it difficult for those with concerns to bring the issues out into the open or to the attention of others outside the department for some means of resolution.
The San Bernardino County Grand Jury’s annual session runs in accordance with the governmental fiscal year, from July 1 to June 30. Late in the 2014-15 term, information was provided to the grand jury relating to the circumstance pertaining to the abuse of children under the Children and Family Services Department’s supervision. Because those reports arrived so late in the grand jury’s term, no official inquiry into the matter was opened, and the 2014-15 Grand Jury, which had as its adviser deputy district attorney Charles Umeda, made no reference to those issues in the final grand jury report, which was released on June 30/July1, 2015. At the end of July 2015, Umeda was appointed to serve as a Superior Court judge by Governor Jerry Brown. To replace Umeda, district attorney Mike Ramos selected deputy district attorney Michael Dauber to serve as grand jury adviser.
A member of the 2014-15 Grand Jury was James Wiebeld, who had retired as a sheriff’s deputy after a 30-year career in law enforcement. Wiebeld was a holdover to the 2015-16 Grand Jury, which after its ranks filled out, elected him sergeant-at-arms. Wiebeld sought to have the grand jury maintain its focus on several issues that had been taken up by the 2014-15 grand jury, which had in his view not been sufficiently resolved or reported in the 2014-15 Grand Jury’s report. Among those issues was that pertaining to the abuse of children under the purview of San Bernardino County Children and Family Services.
What Wiebeld and other grand jurors encountered, the Sentinel has been told, at first consisted of Dauber’s subtle effort to steer the grand jury away from the subject. When grand jurors persisted, Dauber used progressively firmer and eventually much harsher methods to discourage the investigation, ultimately resulting in the blunting of the investigation’s focus and its shift away from the nonfeasance, misfeasance and malfeasance within the Children and Family Services Department that allowed the criminal abuse and even deaths of some of the children at the hands of their parents and guardians to take place.
The failure of Children and Family Services to step in and stem the abuse was of moment with higher ranking elements in the county because attorneys had already been in contact with the families of some of the abused children and had initiated cases on behalf of those children and their families or were in the process of doing so.
To Ramos, who has striven to remain on favorable terms with both the county’s political establishment and its senior administrators, and to Dauber, who is answerable to Ramos, Wiebeld’s established status as a grand jury leader able to influence at least a handful of his colleagues on the panel heightened concern that they might be faced with a rogue grand jury that would take the focus on abused and dead children in a direction that could prove monetarily costly for the county.
That discomfort grew into a state of alarm, when on August 27, 2015, Fox 11 News in Los Angeles reported that “children who were under the supervision of the San Bernardino County Department of Children and Family Services … were being abused, tortured, and killed.” According to that report, in certain cases, children had been entrusted to foster parents who had previously been caught abusing children living in their homes. In one of those cases, according to Fox 11, a child had died at the hand of an abusive foster parent after the San Bernardino County Department of Children and Family Services was made aware of the sadistic nature of that foster parent. The Fox 11 News report made reference to an ongoing grand jury investigation.
The following day, Friday August 28, a special meeting was convened at the county administrative building which was attended by county executive officer Greg Devereaux, district attorney Mike Ramos, the director of Children and Family Services, Marlene Hagen, and a handful of other high level county officials. The primary topic discussed, the Sentinel was told by a reliable source, was the formulation of a cover story and talking points calculated to defuse the issue of negligence in the San Bernardino County Children and Family Services Department which led to the deaths of children in the foster parent system it oversaw.
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