Given the Allegations

Appropriate Given the Allegations 040611


There are currently two lawsuits filed against Sierra County which allege wrongdoing against Dr. Carol Roberts, Director of Health and Human Services.  The allegations spring from a child welfare services case in which a social worker and a parent claim improper behavior on the part of Dr. Roberts.  It is alleged that she withheld information from County Council James Curtis which might have materially effected the court outcome on the case. 

Further, she is alleged to have directed staff to maintain the parent’s family in a CWS case against the advice of the social worker.

If the allegations are true, the department is at risk for further lawsuits.  A demonstration that the director was misusing authority to keep a family in the system would put all subsequent cases at risk.  The director is not charged with, nor is she technically qualified to, case management in a child welfare services case.

The Board of Supervisors has the authority to oversee Dr. Roberts.  They are aware of the two lawsuits.  At some point, shouldn’t they use their authority to at least try to determine if Dr. Roberts may have interfered with the proper management of the case?  At the very least, should they ask why director level staff was even involved with a CWS case at all?

There has been much made of the powerlessness of the Board to oversee the CWS department.  This powerlessness is imagined to spring from the confidentiality bestowed on recipients of social services and on those minors in juvenile court. 

However, nothing I am aware of keeps the Board of Supervisors from hiring their own CWS consultant to review the case history of that and other cases and report to the Board if there is a problem.  The report could not identify the family or children beyond the identification used in the original claims, MP and JP, nor could it contain specifics on the case, nor could it be made public since it could jeopardize the County’s standing in the lawsuit.

As with many simple solutions to difficult problems, the consultant would be constrained by various legal and insurance factors, but at least it could inform the Board if they should use their authority to remove Dr. Roberts, put her on administrative leave until the claims are resolved, or to announce that they have made an informed decision to do nothing.

At this point, we see no leadership from the Board.  The lawsuit is an over-riding factor, but let’s be clear, fear from lawsuit doesn’t excuse them from doing what is right.  If they have reason to believe the department illegally kept a family in a case, Dr. Roberts needs to go and fair compensation needs to be made to the family.  One of the most important functions of the Board is to protect the integration of county government, but not at the cost of individual citizens, and not to protect county workers who have misused the law for whatever personal reason.  If this were an allegation against a cop, they would be given alternative duty or put on administrative leave.

Do something, Chairman Adams.  Gather information in closed session; hire a consultant to produce a confidential report; conduct some kind of an investigation and take some action pending the finding of facts of a lawsuit.

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