Nothing Happened

Nothing Happened 010511

Big Nothing

Yesterday at the Sierra County Board Meeting nothing happened about allegations, made in a claim against the county, that the Director of Health and Human Services and the lead social worker supervisor had between them damaged a long time worker’s health, perjured the department in court, and exceeded their authority to interfere in a local family.

Damaging employees is generally not a cause for alarm from the county’s point of view; such matters are usually resolved by money.  Misleading the court and those associated with the court is somewhat more serious.  Exceeding the authority to interfere, in my name and yours, in a family, is very serious.

If only the first instance were the case, the supervisors could simply refer the problem to Van Maddox, who wears some of the hats of risk manager and county manager.  In the second instance, the supervisors could suppose the court might take care of its own issues.  The third is a different matter entirely.

If a cop pulls a gal over and makes a grab at her instead of writing a ticket, simply the accusation would be enough to send the cop out on administrative leave while an investigation is completed.  If the cop was the county sheriff, the situation is more dicey, because we elect the sheriff; the Board, as the sitting representation of the people, might encourage or require the sheriff to step down until an investigation is completed.  

This important step of removing the persons involved for violating an important public trust and endangering citizens in the process is well understood in the situation above.

It’s less clear the supervisors understand their obligation to do the same now.  

It isn’t a minor thing to falsify court documents and bring misery to a family.  It’s a shocking abuse of a power which is already practiced on the flimsiest of legal fictions, that the government intercedes on behalf of the child.  Our personal freedoms mean nothing at all if we aren’t secure in our families.  On the strength of the allegations Dr. Carol Roberts should have James Marks take administrative leave and she should resign herself until a full investigation is complete.

To be clear: the claim itself does not require this, it is the allegations of abuse of power it contains.

To do nothing puts the County at greater risk; indeed, families with similar experiences, and even families coming into the system have a growing rend in the fabric of the legitimacy of the department to grab to haul the Board to court.  More importantly, the bond by which we allow the department to act on our behalf has been damaged.  We give this power to those we trust to use it fairly and legally.  

If the allegations in the claim are true, and if the correlating accusations from some community members and the Mountain Messenger Newspaper are also true, then Dr. Roberts is conducting her department in an unprofessional and perhaps unlawful manner.  Until those allegations can be substantiated or unfounded they remain alarming.

Abuse of public power is the worst of all faults.  When a cop pulls someone over and, in the dark of a deserted road, executes his own sentences without the benefit of court and peer, he has abused the power we’ve given him.  When a politician turns over the future of the county to the benefit of only a well heeled few, he’s abused the power we gave him to manage our resources.  When county staff interfere in a family for any reason and with any result beyond what they have been authorized by law, they have abused the power we give them over children and families.  Of the sinews of trust that hold our society together, none are more important than those that allow the government to invade our homes.

Unlike the Sheriff, the director of Health and Human Services is a hired position.  The Board takes a more direct responsibility in this instance.  

But the Board was unable to get the item to the closed session agenda, even though two news media covered the claim.  Instead, the Board said nothing.  

Neither could Supervisors speak to it.  When asked about the claim the Supes seemed not to hear.  Clams?  We love clams.  

If the Board is waiting for Mr. Curtis to take the lead as he so often and so ably does, they shouldn’t.  His name appears in the claim, and his relationship to the situation is not neutral.  In any case, it isn’t his job, it’s theirs.

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