LOS ANGELES, Calif.–The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 today to take direct control of the child welfare and probation departments, which had been run on a temporary basis by county CEO William Fujioka.
Although it seemed a foregone conclusion after last week’s 3-2 vote to approve the ordinance underlying the shift, Supervisor Don Knabe made another effort to postpone the decision today.
He argued that the CEO was given control of the departments in 2007 so they could be run more efficiently.
“It was our belief that the previous structure of governing, which required every decision large and small to be vetted through the five members of the board, impeded the speedy resolution of issues and instead fostered micromanaging and interference in day to day operations,” Knabe said.
If that governance structure no longer works, he said, the board should reconsider how all departments should be managed and not single out just two groups.
He asked that the vote on the ordinance be postponed for 45 days and garnered enthusiastic support from Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who said his colleagues were moving precipitously and without any plan to manage the two departments.
Knabe called the move “impulsive” and said it seemed “more punitive than productive.”
But Supervisors Michael Antonovich, Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky voted down the request for postponement and in favor of the ordinance, offering almost no counterargument.
Antonovich did say that the CEO was already set to return with recommendations on the structure of other departments, including opportunities for consolidation, and that other reforms could be considered at that time. But Knabe, clearly frustrated, shook his head, saying “then why move it
Though they did not mention it today, Molina and Yaroslavsky have expressed frustration with their inability to get unfiltered information from the Department of Children and Family Services and the Probation Department and a view that Fujioka sometimes sought to protect the departments at the expense of the board. Antonovich was never in favor of the CEO’s expanded role, voting against the original 2007 ordinance.
Ralph Miller, president of the Deputy Probation Officers Union Local 685, appeared before the board prior to the vote to speak out against the board’s direct control, but anticipating the final result.
He said the CEO’s office offered an “immediate response” to questions raised by the union. “We might not like the response, but we get one,” he said, claiming that the supervisors tended not to return calls when at odds with the union. “I will leave my cell phone (number) with you,” Miller said.
“I want your cell phone (number). If you adopt this today, we want to start meeting tomorrow.”
Precisely how the five supervisors will manage the departments going forward is not yet clear, but Probation Chief Donald Blevins said last week that he did not expect significant operational changes because of the change in control.
The management change comes at the same time as the CEO and Blevins have proposed laying off more than 200 probation employees and eliminating a number of other unstaffed positions, spurring a protest by dozens of union employees today.