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You're Supposed To Be A NEWSpaper not a Secretpaper
Kate Coe wonders where the names of the guilty are. It's a story by Jack Leonard in the LA Times about super-vile child welfare workers who "spent thousands of dollars in gift cards and entertainment tickets earmarked for foster children to buy themselves meals and attend musical events, according to an audit released Tuesday." Here's a bit more from Leonard's piece:

Among the most serious problems cited by auditors, county workers bought 160 tickets in July to see the hit musical "Wicked." County officials said the purchase was part of a gala event for foster children and their mentors, yet only 53 children and roughly the same number of mentors were given tickets.

The remaining seats went to employees of the Department of Children and Family Services and their relatives and guests, along with unidentified potential mentors and a number of not-for-profit organization employees, auditors wrote. The event cost $14,000.

The audit of the department also faulted employees for using gift cards -- bought with county money to supply food and clothing to foster children -- to pay for staff luncheons.

"It is appalling that children who have nothing are having even this very limited amount stolen from them," said Carole Shauffer, executive director of the Youth Law Center in San Francisco. "This is a stunning lack of accountability."

Auditors said one worker attempted to hide extra gift cards the department received by asking the business that supplied the cards for false invoices. Another told auditors he or she no longer had any gift cards but actually had $23,000 worth of gift cards or certificates, the audit said.

In an excursion to the House of Blues in June, employees spent $5,700 on tickets for the Gospel Sunday Brunch performance. Of the 150 tickets purchased, 43 were given to children. The department said about the same number went to mentors.

The rest went to department employees and a department contractor. One department employee received seven tickets, the audit said. (Mentors are adult volunteers who offer guidance and support to foster children.)

So...who are all these scumwads, Kate Coe asks?

Does the LA Times have some rule about protecting sleazy municipal employees?

...They're employed by Los Angeles County and paid with tax monies, so why can't readers know exactly who they are?

Name names! Print photos! And fire every one of them. And then prosecute them and put them in stocks in the center of downtown and supply the homeless with eggs, and pay them $10 for every full frontal them out of the sleazoids own pockets, that is.

I wrote to the reporter to ask why there weren't any names in the story. Here's a copy of our exchange:

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thu Nov 08 19:30:10 2007
Subject: the foster care story - from columnist/blogger Amy Alkon

Dear Jack,
Just wondering, why didn't you name any of the guilty parties? Thanks...-Amy Alkon


In a message dated 11/8/07 8:14:32 PM, writes:

Hi Amy,

I don't know their names so wasn't able to report them. The audit doesn't include them and the county keeps personnel records like this confidential. Still trying to get them though.

Best wishes,



Sent: Thu Nov 08 20:19:28 2007
Subject: Re: the foster care story - from columnist/blogger Amy Alkon

Thanks. Surely, workers would talk about their coworkers. Did you try that? And when there's a crime committed -- at least some of this seems very clearly to be theft -- don't the confidentiality rules change? I mean, these are people we pay with our tax dollars? Why aren't they accountable to us? -Amy


In a message dated 11/8/07 9:02:42 PM, writes:

Yes, of course, but it's a huge department. Like I said, I'm still trying.

The rules do not change if there's a belief that the behavior is criminal. However, if an arrest is made or criminal charges filed, then the names would obviously be public.

Jack Leonard


Thanks. Good luck! -Amy


In a message dated 11/8/07 9:24:09 PM, writes:

Thanks a lot! You too.

Well, I can understand that it's not officially public information yet, but to me, being a great reporter -- or even an adequate one -- requires being something of a the information out of sources you have to find by, say, going to the Subway near the offices, etc., and meeting people who work at the agency who are disgusted by what's going on, and getting somebody to talk. Or, better yet, getting a photo from one of those events. Surely, people from the agency mailed them around afterward. Now, maybe this reporter is actively trying to ferret out stuff like that. Or, find out who the bigwigs are at the agency, and call up those who are listed, and ask them if they went to The Lion King. And so on, and so on. Yes, he did say he's "still trying."

Hmmm...I'm suddenly reminded of the LAT reporter who got his checks stolen, and then had some woman using them all over So Cal. Now, if that had been me, I would've zipped down to these stores and looked for video surveillance footage. You? And if you're not curious enough or passionate enough to do that or think of doing that...why are you a reporter?

That kind of psycho-curiosity/madness to see justice done is what I used to track down and get back my stolen pink Rambler -- the subject of the first and last story I was ever allowed to write for the features sections of the LA Times. When I pushed to see if I could be allowed to write for the paper again, former editor-in-chief John Carroll actually explained to me that editors were put off by me because they found me "too persistent." Seriously!


UPDATE: Here's a link to another story on this by Leonard that was in the paper when I woke up on November 9.

Posted by aalkon at November 9, 2007 8:19 AM


Here's another question too -- why are tax dollars being spent for anyone to take in a Broadway musical? We don't want to pay health care but entertainment's okay? I'm surprised at you, Amy, for not picking up on that.

Posted by: Say What at November 9, 2007 5:28 AM

For the events, it seems less like a "why are as many employees as children or mentors attending" question and more like a "why is the county paying $87.50 a head for anyone to attend" question.

If they want to have a "mixer" where kids and mentors meet the employees, they could do it in far better and cheaper settings.

Posted by: jenl1625 at November 9, 2007 5:38 AM

Great question, Say What. And jenl, good point. Absolutely right, in the case of the theater tickets. I believe the gift cards, however, were just a means of giving the children funds for food and clothing without giving them cash.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 9, 2007 5:53 AM

Hello! (Don't you just love that expression?)Hello!
Anytime there is a basket of goodies left on the counter, people are going to help themselves. They might be sneaky about it, they might rationalize that it's no big deal and they might spread the goodies around to create lots of accomplices. There are a handful of people on the planet who don't do this and the rest of us laugh at them behind their backs. Until we don't get invited along, then we scream for vengeance. Anyone not stealing a little is stealing a lot.

Put a profit motive in place and suddenly even half-cents are accounted for.

This reporter did just what his editor sent him to do: go find a poor bastard/heartless scumbag situation that will get people's juices flowing and here we are. Rest assured, all the wrong people will be fired and the rats who run the thing will continue to get fat on our dime.

Amy, you are not too persistent to be a reporter, the word he was afraid to use was agressive. But even that's like saying you are too good-looking to be a fish-gutter, no love lost. If you were a reporter, each source would be good for exactly one story. You'd shut your "beat" down in a matter of months because potential sources would be afraid to be seen talking to you. Aim higher kid.

Posted by: martin at November 9, 2007 7:47 AM

Thanks, Martin...and actually, I am a reporter in what I do. I do tremendous research and digging, and write only one column a week because I don't want to present anything but the best, data-based advice I can possibly give. Part of my work goes on in my own head -- stripping away status quo ideas and fighting out what the solutions are. I just think it's wrong to have a job as a reporter or opinionator and be lazy about it.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 9, 2007 8:07 AM

The musical events don't bother me. They were purchased from a budget specifically for musical events. Roughly two-thirds of the tickets went to kids and their chaperones/mentors. I have no problem turning the rest into a small perk to incentivize those volunteers and/or underpaid employees who work in what is likely one of the most thankless professions around.

Using gift cards to fund banquets bothers me a lot more - as described, its out and out stealing.

Posted by: snakeman99 at November 9, 2007 8:17 AM

I don't like this story either. Most of the missing cards I believe were $100.00 Target cards. The kids are supposed to be able to buy clothes or personals what ever. Better than giving cash. I don't think a little culture for these kids is a terrible thing either. The ones that stole should be fired. The one that said they were all gone (she had not done her Christmas shopping yet)Really should be fired. It is a thankless job, does not mean "Thank yourself"!

Posted by: susan at November 9, 2007 11:27 AM

Here's a woman with the kind of commitment to the actual job that you're supposed to see (although she works in child custody):

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 9, 2007 12:14 PM

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