When Shirley Grindle tells a journalist there is something rotten in Denmark–and her and your Denmark is Orange County–s/he tends to listen. Since the 1970s, the good government activist and/or her group TINCUP (Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics) have tracked campaign contributions to Orange County politicians, lobbyists' activities, how the county's lucrative procurement system works–and reported back on the stench. Now Grindle wonders, as many others have before her, why the county's Child Protective Services and family court are hellbent on keeping Ruby Dillon away from her daughter Lexi.
After looking at all the evidence she can–CPS and family court records are sealed to protect children–Grindle tells the Weekly she fears it comes down to what it always comes down to when dealing with Orange County government incompetence.
Two Orange County social workers lied to a juvenile court commissioner so Deanna Fogarty-Hardwick's two daughters were taken away from her. After a 6 1/2-year legal fight that went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court in April 2011, the Seal Beach mom won a $4.9 million judgment against the county. (One of those county workers was promoted to teach other social workers how to do their jobs. Incredible.)
Well, Grindle knows all about that case and she has news for the County of Orange when it comes to Ruby Dillon's: The final court award will likely dwarf Fogarty-Hardwick's.
Dillon and her attorneys have claimed for years that when it comes to Lexi, Orange County CPS workers are aiding and abetting the commission of child abuse and child endangerment. They allege the girl was "legally kidnapped" by CPS despite no reliable evidence being presented to suggest Dillon is an unfit mother. Meanwhile, Tustin police officers have twice removed Lexi from the home of her father after the girl said to cops, teachers and therapists she had been sexually abused by him. Medical experts determined the girl had been molested, Dillon swears.
The mother's apparent "crime" in the eyes of minor counsel for the child, the father's defense attorney and presumably the family law court judge is an allegation of having coached her daughter, something other experts have said there is no evidence of having happened. What has obviously happened, according to some of these and other experts, is sexual abuse of the girl. Others say there is no evidence of that. Dillon claims the Tustin police investigation remains open (something I could not confirm this week and I tried).
Yep, it's your classic he said, she said case. But it's one raising more red flags than a Red Flags R Us store. The Voice of OC just posted on the case this week. So did the local Fox TV news station …
A year ago:
That TV report came around the time Dillon says she was offered something of a deal: Sign a document that states no abuse of her daughter happened, and she'll get to see Lexi twice a week. The mother refused ("It would be perjury"), and she has not seen her daughter since. The very notion of signing such a deal caused Grindle's ears to perk up. She says it tells her the county is getting desperate when it comes to avoiding another huge payout like they had to give Fogarty-Hardwick.
But damn if that's not the part of this sad story that just gets curiouser and curiouser. According to Dillon, while her ex-husband still had near-total custody of Lexi, he left the country and left his little girl to nannies. The mother claims the father has since acknowledged abandoning the girl and has made it known he no longer wants to pay for the nanny care.
The county's own child psychological experts have said children are better off with their birth parents (and especially their mothers) than someone else (like nannies). So with dad out of the picture, just give the girl back to her mother, who desperately wants her back, right?
Not to hear Dillon tell it. She says the wheels may be in motion, as Lexi's school year ends, to ship her off somewhere else, possibly even out of state. The family law judge recently lifted a no-travel order that prevented Lexi from leaving Southern California, according to Dillon, who fears she may never see her daughter again.
Take a big whiff, Orange County. That's Denmark.