My license that is. The DCSS finally got my CA drivers license. Not to worry, everything has been rectified and straightend out, but man what a hassle! Below is my account of the events as they unfolded. This is what I sent to the State Hearing review board in my efforts to get some acountability from the Dept. of Child Support Services
To Whom It May Concen:
Enclosed are the necessary documents to request a state hearing for the complaints that I have regarding my treatment and chronic issues that I have had with the California Department of Child Support Services in Los Angeles County(LACSSD). What follows is a retelling of the events surrounding the suspension of my California driver’s license and my subsequent efforts to rectify this unjust and erroneous situation. I follow this with my extensive experiences dealing with the DCSS over the last 15 years. Next, I will examine the role my elected officials have had in this process and finally I will conclude with some thoughts on reform of the tragically flawed Family Law bureaucratic complex.
The specifics on this case are as follows: In an effort to retire a balance owed in Child Support, I made 3 payments of $475 in July 2015. Assuming, somewhat erroneously, that the DCSS would apply these payments correctly so that I was not license to drive was not subject to suspension. I should have known better. Admittedly, there was no payment made in August. The reader has to understand that my court established child support is $421. It would be $441 if you included the court-ordered and agreed upon $20 per month payment arrangement. This payment agreement is proven and validated by the DCSS/SDU’s own monthly billing statement which I have included. In essence, in the month of July I paid $1370. That would be $528 in excess of what I was obligated to pay for the months of July and August! This is the reason that I did not make a payment in August. This is where this mole hill is turned into a Mount Everest of a problem. On September 5, 2015 the Los Angeles County CSSD issued a letter stating that I was behind on my child support payments, and in typical fashion, threatening all sorts of consequences if this these payments are brought current in CSSD’s eyes. Ironically, as the payments history indicates, my payments were not late, but misapplied by State Disbursement Unit/SDU and CSSD. Next comes, Notice of Intent to Suspend my California driver’s license issued by the CA DMV. This is getting serious…yet again. As an aside, I am including my Child Support account statement the month of October. This establishes, the payment agreement that I am subject to and in compliance with. Next, I make contact with the general DCSS number and I am informed that I need to get in touch with my case worker. I was even given a direct phone number and e-mail address for “Ms. Harrison” who is now the person assigned this case. I called this person repeatedly called and even e-mailed her and got no response. I was finally able to make contact with her and she assured me that she would rectify the situation. I thought this was dealt with and fixed. I was away from California for approximately one week in the middle of October and I return to find the situation has not been addressed. At this point, I get in touch with my elected officials. I am able to make contact with Abel Pineda, a staff member from Assembly Member Tony Thurmond’s office. I believe that his assistance was instrumental in rectifying this unjust situation. The result being the not one, but two STATE LICENSE RELEASE forms. Now, how is this possible? My license is either valid or it’s not. I do not know how to explain this one. Finally, I am including my Driver History Report from CA DMV. It took me from 10/22/15 to 11/10/15 to reestablish my driving privileges. It wasn’t easy. You have to understand that once I was able to get this situation corrected with the DCSS I still had to deal with the Mandatory Actions Unit of the CA DMV to actually reestablish my driving privileges. To their credit, the individuals at the Mandatory Actions Unit of the CA DMV were very responsive and helpful with this situation. Unfortunately, they couldn’t do anything with my driver’s license until the DCSS contacted them to release it. This leads back to the DCSS and those fundamental questions. What are they doing? How are they doing it? And can the process be improved?
My fundamental premise is this: the Ombudsman/Complaint process actually obstructs the complainant. It does not act as a neutral body that seeks solutions to problems, but rather as an obstructionist flack whose unstated, yet tacit function is to protect the bureaucracy in question from legitimate scrutiny. Just because the law says you can get away with something, does not necessarily mean it’s a legitimate law. Admittedly, my fundamental arguments are not about the law, they are about right and wrong. While it is my intent to utilize and adhere to the administrative processes that are available to me and are required for this type of conflict resolution, based upon my experiences with the DCSS and the family courts in general, it is my conjecture and speculation that I will exhaust the administrative options available to me. Unfortunately, I fear that I will need to seek redress of my grievances and injuries through other legtimate legal means.
It is an interesting comparison and contrast between the points of contact of the state hearing and the LA County CSSD. It is amusing that the LA CSSD was brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century. This is the first formal correspondence that I have had that actually references an e-mail address for contact. I’ve always felt that to be able to communicate about the issues of my case via e-mail would be much more efficient and would facilitate clearer communications between myself and my case worker, I still haven’t been formally given my case worker’s e-mail address as point of contact. Perhaps, if we had been able to communicate via this medium, many of the issues that I currently have would not have arisen.
The correspondence from Mr. Banuelos does represent a first for the DCSS: an apology. It’s not the correct REASON for an apology, but an apology none the less. Sadly, the apology is not for the many flaws and failings of the operational mechanics of the DCSS, but for the failure of one its employees to get back in touch with me regarding my license suspension. Well, this may come as a shock to Mr. Banuelos, but this is not the first time that there has been a lack of responsiveness by the employees at the LA County CSSD. In my conversations with Mr. Banuelos I am left with the distinct impression that he believes that this is an “HR” issue that is directly related to the deficiencies of and lack of responsiveness “Ms. Harrison” as a case worker. From Mr. Banuelo’s perspective the situation is an anecdotal aberration. It is a “one-off” situation that does not accurately represent how the DCSS conducts itself.
Oh really, well, I respectfully disagree. This is the first time in the entire 15 years of my dealing with the DCSS that I have ever gotten an apology for any of their conduct. Unfortunately, this apology is representative of the deceitful duplicity this agency represents. The DCSS seems fine with throwing one of its own, presumably over-worked, employees under the bus for lack of responsiveness and “discourteous service.” What is the DCSS’ obsession with the trivializing term, “discourteous service.” This is not some store clerk being dismissively rude to me. No. This is about systemic failings of a system that is supposed to be executing on its fiduciary responsibilities to me and children that I have fathered. Repeatedly…time and time again I have had to battle with this agency over issues that should have been obvious and apparent. The zealotry in the punitive measures that I’ve been threatened with are appalling. I am including a Child Support Warning notice that I received July of 2015 as a representative example of the typical coercive correspondence that I receive from the DCSS. What this letter does not acknowledge or reference is the fact that there was a court-ordered payment agreement in place that would negate any of the punitive actions spelled out in this form letter. But since we are on the subject of apologies, here is what I feel the DCSS should be apologizing for. Let’s start with the audit of my child support account in the spring of 2013 and the unilateral finding that I somehow owed an additional $4400 in child support obligations(later, mysteriously reduced to approximately $1500). This was contradicted by the fact that over the preceding 5 years, I had either been ahead of or on time with all of my Child Support payments. In fact, the DCSS even issued checks to me for OVER payments. It is suspiciously coincidental that this audit was conducted immediately after my successful challenge to the garnishment of my wages by the DCSS as well as the removal of my obligation to pay for health insurance in accordance with family code sect. 3751 sub-section 2. How about an apology for that?
How about an apology for the liens department of the DCSS draining my bank account on 12/26/14 of all the funds that I had in it and the subsequent banking charges that I had to pay? This action also completely ignored the payment plan that was set in place earlier in the year as referenced above.
Overall, how about an apology for the countless times that I have had to fend off your attempts to suspend my driving privileges through the seizure of my California drivers license. The DCSS was only able to succeed in these efforts because of the unresponsiveness of my over-burdened, inept caseworker, “Ms. Harrison.”
Finally, how about an apology for the dread that I feel every time I am behind the wheel of my vehicle and I see a member of law enforcement. This dread emanates from the fear of nothing that I have done or failed to do. This fear is derived from the knowledge that I am subject to the bureaucratic ineptitude and callous indifference of how the DCSS conducts itself. This fear says to me, “Is this the time that I get pulled over, carted off to jail and my vehicle impounded because of some error by the DCSS?” Can you apologize for that?
Needless to say, I strictly adhere to the rules of the road.
As I stated above, I’ve successfully regained my driving privileges. Through persistence and sheer force of will, I was able to rectify an unjust situation. I am not, however, everyone. A cursory evaluation of my situation would bring even the most casual reader to understand how such a situation could be profoundly frustrating. This frustration could evolve into anger, and that anger could further devolve into rage and finally explode into violent acts. No worries. I am not that guy. The fact that I am taking my frustrations to the page instead of the street is proof of this. We all know, based on current events that there are plenty of these guys out there who cannot contain their rage.
It’s interesting. We’ve been inundated with the gory details of mass shootings in recent days. The terrorists have us in a terror. Ironically, the underreported fact of the matter is that the underpinning motivation of most mass shootings is not terrorism, but domestic violence. I would direct the reader to the work of USA Today and Mother Jones at the links below as evidence of this. Their work is quite revealing and detailed in illuminating the origins of mass violence over the last 20 years. The USA Today work specifically reference 157 instances of what they term, “family killings.” This data driven journalism doesn’t even pickup or document those smaller incidents of violence that fly under the radar.
To be fair, it is a stretch to conjecture that someone getting thrown in jail because they are caught driving on a suspended license and then getting out of jail and committing a violent act. It’s a bit of a stretch. Fortunately, there is now data that we can dig into to gain an understanding of what motivates this violence. I know my frustrations and anguish. There is a saying, “An evil soup is made of many ingredients.” Now, it is not too big a conjecture or speculation to believe that the callous indifference of agencies such as the DCSS and the Family Courts have played a causal factor in many of these tragic incidents. Fortunately, what I believe is completely irrelevant because we now have the data and the cumulative anecdotal evidence to prove my assertions. Finally, while it would take too long to fully explore how the incentive structure of the Family Court system is misaligned and contradictory to the stated purpose of the family courts, let me just simply state that the Family Law Bureaucratic complex is motivated to foment and exacerbate conflict, not alleviate and quell it. If granted a hearing, I would more fully expand and substantiate this point.
This next section is directed towards my elected officials. Throughout the time that I have been dealing with the DCSS, my elected officials have assisted me with varying degrees of efficacy. I am still appreciative of the efforts of then State Senator Tom Torlakson and Assembly member, Joe Canciamilla and their respective staffs. Their assistance has made all the difference in the world. Currently, I am very appreciative of the efforts of a staff member in Assembly member Tony Thurmond’s office by the name of Abel Pineda. I am certain that his efforts have contributed to the eventual rectification of the problems that I had with the DCSS and the restoration of my driving privileges.
Now, I am sure that the observant reader noticed the phrase, “varying levels of efficacy.” I have experienced “varying levels” during my interactions with many of my local elected officials. As my efforts transition from my own anecdotal problems to the larger systemic problems that affect all citizens in this state, I hope to inspire and motivate my elected officials to begin to deal with the larger systemic problems of the DCSS and Family Court system. They need to recognize the seriousness of the issues and begin to take the appropriate actions for reforming the DCSS and the family courts. Specifically, there needs to be review and over site of the practices and processes that these agencies employ. Now, as I attempt to persuade my elected officials to review and evaluate the practices and processes of these agencies as they apply to everyone, I want my elected officials to keep this in mind: what I am advocating for applies to everyone who has dealings with the Family Law system in this state. As such, EVERY SINGLE ELECTED should be concerned about the issues that I am raising. While the Family Law system is largely thought to be the domain of state control, I would beg to differ. The specific complaints are about an agency, the Department of Child Support Services(DCSS), is one where almost 50% of its funding comes from the Office of Child Support Enforcement(OCSE)…a FEDERAL agency. When I say every single elected official, I mean it: State Assembly…State Senate…U.S. House of Representatives…U.S. Senate…all. I guess the point that I am belaboring ad nauseum is the fact that if you’re paying for it…you’re responsible for it, so in turn, that makes Federal government responsible for helping to fix it.
In conclusion, I believe that I have shown and documented the need for a STATE HEARING in relation to the specific events relating to my child support case during the last 6 months.
I understand and appreciate that the background context of what I have provided is a bit…extensive. Unfortunately, this is an accumulation of 15 years of conflicts and acrimony that I’ve had with the family court system. I believe that the problems that I’ve had with the family court system are not unique to my own situation. The events that that I described in this case are not unprecedented. I’ve been through this before. I have a high degree of confidence that others have experienced what I have. Think about it: if this system were functional and operating in the interests of those who are supposedly being served, would I have to plead for intervention from my elected officials?
Regardless, I will end there. With that, I respectfully request that you grant a STATE HEARING to review the issues that I have raised.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Douglas O. Ricketson