An internal investigation into Children, Youth and Familes Department supervisor Gabriella James has led the agency to inform her she will be fired.
James is the supervisor who reportedly made the call that abuse allegations from August involving 3-year-old Leland Valdez were unsubstantiated.
That August abuse investigation, had it had a different determination, could have stopped a chain of events that led to the boy being in Tabetha Van Holtz’s custody at the time of his January beating death.
(Here is a link to an article published in Friday’s New Mexican)
James has been on paid administrative leave since late January and remains on paid leave until her due process appeals are exhausted over the next month. She and her attorney absolutely plan to appeal the department’s decision.
CYFD has issued to James a Notice of Contemplated Action that informed her of their intent to fire her. It is essentially the first step in firing a state employee, but she has an appeals process.
Details of the case CYFD has made against James have not yet been made public — or shared with James and her attorney Diane Garrity for that matter, which is required by state Personnel Board guidelines.
Van Holtz, the boy’s 22-year-old mother, and her live-in boyfriend, Steven Gallegos, 20, remain in jail charged with child abuse resulting in death. Andrew Valdez, the boy’s father and ex boyfriend of Van Holtz, had reported to CYFD and the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department on Aug. 8 that he found bruises all over Leland’s body and suspected Van Holtz and Gallegos. (The Sheriff’s office, by the way, hasn’t yet decided what action it will take with a detective they say failed to properly handle the police portion of the August abuse allegations).
CYFD investigator Donald Gallegos who returned to work last week after more than a month on paid administrative leave himself, reportedly found signs of abuse in regards to Leland. But James, it seems, decided the claims did not rise to the level sufficient enough to recommend Leland be removed from the home.
Don’t be surprised if there is a lot more to come out of this case over the next month based on some information I’ve been gathering about CYFD’s case against James and some possible defenses she may very well have that make firing her quite complicated.
James is a veteran CYFD employee who also denies substantiated abuse investigations made on her against her foster child last summer by her own agency.
“You don’t put someone in a position of power and authority over other people’s lives who had that very thing substantiated against them for which they are responsible for investigating.” — Gov. Susana Martinez told The New Mexican in February.
James’ attorney said Thursday those abuse claims filed against her are false and Garrity added that her client is a dedicated CYFD employee who was highly respected in her field.
Here are some past articles and blog reports related to the case:
- ‘Leland knew love’ — Hundreds remember 3-year-old Pojoaque boy who died in suspected abuse case
- Obituary for 3-year-old Leland Valdez