CYFD informs supervisor who oversaw Leland Valdez investigation she will be fired

Posted: March 11, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leland Valdez died Jan. 26. Police say he was beat to death by his mother and her live-in boyfriend. (Courtesy photo)

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:

  1. Shirley Clark says:

    As one of hundreds of dedicated CYFD employees (including Gabrielle James and Donald Gallegos), we all wish investigating allegations of abuse and neglect were as simple as after the fact reactions and comments make it seem. I have worked with both these individuals and know them to be incredibly hard-working, caring individuals. CYFD and our newly elected governor is taking the easy way out: scapegoating these individuals, rather than address the incredibly complex issue of child abuse in our state. I am disappointed in the New Mexican’s banner headlines proclaiming the firing of an individual who has done nothing more than give hours of her personal time and energy to abused children in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There is much more to this story.

  2. Ttsmom143 says:

    Yea it seems to me that the whole CYFD department needs to be looked into! I agree with the author who in the hell offers a supervisory position to someone who has abuse allegations made against them? Sorry Shirley but I do not agree with you! No I do not know these two personally but I think it is high time that officials charged with protecting our children are finally being held responsible for not doing their job! There were bruises, which is physical signs of abuse. These two people just wrote it off. I am going out on a limb but I would bet money that had the accusations came form school or someone other than the non-custodial parent the allegations would have been taken more seriously. I say CUDOS for someone finally stepping up and holding CYFD and Police accountable for failure to protect this child!

  3. […] CYFD informs supervisor who oversaw Leland Valdez investigation she will be fired […]

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