SLO County goofs, then threatens the messenger

August 21, 2015
Lee Collins

Lee Collins

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The head of the San Luis Obispo County Department of Social Services threatened a citizen with prosecution for revealing a privacy breach caused by county workers.

Last month, a county social services worker forwarded an email to a group list. The email contained an Arroyo Grande woman’s medical records, as well as her birth date, address and social security number.

Kevin Rice, a local activist who heads a yearly beach cleanup, subscribes to a county email list called Beach Monitoring. A county official claims there are only 19 individuals on the list, but Rice said he believes the list contains dozens and possibly more than 100 personal emails.

Rice said multiple county departments, including social services, public health and administration, regularly inadvertently send confidential information in emails to everyone on the Beach Monitoring list. The emails disclosed information ranging from medical records to county finances.

Rice warned the county multiple times about the privacy breaches. Then on July 21, Rice copied members of the media in an email to the county about the medical records disclosure.

“This is hardly the first time I’ve received privileged county emails due to this same error,” Rice stated in the email. “Yes, it really has happened several times. I’ve let you know each time. This time I’m including the media to motivate a fix. You really should come up with a better process.”

In response, Social Services Director Lee Collins sent an email to the Beach Monitoring list acknowledging a mistake occurred.

Collins responded to Rice by telling him he may have committed a misdemeanor. Collins later said the case was forwarded to the district attorney’s office.

Collins contends his staff inadvertently sent out medical records, which he said was not a crime. But, Rice purposely forwarded the email, which may have constituted a crime, Collins said.

“Your deliberate publication of that information to multiple media outlets places you in a precarious position insofar as Welfare & Institutions Code 10850 is concerned, wherein it provides that such disclosure could represent a misdemeanor offense.” Collins wrote to Rice. “It is my personal recommendation to you that you consult with legal counsel to determine if your actions may have placed you in legal jeopardy.”

Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham said the DA’s office received notification from Collins that a confidentiality breach occurred and that members of the public had mistakenly received a private email. The district attorney’s office chose not to file charges, though.

“Our office inquired into the facts and is taking no action,” Cunningham said.

Collins additionally sent an email to the three members of the media whom Rice notified about the privacy breach. Collins ordered them to delete the records.

CalCoastNews publisher Karen Velie, one of the media members who received Rice’s notification, also received a threat from Collins. The social services director stated Velie must destroy the confidential information or risk joining Rice as a target in a criminal probe.

“Your failure to do so could implicate you — as well as him — in this ongoing investigation,” Collins wrote.

At the time, Collins and the county government were also threatening Velie over her reporting on a Child Welfare Services (CWS) case. In that case, CWS placed a girl with a foster father who allegedly raped her repeatedly over a period of six years. In removing the children from their birth parents, the county utilized a psychologist on probation after patients reported the doctor had them give him oral sex during sessions and performed exorcisms.

The county claimed Velie and CalCoastNews reporter Dan Blackburn also violated the Welfare and Institutions Code by reporting on juvenile court records and documents. In a letter to Velie and Blackburn, Debra Barriger, a county attorney, ordered them to destroy the records and stop referencing the documents.

Barriger also stated unauthorized use of the records constituted a misdemeanor. Barriger threatened “court intervention.”

CalCoastNews Editor Bill Loving responded by saying confidentiality is not absolute and that Velie and Blackburn broke no laws. Loving also questioned the county’s priorities.

“I cannot understand why the county is threatening CalCoastNews rather than looking into the process that put three children into the home of a man accused of being a child rapist,” Loving said.

Collins did not respond to an email requesting comment.

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BeenThereDoneThat

Lee Collins, YOU’RE the winner of this month’s SLO County Douchebag award!!!


Mr. Holly

Bully tactics. Abuse of “power” by threatening legal action that even the DA declined to act on. We have been addressing bullies in our schools and now it’s time to get rid of these governmental bullies.


Scott

Agreed this county is a embarrassment to the other 57 counties, county misconduct is rampant, kick backs daily, giving friend county contracts, lying to the public, misleading the public, misusing public funds, Jim Erb the county “Guardian” of our monies does NOT WANT any outside investigations into his county accounting practices.


7-21-15 the county fleet management office called the elected Sheriff Ian Parkinson on his personal cell phone to try and stop me and others from inspecting a county vehicle who was involved in a FELONY Hit and Run by a county employee Donna Cole from the county mental health department . So Ian sent 5 under cover thugs in a very crude attempt to stop the inspection.


When a uniformed deputy his thugs left, so not only does he abuse his position for personal gain but uses it to scare off witnesses and victims in my case now is awaiting trial in Superior Court i do NOT scare away from corrupt lying people including one County Counsel Rita Neal, or corrupt dirty cops.


I offered the county in public i would pay for the entire legal firm and all its investigators to investigate all the claims and suits now pending against SLO including those at the Sheriffs office. I recommended several International firms one being Paul Hastings, Bryan Cave, LLP to name a few. The county decided they did NOT want any independent outside investigations into there misconduct.


So today the county tried in vain to retaliate against me by sending out the Counties top appraiser Doug Mannon to try and increase my property value over a US Government installed a $350.00 cover of my patio cover. I later got a call from the same office he works out of and was told it was a move by Rita Neal COUNTY COUNSEL against ME FOR SUING THE County for there employee Donna Cole a Mental Health therapist who has a history of lying.


So since that did not work i shall await the next scam from the County to hide corrupt LEO’s, other corrupt staff in the County offices . I am one of the many people who turned in corrupt LEO’s Cory Pierce, AJ Santana (Now facing Felony charges from the STATE AG not our DA) then you have Vic Nunez, Dustin Alexander whom just last week tried to intimidate me and a report was filed with Captain Storton no response ?


NTF SUMMER JOHNSON fake Narco FB site UN-cover by CCN i assisted them for over a few years until i saw the corruption and misconduct . This county has no idea that there ongoing misconduct and corruption will come out in a very public trial….Including X Chief Gesell

‘s involvement with MTF along with the county mental health departments wrongdoings and mistreatment of mental patients under there supposed care.


OldNed

I spent part of a day in the same room with Lee Collins on a DSS related matter. I’ve been around plenty of people who made my skin crawl, but Collins made my want to have my skin decontaminated and then burned.


pasoparent5

If CCN did an investigative piece on Mr. Collins’ background and residents would want him FIRED immediately.

Ask DSS and other SLO county employees (anonymously, of course) what it’s really like in that department under Lee Collins’ leadership.

Not good. Really not good.


aft50s

It appears that Leland isn’t the “big dog in the fight” that he thought he was, despite his $170,000 plus annual salary.


Vagabond

AND WE HAVE A WINNER! Slo county Peter principal award: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Principle


pasodowny

This county leads with its ass.


Mike Byrd

Let me see if I understand the county’s position – A county employee sent out protected medical information to a beach clean up group. That isn’t against the law. Kevin Rice and CCN received that information and warned the county about what had been sent out. That is against the law.


That circular piece of logic aside, why on earth were medical records being sent to a beach clean up group in the first place?


hijinks

Actually, it’s a bit broad to characterize this as “the county’s position.” So far, only Collins, a recognized dope, has done anything threatening. And the DA, who he threatened to use as a cudgel against Rice, has told Collins to get lost. So, that’s the good news: the DA isn’t backing up this idiot bureaucrat. The DA says no crime has been committed. Ergo, no crime has been committed. Collins needs to go away and shut up. Every time he says anything in public, he digs himself a deeper hole.


Rich in MB

I have a better idea than him going and away back to his job….he needs to lose HIS job!


miles archer

The difference I see is that one county employee sent the info erroneously without intent or malice. That employee should be reprimanded appropriately by his/her supervisor for their error.


But Mr. Rice knowingly sent that info with intent/malice (and knowledge of it’s confidential matter I’m guessing). He gets off without a warning.


Well now THAT makes sense…pffft.


byefelicia

Wow!


DragonLady

WOW and they got mad at CCN over the Carroll files… Looks like they need to go after their own employee not Rice.