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Fired social workers in child torture case can appeal decision

Fired social workers in child torture case can appeal decision
Tributes are written on a poster board during a memorial service for Gabriel Fernandez, 8. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Officials say two L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services social workers and two supervisors the county intends to fire over the death of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy can appeal their dismissals.

DCFS head Philip Browning said letters had gone out Tuesday to the four employees most involved in the case, notifying them of the department's intent to fire them. Other employees who were "peripherally involved" received warning or reprimand letters.

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The four to be fired have the right to appeal, Browning said.

Paramedics were summoned to the home of Gabriel Fernandez on the evening of May 22 and found the boy barely breathing with numerous injuries, including a fractured skull, broken ribs and burns.

He died in the hospital two days later. His mother and her boyfriend were arrested and charged with murder and torture.

Browning said the quick move to fire the employees marked a departure from past processes. In the past, the department would have looked through the entire history of Gabriel's involvement with DCFS before taking action.

In this case, the initial investigation focused on the last two years or so to come to a swifter resolution on the fate of the four employees, who were put on desk duty soon after Fernandez's death.

In the wake of Gabriel's death, the county also convened a blue-ribbon commission on child protection, which is slated to begin meeting this week.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, whose district includes Palmdale, announced the firing of the workers Tuesday during a board meeting in response to public comments from child advocates, some of whom said they were related to Gabriel.

Advocates cheered at the announcement, but also called out, "What are their names?"

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