Workers Comp Zone


My last post (see link below) looked at an e-mail drama pertaining to a DIR employee accessing e-mails from a former DIR attorney to the chairperson of the WCAB.

The e-mail story, first noted in an article by reporter Greg Jones, has stirred great interest in the workers’ comp community.

Jones followed that piece with a April 25 article noting that a source who had worked for OD Legal within the California Department of Relations had confirmed to workcompcentral some allegations in an anonymous whistleblower document widely distributed to various workers’ comp stakeholders. That anonymous document claims that Christine Baker’s sudden departure was related to investigation into allegations of nepotism in handling employment issues with her brother and daughter.

But what of the e-mail drama?

Erika Monterroza of DIR Communications e-mailed me a statement attributed to WCAB Board Secretary Anne Schmitz which says the following:

“The Workers Compensation Appeals Board is satisfied that limited information was accessed and relieved to learn the information did not pertain to matters before the Board. We are working with the Labor and Workforce Development Agency and the Department of Industrial Relations counsels to ensure any needed additional protections are in place to prevent inadvertent disclosure of information.”

Monterroza also e-mailed me a statement from the DIR which references responses to the WCAB from Mi Kim and Kim Card:

“The two responses address the concerns that Commissioners’ emails were accessed. While the Board’s emails were not intercepted, DIR’s acting chief counsel, Labor and Workforce Development Agency’s chief counsel and the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board secretary are reviewing safeguards and protocols to ensure the inadvertent disclosure of emails does not occur.

Following that, I sent Ms. Monterroza the following email:

“Thanks Erika. I will note this in the next blog. But have a question….Kim Card responded to #9 and 10 posed in the commissioners letter but deferred on #1 through 8. Was there a response on those? I think many on the Comp community are curious and concerned. Can you share that info and if not why not?”

In response, Ms. Monterroza says that:

“Kim Card’s letter, Mi Kim’s email and the statements from DIR and the Board answer the questions raised in the letter, including what steps are being taken.”

Those various documents referenced by Ms. Monterroza were all included as links to my last post (see link below).

In a supplemental email to me, Ms. Monterroza noted that:

“To your specific question, after receiving the replies from Mi Kim and Kim Card, there was agreement among the board, DIR and the Labor and Workforce Development Agency to move forward on any additional needed safeguards to ensure against inadvertent disclosure of information in the future.”

Readers who are intensely interested in this saga can compare the responses of Ms. Kim and Ms. Card with the questions posed by the WCAB and decide for themselves whether all of the questions posed were truly answered.

What remains troubling to me is the question of who were all the individuals who had access to the Holton correspondence with the WCAB chairperson. In this particular instance, Ms. Kim’s email to the WCAB indicates that she memorialized the emails in a review directed to the then-DIR Chief Counsel Chris Jagard. However, there is no indication what Jagard did with the information or how far up the chain he sent it. Nor is there any clear reason advanced as to why there would be monitoring of emails from Vanessa Holton (now counsel at the California State Bar) to Ms. Zalewski.

But it is clear that the DIR wants to move on and look forward rather than provide any background detail on how this problem came to be in the first instance, why the concern with Ms. Holton and Ms. Zalewski’s emails, why Jagard was involved, who was directing Jagard, etc etc.

This email drama appears to have germinated out of various personnel actions or investigative procedures that have not seen the light of day. Those may or may not have a relation to the Baker story. There is undoubtedly a story to be told here, and the whistleblower(s) may hold the key on that one.

Meanwhile, DIR and the Board appear to be taking this episode seriously and aiming to prevent a reoccurrence.

Here is a link to my prior post on this topic:

Stay tuned. In my next post I’ll be reflecting on the recent Workers’ Memorial Day.

Julius Young