Like everyone else, I’ve been concerned about the Turpin children, who escaped their abusive parents in Perris in 2018 and who seem to be struggling, or are being victimized anew, in the real world. And like everyone else, I’m confused as to what’s going on.
Are some or all of the 13 siblings unable to access funds set aside for them, as an attorney has alleged? Or are they accessing those funds “daily,” as the trustee says? Did Riverside County, as their conservators, put them in unsafe foster housing and decline requests for basic needs?
A “20/20” TV report last November included allegations by three of the Turpins, but what of the other 10 siblings?
Stung into action, the county hired attorney Stephen Larson’s firm to try to get answers, and with Larson’s interim report ready to be presented at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors agenda, I decided to attend. My hopes weren’t high for clarity, and clarity wasn’t forthcoming.
(That said, the meeting did provide unexpected entertainment — keep reading for that.)
Larson’s firm has gone to court to get access to confidential reports on the children, with some success, and with further hearings slated for April 6, 15 and 22, partner Hilary Potashner told supervisors.
She was speaking for Larson, who was in Boston on a federal case. He’s there as a lawyer, although you wouldn’t know it from how she referred to him as “Judge Larson,” his old title before he retired to go into private practice.
“The process to obtain records is slow moving,” said Potashner, who added that “May 31 is the date we anticipate providing our final report.”
She said Larson’s firm has reviewed 2,600 documents and conducted over 85 interviews. Intriguingly, she said those interviews have included “two Turpin siblings.” Two? Even “20/20” got access to three.
The supervisors had no questions after Potashner’s brisk summary, seeming to realize it was fruitless to try. But each had comments, as elected officials do. Nobody wants to risk looking as if they can’t be bothered, especially with an ABC crew in the audience, filming.
“I know what I can’t ask and I know what you can’t tell me,” Kevin Jeffries said to Potashner, a wry expression on his face. He said the system to protect children in the county’s care is such that some county departments are unable to fully share information with each other, and thus with the five supervisors.
“It is the most frustrating experience I’ve had in my time on the board,” Jeffries continued.
“Unless the judge grants you access to those files,” Jeffries concluded, “it is my opinion the five of us will never know the truth.”
His colleagues said they are ultimately responsible and yet don’t have answers.
“We have to get to the bottom of this,” board Chairman Jeff Hewitt vowed.
That comment may play well in an ABC report, if any. But I don’t know that I knew any more when I left the meeting than when I arrived.
My first-ever RivCo Board of Supervisors meeting was a reminder that if I’m ever short of material, the public comment portion of this board, or the San Bernardino County iteration, will plug the gap.
Many of the speakers, perhaps unwilling to abandon their reliable talking points, ignored the Turpin case to natter on about masks.
“Masks are not medically necessary,” a woman in a Trump hat explained. “I am not an epidemiologist or a public health expert.”
The next speaker, masked, walked to the lectern and began by saying, “Let me take off my mask,” the contrast with the previous speaker drawing chuckles from the audience. “This is like the flag on the back of a truck,” she continued. “My flag says ‘I am intelligent, aware and considerate.’ What does your flag say?”
Picking up on the theme, the next speaker began, “My flag is the flag of the United States of America. It stands for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” He got light applause, unaccompanied by country music.
“My flag stands for freedom,” said the next speaker, who complained about the “scam-demic.” More originally, she referred to earlier comments about regulating short-term rentals.
“Parties? Pff. You guys know about parties,” she told supervisors, almost admiringly. “I envy you guys who grew up in the ’70s. It sounds epic.”
The last speaker wore fingerless gloves, a knit head covering that left only his face exposed and a jacket with a “Security” logo on the back.
Virtually every area of his body was covered except his face and fingertips. He was against masks, of course.
Among his other objections, he groused about the upcoming “Drag Queen Story Time” at a Riverside bookstore. He even gave it a free plug: “at 2 p.m. Saturday at Cellar Door Books.” He was concerned that children would be present or elsewhere in the neighborhood.
He barked accusingly: “Have they done a background check on those drag queens?”
I may have laughed out loud.
More Board of Supervisors meetings are definitely in my future. Even if most of the public’s comments sound like they’re repeated every time, some are completely original. And that’s never a drag.
“King Richard,” says a tennis-loving friend in Riverside, “may have been the first Oscar-winning movie filmed at the Claremont Club.” Will Smith won Best Actor for his performance as Venus and Serena Williams’ father. I imagine he’ll next star in another sports film: a remake of “Slap Shot.”
David Allen slips columns past the goalie each Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.