Tuesday, January 13, 2009

San Diego Supervisors give out surplus revenue when there's no surplus

The Supes' Logic

The San Diego Union-Tribune, a local newspaper, has a bit of interesting context about the county's financial situation today. The county is considering laying off employees to cope with declining revenue.

Reporter Craig Gustafson writes:

"In a video message today to the county's 18,000-plus employees, Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard warned "actual layoffs will be necessary" to close a budget gap caused by the slumping economy."

At the same time the county is cutting, the supervisors that oversee operations continuing giving out grants to local community groups -- money the supervisors describe as coming from surplus revenue.

Why give out surplus revenue when there's no surplus? The supes say it's because there was a surplus when they approved their budget last year.

They're sticking to their budget when it allows them to give out grants that critics say are used to curry campaign support.

But they're not sticking to their budget when they have to make adjustments to cut services or eliminate staff.

Tuesday, January 13 2009-- 12:47 pm

Sunday, January 04, 2009

San Diego County uses worn-out excuse of attorney-client privilege to keep investigation report secret

Did gifts cause CCS therapists to favor certain vendors of wheelchairs and other medical devices?

The Investigation the County Doesn't Want You to See
Jan. 4, 2009

At some point in 2007, a whistleblower at California Children's Services, a program run by the county of San Diego that provides wheelchairs and other medical devices to children with physical disabilities, filed a complaint with the county alleging improprieties within the program.

The county launched a widespread investigation into the allegations that continued for at least 13 months in 2007 and 2008, records show. The investigation led to disciplinary action against county employees and changes to the county's ethics policies, but the report the investigators produced, and all the information it contains, is being kept a secret.

... Minutes from meetings show staff discussed allegations that therapists at the CCS program received gifts from vendors in violation of county ethics rules and may have favored certain vendors over others because of those gifts.

But exactly what was alleged, who was investigated and how deep any problems at the program went, are all things the county's top officials have decided shouldn't be released to the public...

One public records expert said attorney-client privilege is consistently used by public agencies to avoid releasing embarrassing documents, and pointed out that the county could chose to waive its privilege and make the document public.

The county has also refused to provide a copy of the report to the state of California, which provides the bulk of the $20 million budget for the CCS program. A spokesman for the California Department of Health Care Services, which oversees the CCS program, said county officials told the state that the investigation only concerned "personnel issues" and that they had not found any evidence that the program had been negatively impacted by the individuals investigated.

...A county spokeswoman said in an e-mail that the medical therapists work with the family's physician to provide the best piece of equipment available to the child from a list of possible vendors.

The selection of vendors, and the possible undue influence placed on county therapists by vendors who gave gifts to county staff, appear from documents to have been the subject of the internal investigation sparked by the whistleblower...

...In San Diego, public bodies regularly hand over such reports and documents.

But, in response to a request from voiceofsandiego.org media partner NBC 7/39 for the investigative report, County Counsel John Sansone claimed that the document fell within one of the law's exemptions and therefore did not have to be provided...