Audits target agency nepotism

MAY 6, 2010


A backlog of 12,000 reports of alleged teacher misconduct in 2009, together with a nepotism problem within the Commission on Teacher Credentialing raised the red flag to high alert.

Four state agencies received news today that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) approved audit requests of specific programs, to be performed by the Bureau of State Audits. The Prison Industry Authority, Sex Offender Commitment Program, Commission on Teacher Credentialing, Division of Professional Practices, and the Department of Water Resources will be audited under the authority of Elaine Howle, the California State Auditor.

Howle reported that her department currently has 18 audits underway, 14 of which are JLAC audits. However, she agreed to undertake several more audits, some to last as long as seven months.

An audit request  from Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, was heard by the committee about the educator discipline process for teacher misconduct, within the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Howle said she would be making sure that the practices used during the educator discipline process really ensure that the allegations are thoroughly addressed in a timely manner, and that follow-up reports are received and processed by the commission.

As of August 2009, there was a backlog of more than 12,000 reports of alleged teacher misconduct. Howle wants the audit to evaluate the causes and trends of these backlogs and prevent further backlogs.

The other focus of the audit will be on reports of nepotism of commission staff, and the impact on the staff’s ability to work without fear of reprisal for complaints. Howle said that the audit would be similar to the Unemployment Insurance audit that uncovered nepotism, and made recommendations for corrections.

Dale Janssen, the executive director for the Commission on Teacher Credentialing appeared and told the committee they could be assured that the commission takes it’s role “extremely seriously — we don’t want to endanger children.”

Howle estimated that this audit would take seven months.

Committee Chairwoman Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills, also presented the request for the Department of Water Resources (water resources) audit together with Senator Lois Wolk, D-Davis. The two legislators want the audit to focus on water resources’ tracking and management of the bond funds during the last five years. In the last 10 years, water resources has received more than $15 billion from various bond measures, leading to concern about the handling of such large amounts of money without proper oversight.

Water resources is responsible for managing the state’s water resources, flood prevention, the safety of dams ad the proper use of water.

Howle said that specifically, her department would be looking to see if Water Resources follows the current oversight and accountability structure, the amount of bond funds received and spent by water resources, how well water resources manages the bond funds received, and if the bond funds are used for the correct purposes.

The LAO has also expressed concern about water resources’ ability to manage the large volume of bond funds.

Howle estimated that the audit would take five months to complete.

Assembly members Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, and Jim Nielsen, R-Briggs, presented an audit request of the Department of Mental Health, Sex Offender Commitment Program, specifically in the adequacy and effectiveness of Mental Health’s screening and evaluation of sex offenders for commitment into the program.

Before the inmate leaves prison, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the Board of Parole Hearings screen to determine if the inmate is likely to be a sexually violent predator and refers inmate to Mental Health for a full evaluation.

Howle wants to review the processes the CDCR, the Board of Parole Hearings and Mental Health use. Howle wants a review of all sex offenders likely to be violent, as well as do face-to-face screenings. At question is whether inmate evaluations are done using the inmate’s file or in person.

Howle appeared concerned whether Mental Health used staff or contractors to conduct the evaluations, and to make sure that anyone conducting evaluations meet the laws and regulation standards.

Nielsen said that in the 1990s, not all offenders were evaluated and was concerned that the same happens today.  Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, stated that he wasn’t sure that Fletcher’s and Nielsen’s audit request goes deep enough, and questioned if treatment is likely to be successful on sexually violent predators, that most mental health professionals have determined will never be rehabilitated.

Howle also wants to determine the impact of Jessica’s Law on the program, how many inmates are referred into the program, and how many released inmates then re-offended.

Howle estimated that the audit would take six to seven months to complete.

The fourth and final audit request was from Senator Dean Florez, D-Shafter, regarding the operations of the Prison Industry Authority (PIA).

The PIA was created in 1982 to provide work for California inmates in manufacturing and agriculture. Among the products that PIA manufactures are furniture, clothing, signage, metal products and modular buildings. State agencies are required to purchase products from the PIA.

Howle wants to determine which PIA products are sold most often, as well as whether “customers” are paying more for the products through the PIA.

The other aspect is whether or not the PIA has reduced recidivism rates by making the inmates more productive through work training. Howle also wants to determine if the CDCR saves money on the cost of guards by keeping inmates occupied.

Florez referred to his 2004 audit of the California PIA, and how the PIA claims that the deficiencies identified then have been resolved. Florez wants to know if this is accurate, and whether of not the PIA provides a positive contribution to California taxpayers. Howle estimated that the audit would take seven months to complete.

The committee approved each of the four audit requests at a total cost of $1,016,200.

Related Articles

Hertzberg proposes plan to reduce traffic penalties, restore suspended licenses

Drivers who’ve had their licenses suspended could soon get a reprieve. State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, has introduced legislation

Lobbyist organizes second legislative junket to Cuba

An influential Sacramento lobbyist — who paid out a $500,000 settlement for allegedly engaging in “pay-to-play” behavior — has organized

CA poised for higher primary profile

Accustomed to languishing at the tail end of the party primary calendar — a dispiriting position for a state that has long