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Report I2010-2 Summary - January 2011

Investigations of Improper Activities by State Employees:

Delay in Reassigning an Incompetent Psychiatrist, Misuse of State Resources, Failure to Protect the Security of Confidential Documents, Theft of Registration Fees, and Other Violations of State Law

HIGHLIGHTS

State employees and agencies engaged in improper activities, including the following:

  • By not conducting a timely investigation of a psychiatrist's competence, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation wasted at least $366,656 in state funds by continuing to pay him more than $600,000 in salary throughout the investigation.
  • Evading competitive bidding requirements to make purchases costing $64,666 from a single vendor, and failing to obtain from the same vendor the required price quotes for later purchases totaling $19,812.
  • Allowing a subordinate employee to take two-hour breaks nearly every day for three years at an estimated cost of $23,937.
  • Failing to take appropriate steps to prevent an employee from improperly removing confidential documents from her workplace, and thus failing to promptly process $10,567 in compensation claims.
  • Improperly using state vehicles for daily commutes, which cost the State an estimated $12,379 over a three-year period.
  • Paying two employees a total of $2,080 for hours they did not work.
  • Stealing $448 in vehicle registration fees.

RESULTS IN BRIEF

The California Whistleblower Protection Act (Whistleblower Act) empowers the Bureau of State Audits (bureau) to investigate and report on improper governmental activities by agencies and employees of the State of California (State). Under the Whistleblower Act, an improper governmental activity is any action by a state agency or employee during the performance of official duties that violates any state or federal law or regulation; that is economically wasteful; or that involves gross misconduct, incompetence, or inefficiency.

Between January 1, 2010, and June 30, 2010, the bureau received 2,444 allegations of improper governmental activities, which required it to determine whether the allegations involved improprieties by state agencies or employees. In response to the allegations, the bureau opened 420 cases, and it reviewed or continued to work on 327 cases it opened previously. For these cases, the bureau completed a preliminary review process and determined which cases lacked sufficient information for an investigation. The bureau also referred cases to other state agencies for action and—either independently or with assistance from other state agencies—conducted investigations of cases.

This report details the results of eight particularly significant investigations completed by the bureau or undertaken jointly by the bureau and other state agencies between January 1, 2010, and June 30, 2010. This report also outlines the actions taken by state agencies in response to the investigations into improper governmental activities described in this report and in prior reports. The following paragraphs briefly summarize these investigations and the state agencies' actions, which individual chapters discuss more fully. For more information about the bureau's investigations program, please refer to the Appendix.

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (Corrections) placed patients at risk by not relieving a psychiatrist of his duty to treat patients until four months after it learned of allegations of his incompetence. In addition, Corrections took 35 months to complete its investigation. By not promptly conducting an investigation, Corrections wasted at least $366,656 in state funds by continuing to pay the psychiatrist more than $600,000 in salary throughout the investigation. This included two merit-based salary increases as well as an additional $29,149 in accrued leave that Corrections paid to him upon his termination.

CALIFORNIA CONSERVATION CORPS

The California Conservation Corps evaded competitive bidding requirements by splitting contracts to purchase uniforms costing $64,666 from a single vendor. It also did not obtain required price quotations for two later uniform purchases totaling $19,812 from the same vendor.

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION

A supervisor at Kern Valley State Prison allowed an employee to take two-hour breaks nearly every day for more than three years. The State paid the employee an estimated $23,937 for 1,160 hours during which he was not performing his job duties.

VICTIM COMPENSATION AND GOVERNMENT CLAIMS BOARD

An employee of the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (claims board) improperly removed confidential documents from her workplace, and the claims board failed to take appropriate steps to prevent these actions. Consequently, the security of personal information of victims of violent crimes was compromised and the claims board failed to promptly process $10,567 in compensation claims from these victims.

DEPARTMENT OF GENERAL SERVICES

A manager with the Department of General Services improperly used state vehicles for his daily commute for nine years. The misuse that occurred from July 2006 through July 2009—the three years for which complete records are available—cost the State an estimated $12,379.

CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Two electrical engineers at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) each missed 24 hours of work, costing the State $2,080, when they repeatedly left work early over a six-week period to teach classes at a local community college. Their supervisor failed to monitor their attendance even though Caltrans had reprimanded them previously for similar actions.

DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES

An employee of the Department of Motor Vehicles (Motor Vehicles) stole at least $448 in registration fees from Motor Vehicles. After completion of our investigation, the employee was convicted of one count of misdemeanor theft. Motor Vehicles subsequently terminated the employee.

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION

Corrections improperly compensated an employee $446 in overtime pay for responding to building alarm activations that never occurred. After discovering the misconduct, Corrections failed to establish controls, discipline the employee, or seek repayment.

UPDATE ON PREVIOUSLY REPORTED ISSUES

In addition to conveying our findings about investigations completed from January through June 2010, this report summarizes the status of issues described in our prior reports. Chapter 9 details the actions taken by the respective agencies for 12 previously reported issues. The following paragraphs briefly summarize two of these prior issues and the status of corrective action taken by the agencies.

In September 2005 we reported that Corrections did not track the total number of hours available in a release time bank (time bank) composed of leave hours donated by members of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (union) so that union representatives could cover union business. Our investigation revealed 10,980 hours that three union representatives used from May 2003 through April 2005 but that Corrections failed to charge against the time bank, costing the State $395,256. Following our report, Corrections did not attempt to obtain reimbursements for the time that the three employees spent on union activities in May and June 2005, resulting in an additional cost to the State of $39,151. Corrections later informed us that it was unable to reconstruct an accurate leave history for any period before July 2005 for the three union representatives. Consequently, Corrections will not seek reimbursements totaling $434,407. Instead, Corrections billed the union but was not reimbursed $1,078,193 for union work performed by the employees from July 2005 through June 2010.1 In January 2010 the State formally demanded that the union reimburse it for the compensation paid to these and other employees who performed full-time union work. In June 2010 Corrections reported that it had initiated litigation against the union for the cost of all unreimbursed union work since July 2005.

In June 2010 we reported that an inspector for the Department of Industrial Relations (Industrial Relations), Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), misused state resources and improperly engaged in dual employment during her state work hours, during which she received a total of $70,105 in inappropriate payments. In addition, we reported that Cal/OSHA management failed to implement controls that would have prevented the improper acts. Subsequently, Industrial Relations informed us that the inspector had resigned from state service. It also stated that it conducted its own investigation of the inspector's improper activities, and in August 2010 it filed a civil lawsuit against the former inspector in an effort to obtain reimbursement from her. In addition, through a comprehensive survey of its employees, Industrial Relations determined that the former inspector's improper conduct was an aberration. Further, Industrial Relations reported that it gave a formal reprimand to the inspector's direct supervisor in October 2010. Finally, it stated that it retrained Cal/OSHA supervisors in October 2010 to ensure that they understood and complied with the policies and rules for accurate time reporting, and it reiterated proper controls to ensure that employees do not determine their own work hours and make up time informally.

Table 1 displays the issues and the financial impact of the cases in this report, the months in which we initially reported on the cases, and the status of any corrective actions taken.

Table 1:
The Issues, Financial Impact, and Status of Corrective Action of Cases Described in This Report
Status of Corrective Actions
Chapter Agency Date of Our Initial Report Issue Cost to the State as of June 30, 2010 Fully Corrected Partially Corrected Pending No Action Taken
New Cases
1 Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation January 2011 Delay in reassigning an incompetent psychiatrist, waste of state funds $366,656 X
2 California Conservation Corps January 2011 Failure to follow state contracting laws 84,478 X
3 Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation January 2011 Misuse of state resources, failure to appropriately manage employees 23,937 X
4 Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board January 2011 Failure to protect the security of confidential documents NA X
5 Department of General Services January 2011 Misuse of state resources 12,379 X
6 Department of Transportation January 2011 Failure to adhere to established work schedule, failure to monitor employees' attendance 2,080 X
7 Department of Motor Vehicles January 2011 Theft of registration fees 448 X
8 Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation January 2011 Improper overtime reporting 446 X
Previously Reported Cases
9 Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation September 2005 Failure to account for employees' use of union leave $1,512,600 X
9 Department of Parks and Recreation March 2007 Misuse of state resources, failure to perform duties adequately NA X
9 Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation October 2008 Improper payments for inmate supervision 16,530 X
9 Department of Fish and Game, Office of Spill Prevention and Response April 2009 Improper travel expenses 71,747 X
9 Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation November 2009 Improper payments for inmate supervision 34,512 X
9 California State University, Office of the Chancellor* December 2009 Improper and wasteful expenditures 152,441 X X
9 Department of Industrial Relations June 2010 Misuse of state time and resources, incompatible activities, inadequate administrative controls 70,105 X
9 Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation June 2010 Misuse of state employees' time, waste of state funds 110,797 X
9 Department of Consumer Affairs, California Architects Board June 2010 Fictitious claim, improper gifts, incompatible activities 392 X
9 Department of Justice June 2010 Failure to report absences accurately, inadequate administrative controls 2,605 X
9 Department of Water Resources June 2010 Improper gifts 1,840 X
9 Department of Motor Vehicles June 2010 Failure to follow personnel rules NA X

Source: Bureau of State Audits.

NA = Not applicable because the situation did not involve a dollar amount or because the findings did not allow us to quantify the financial impact.

* The California State University, Office of the Chancellor, has completed corrective action on two of the five recommendations. However, it has taken no action on the three remaining recommendations.


1 One of the three employees returned to full-time work at a correctional facility in January 2008.















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