Monday, July 9, 2012

(Mariposa Co) 2011-2012 Mariposa County Grand Jury Investigates Human Services

Mariposa Daily News

This report was released the first week of July 2012.

Some of the findings include:

(1) There is conflicting information presented regarding how the Human Services building is funded. According to the Human Services Director, the building was constructed through a Federal grant under Housing Development. In addition, the Director asserts that the Federal government reimburses a large share of the operating cost.

(2) According to the Human Services Fiscal Officer, if there is a change in operating costs from year to year of more than 15%, Human Services must file a written explanation. The State then adjusts the operating costs to reflect the new costs and the Human Services operating budgets are charged accordingly. Percentages go up for every department. However, according to the County Auditor, the State of California reimburses the County for the operating costs. He states that although the lease amount did not increase from the previous year, the previous costs were about $280,000 per year and the current cost is over $1,100,000/year, an increase of more than $800,000.He claims, as a result, unattached State funds are being shifted from other services to the operating costs. The Auditor is not aware of any Federal grant money that is being used for the operating costs.

(3) There is a conflict in the information regarding from where the money for the operating cost is funded. We have concerns that the substantial rent increase for the new Human Services building has reduced funds available for department programs.

(4) The Stroming Building
The County's lease for 5037 Stroming Road is contracted until December 31, 2014. The building was vacated in June 2011. The National Park Service has now leased the building as of March 1, 2012. The State paid for the operating costs of the building while it was empty. According to the Human Services Director, the State has not been informed that the building has been vacated. A cost report will be filed to show transition to the new tenant. He hopes that the County will not be charged. According to the Fiscal Officer, the State requires the County to file a yearly cost report showing its operating costs. She states that Human Services’ operating costs are within the State's limit. The State allows facilities to be empty for up to a year without penalty, when the vacancy is due to relocation.

(5) The County Auditor has found inconsistencies in Human Services funds. He called in auditors from the State. The State auditors acknowledged a problem. They suggested this issue be brought to the attention of auditors contracted by the County. The auditors found an exception, or potential problem, totaling $1,700,000. According to the County Auditor, from 2008-2011 three specific programs funded by the state had issues. He believes that eligibility requirements were not met, because, beginning in 2009, funds earmarked for those three programs were used, instead, as expenditures for General Community Services.

(6) The Fiscal Officer asserts that all the requirements of the three programs were fulfilled. Her opinion is that the County Auditor does not truly understand how the funding is meant to work. She recognizes, however, that it is clear in the law that those mandated programs that are funded by the State, must be implemented as mandated, although the State does not specifically address what should be done if there is a surplus. This transfer of funds was approved by both the Fiscal Officer and the Director.

(7) During a meeting with Board of Supervisors and County Administrators, information regarding the misspent funds was divulged. A consultant presented a corrective plan of action to the County Mental Health Board in May 2012 proposing the repayment by County Mental Health by deducting future revenues. The Mariposa County Mental Health Board approved the corrective plan of action.

(8) In prior years, Human Services has been operating without sufficient oversight by Mariposa County or the State. As a result, lax practices by several individuals have become habitual and money has not been spent as mandated. There may be some additional costs and considerable effort to enact the corrections. It is still unknown if there will be additional fiscal repercussions to the county as a result of misappropriated allocations by this department.

(9) Time Study Reports
Auditors hired by the county indicated that there have been inconsistencies in the time studies. The cause of these inconsistencies was unclear. The auditors concluded that time study documents may have been altered.

(10) Prudent Reserves
In 2011, the Human Services Department had $427,000 in prudent reserves. That same year, the Fiscal Officer allocated more than half of the prudent reserves, without filing a plan. Nevertheless, at the end of 2011, the Fiscal Officer submitted a new plan to use the total amount of prudent reserves of $427,000 in 2012 for other services where funding was going to be short. Contrary to what was stated in the new plan, at the end of 2011, the prudent reserves amounted to less than $200,000. Her alleged intent was to attempt to refill the $1,700,000 “bucket.” The Fiscal Officer did not let the appropriate parties know. It was an oversight on her part, and the Director was also aware of it.

(11) Energy Grant
The Energy Grant contract shows that employees receive benefits at 129% of their salary, much higher than the 62-65% benefits received by other Mariposa County employees. The Director was asked about salary and benefits numbers being skewed. He answered that he would look into that and check with the Fiscal Officer. ... When the Staff Services Manager was told by the Grand Jury that the Fiscal Officer had stated that salaries were included on that budget line, she left the room. When she came back, she stated that possibly $51,000 could be salaries and that she would talk with the Fiscal Officer and get back to the Grand Jury with an answer. Since the meeting with the Staff Services Manager, the Fiscal Officer admitted she made a mistake and there are no salaries included in that line. The Fiscal Officer, her staff, and the Director of Human Services all approved the budget spreadsheets. The Director of Human Services is aware of how the money is spent and he signs off on the budgets before they are sent out. There are concerns regarding conflicting information we received about budget items. There was a lack of clarity to address our questions about employee benefit to salary ratio. Answers to our concerns were inconsistent and not supported by documentation.

(12) The Board of Supervisors has ultimate authority over Human Services. There are many instances of questionable practices. This is not caused by just one person. Re-evaluations of employees of this department by the Board of Supervisors are necessary, starting with all members of top management.

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