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Whistleblowers Nail Cheating California Corrections Employees

The California State Auditor detailed four investigations of California Department of Corrections (CDC) employee misconduct completed between July 1 and December 30, 2004, where the tip-offs of miscreance were reported through California's Whistleblower Protection Act (Government Code § 8547 et seq.). Reportable transgressions under the Act include official government wrongdoing that violates federal or state laws, is wasteful, or involves dishonesty, incompetence or inefficiency.

In Allegation No. I2003-0834, the Auditor determined that CDC had improperly granted 25 CDC nurses pay increases totaling $238,184 between July 1, 2001 and June 30, 2003. Nurses, like other CDC non-custody staff, receive a monthly pay premium of $446 if their job also entails supervising two prisoner workers, each of whom works at least 173 hours/month doing what would otherwise have been performed by state civil service employees. State regulations and the nurses' employment contract provide that any overpayment shall be reimbursed, provided the action to recoup is initiated within three years of the overpayment.

When challenged, CDC could not provide documentation in 17 of the 25 cases because the prisons audited (Avenal State Prison, California Institution for Women, California State Prison (Sacramento), and Chuckawalla Valley State Prison) either had no supervisory hours to report, did not require nurses to track these hours, lacked documentation to support the hours, or had destroyed all timekeeping records related to prisoner supervision. In the other eight cases, the 173 hour minimum was not met. A detailed analysis showed that for the 25 nurses audited, the average percentage of supervisory payments that was improper was 93.2%, with 21 of the 25 gaining 100% improper payments.

The Auditor noted that CDC's improper payments violated the Financial Integrity and State Managers Accountability Act of 1983 (Government Code § 13400 et seq.) by making a gift" of public funds. As of March 22, 2005, CDC was still reviewing" the problem, although as of January 5, 2004, the 25 audited nurses stopped receiving prisoner supervision pay. It would appear that the 25 owe the State an average of $9,527 each (plus interest and penalties).

Misuse of computers and attendance abuse were the subject of Allegation No. I2004-0745. Employee A used her state computer to shop on line and contact a dating service. On one occasion, surveillance agents followed her to another city 40 miles away where she conducted personal business. She falsified her time sheets saying she worked 8 hours that day. Five such instances revealed $2,200 in fraud. Employee B was also followed, often running personal errands and reporting to work hours late. Not only did she cheat the State out of $1,700 via falsified time sheets, she was unable to complete the work required for her position.. As of March 22, 2005, CDC had taken no corrective or disciplinary actions.

The third Allegation, No. 12003-0915, detected falsified time sheets by a CDC employee in the Paroles division. She regularly modified" her work hours, took long lunch breaks and often failed to perform her duties. CDC issued a letter of instruction" which gave the employee a time period in which to correct casework deficiencies and required her to work regular hours and to perform all of them. Her supervisor is to retain copies of all time sheets for three years.

Allegation No. 12003-0896 involved mismanagement of fees collected from movie studios who were using California State Prison (Los Angeles) facilities for a TV production, and who reimbursed CDC for extra guard duty. A conniving employee diverted one $1,500 payment from the general fund to the prison employee's association account. Worse yet, prison officials. participated in a plan to launder $4,150 of such reimbursement funds from production companies through a prisoner religious account before transferring the money into the employee association account, so that the donors could claim a tax deductible contribution.

The TV studio may be missing a good bet here; its own malodorous plot of prison corruption sounds like a great story line for a new made-for-TV movie.

Source: California State Auditor Report No. 12005-1, March 22, 2005. Available on

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