Grand Jury report details problems at First 5 Contra Costa

Prop 10, the California Children and Families Initiative, created First 5 California, a program of early childhood development services, funded by a tax on tobacco products.

Print Friendly
Share with your friends and colleagues
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

The Contra Costa Grand Jury has released its report of the First 5 Contra Costa a local commission created by Rob Reiner’s Prop 10 the California Children and Families Initiative, which created First 5 California, a program of early childhood development services, funded by a tax on tobacco products. The report concludes the investigation of numerous complaints of alleged Board of Commissioners’ self-dealing, conflicts of interest, misappropriation of funds in the awarding of contracts, general dereliction of fiduciary duties, and unethical conduct.

In addition, complaints alleged illegal or inappropriate employment practices, including discrimination, manager bias and favoritism, sexual harassment and the cover-up of such behavior. Due to the number and nature of the complaints, the Grand Jury conducted an investigation.

The Grand Jury recommendations include:

1. The Board of Supervisors shall appoint commissioners not affiliated with agencies most likely to be awarded significant funding, thereby minimizing perceptions of impropriety.

2. First 5 Commissioners having financial interests in contracts before the Board of Commissioners shall recuse and physically remove themselves from meetings while the contracts are being considered.

3. First 5 Commission shall select a new independent auditor through a competitive bid process.

4. First 5 Commission shall provide annual training to all employees on Employee Handbook procedures and provisions.

5. The Board of Supervisors shall pursue inclusion of the First 5 Commission as a unit of County government.

Contra Costa Grand Jury Report on First Five Commission

Print Friendly
Share with your friends and colleagues
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Author: Bill Gram-Reefer

Bill Gram-Reefer is an expert in Public Relations, Social Media, and copywriting for business, government, non-profits, and public affairs. He offers Internet marketing services via WORLDVIEW PR.

120 thoughts on “Grand Jury report details problems at First 5 Contra Costa”

  1. You all ain’t alone in this – we got them in Orange County charging $200 an hour to read the Fresno Bee and listen to the radio!

    They all gotta go!

  2. I decided to look some of the AG info up myself. It seems that the Fair Political Practices Commission may be more helpful here in terms of the conflict of interest issues Mr. Valentine and Ms. Bonilla have invited us to address through their actions.

    Here is the FPPC complaint page:

    http://www.fppc.ca.gov/index.php?id=498

    “Anonymous Complaints: Toll Free “tip line” 800-561-1861

    If you do not want your name disclosed in connection with your complaint under any circumstances, you may call 800-561-1861 on Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to Noon and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and make the complaint anonymously. Commission staff will evaluate your claims and has the authority to pursue a complaint on its own initiative.”

  3. I love First5. They gave all my friends jobs. We have pensions and you people are all losers! You should be interested in helping people. This country is made to give happiness.

    1. What the ?!?!? No wonder the GJ found that no one understood the employee handbook. Their want ads should start with “Seeking IQs over 100″…

    2. Someone tell Borenstein we’ve got proof right here that he’s dead on about pension reform! Otherwise we’ll have to pay for ol’ Awesome Blossom here.

    3. Either Awesome Blossom is a bogey red herring or no wonder we have not heard them defend themselves much…

  4. IMO: they are who others claimed they are; the DA deals will happen; it will go statewide as people realize that the game was a kick in their teeth and the children were the real losers.

  5. Here are some facts you should know about FACT:

    The Family and Children’s Trust Committee has been around since the Board of Supervisors created it in 1989. In 2005 the Family and Children’s Services Advisory Committee and FACT were combined into one committee – FACT.

    The purpose of this Committee, as approved by the Board of Supervisors, is to recommend priorities and make funding recommendations on the allocation of specific funds including: CAPIT funds (AB 1733), Birth Certificate funds (AB2994), the Family and Children’s Trust funds, the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention funds (CBCAP), and the Child Care Affordability funds. Note that there is no mention of First 5 or the funding from Proposition 10.

    FACT is not connected to First 5 except for the membership. FACT is made up of 15 members – 5 members, one from each Supervisorial District who are appointed directly by the County Supervisor, 5 members who are “at-large” representing the community, and 5 members who can represent any of several different fields that deal with children. These last five members are the ones in question and represent: Lisa Johnson – First 5; Belinda Lucey, Naomi Zipkin, and Violet Smith – early childhood education; and Carol Carillo – child abuse prevention. Four of these individuals have already been serving on FACT and are being re-appointed for a new term.

    All of the individuals appointed to FACT have one thing in common. They are VOLUNTEERS. These individuals put in many hours without benefit of payment because they want to make a difference. Wouldn’t it be nice if more people did that? If you would like to volunteer there are many committees and advisory boards looking for members. Contact the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors.

    1. AS I see it, the point is even better made by you: Joe Valentine has then already been stacking the deck for some time.

      It makes it even more salient that fact that he proposed to appoint an employee of First 5 and a Commissioner of First 5 to the same Committee. That shows that he consciously did this – it was not an unconscious act – he understands then the relationships of these people to his position, and did it anyway. In my opinion, that’s what legitimately concerns people about it.

      It should bother you that the FACT members are so closely connected to First 5 and according to you, have been for some time. There should be more space between FACT and First 5, especially since First 5 has come under fire from the Grand Jury.

      Joe Valentine should have been smart enough to at least then find one person for the new spot who was unaffiliated with First 5. It would not have been difficult to do. He did not. That says volumes.

    2. ya know what’s interesting about the FACT makeup is that it is about the same way First 5 picks its Commissioners. Each of the BOS gets one pick, but that is exactly what the Grand Jury said was wrong – that the BOS has been picking people who receive a lot of the money.

      Is the FACT committee doing that too in one way or another? Another reason to call in the AG if you ask me.

    3. Since your criteria for assessing the credibility and capability of people is clearly their willingness to be volunteers, then the Grand Jury has your people beat by a wide mile Anonymous, since they commit to 20 hours a WEEK to addressing problems in our public agencies as VOLUNTEERS.

      If I take that your thinking a step further, then it is clear that the BOS should drop any opposition to the Grand Jury’s recommendations and implement them immediately.

    4. “FACT is not connected to First 5 except for the membership” – Here the First 5 PR machine may anonymously be at work as this was the same tactic Ms. Irwin took on EastBayDaze: deny it and of course they will believe you.

      How could anyone in their right mind expect us to believe that First 5 people would not bring a First 5 agenda to the FACT Committee? That’s just preposterous and a bit insulting.

      Let’s not get off track here: this FACT situation was brought up because it exposes Mr. Valentine’s egregious behavior in clearly loading the FACT Committee with people very likely to push or support his own agenda. Whether it is 33% or 100% of the panel does not matter: Mr. Valentine knows far more people in his life than just First 5 people, so here we have a pattern emerging: the Grand Jury said there was too much insider influence going on, and here we have proof of Mr. Valentine pushing an insider influenced slate.

      This info bolsters the Grand Jury’s findings and most of the people here understand that.

      In this context, for Ms. Bonilla to have asked (Dr. Walker and) Mr. Valentine to “help” her figure out where she should land on the First 5 recommendations then is just ridiculous, and to me it all reeks of conflict of interest, conspiracy, and influence peddling.

      Having made a public proclamation that shows that she is willing to let two First 5 Commissioners tell her what to do, at least on the surface, it’s clear that either Bonilla has to change her mind and ask for other expert advice, or she will have to recuse herself due to her own role as a First 5 Commissioner as the BOS converts the First 5 Commission.

      There is no good reason not to convert it; there are no unions involved in the situation; there is just a good old fashioned investigation that showed that there is no oversight and bad management. In fact, there are BOS arguments that should easily support conversion: potentially more access to funds, and more employees to unionize and make those voting brethren happy, so the forces are in support of the move.

      The discussions here show that people are not concerned about First 5’s work, though perhaps they should be, but they are VERY concerned with the potential legal problems of First 5 Commissioners. It just seems like common sense and prudence that Ms. Bonilla and the rest of the First 5 Commissioners behaviors should now be examined under a more independent light. So once BGR or someone else tells us where to send our emails to the AG, you can guess what I’ll be doing.

    5. They approved the slate by consent people. That’s how they can avoid looking like the issue avoiders they are – or – you can just avoid the meeting altogether, like Bonilla did. Any surprise there?

  6. The CCT calls it news to report that the BOS is voting on soda pop – just which editor at the CCT has been drinking too much koolaid?

    1. Cool it KentD. Maybe they are just doing some legwork on the details. Maybe they will actually go look for indictments. The CCT is just a business making business decisions, and that’s kind of sad, but it’s true.

    2. who are you to just show up and tell me what to say?! I’ve been in this early on and now you want me to play politics with the CCT?

      HAH! With all due respect, get your manhole covered!

  7. I am confused. The CCTimes wrote about the Hercules Grand Jury report but not this one? Can any one tell me why?

    1. The problem is that if any of us criticize the CCT too much, then it is just seen as Halfway’s rightwing flunkies.

      It is almost as if they are toying with the posters on this site. Several have asked them to take a look at the story; that they have not yet say something about them, not us.

  8. I was just reading that in Orange County, They have a guy, A republican blogger (who was caught up in a Priest Sex Scandal) was named as spokesperson or something in OC. My sister who teaches deaf kids in Anaheim, told me that OC’s First Five is a money grab by the consultants like JUBAL. What a shame.

  9. Excellent work Max. What’s so interesting to me is how one county employee has so much latitude to stack things in his/her favor, should s/he discretionarily choose to.

    In my opinion, it takes a person with moral character to balance a Committee with diverse representation – we the voters did it with the BOS – but here’s this guy showing us his true colors, 100% confirming the veracity of the GJ’s findings that First5’s problems with insider influence are significant. I would not have believed the Grand Jury as confidently as I do now had Mr. Valentine’s behaved differently, but it is in front of us in black and white here.

    I suppose we the public should thank Mr. Valentine: his attempt to stack the FACT Committee with First 5 people gives the BOS adequate and sufficient reason to follow the Grand Jury recommendations about First 5 in general – without the need for “expert” assistance – certainly not his.

    I just hope Bonilla realizes that she has support for change in this matter from people of all political persuasions.

    1. Once again we watch as the BOS denigrates Grand Jury findings. The only committee to be formed should be from the State Attorney General’s office, not Joe Valentine (with all due respect) or the BOS. At this point a competent independent review needs to follow up the findings from the Grand Jury Report and bring charges and prosecute. Not some cover-our-ass white wash sanctioned by BOS.

    2. Go on a small vacation and what happens? Even more crap gets exposed! Lead Contamination in TIGO toys – JoeyV showing off his ideas about how to run county government – Bonilla trying to pawn the idea that two of the Commissioners could be impartial and give her good advice.

      I say the AG panel is the only way to go here should Bonilla want to keep her toes clean and the other BOS do not want to get dragged through the mud bath!

    3. The very point of the FACT Committee is to make recommendations on funding to the BOS:

      http://64.166.146.155/agenda_publish.cfm?mt=ALL&get_month=6&get_year=2010&dsp=agm&seq=5030&rev=0&ag=129&ln=9772&nseq=5044&nrev=0&pseq=5000&prev=0#ReturnTo9772

      We have a real problem here folks. First 5 is supposed to be independent and even when the BOS converts them to a county department, then you would have at least one member being a county employee – that’s just improper!

      Joe Valentine is, IMO, a proving himself to be a very unethical guy.

      I find it hard to believe that it was just a magical coincidence that these particular people applied.

      Who else applied?

      Where was it posted?

      Didn’t some of the complaints about First 5 include improper employment practices?

      Is this not tantamount to just that?

    4. my new theory: JoeyV “knows” it’s going to be a county dept so figured an end around on keeping control of the childcare funding – in fact, he may be doing it so that his crony Dr. Walker does not get a shot at the money grab that would likely happen when it does become a county department.

      There’s nothing stopping them from changing the long range First 5 plan to be more in line with the FACT committee recommendations, now is there?

  10. A new First 5-driven act of intentional diversion and attempt to control county childcare dollars?

    CCC BOS appears to be going to approve the Employment and Human Services Department Director (aka First 5 Commissioner Joe Valentine)’s recommendation to appoint five people to a County Committee.

    Guess who they are: a First 5 employee, a current First 5 Commissioner, a First 5 funding recipient, a First 5 Contra Costa consultant (for TIGO kit, policyweb.sri.com/cehs/publications/f5cslit.pdf page 2-32), and a former First 5 Commissioner.

    Let me guess: Joe Valentine will “suggest” to Supervisor Bonilla that the FACT Committee help decide on whether or not First 5 becomes a county department so that he does not have any conflict of interest per SteveR’s post of earlier this week.

    Massively blatant, isn’t it? Are they insulting your intelligence enough yet, Contra Costa?

    From the Board of Supervisors June 22 agenda:
    http://64.166.146.155/agenda_publish.cfm?mt=ALL&get_month=6&get_year=2010&dsp=ag&seq=129#

    As Follows – with some notes:
    APPOINT the following individuals to the Family and Children’s Trust (FACT) Committee as recommended by the Employment and Human Services Department Director:

    Lisa R. Johnson, Group Seat 1, 9/30/2010 – First 5 Employee who wrote a disgusting sounding book that our friend Jasmine found here: http://lisareneejohnson.com/index.html

    Belinda Lucey – Group Seat 2, 9/30/2010, Current District II First 5 Commissioner

    Naomi Zipkin – Group Seat 3, 9/30/2010, First 5 Commission consultant for TIGO – which required a reacall due to lead contamination: http://www.firstfivecc.org/index.php?page=important-tigo-recall

    Carol Carillo – Group Seat 4, 9/30/2011, Her agency receives First 5 funding

    Violet Smith – Group Seat 5, 9/30/2011, Former District IV First 5 Commissioner

    Had enough yet people?

    1. I think we all should write to the supervisors and tell them not to vote yes on that panel!

      the vote is on Tuesday so that means get writing people!

    2. I was telling SteveR (yep we’re buds) about this issue being an open BOS item and he said he plans to write a new story for the blog here and to ask people to write to the BOS about it.

      Well, why wait for Steve to get up this morning?

      I think we all should write to the BOS about it and tell them to vote no to JoeV’s proposal.

      Something does not smell right about it all: You’d think JoeV would know a whole lot more child experts than just First 5 people given all the people he comes into contact with as that kind of Dept Head, so why just propose First 5 connected people on the FACT Committee?

      Stinky stinky stinky!

    3. An excerpt from my opinionated letter to the BOS re Joe Valentine’s FACT nominations:

      “I think you and we the public should be strongly questioning Mr Valentine’s judgment here: since when does an employee and a Commission Board member from an outside agency get appointed to the same level of a County Committee?

      Would that not make it hard for Ms. Lucey to do her Commissioner job without conflict?

      Why would Ms. Johnson be willing to join a board with someone who is on her employment Board of Directors? Personally, I would not and no one I have asked on this topic would agree to, since we would be worried for our jobs.

      Doesn’t anyone but me think that would make it difficult for Ms. Johnson to speak her mind when doing FACT committee work? Does anyone think Ms. Johnson would ever vote in opposition to Ms. Lucey? or in opposition to Joe Valentine’s view on something? nada, won’t happen, she’d fold and I feel that’s probably why he’s trying to appoint her.

      Finally: do his actions have anything to do with the Grand Jury investigation? I think the Grand Jury’s report and recommendation demand you to be suspicious here.”

    1. In a spirit of fun, let’s play multiple choice theater! –

      The possible answers could be:
      a) because they are a “little known” agency?
      b) because they have ignored requests for information
      c) because almost no one, especially the Times, care about who they are or what they do unless the money goes away
      d) all of the above
      e) none of the above

  11. Are you kidding!? When a public figure (Bonilla) is doing something VERY questionable like this (asking Walker and Valentine for “help”) and seems to expect us to believe the decision is fair or transparent without questioning it, what is that called? Wasn’t this sort of thing called “brainwashing the populace”, made popular by the USSR?

    It seems Sup Bonilla is either not clear about how this could look by asking two of the foxes to help her decide if/how to move the henhouse OR maybe she simply does not think that we the public is smart enough to go look at who is on the First 5 Commission Board!

    Should First 5 be made a county department? Heck yeah! From everything I have read, it’s a no brainer, so why bring those guys on board when the decision is easy and there is precedent for it in another part of the state? Bringing on Walker and Valentine only makes Bonilla look LESS transparent, not MORE transparent!

    Makes me question how she’d act as a state rep.

    1. Personally, I’d like someone repping me at the state level who is able to rely on a Grand Jury report, perhaps with input from Twa. That should be enough to make the call.

    2. Yo go JGS! No brainer-ville – maybe that Julie Carvin has a shot at the Assembly seat after this – because I think Bonilla is missing a couple six packs

    3. well of course it would make her look less transparent, if anyone called her on it besides us all.

  12. Here’s my exchange with the BOS and Sup Bonilla thus far (I deleted some identifying info about me):

    Dear Supervisor Bonilla,

    While I was interested to learn that you are taking some leadership in this situation, I have been struck by several potential conflicts that I feel you and your BOS brethren must address to “keep it real”, since you have called for assistance to evaluate the situation from the very people (sans Twa) whose activities have been called into serious question by the Grand Jury:

    1. You are on the First 5 Commission as a Board member.
    2. The Director of Employment and Human Services is Joe Valentine, former First 5 Commission Chairman and currently a First 5 Commissioner
    3. The Director of Health Services is Dr. William Walker, currently on the Executive Committee of First 5 Commission and currently a First 5 Commissioner.
    4. Supervisor Federal Glover was a First 5 Commissioner for some years before you.

    It has been made clear by several county government observers who are having a lively exchange of opinions (www.halfwaytoconcord.com) that language used in the Grand Jury report suggests that there are information gaps likely to be filled by referred to the DA’s office or addressed through indictment.

    To summarize what the internet consensus seems to be, and I am paraphrasing those more articulate than I: it seems clear the Grand Jury led the public to a “hot story”, listing in significant detail the sort of complaints that end up on “Law and Order”. Then, strangely enough, the Grand Jury did not at all address whether they had found any evidence about some of the more egregious complaints.

    By contrast, they did comment on the finding about the First 5 RFP process: it had apparently been a complaint, and they addressed that they found the process to be effective, i.e. they explicitly stated that the complaint was unfounded. So why would they not address in specific complaints about “sexual harassment and its cover up”, a far more egregious complaint if you ask me – the consensus internet answer is: more is to come on a legal level.

    I find it hard to believe, as a veteran pol, that you and your BOS team do not likely suspect this as well. As such, my question to you is: why on earth would you propose to rely on the assistance of the very people whose activities, including perhaps your own, have come under official criticism from a Grand Jury – and where indictments or referral to the DA’s office may be imminent?

    I ask that you instead seek assistance from Riverside or another county familiar with the First 5 Commissions, or some state agency, in order to provide you with a truly unbiased evaluation in this matter. Someone online already proposed that the EOC might be a suitable overseer.

    Sincerely,
    Steve R
    ________________________________________
    From: District4
    To: SteveR
    Sent: Thu, June 10, 2010 1:27:47 PM
    Subject: RE: Make the First 5 Commission a CC Department!

    Dear Mr. R,

    Thank you for taking the time to express your concerns regarding the First 5 Commission. I have asked the County Administrator to work with the Director of Employment and Human Services as well as the Director of Health Services to analyze the issues that were addressed by the Grand Jury including the possibility of county oversight of the commission. The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors will respond to the Grand Jury’s report the end of July. It is my hope that we can bring about the most effective service possible to the children of Contra Costa County.

    Sincerely,
    Supervisor Bonilla

    Office of Supervisor Susan A. Bonilla
    Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors District IV
    Dist4@bos.cccounty.us
    (925) 521-7100, phone
    (925) 646-5202, fax
    http://www.susanbonilla.org
    _____________________
    From: SteveR
    Sent: Wednesday, June 02, 2010
    To: Gayle B Uilkema
    Cc: District3; District4; District5; BOS District1
    Subject: Make the First 5 Commission a CC Department!

    Supervisors Uilkema, Bonilla, Glover, Gioia, and Piepho:

    I have been learning about the First 5 Commission from the Grand Jury report and newspaper articles from around the state. It’s clear the organization needs restructuring. I am not happy that they have used the same auditor for over 5 years – this can cause Enron type problems. I am not happy that one recommendation implies that they were unduly influencing each other during discussions of contracts. I am not happy that people receiving money are allowed to be on the Board. I am just not happy at all about the Contra Costa First 5 Board and its management.

    Please respond appropriately to the Grand Jury recommendations: Make the Change!

    Sincerely,
    SteveR

    1. WHAT THE #^%!? Bonilla, wake up! Can’t you and the BOS just take the advice of the Grand Jury without letting people who get money from First 5 advise you on what to do?

      My understanding is that you have not been on the First 5 Board long, so I think I could stand it if you decide on your own or with David Twa’s input, but Valentine and Walker are WAY too close in my opinion.

      Fox, henhouse ring any bells?

    2. Wow – what a difference a week makes! You guys have gone to town on this story.

      What is up with Sup Bonilla asking those particular guys to help her review the GJ report?

    3. You go Mr SteveR!
      I could not know how to write that but I think what you said was dead right on!

    4. IMO, Dr. Walker and Mr. Valentine should politely decline Ms. Bonilla’s request. It’s that easy to do: “Just say no”

    5. Well, you all have me thinking that suggesting Bonilla get outside counsel actually was maybe some overkill. In thinking about it more, I think you are right DR & Rebecca, the BOS should be smart enough to evaluate it with just Twa’s input

    6. oh, one of my friends told me this email exchange is not clear –

      it’s bottom up, meaning I sent the short one at the bottom first, Bonilla responded, and then I responded back. She has not responded to the top (but second) email… think that’s likely?

    7. HEY! I think I figured out why Bonilla asked Joe Valentine in particular for “help” to think about this… more to come.

  13. Look what I got back from the CCC supervisors!:

    Dear Mr. DXXXXXXX,

    Thank you for taking the time to express your concerns regarding the First 5 Commission. I have asked the County Administrator to work with the Director of Employment and Human Services as well as the Director of Health Services to analyze the issues that were addressed by the Grand Jury including the possibility of county oversight of the commission. The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors will respond to the Grand Jury’s report the end of July. It is my hope that we can bring about the most effective service possible to the children of Contra Costa County.

    Sincerely,
    Supervisor Bonilla

    Office of Supervisor Susan A. Bonilla
    Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors District IV
    Dist4@bos.cccounty.us
    (925) 521-7100, phone
    (925) 646-5202, fax
    http://www.susanbonilla.org

  14. @Max – I really can’t tell if it was 4 or 5 or 6 or 10 different situations – who knows? But for a children’s agency, over two is too many.

  15. Q: I read a lot of First 5 docs since this story broke, and have made their minutes and agendas for the last few years my bed time reading:
    1) Did you know they’ve had 4 – 6 “potential” or “existing” closed litigation sessions over the past couple years?
    2) Did you know that one of the members of the Executive Committee, Judith Ortiz, just seemed to disappear without any mention of why in the minutes? Now this info probably would not normally matter but it stood out to me as I compared the vacancies with the announcements made about Commissioners.

    The truth is that in the minutes, they seem to honor everyone who has a connection to the Commission:
    a) those who have left
    b) those who have joined
    c) another Exec Ctte member named Ed who stepped down early this year (and I realized that two of four Exec Ctte members left, and two stayed – I am left to wonder if that connects to the Grand Jury’s comments about the Executive Committee),
    and d) even their lawyer who went on maternity leave
    BUT
    there is no mention, at all, about why the Commissioner named Judith Ortiz left; no “thank you for your service”, no discussion of any of it … seems odd, dontcha think, when for everyone else they just about threw a party?

    1. HAH! i bet they helped you nod off – boring! But nonetheless, you seem to have stumbled across a couple tidbits worthy of this First5 highlight reel.

      How come you say 4-6 litigation meetings; isn’t it obvious? Was it 4 or 5 or 6?

      I’d bet that Judith Ortiz spilled the beans to the GJ and so bailed. And that 2 of 4 bailed on the Exec Committee seems kind of telling, given the GJ recommendations.

  16. I am wondering what their spin effort was at the meeting on Monday referenced on the other blog. Did any of you attend? Get a copy of their statement? Think they will share it with us minion?

  17. ~ EDITOR NOTES — All original comments are back after 2nd and last attempt to use Intense Debate commenting system. We apologize for any inconvenience and caution against duplicating content.

    I forgive you EDITOR. I promise I won’t re-post prior comments, but hey, couldn’t you have warned us?

    ~ EDITOR GROVELS — It was unforseen and regrettable.

  18. BGR – It's kind of annoying that your blogger system changed.

    My contribution to rebuilding our comments:

    1. First 5 needs oversight something awful; that Commissioners are able to receive funds from the program they themselves oversees is just stupid.
    2. The GJ elucidated a number of very serious allegations
    3. The GJ did not address those allegations with any specificity, leaving, as Max said, a gap for questions.
    4. The GJ wrote the report with a lot of vagueness, unlike the other reports.
    5. My conclusion is that this thing has legal legs – probably DA office referral

    6. Where is the Times on this story? It seems they got hoodwinked by the First 5 effort to offset the GJ report against a couple of human interest stories. I don't like it when the regional rag ignores something with this much dry powder – it starts smelling of payoffs of one kind or another to editors.

    7. The management there can have no good excuse for not understanding their own employee manual. By itself, that finding asks for a change at the top.

    8. The finding that references a couple of Commissioners meeting with the E.D. monthly and then there being the recommendation of people receiving lots of money not being able to be Commissioners gave me great pause: could something illegal have happened there? Backroom deals perhaps?

    9. The use of words like "sexual harassment and its cover up" usually do not result in comments like: "train the staff on the manual" unless they also would clarify that the GJ did not find any wrong doing, as they appeared to do with reference to the RFP process. As such, I think that there is more bubbling under the surface here on the employee issues.

  19. and here's another from East By Daze cus you stole our comments:

    Anonymous said…

    I work with First 5 very closely and have a number of years. I am not surprised at all. Child care referrals agencies as well as alternative payment providers (they dispense monies for subsidized tuition to eligible parents and are known as APPs)have operated pretty free without any acceptable audit or accounting practices. One only need look at a similar situation that happened a couple of years ago in Emeryville. This APP was called Oakland Licensed Daycare Operators Association. The state Department of Education eventually had to come in and shut them down with all the allegations of theft, malfeasance, and embezzlement amongst the management. Its really sad that families that need the most help don't get because of the lack of oversight in these agencies. I say "bravo" for the grand jury !

  20. ok, so I want to show where I found those links from beofre they swiped the messages:

    here's the one where the First 5 manager Lisa R. Johnson has found herself time to write a book about crazy dudes who have a "hunger to feed" on other people:
    http://lisareneejohnson.com/

    and here's one where they show they have lots of money:
    http://cssrc.us/web/1/news.aspx?id=7648

    and here's another one I think I put up on here:
    http://www.sacbee.com/2010/05/16/2752196/another-

    even on that last one, heck if I remember if I put it, but I found it and I think you all should read it too – it was writ by a Commissioner hisself

    And other things I said:

    I knew of people who done worked there and been treated bad. I used to think they did good things until then. I wonder how that manager Lisa wrote that book and if she did write it on work time.

    I then wrote outright to Mr. Jones, there Chairman, why he did not make sure the Child Care places were not in black neighborhoods as my people desserve some of the money too after I had read this conversations:
    http://blogs.venturacountystar.com/mlakin/archive

    1. I even like what you wrote better the second time around!

      ~ EDITOR NOTES — All original comments are back after 2nd and last attempt to use Intense Debate commenting system. We apologize for any inconvenience and caution against duplicating content.

  21. Whoa! What happened to the 40+ comments that were here about this story?

    For anyone who is new to it: All but 1 post felt that there were some serious issues involved here. There were several folks who believe that the wording of the report suggests that a referral to the DA's office may be forthcoming as the Grand Jury detailed out a lot of descriptions of the complaints – the type that end up on "Law and Order" as one person put it – and that they seemed to have set us up to hear a "hot story" yet did not address any of those complaints.

    So, summarizing what I think about 4 people thought, there's a belief that an explanation gap was left that will probably be filled by a DA office referral.

    I guess it's also possible, that technically speaking, the Grand Jury could indict, even as a Civil Grand Jury, according to this reference page, which states that in some cases the Civil Grand Jury in CCC can "hear evidence of a criminal nature"
    http://www.ci.oakley.ca.us/subpage.cfm?page=19440

    I don't know if that means they can indict, but I guess it could mean that too.

    Max

    p.s. what's with this thing now censoring the word a….s…..s. inside other words?

  22. Laundry List from Sac Bee article:
    http://www.sacbee.com/2010/05/16/2752196/another-

    Sacramento Bee
    1. Kids panels hold $2 billion Sacramento Bee, January 17, 2008
    2. Program critics claim abuse, want to seize funds, January 13, 2009

    RIVERSIDE (Riverside Press-Enterprise)
    1. Fair bidding?, December 15, 2008
    2. Changes urged for 'dysfunctional' First 5 Riverside commission , December 17, 2008
    3. State deficit debacle threatens First 5, January 23, 2009
    4. First 5 Commission looks at perception of conflict of interest, February 25, 2009
    5. Riverside County supervisors want to make First 5 Riverside a county agency, March 17, 2009 (and they did it)
    6. First 5 grant probe could take another month, March 25, 2009

    SAN DIEGO (San Diego Union Tribune)
    1. First 5's fund focus of county attention, May 24, 2009
    2. Member of First 5 Commission steps down, June 3, 2009
    3. Deeper conflicts emerge in First 5 funding, June 4, 2009
    4. Glaring conflicts: First 5 grant program needs thorough overhaul, June 5, 2009
    5. First 5 tightens funding policies: New bylaws target conflicts of interest, June 30, 2009
    6. New rules prompt 9 to quit First 5 advisory panel, August 18, 2009
    7. First 5 spending plan has old ties, September 13, 2009
    8. Fix First 5 – now Use funds on health care, not belly dancing?, November 21, 2008

    FRESNO (Fresno Bee)
    1. Fresno Co. finds it hard to measure First 5's results, Dec. 26, 2009
    2. Fresno Co. First 5 faces conflict-of-interest worries, Dec. 27, 2009

    SAN FRANCISCO (San Francisco Chronicle)
    1. Not all First 5 grants are helping poor kids, April 19, 2008

    TULARE (Visalia Times-Delta)
    1. First 5 spends $18k on invitations for a $486 party, just weeks before election, April 21, 2009

    ALSO:

    Time to End the Children and Families Commission’s Autonomy May 6, 2010 (http://www.fullertonsfuture.org/2010/time-to-end-the-children-and-families-commissions-autonomy/#comment-13984

    [AUDIO] First 5 Consultant receives $200 per hour for listening to radio KFI (May 7, 2010) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3-nP9Hxvjw&fe…!

    [VIDEO] $4 million is spent on a national cartoon show KCRA (11-18-08)

  23. For Anon, May 28, 2010 6:34 PM on East Bay Daze:

    About time! I know people who worked for them and the allegations, in my opinion, are probably pretty close to the mark.

    And maybe the reason the initial complaints are not addressed in the report is they referred those complaints to the DA because they rose to the level of a criminal investigation.

    I hope it is clear to everyone that First 5 probably persuaded the CCTimes to put out a feel good story the very same week because they knew this was coming!

    How much did they pay the Times – how many ads a year do they take out? One thinks there has to be a link! They've got $50 million in the bank to buy ads.

    First 5 does not provide "essential" services by the way – these are augmented services – the county offers essential child welfare and healthcare services, not First 5 – in fact, the law that created them says they can't spend money on services that are already in place – so DO NOT believe the PR: they are still in place, funding classes that cost an exhorbitant amount of money, while the county laid off over 50 case workers – the ability to intervene in child abuse has been HACKED, while First 5 funds things like playground improvement, and not just in the poor areas they claim to serve.

    Turn them into a county department! Riverside did so to their First 5 after similar problems came up:

    "Riverside County supervisors want to make First 5 Riverside a county agency", March 17, 2009, Riverside Press-Enterprise

    Keep it up DAZE – we need you and other blogs to offset the bias of the CC Times against reporting real news that impacts our children.

  24. On behalf of Elaine Vega:

    I just wanted to follow up on my 9:27 AM post of the other day – and emphasize a point made elsewhere:

    According to their website, the First 5 Executive Director has two Master’s degrees – one in public health and another in social work. Seems like he should be a smart guy.

    And so it's simply incredulous that management is clueless about the employee handbook. As KentD elsewhere said,

    "If there ever were a case for “There should be a law!” this could be it; and that law should say, “In every government agency, the Department Head or Executive Director must can pass an HR exam so that he or she does not cause any litigation or harassment due to being a bonehead…”

  25. I think what is really sad is that these folk represented to us that they were doing something innovative and important. I went and read some of the news articles listed on the Halfway blog, and the articles from the Fresno Bee really indicate, from the mouth of a Commissioner, that the whole First 5 system has failed to prove they've impacted kids at all. In other words, wasted, untrackable money.

    So as I re-read the Times articles this week and the blog article here and at Halfway, what strikes me is that this really is some huge PR campaign being shoved at us. It's take me a few days for that all to sink in.

    For me, as a flaming on fire liberal, this is just an embarrassing train wreck in motion. I voted for Prop 10, but put it on the ballot again and I'll do my best to help move those funds to some other more accountable cause.

    Because to me, that's clearly all that the First 5's proven: they are unaccountable to anyone. I now believe that some savvy unethical people figured out they could abuse the intent, and so they, in more than a few cases, have turned it into a feeding frenzie for Commissioners.

    It's time for it to go as it is. The exemption that allows Commissioners to receive money is ludicrous – never heard of that anywhere before. Were we on drugs?

  26. Ok, I'm posting what was here before from East Bay Daze – this makes me even more mad!

    Keeping it HONEST and REAL re: First 5's claims that the recommendations were not linked to the complaints (sorry for length and hope this does not end up a duplicate post):

    1. The Board of Supervisors shall appoint commissioners not affiliated with agencies most likely to be awarded significant funding, thereby minimizing perceptions of impropriety. (RELEVANT COMPLAINTS = self-dealing, conflicts of interest, misappropriation of funds in the awarding of contracts)

    2. First 5 Commissioners having financial interests in contracts before the Board of Commissioners shall recuse and physically remove themselves from meetings while the contracts are being considered. (RELEVANT COMPLAINTS = self-dealing, conflicts of interest, misappropriation of funds in the awarding of contracts)

    3. First 5 Commission shall select a new independent auditor through a competitive bid process. (RELEVANT COMPLAINT: general dereliction of fiduciary duties)

    4. First 5 Commission shall provide annual training to all employees on Employee Handbook procedures and provisions. (RELEVANT COMPLAINT: illegal or inappropriate employment practices)

    5. The Board of Supervisors shall pursue inclusion of the First 5 Commission as a unit of County government. (RELEVANT COMPLAINTS: Board of Commissioners’ self-dealing, conflicts of interest, misappropriation of funds in the awarding of contracts, general dereliction of fiduciary duties, and unethical conduct. In addition, complaints alleged illegal or inappropriate employment practices, including discrimination, manager bias and favoritism, sexual harassment and the cover-up of such behavior.)

    See – that was easy! Those seem to match up precisely – to me AND my 5th grader.

    1. We apologize for antagonizing you. It was not on purpose but the hope that a new commenting system might serve us all better, and chose the weekend to work out bugs. The voluminous comments you and others have posted on this topic are being slowly imported into the new commenting system and ought to show up again next week. We pray for your patience and forgiveness.

  27. well I guess we should just all start over on our here comments since this new system is saying it got rid of them – whats' with that BGR?

  28. @Anon – I don’t think anyone at all slammed the kids and no one said the Grand Jury slammed the kids. Every criticism, other than yours, has to do with the operating activities of the current First 5 organization and its leadership.

    I voted for Prop 10. Now I regret it because of the exemption for people to serve on it who also can receive money. That was just dumb of us.

    The crap is people just buying into “feel good” stories and thinking that oversight and other responsibility or stewardship issues do not matter. Your bringing the oil spill situation into the discussion is the only clear sign that anyone has gone “off topic.”

  29. @Anon, Your criticism overlooks the fact that the vast majority of of suggestions in this thread suggest that the Prop 10 money be used in some existing government department or competent community based organization.

    Clearly the work is important, and that is why the community needs to find an effective and transparent agency to better serve those the Prop 10 was directed, not to just prop up yet another agency.

    To paint the discussion as some anti-government screed is inaccurate and seems to be biased against services actually hitting the ground.

  30. This thread seems to have strayed very far from the original points. The Grand Jury did not slam the work that the Frist 5 does with the kids. They Grand Jury did not say that the work product or the benefits of the project on the kids is not working or worth it.
    What they said is that there is misuse of direction of authority, improper protocols and needs for audits and changes in the management structure.
    Instead people here have gone off the deep end to attack the program and what it does and has accomplished.
    The Grand Jury outlined steps to improve things. So let them do it, let them take the heat for the errors of their ways, but let us not forget the good that has been done and SHOULD continue to be done.
    The ideological bend (if not outright bent) here is to jump on anything that government does and give the great scream of ‘See government is bad, tear them down, stop everything that government is doing, let the market handle it.”

    Ever think of how the Free Market is going to fix things. Take the Gulf Oil Spill. If the Free Market was so hot why isn’t it fixing it. Oh wait, it was the Free Market that caused the spill.

    Enough of this crap.

    1. “What they said is that there is misuse of direction of authority, improper protocols and needs for audits and changes in the management structure.”

      hmmm, yep they did – thanks for confirming our interpretations of what should be done!

  31. Yes Jasmine, they have been targeted by some right wing folks for while, but with every passing day, moderates like me are joining that point of view:

    Move the money and get rid of the legalized “self-dealing”, even if it means getting rid of the First 5 Commissions altogether.

  32. This is the one that makes me ask – What the $#%&?!?

    “First 5 Commissioners having financial interests in contracts before the Board of Commissioners shall recuse and physically remove themselves from meetings while the contracts are being considered.”

  33. As I read it, the Grand Jury is basically saying the Executive Director is not so bright, since he and other managers don’t know the employee manual, and that he’s influence-able in the Executive Committee meeting once a month. If they’re commenting on that, maybe this guy Casey’s future could be less than stellar.

  34. @KentD: ROFLMAO! and ROFLMAO!

    “In every government agency, the Department Head or Executive Director must can pass an HR exam so that he or she does not cause any litigation or harassment due to being a bonehead, advanced degree or not.”

  35. Though I like some of what I’ve seen them do, like the annual celebration party, I’ve also been to a First5 center during the week, and more than once, and there were more staff than kids there . It seemed to me that the money was going to staff and was not really doing much else.

  36. Why am I just not surprised? I hope the BOS at least changes the entity to a department to deal with the failed HR in the place. Believe it or not, according to their website, the Executive Director there has TWO Master’s degrees – I’m guessing there are others there with at least one.

    And, still, you are telling me that the management does not understand the handbook? Serious leadership failure there. If there ever were a case for “There should be a law!” this could be it; and that law should say:

    “In every government agency, the Department Head or Executive Director must can pass an HR exam so that he or she does not cause any litigation or harassment due to being a bonehead, advanced degree or not.”

  37. @Rebecca – Dead right! They are people getting pensions for handing out money to their friends/associates. Wonder how wink/nod that all was between the Commissioners – think they ever met outside of class and figured out who got how much?

  38. Sorry folks and John Gioia, should you be reading

    It’s spelled GIOIA ! ! ! !

  39. Should you feel the urge to send the email letters to ask the Supervisors to follow through on the Grand Jury’s recommendations (I did), here’s how you spell the supervisors’ names:

    Glover
    Piepho
    Uilkema
    Goia
    Bonilla

  40. This is exactly what happens when you create a law that allows the people on the Commission to receive money from the Commission – it’s no surprise. Sad and stupid are the voters who approved the thing based on celebrity appeal.

    With First 5, we have god knows how many people on the state pension, for doing exactly what? Handing out money to their friends.

  41. Hi Max,

    How did you read my mind? I am going to get some people who say I should not have done that, but I don’t care.

    my English is not so great so I don’t do that much blogging, but this is one of those issues I feel strongly about. I’ll think about it. Thank you.

  42. Jasmine,
    I want to say thank you for addressing some the people at First 5 directly. I am thinking it is hard to stand up when it’s not that often that someone who is African American is in charge, and so I feel this was probably a little hard for you to do. I don’t know if you blog very much but I encourage you to continue. You have a fresh voice and I like it!

  43. Max,

    I am highly disturbed after reading your link from the Prop 1D discussions. African American children are not being helped out by First 5 in equality. Those kids are my people and I can not tell you how long we have waited for their to be focus on us, in our neighborhoods, not just when we adventure out to the main street.

    So, I’ve been reading, the CC Times and the First5 website – and guess where did they put these 6 kids centers? In mostly Hispanic areas. Now exactly how is some 4 year old black child going to feel he is at a place that care about hisself when nobody speak English to him? How is that “educational” Mr. Casey?

    Worse off – maybe I should ask Mr. Jones, the Chair of that, as I am told he is African American. It’s bout time some one called you out, Mr. John Jones. So I will: How is you helping us all out here? putting those centers in places where we don’t go? Did you make sure you got the money? You one of them that is two who talks to the Executive Director montlhy and get most of the money?

    I’d be guessing that just so – you just forgot our kids, didn’t ya? too much color green, is it? Yeah, Mr. Jones, you know what I’m sayin! I say they should kick you off and let it be a department – least then you can’t play no games.

  44. I’ll tell you what I think is pretty annoying about the CC Times ignoring this story: last year in Riverside, they had something like 7 stories on the situation there in the Press Enterprise when they flipped the First 5 into a county department.

    The Press Enterprise is the region’s newspaper. The CC Times is ours – what’s the difference? What’s the CC Times’ excuse for not having the same sort of story plastered across 4-5 stories? Could they really have buried it for a certain level of advertising? As of today, it looks that way.

    Sad days indeed if so because it will mean that the First Amendment lives only in blogs in Contra Costa County.

  45. yep BGR – who knew?

    What’s observable from that Prop 1D data is that they’ve got themselves a voting block, don’t they? If you create programs that pretty much reach Hispanic families only, you think they’ll remember you if you run for office?

    sorry for the double post – I like the most recent one better if you want to get rid of one.
    Max

  46. For those who may claim that there were no links or reflections made between the complaints about First 5 Contra Costa and the recommendations made by the Grand Jury, here’s what my 5th grader was able to line up – it took him 20 minutes:

    1. The Board of Supervisors shall appoint commissioners not affiliated with agencies most likely to be awarded significant funding, thereby minimizing perceptions of impropriety. (RELEVANT COMPLAINTS = self-dealing, conflicts of interest, misappropriation of funds in the awarding of contracts).

    2. First 5 Commissioners having financial interests in contracts before the Board of Commissioners shall recuse and physically remove themselves from meetings while the contracts are being considered. (RELEVANT COMPLAINTS = self-dealing, conflicts of interest, misappropriation of funds in the awarding of contracts)

    3. First 5 Commission shall select a new independent auditor through a competitive bid process. (RELEVANT COMPLAINT: general dereliction of fiduciary duties)

    4. First 5 Commission shall provide annual training to all employees on Employee Handbook procedures and provisions. (RELEVANT COMPLAINT: illegal or inappropriate employment practices)

    5. The Board of Supervisors shall pursue inclusion of the First 5 Commission as a unit of County government. (RELEVANT COMPLAINTS: Board of Commissioners’ self-dealing, conflicts of interest, misappropriation of funds in the awarding of contracts, general dereliction of fiduciary duties, and unethical conduct. In addition, complaints alleged illegal or inappropriate employment practices, including discrimination, manager bias and favoritism, sexual harassment and the cover-up of such behavior.)

  47. I’m liking the web research results I’m getting on this here “little-known” agency – seems like some things have been out there for a while:

    First, them not following the laws that guide reporting – widespread:
    http://www.sco.ca.gov/Files-AUD/first5_advisory_2009_01.pdf

    and then, them being torn up from some very smart data analyst who dug deep into the First 5 state databases last year when Prop 1D was up on the ballot:

    http://blogs.venturacountystar.com/mlakin/archives/2009/04/prop-1d-the-d-stands-for-decep.html

    http://www.thesweetmelissa.com/sweet_melissa/2009/04/proposition-carves-out-kids-cash.html

    Happy reading! There’s lots about adults getting the money, evaluation firms receiving half a billion, African American kids getting the short stick, and more. A disturbing but important Memorial Day weekend read if you ask me. It’s time.

    1. Consulting firms, politicians and their pals, and agencies getting more resources than Afrcan Amercan kids?

      Sounds like California’s public schools?

      What’s different?

      Time to put COMMUNITY back into COMMUNITY ACTION instead of GOVERNENT ACTION

  48. I’m liking the research results I’m getting on this here “little-known” agency – seems like some things have been out there for a while:

    First, them not following the laws that guide reporting – widespread:
    http://www.sco.ca.gov/Files-AUD/first5_advisory_2009_01.pdf

    and then, them being torn up from some very smart data analyst who dug in deep to their databases last year when Prop 1D was up on the ballot:

    http://blogs.venturacountystar.com/mlakin/archives/2009/04/prop-1d-the-d-stands-for-decep.html

    http://www.thesweetmelissa.com/sweet_melissa/2009/04/proposition-carves-out-kids-cash.html

    Happy reading! Let’s spend the cash for more essential things – like caseworkers to intervene in child abuse cases.

  49. Hi Renee T,

    yes that is the same Lisa R Johnson who is a manager at the First5. I know her from a community meeting thing the First5 did.

    The web page is pretty funny because there is people who said to me that she do not do so great a job. Your idea about it is the same as mine. When she got time to write a book?

  50. Jasmine –

    Is that the same Lisa R. Johnson who is the Grants Program Manager on their website?

    If so, it’s like we all suspect: how do public “servants” spend their time? Personally, I have to wonder if she wrote that on work hours.

  51. Hi DH –

    I use to think First5 was a good thing, but after I know they treat staff bad and take $100,000 and more salaries, I changed my mind. As I heard it said, one person got badmouthed at a temprorary agency because of lies told them by one manager there. She never got no more work. That was just plain wrong.

  52. I like this research stuff.

    First here’s a report that shows the First 5 Commissions are not following the rules on reporting:
    http://www..sco.ca.gov/Files-AUD/first5_advisory_2009_01.pdf

    Also, First 5 is the agency that was under the Prop1D knife last year. I found some blog conversations that get into major detail on a lot of the problems people here have talked about. Here’s the links:

    http://blogs.venturacountystar.com/mlakin/archives/2009/04/prop-1d-the-d-stands-for-decep.html

    http://www.thesweetmelissa.com/sweet_melissa/2009/04/proposition-carves-out-kids-cash.html

  53. Carol:

    The EastBayDaze article shows a couple things: First, that the First 5 spokesperson Tracy Irwin is spinning the story like a dreidel on steroids when she claims none of the complaints were reflected in the recommendations. Who does she think she could be fooling? Maybe the CC Times – they are probably the only ones who’d bite.

    Now the GJ may have been plain vanilla, obtuse, or outright passive in their word choice in the report, but make no mistake about it: those complaints drove those recommendations.

    Several of us have noted the passive tone and it seems we agree that it implies far more may be going on in the situation. The GJ was no where near that vague in their other reports.

    So, while I prefer a more direct and specific writing style myself, if nothing else, it shows that the GJ took the complaints seriously. It’s also come to me that a main point here is the complaints were numerous and wide ranging and so shows that it was not just one person on a vendetta.

    And when it is not just one person on a vendetta, as Jasmine so eloquently put it, “if it smells like a fan up a river” – and perhaps she mean “crap creek”, then we should be asking for the recommendations to be implemented.

  54. I just got sent this. Without no details and from peoples I know who worked there for some bit, I will say:
    where there’s smoke….
    if it quacks like a duck….
    if it smells like a fan up a river….

    I think the drift has been got. Also, I just found out there’s this one of them managers there who wrote a weird kinda book talkin bout some dude ” with a hunger to feed.” Crazy-weird sex/animal stuff there folk – no wonder no one there kno how to read the Emplyment Handbook:

    http://lisareneejohnson.com/

  55. I am extremely angry as I now believe that First 5 CC tried to manipulate us with a clearly planted article in the CC Times – they are supposed to be a human service organization, not a political party – so – be forewarned First 5: Game On!

    For starters: this article was written by * * * A First 5 COMMISSIONER * * * – blowing the whistle on the whole thing!

    from Sacramento Bee:
    1. Another View: First 5 needs to refocus on the priorities of children, May 16, 2010

    http://www.sacbee.com/2010/05/16/2752196/another-view-first-5-needs-to.html

  56. I just read the report and it does not say anywhere that none of those employment allegations did not happen! Something stinks here people! Where are the investigative reporters when we need them?

    ~ EDITOR NOTES — Readers here are welcome to continue to crowd source stories and developments.

  57. More First 5 Commission Commentary:

    Time to End the Children and Families Commission’s Autonomy May 6, 2010 (http://www.fullertonsfuture.org/2010/time-to-end-the-children-and-families-commissions-autonomy/#comment-13984

    [AUDIO] First 5 Consultant receives $200 per hour for listening to radio KFI (May 7, 2010) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3-nP9Hxvjw&feature=player_embedded#!

    More on how $200 per hour can be spent as a First 5 consultant, May 17, 2010
    http://www.fullertonsfuture.org/2010/pacific-strategies-this-lunch-with-greenhut/

    [VIDEO] $4 million is spent on a national cartoon show KCRA (11-18-08)

    Shut down the children/families commissions, July 9th, 2008 http://orangepunch.freedomblogging.com/2008/07/09/shut-down-the-childrenfamilies-commissions/

  58. Over at the DAZE, a First5 spokesperson blathered on about how none of the initial allegations fed the recommendations.

    My POV is that means the DA’s got this one – why else would the GJ list all the “alleged” issues – they simply could have said – we had a few complaints and did our duty, but no, they list all of these complaints that imply corruption, collusion, harassment, cover up – the type of things that end up on “Law and Order”…

    Come on! – we’re not dummies – they were doing some read bad stuff there and to have the GJ not comment on them in specific can only mean one thing: the DA’s looking into it…

  59. Yes, this is exactly what I was talking about in the article I wrote on Special Districts. There is just too much room for abuse in “independent” agencies.

    Result: self-dealing, bad management behavior, people cozy with the Executive Director, Sean Casey, who was/is likely able to change the budget or planning in their favor …

    It sounds like a boys club scene, not even getting into whatever else was/is going on there.

  60. BGR – That’s exactly what’s been proposed in the governor’s budget – or at least halfway. We should get rid of the First 5s – there is no real oversight, and I agree the GJ did not go far enough – hopefully the DA’s office will look into things more deeply. I believe the BOS will do the right thing here and convert them to a county department, both for ethical and for funding reasons. There is precedent around the state, so they won’t get slammed for doiing so.

    Prop 10 was only intended to augment existing programs, but there is no legal argument for not funding cut programs because it is no longer “supplantation”.

  61. Pimping to the CCT is the right word I think. The problem is that the CCT bites on the human interest stories without much thinking going on. If they spent half as much time on this story as Borenstein does on pensions we might actually get to the truth here (oh yeah and First 5 is in the GJ’s pension spiking report too this year).

    They are promoting this big donation from the Longs Foundation on their website. Big mistake – doubt the Longs Foundation will actually fund, particularly when First 5 becomes a county department. I think Longs should be running from this one as fast as they can!

    Riverside made its First 5 a county department just last year because the Commissioners got over 50% of the funding and were being unethical. Our turn.

    1. update: they appear to have dumped the Longs Drug claim to fame off their front page – think Longs Foundation got smart?

  62. Here’s more!

    SAN DIEGO First 5 (from San Diego Union Tribune)
    1. First 5’s fund focus of county attention, May 24, 2009
    2. Member of First 5 Commission steps down, June 3, 2009
    3. Deeper conflicts emerge in First 5 funding, June 4, 2009
    4. Glaring conflicts: First 5 grant program needs thorough overhaul, June 5, 2009
    5. First 5 tightens funding policies: New bylaws target conflicts of interest, June 30, 2009
    6. New rules prompt 9 to quit First 5 advisory panel, August 18, 2009
    7. First 5 spending plan has old ties, September 13, 2009

    FRESNO First 5 (from Fresno Bee)
    1. Fresno Co. finds it hard to measure First 5’s results, Dec. 26, 2009
    2. Fresno Co. First 5 faces conflict-of-interest worries, Dec. 27, 2009

    SAN FRANCISCO First 5 (from San Francisco Chronicle)
    1. Not all First 5 grants are helping poor kids, April 19, 2008

    1. Take a good look, as this is what happens to bureaucracies the day after they are no longer a celebrity cause. Voters or legislature bite on some single issue, then create some “we’re gonna fix it or ‘get even’ commission that is just a political football and payback for local pols. 12 years later it is just another corrupt, poorly run sacred cow, non-profit with no oversight that lives off the entitlement due to mantras like “helping the kids.”

      The Grand Jury did not go far enough. Oversight could be provided by EOC, which has advised BOS on allocation of CSBG funds. Take the Prop 10 money and get rid of the overhead, and get the $$ to the agencies and departments that actually get the job done.

      First 5 Contra Costa could easily be eliminated and no one would ever know and more dollars would get to the community that needs it rather than maintaining yet another broken and forgotten agency.

  63. Here’s a list I got from the SacBee – as they said there – there is a big problem with the First 5 Commissions – we’re not alone:

    SACRAMENTO First 5 (from Sacramento Bee)
    1. Another View: First 5 needs to refocus on the priorities of children, May 16, 2010
    2. Commission delays vote on child art funding proposal May 3, 2010
    3. Critics: Art-exhibit plan ‘egregious’ while budget cuts imperil Sacramento County kids May 1, 2010

    RIVERSIDE First 5 (from Riverside Press-Enterprise)
    1. Fair bidding?, December 15, 2008
    2. Changes urged for ‘dysfunctional’ First 5 Riverside commission , December 17, 2008
    3. State deficit debacle threatens First 5, January 23, 2009
    4. First 5 Commission looks at perception of conflict of interest, February 25, 2009
    5. Riverside County supervisors want to make First 5 Riverside a county agency, March 17, 2009
    6. First 5 grant probe could take another month, March 25, 2009

  64. Looks like the First 5 PR machine was out pimping its story to the press ahead of this news. Guess they knew it was coming and the Contra Costa Times was happy to play along with puff piece to deflect the news.

    http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_15177517

    After donating $6.2M to boost preschool in Pittsburg and Concord you got to think the Long Foundation has some buyer remorse and will be watching their money like a hawk.

    http://claycord.com/2010/03/19/6-2-million-grant-awarded-to-first-5/

  65. Is this really a surprise? Board Members in it for themselves? Having close contact with the E.D. monthly does not give you access to funding? First 5 also had an auditor for more than 5 years – wonder how much could have been hidden as a result of that?

    My understanding is that the DA can press charges for as long as 3 years once they know about misbehavior that rise to the level of a crime. There must be some reason the GJ did not detail out more information about the alleged mistreatment of staff. There were no comments about those very serious allegations having been unfounded. I find all that fairly odd. It’s as though they lead you to a very hot story and then they don’t tell you the conclusions about that – which makes me think: it’s not over from a legal perspective.

Comments are closed.