The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

August 29, 2013
AUDIO: Embezzler talks about her re-hiring and firing from rail agency

Thumbnail image for NOTEBOOK_use_this.jpgOur story in today's Bee explains how changes on state government job applications led to the High Speed Rail Authority hiring a woman who served prison time for embezzling $320,000 from another department.

Rail officials fired Carey Renee Moore for lying on her job application. When the state blocked her from receiving unemployment benefits, she appealed her case before Administrative Law Judge Katie Zwinski on October 3, 2012.

A recording of that 23-minute hearing was among the public records we received in response to requests filed with the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and the State Personnel Board. Documents include the unemployment insurance appeal paperwork Moore filed with Zwinski and the High Speed Rail termination notice that went to the Personnel Board when Moore filed -- and then withdrew -- a challenge to her firing.

Here are some audio clips from the hearing attended by Moore and her mother, a long-time state personnel officer. No one from the state attended the hearing to defend Moore's termination.

Moore discusses her 2007 resignation from Board of Equalization.

Moore's take on the political motive for her firing and how changes to the state's job application gave her an opportunity to return to state service.

How Moore handled rail officials' questions about her absence from state service.

Moore explains how she researched the changes to state job applications to make sure she could apply for work without disclosing her criminal history.

Moore describes what she said was her limited access to a high speed rail credit account.

An emotional Moore says her dismissal from the rail agency was "cruel" and "a little bit of a shock."

ILLUSTRATION: Seattle Times/Gabi Campanario

July 23, 2013
Two California state workers charged with taking bribes

Two state workers have been arrested for taking allegedly bribes -- including money orders and vacations -- in a office-supply fraud scheme that investigators say defrauded Caltrans and the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A complaint by California Attorney General Kamala Harris claims that Michael Mathison, the 50-year-old owner of Veteran Toner Services, gave inflated office-supply quotes to the the departments along with ginned-up bids from bogus "competitors" at even higher rates.

The San Pedro-based company's website describes the business as "a small service toner organization driven to find the lowest price on quality product for our customers." A person who sounded like a man hung up without comment Tuesday afternoon when reached by telephone.

The attorney general's Bureau of Investigation launched its probe after receiving an anonymous tip in April 2012. It alleges Fish and Wildlife employee Stephanie Clark of Fair Oaks, 42, took bribes totaling $23,800 over the course of five years. including a Disneyland vacation trip and more than 50 postal money orders deposited to her bank account, in return for ordering overpriced supplies from Mathison.

It's not yet clear how much the alleged scam cost the department. Investigators sampled 13 of more than 200 Fish and Wildlife office supply purchase orders to Mathison's firm and found about $50,000 in inflated charges to the department, about $3,850 per invoice. If the average holds true as the state continues its review of Fish and Wildlife orders, the fraudulent charges could surpass three-quarters of a million dollars.

The complaint also alleges that Yuba City resident Danny Gray Compson, 62, submitted Caltrans invoices worth as much as $5,000 per week to be paid, but he never received the product from Mathison.

Clark was booked into Sacramento County Jail and Compson went to Sutter County Jail, with bail for each set at $75,000. Mathison was taken to the Los Angeles County Jail. His bail was set at $250,000. The charges against the trio include bribery, conspiracy and misappropriation of state funds.

Mathison and Clark could facing well over 20 years in prison, said attorney general spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill. Compson faces five years in prison on current charges, but the complaint will likely be amended based on further evidence.

Both state employees could be fined up to $10,000 each for taking bribes. All three will be ordered to pay restitution, an amount that officials have yet to tally while the investigation continues, Gledhill said.

California Attorney General's Complaint by jon_ortiz

July 12, 2013
Caltrans ad contractor gets nine years in prison for fraud

130712-yoda.jpgAn Elk Grove man who defrauded the state of nearly $2 million has been sentenced to nine years in prison and must forfeit personal property -- houses and a collection of Star Wars memorabilia -- under terms of a plea deal announced this afternoon.

Eric Hodgson, the 43-year-old owner of Phenix Print & Image, was arrested in April on 22 counts of grand theft after allegedly taking more than $1.8 million to advertise new construction contracts to bidders as required by state law. Caltrans paid the 2008 and 2009 contracts but cancelled a third in 2011 for more than $800,000 before any invoices were paid.

Caltrans staff found evidence of the alleged fraud during a routine request for proof of the advertisements' publication in local newspapers. California Department of Justice investigators subsequently found Hodgson defrauded the state with bogus documentation and used the money to pay off a mortgage, buy toys and comics and purchase "exotic trips" for himself and company employees, according to a news release from Attorney General Kamala Harris' office.

Hodgson pleaded guilty to seven of the 22 counts. In addition to his prison sentence, he will forfeit two residences, two cars, several retirement accounts and a collection of Stars Wars items worth more than $10,000 (including the 3-foot-tall Yoda pictured above) that will be auctioned off.

PHOTO: This "life-size" rubber Yoda will be auctioned off as part of Eric Hodgson's plea deal with the state of California. Courtesy of California attorney general's office.

February 1, 2013
CalPERS employee arrested on suspicion of identity theft

130201 lamar.JPGInvestigators have arrested a CalPERS employee today for allegedly stealing the identity of at least one pension fund member.

Authorities booked 40-year-old Koren Lamar into Solano County Jail on suspicion of identity theft, according to a Vacavile Police Department press release. Investigators made the arrest after seizing evidence from two Sacramento locations: a Fulton Fulton Avenue apartment complex and CalPERS' headquarters.

Lamar lived in an apartment on Fulton Avenue.

Vacaville police launched an investigation on Jan. 23 after the victim reported several loans taken out using their personal information and without their knowledge.

"During the investigation officers discovered a connection to the California Public Employees Retirement System, from which the victim is currently receiving retirement benefits," according to the press release submitted by Sgt. Jeff King. "Investigators believed that the personal information used in the loan applications was obtained from a CalPERS database."

Police said they believe that Lamar worked alone. They are continuing their investigation and other victims may surface, but they think the number is "relatively small."

CalPERS spokesman Brad Pacheco said in an emailed statement that protecting members' personal data "is one of our highest priorities. We have had very few instances of this kind and we will not let one individual overshadow our commitment to members."

PHOTO: Koren Lamar / Vacaville Police Department press release

January 4, 2013
Former California DMV employee sentenced in fraud case

A former California state employee convicted of filing a false disability benefit claim and then lying to investigators about it was sentenced today in Sacramento Superior Court, more than three years after her arrest.

Judge Geoffrey A. Goodman handed Lisa Trevino-Angelo, now 41, three years of informal probation and a total of 40 days in jail, according to a court spokeswoman. Each of the misdemeanor convictions had carried a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

The judge recommended that Trevino-Angelo serve a medical furlough instead of incarceration. She has until Feb. 22 to apply and to qualify for the program or she must turn herself in to serve jail time.

As a personnel specialist working part time for the Department of Motor Vehicles in 2008, Trevino-Angelo applied for disability benefits. She claimed the chronic pain, anxiety and fatigue she suffered were so crippling that she was virtually homebound and hardly able to lift a coffee cup to her lips.

CalPERS, which administers state employee disability benefits, collected four hours of investigative videotape that showed Trevino-Angelo bowling in Elk Grove, lifting a toddler, jumping at a soccer game and carrying bags while shopping. She was arrested in 2009.

RELATED POSTS:
Former California DMV worker convicted of disability claim fraud
State worker's sentencing for fraud delayed until January
View Trevino-Angelo disability fraud documents

December 3, 2012
State worker's sentencing for fraud delayed until January

100602 yolo county gavel.jpgSentencing for a former California state employee convicted of fraudulently applying for worker compensation benefits has been delayed until next month.

Lisa Trevino-Angelo was arrested in 2009 after claiming that chronic pain, anxiety and fatigue left her virtually homebound without the strength to hold her baby, drink from a coffee cup and unable to perform her duties as a personnel specialist for the DMV.

A CalPERS investigation gave a Sacramento Superior Court jury in October enough evidence to convict the 41-year-old Trevino-Angelo of submitting a false benefit claim and making false statements to support it. Each crime is punishable by up to one year in prison. Sentencing was scheduled for last week but is now rescheduled for Jan. 4.

RELATED POSTS
Former California DMV worker convicted of disability claim fraud
View Trevino-Angelo disability fraud documents

IMAGE: www.yolocourts.ca.gov

November 2, 2012
Former California DMV worker convicted of disability claim fraud

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100609 gavel.jpgA former state employee faces up to two years in prison after a Sacramento jury convicted her of fraud and lying to investigators to obtain a state disability pension.

Lisa Trevino-Angelo, now 41, was a personnel specialist working part time for the Department of Motor Vehicles in 2008 when she applied for the tax-free benefit. She claimed that chronic pain, anxiety and fatigue left her virtually homebound and unable to raise a coffee cup to her lips.

Officials arrested her on suspicion of fraud in 2009 after CalPERS investigators collected four hours of videotape that showed Trevino-Angelo bowling in Elk Grove, lifting a toddler, jumping at a soccer game and shopping at several stores with bags in tow.

On Wednesday a jury concluded that she had filed a false benefit claim to CalPERS and made false statements to support it. Each misdemeanor conviction carries a maximum of one year in jail. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 28.

"CalPERS is pleased by the verdict," said CalPERS spokeswoman Amy Norris. "We don't tolerate fraud and abuse of the system."

Trevino-Angelo's attorney, Michael Wise, could not be reached for comment.

July 17, 2012
CA Department of Corrections to host rehabilitation workshops

120717 Matt Cate 2011 Benton.JPGThe California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has planned two public workshops to gather public input for how it can improve rehabilitation programs for inmates and parolees.

The department said in a news release this morning that it anticipates suggestions from organizations that run substance abuse programs, from academics and from employment services, among others.

The first meeting is scheduled for Thursday in Los Angeles in the auditorium of the Junipero Building at 320 W. 4th St.

The second is set for downtown Oakland next Tuesday, July 24, in the auditorium of the Elihu M. Harris State Building at 1515 Clay St.

Both workshops start at 9 a.m. Registration opens at 8:30 a.m.

May 2, 2012
Five California DMV workers charged in fraudulent license scam

The Associated Press is reporting from San Diego that five California Department of Motor Vehicles workers have been charged in what federal prosecutors say was a scheme producing hundreds of fraudulent driver licenses for bribes of up to $3,000 each.

From the AP report:

Applicants who failed driving tests or were unwilling to take them paid "recruiters" who, in turn, bribed employees at offices in suburban El Cajon and Rancho San Diego to enter false scores, according to the complaint.

Read more at this link.

October 20, 2011
Slain technician to be remembered at California mental facilities

110325 Safety Now.JPGFamily members of slain hospital employee Donna Gross, state lawmakers and state workers will gather at various locations around California on Sunday to highlight concerns for patient and employee safety at state mental health facilities.

The Safety Now! Coalition is organizing the events at seven state facilities to observe the anniversary of her death at Napa State Hospital. The 54-year-old psychiatric technician from Concord had worked at the hospital for 14 years when she was killed last year by patient Jess Willard Massey.

August 30, 2011
Avenal correctional staff intercept cellphones, tobacco

110830 prison cellphones.JPGStaff at Avenal State Prison last week found cellphones, cellphone batteries and chargers and tobacco after a sergeant noticed a security fence breach on the south of the facility.

The discovery on Friday came one day after a key legislative committee approved Senate Bill 26, which would criminalize smuggling wireless devices into prison facilities.

According to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the discovery netted two bags filled with:

• 173 bundles of tobacco weighing approximately 17 pounds
• 25 cellular phones
• 26 cell phone chargers
• 11 cell phone batteries
• 5 cigarette lighters
• 1 pair of cell phone ear-buds
• 3 Micro SD memory cards

January 12, 2011
Unions plan rally at Napa hospital

Union SafetyNow flyer

AFSCME Local 2620, SEIU Local 1000, the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians and the Union of American Physicians and Dentists are rallying next week to call attention to their safety concerns at government mental health facilities around the state.

For years, the unions have said that employee, patient and public safety are in peril at state hospitals. Those concerns gained more attention last year when Donna Gross, a Napa State Hospital psychiatric technician, was killed at work. A patient there was arrested on suspicion of murder.

The unions plan to rally at the hospital from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday. (We've Scribd the flyer above.)

August 14, 2009
NPR looks at state prisons; Hollingsworth puts out prison numbers

Click here to listen to National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" story, "Folsom Embodies California's Prison Blues." The Thursday piece runs 12 minutes, 21 seconds.

If you can't link directly to the NPR media player, click here and scroll down to the headline. You can download the Webcast from there or read a transcript.

While we're on the topic of prisons, Murrieta Republican Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth's office put out some data this week that we'll pass along for your inspection and comment, since we know a lot of CDCR folks are blog users.

Click the link below for an intro and link to the data.

May 4, 2009
ABC staff take aim teen drinking in May, hope to cut killer crashes
Staff at the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control have joined a national effort  this month that aims to cut underage drinking and reduce deadly car and truck crashes.

ABC investigators and enforcement staff statewide have joined the National Liquor Law Enforcement Association's "Operation Save a Teen."

ABC investigators will work across California all this month to thwart the sale of alcohol to teens and underage drinking, hopefully preventing dozens of alcohol-related tragedies.

During 2007, 188 people under age 21 were killed in alcohol-related crashes statewide, according to ABC Director Steve Hardy.

Hardy said families should be celebrating landmark life events like high school and college graduations and other spring community events, not mourning their dead teens.

For details about either Operation Save a Teen and the National Liquor Law Enforcement Association, click here. 
January 13, 2009
Department's food drive soars, despite looming furloughs

Sometimes, the efforts of a few stand out as a shining example in hard times.

Workers at the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, a department with about 310 state employees, have collectively answered the call of depleted food banks statewide even as their own pay checks are set to shrink 10 percent next month.

DAPD workers have so far donated more than 8,000 pounds of food and cash to the State Employees Food Drive.

That's more than 25 pounds per employee, compared to last year's statewide average of about 3 pounds per worker, the department's Morgan Staines told The State Worker.

Staines, the department's chief counsel and food drive leader, said many DADP staffers have personally experienced hard times over the years and understand needs are great.

"We're all closer to the edge right now than we would like," Staines said.

The state employee food drive continues through Jan. 16.

The Department of Food and Agriculture, despite its own incredible workload, coordinates the statewide effort in partnership with California Emergency Foodlink.  The Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs leads the state's drug prevention, treatment and recovery efforts. 

November 19, 2008
UPDATE: Former Consumer Affairs employee sentenced for data download

491-1W10IDTHEFT1_embedded_prod_affiliate_4.jpgBee reporter Andrew McIntosh reports today that Rachael Dumbrique, the former Consumer Affairs employee who illegally downloaded a personnel file with the names and Social Security numbers of 5,500 state employees also possessed confidential reports about the gang affiliations of state prison inmates.

She has filed for divorce from a known Mexican Mafia member, Edward Dumbrique, whom she married last year in a ceremony at Corcoran State Prison. Edward Dumbrique is serving a life sentence for murder.

Rachael Dumbrique was sentenced Tuesday to a year in Sacramento County Jail, five years probation and ordered to pay up to $122,000 in restitution to the state of California.

Read the McIntosh report by clicking here.

IMAGE: Sacramento Bee

October 22, 2008
How should state worker misconduct be covered?

971-JV_DUMBRIQUE_01.standalone.prod_affiliate.4.JPGAs reported by The Bee's Andrew MacIntosh in this story, former state worker Rachel Rivas Dumbrique has pleaded no contest to a single felony count of illegally downloading state human resources records and shipping them to her personal e-mail account. She'll be sentenced in November.

While this case clearly is newsworthy -- Dumbrique committed a felony by compromising thousands of personal information files -- not every instance of employee misconduct deserves airing in The Bee.

This is on our mind because we're regularly getting tips about state worker misconduct (usuallly from state workers). Each time one comes our way, we ask several questions:


  • If we write about this, who will care?

  • Is this costing taxpayers' money through diversion, theft or inefficiency?

  • Is health, safety or property at risk?

  • Does this exemplify a larger trend worth public attention?

  • Does this indicate holes in the system to keep people or agencies accountable?

There are more, but you get the idea.

So what do you think? What filters, if any, should the media have when covering state worker misconduct? What is the line between reporting misconduct and bashing state workers?

Photo credit: José Luis Villegas / Sacramento Bee

October 15, 2008
Correction officer killed at home

This sad story broke in today's Bee. Our condolences to Officer Steve Lo's wife and his five children.

October 7, 2008
Blaming the boss

the office.jpgHow much should we blame the managers?

There's always a tendency to read reports like last week's Bureau of State Audits account of improper state employee activity and focus on the workers caught misusing their position or access. But move past that and another theme surfaces -- a failure of state management.

A few examples mentioned in the audit, which you can read by clicking here:

A Department of Justice manager whose failure to track subordinates' work time reporting allowed them to take 727 hours of pay that was "potentially unearned."

An Employment Development Department employee who drank on the job, "and his drinking impeded his ability to perform his duties safely ... his supervisors had been aware of the situation for years."

The supervisors at Housing and Community Development failed either to notice or to act on signs that an employee was absent an estimated 1,200 hours, time she spent working for a nonprofit that gets about 40 percent of its money from HCD. "Through their inaction, HCD's management permitted the employee's improper conduct to occur and continue." Cost to the state: An estimated $34,700 in wages for work that wasn't done.

And in some cases, the boss is the rule breaker, like the CalTrans supervisor who used his state computer to conduct personal business.

There's more, as Bee colleague Andrew McIntosh reported in this story, but you get the idea.

The State Worker fields plenty of comments blasting the boss. Some of the critics contend that if the state upgraded its management corps, many other bureaucratic problems -- inefficiency, low morale, and the like -- would be well on the way to solution.

There is another side to this, however. Managers tell us that it's maddening to supervise people in a system that demands management accountability while undercutting management authority at the same time. Take the guy at EDD with the alcohol problem. His punishment? Two days suspension without pay.

Do what it takes to move out the bad apple and risk that you'll not be backed up, stymied by the rules or blocked by union protections. Leave the bad apple alone and risk rot spreading throughout your unit as your staff questions your dedication, courage, skill or understanding of "what's really going on." Management inaction squashes employee morale, damages management's standing and breeds more bad behavior.

If we're to believe what we hear in letters, e-mails and phone messages from state employees, the BSA's audit is a fleeting glimpse of how workers rip off the state. How much of that happens because bosses aren't watching? Because they're not speaking up? Or is it because the barriers to effective management in today's state bureaucracy in some cases are simply insurmountable?

We're writing about this topic for Thursday's State Worker column in print and online. If you'd like to weigh in, on the record, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us via the e-mail link below or call (916) 321-1043.

IMAGE: MSNBC.com

September 10, 2008
More about the union leader arrested on child porn charges

127-jaime_feliciano.highlight.prod_affiliate.4.jpgThe Bee has learned that the SEIU district president arrested Tuesday on child porn possession charges will likely lose his office and membership with the union.

As reported in this story by The Bee's Chelsea Phua, SEIU Local 1000 District Labor Council 784 President Jaime E. Feliciano, 49, was arrested on suspicion of possessing child pornography and violating his probation as a sex offender.

Phua reports, "According to court records, Feliciano was convicted in 1993 of lewd or lascivious act with a child under the age of 14 years, which is a felony."

In an e-mail to the State Worker this morning, Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker said, "I am personally disgusted and appalled. I am filing charges to remove him from office and from membership in Local 1000."

Feliciano is a research program specialist at the state insurance department.

So how does a convicted child molester become a union leader? We asked SEIU spokesman Jim Zamora late last night. His e-mail reply, sent at 1 a.m. this morning:

We are all shocked and disgusted by these charges. No one in SEIU leadership knew that he was a convicted sex offender prior to the media reports of his arrest.

(Feliciano) was elected by his fellow workers at Department of Insurance in Sacramento and some folks in other nearby agencies. (I'm not sure which departments at this time) He represents approximately 1,000 to 1,500 workers. It's an unpaid position, with no desk, no physical office etc. He keeps his day job. It's an election among peers. To be eligible he needs to be a state employee working in the geographic area represented by that DLC (District Labor Council) and a member of SEIU Local 1000. He does NOT have to be longtime SEIU member or veteran activist to run for office. There is no background check or criminal records search of candidates internal union elections.

Obviously this case raises the issue that perhaps more vetting should be done in the future. That is something that would be reviewed by Local 1000 attorneys, our president and other senior leaders. But at this time, everyone is waiting to learn more about the criminal investigation.

He was first elected in late May and was sworn into office in mid-July. The only major meetings he attended as an elected official were on the July weekend he was sworn in. (Local 1000's main council meets 4 times a year) Prior to his election in June, I'm not sure how active he was in Local 1000 or how well known he was to workers outside of his colleagues at the Department of Insurance. His elected position did not put him in contact with children or teenagers.

August 15, 2008
State worker arrested: The internal department memo

Scott Reid, chief deputy director at Consumer Affairs, sent the following message about the arrest of a fellow state worker to all Department of Consumer Affairs Workers late Friday afternoon.

Bee reporter Andrew McIntosh obtained a copy and broke the story online. You can read his report here.

Here's Reid's memo:

Administrator/DCANotes

08/15/2008 04:21 PM

To: DCA A - B, DCA C - D, DCA E - F, DCA G, DCA H, DCA I-L, DCA M - O, DCA P-Q, DCA R, DCA S, DCA T-Z
cc

Subject: Privacy Incident Update

On Tuesday, June 10, we notified you of an unauthorized transmission of personal information involving DCA employees. At that time, we provided you with information about how to prevent identity theft and place fraud alerts on your credit reports.

On Wednesday, June 17 we informed you that DCA would be entering into a contract with a credit monitoring service to help protect you against possible identity theft, and on Wednesday, June 24, we informed you that we had, in fact, secured a contract with CSIdentity to provide free credit monitoring services and $25,000 of identity theft insurance.

Rest assured that since the discovery of the breach, the Department and its Division of Investigation (DOI) has worked diligently to determine the facts surrounding this unauthorized release of personal information and committed to taking whatever steps were necessary to hold accountable the party or parties involved.

Many of you had questions surrounding the circumstances of the breach and wanted to know what had happened and why. Regretfully, while we were able to share some limited information, much of what we knew was part of on ongoing investigation and unfortunately could not be shared without risk of compromising the inquiry.

The Department is now in a position to share with you that the investigation has been completed and the results have been turned over to the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office.

The investigation concluded that a former employee in DCA's Office of Human Resources (OHR), inappropriately e-mailed a file containing the names, position numbers, salaries and Social Security numbers of all DCA employees to a private e-mail address. This occurred on Friday June 6, her last day of work, and was discovered through DCA auditing software on Monday June 9.

Today, this employee was arrested on five felony charges stemming from the breach and from the discovery of material from other state agencies found during the execution of a search warrant at her residence.

The charges include three felony counts of theft/falsification/removal/destruction of official documents and two felony counts of unlawful access and/or transmittal of computer data.

At this time, the Department has no evidence that the information the employee allegedly compromised from DCA has been in any way misused, however, her actions were very serious and warrant criminal prosecution.

DCA takes pride in the dedication and commitment of each and every one of its employees and holds sacred the trust it enjoys with all Californians. When this trust is violated, there is no choice but to do everything within our power to hold perpetrators accountable.

DCA is hopeful that today's arrest is an important step to restoring this trust and we are grateful and appreciative for all of those who assisted in the investigation.



About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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