Officials respond to questions about embezzlement

inyo_courthouse.jpgHow did someone manage to steal more than $1.5 million in welfare funds in Inyo County, undetected for eight years? The District Attorney alleges Inyo’s Social Services Supervisor Dawndee Rossy conspired with her husband Ken to commit that crime. Director of Health and Human Services, Jean Turner, maintains that there were many safeguards in place.

Turner said, “There are eight different levels of safeguards.” Asked to describe them, Turner said she has to stay away from specifics right now as the prosecution of the Rossys goes forward. Turner did repeat that there were eight levels of safeguards in place involving various organizations including the County and the State. She said, “I hope I can give more detail in the future.”

Turner did say that the embezzled money did not come from the County General Fund. Auditor-Controller Leslie Chapman also said the embezzled funds did not go through the County Treasury. Chapman said she could not comment further pending prosecution of the case.

In a County press release Chapman had said that the County has “maintained good controls.” But she added that “It is very difficult to stop a management person in a position of trust and authority from circumventing the system.” Turner said as you go up the chain of management, “there is more trust in supervisory positions.”

Director Turner said that it is unfortunate this incident has placed a “black cloud over good employees.” She said her staff are dedicated public servants, and they are “particularly dismayed.” Asked if Inyo County has to pay back any of the $1.5 million, Turner said she does not know and that there are still many unanswered questions.

Inyo County Administrator Kevin Carunchio confirmed that there were “multiple safeguards and checks and balances in place under eight broad categories.” He said somebody had to get around them. Pressed for more details on how the crime occurred, Carunchio said, “I understand that everyone, including myself, has a lot of questions. Answers will come out through the criminal case, and I do not want to do anything to jeopardize that case.”

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8 Responses to Officials respond to questions about embezzlement

  1. little one April 16, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    Great response!
    Management needs to be addressed and I also demand as a tax payer that our Board of Supervisors step up, open their eyes and look at why the people in authority didn’t find this. Did they know and looked the other way.

  2. A.C. April 16, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    Given the director’s quote below (from the article above)… I am doubly disappointed… first that a public employee / manager would undermine the public’s trust, and second that somehow others higher in the chain would attempt to absolve themselves of their responsibility in the matter through the quote below….

    “It is very difficult to stop a management person in a position of trust and authority from circumventing the system.” Turner said as you go up the chain of management, “there is more trust in supervisory positions.”

    I see this as the equivalent of “I had no idea” or “we were all so shocked that someone in our organization could do this.” Are we supposed to somehow feel sorry for upper management for being “betrayed?” Where is the shame of upper management? Where is the accountability? Ridiculous. Kudos to the employee(s) who brought this forward and shame on management for pawning this off on one bad apple… Take some accountability for your misplaced personal trust and lack of professional oversight. As a tax payer and voter, I expect that the county supervisors will look further into this and take appropriate administrative action where leadership failed. You can’t fix the problem if you don’t completely understand it.

  3. Dave April 16, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    I don’t think I’d be commenting on eight levels of checks and balances, so the ball was dropped eight times? Or was it just ignored and overlooked.

    There is a real accountability issue for managers in the County, when I was there years ago I saw the Auditor have to pay back another Department when there was misuse of funds. I was never clear on what forced the correction, that was kept “quiet”, but it was big.The managements attitude was well we got caught, oh well, the managers responsible were never held accountable, the whole thing was swept under the rug as if never happened.

    This was then, and by all appearances still is the environment the County management operates, hide it, cover it up, protect our own at all costs. Unfortunately this is a possible outcome, misbehavior that is acceptable or accepted within the system, hurts and takes advantage of the very system that has protected it.

    I would like to thank the employee or employees that found this fraud those many months ago, and had the strength and courage to turn their concerns in to their supervisor despite the culture that exists, putting at risk your own employment (and watch out, for when this is all over, you may still be at risk!). YOU are a true PUBLIC SERVANT and need to be commended.

  4. Ted April 16, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Looks like they need a ninth level…

  5. ServingInyoCo April 16, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    Sadly predictable.

    To quote yesterday’s comment from the earlier article: “Will be entertaining to watch the DHSS administration in the pointless and sad excersize of attempting to cover their behinds. To those looking for accountability or “The buck stops here” acceptance of responsibility; don’t hold your breath.”

    Perhaps the DHSS Director is far too busy dreaming up that 9th level of safeguard to just say, “It’s my Department; I’m responsible.”

  6. Mark April 16, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    Perhaps they were savvy sophisticated career criminal minds 😉

    but I doubt it. Just a simple case of nobody checking her work.

  7. andrew April 16, 2013 at 7:32 am #

    What good are safeguards if they do not work?

  8. little one April 15, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    Wow let’s start with DHSS employee’s, sounds like they are the only one’s doing their job. Lets applaude those who care about the people they serve and are honest.

    Safeguards? Who was checking Mrs. Rossy’s work? Why didn’t her superiors find this? Why is it left to workers to police the supervisors? Where are the people in charge of supervising the supervisors like Ms. Rossy. Appears they failed to do the job. Stealing from our most needy population is sickening. Not only will the Rossy’s be on trial but our legal system will be under the microscope. DON’T let this drag out and cost us more money. Tired of paying for everyone else’s self serving antics.


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