Audit: $500K Spent By LA County Child Welfare On Phones, Calls Was Bogus

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An audit found that a quarter of the Los Angeles County child welfare department’s 2009 cell phone bill was wasted on unnecessary or “inappropriate” charges, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

A report by the Los Angeles County Auditor-Controller found that about $500,000 of the $2.2 million spent last year on cell phones paid for devices that were never used or for personal calls to foreign countries, according to the Times.

Trish Ploehn, who was removed last week as director of the Department of Children and Family Services, was given a draft copy of the audit this fall, the newspaper reported.

In an initial response to the report in September, Ploehn wrote that she would provide the county Board of Supervisors with a detailed plan to address issues raised.

“We generally agree with the majority of the recommendations contained in the report and completely concur that it is the department’s responsibility to safeguard county resources,” Ploehn wrote.

However, the Times reported that no additional plan from the department has since been submitted, according to supervisors’ aides and the county’s website tracking correspondence between departments and the board.

The audit found that welfare officials did have up-to-date logs and could not identify users for more than 250 active phones.

It also found that more than 1,400 of the department’s 5,000 phones were not used by employees, yet were activated and incurred $330,000 in service charges. One worker compiled $2,000 in personal international calls.

At the same time, officials have acknowledged that the department refused to give cell phones to child abuse investigators.

Susan Herman, a spokeswoman for county Chief Executive William T Fujioka, told the Times the county “takes the audit findings very seriously, and DCFS is going to be giving out a detailed response sometime soon.”

Herman also said child welfare officials are reevaluating a policy of denying child abuse investigators cell phones.

“We are committed to giving employees the tools they need to make children and families safe,” she told the newspaper.

According to the audit, the department has begun canceling services for phones for which there was no identified user.

 (© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Rocio

    OMG how I hate the L.A times! They are such bullies against us social workers! Let us do our jobs already and can u for once focus on the GOOD things we do? I don’t even think the phone we had has long distance??? How the heck is it possible to call internationally? Whatever*-i don’t believe 90% of their stories anymore and the best part is that if we submit counter stories or positive stories they don’t print them! UGH!

    • MGraves

      It’s about time someone crackdown on the misuse of government funds. The LA Times only report the truth. If they make you do your job and stop you from making overtime for something you need to complete during regular bussiness hour. Claiming mileage for trips not made, and just not doing your jobs. You make a bad name for all government workers. You should be punished for your action. Only reason that happen because you do have a good Supervisor’s.

    • mike

      Garbage… free free free is how you guys think. Government workers forget the people they work for and need to pay their own bill and ask for reimbursement.
      You get a salary, pay your car note, pay your phone bill ask for valid expense report.

      • Astonished


        Do not place all government workers in your catagory. I and a lot of others spend plenty of our own money and unpaid time to serve the citizens of our government. You don’t know about it because no one says anything about that! It doesn’t create the right kind of sensationalist news people like to read about.

  • Wayne Thomas

    I’m hoping that is a now ex-worker who racked up $2,000 in international calls. But oh ya, this is a government worker. I guess you can’t fire a government worker for stealing $2,000 from us.

    • MGraves

      I agree, however its not all Government Workers. It has nothing to do where you work it the nature of that individual. If you do the crime then you should be dealt with. Why should we continue to pay for the misuse and our children is suffering, some even dead. The time use to talk on the phone should have been used to managed their caseload.

  • Jamaican Josh

    Lazy, ungrateful, abusers! That about sums up these people.

  • Michael

    Most of the L.A.County employees are have come in contact are uneducated, lazy and feel they are entitled to their cushy jobs.
    They draw a hefty salary and believe they are entitled to abuse the population they should be serving.

    • MGraves

      I agree, we need to hold the County Supervisor accountable as well. The LA Times has reported many incidents of misuse. They finally removed Trish. But, why so long? They all need to be held accountable instead of sitting on their fat behinds and getting fatter because they are not make to be accountable. The children are want they forget they are suppose to protect!

  • ginny25

    I work in the private sector and this same problem exists there at the same levels if not more. I never wanted a cellphone but was told I had to get one for work. My monthly expense report could account for every call on the bill because they were all work related. But, because so many employees misused the program the company has stopped paying for the phones/use and still expect us to have them. Needless to say, I opted out of mine when the renewal time came. Actions like these people is theft plain and simple whether private sector or govt.

  • Audit News » Blog Archive » Audit: Airport lost $447K returning snow melters

    […] Audit: 0K Spent By LA County Child Welfare On Phones, Calls Was Bogus An audit found that a quarter of the Los Angeles County child welfare department’s 2009 cell phone bill was wasted on unnecessary or “inappropriate” charges, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday. Read more on CBS 2 Los Angeles […]

  • Jack McMahon

    The whole judicial system is a sink hole for money needed to close the budget gap, but WASTED. Rampant indifference, incompetence and pure corruption reign the entire judiciary in LA county. This isn’t a probation dept problem, it goes to every legal entity including every part of the courts.Los Angeles Superior Court spokesman Allan Parachini was fired because he provided PUBLIC records to the PEOPLE. Transparency and accountability are at the heart of the American legal system. Judges and the rest of the legal system is NOT above the LAW. The Brown act must be followed. Public audits of the spending of our money must be done to get the money to the right places and reducer redundancy and waste.

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