LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Monique Andrade, 21, of Chatsworth has cerebral palsy, is a quadriplegic and gets fed through a tube in her stomach.
Her mother Claudia says she consumes four and a half cans of Ensure a day, the only food that keeps her alive.
Monique is on Medi-Cal and the supplies are supposed to be delivered once a month through L.A. Care, a public health plan that gets hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money.
However, in the past few months, her supplies have been late or never arrived.
“It breaks my heart to see that she has to go without what she needs,” Claudia said. “She has a simple life. She doesn’t ask for much. It just doesn’t seem fair.”
A CBS2 News investigation found while Monique goes hungry, L.A. Care takes care of its own employees.
David Goldstein uncovered tens of thousand dollars in catered meals, even $2,700 for 1,200 slices of pie.
L.A. Care is the largest public health plan in the nation serving over 2 million people, some of the most vulnerable in the county.
The investigation reviewed thousands of pages of L.A. Care’s credit card charges and salary information for 2016 and found hundreds of receipts for catered breakfast or lunch meetings.
An executive lunch package of whitefish for more than $400 and nearly $16,000 in charges for In-and-Out Burger are a couple of examples.
What was it for?
According to L.A. Care’s project and event justification form, the word celebration was crossed out, describing it as an employee team building event.
In all, Goldstein’s investigation found almost $200,000 spent on catered meals.
We discovered the catering is all part of $500,000 projected to be spent on team building, recognition events and promotional items for the 1,900 people who work at LA Care.
CEO John Baackes defends the spending of taxpayer money, saying it helps employee morale.
“Why should taxpayer money be used for that?” Goldstein asked.
“Because it builds the confidence of the people who are serving them. Just paying them a salary to walk in the door, you know, there’s more to the work than just that,” Baackes said.
Baackes himself makes some big bucks. He pulled in more than $820,000 in salary and benefits in 2016.
He says the salary is competitive with others in the field.
Goldstein also found Baackes flew first class to a conference in Washington, D.C., costing taxpayers almost $3,500. Baackes says it must have been the only flight available.
“It was booked two weeks before the conference. Two weeks before the conference and your people couldn’t find anything other than first class? Goldstein asked.
“Apparently not,” Baackes said.
When the interview was over, Baackes apparently didn’t like the line of questioning.
“I mean, you don’t really believe the questions you’re asking me, do you?” he asked.
But government ethics expert Bob Stern says those questions should be asked.
“We all want happy employees, but clearly taxpayer money should be spent as wisely as possible. It’s not their money; it’s our money,” Stern said.
And it’s money spent on other people’s well-being, not Monique’s.
“The bottom line is they need to change their name because L.A. doesn’t care,” Stern said.