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Former County Worker Alleges Welfare agency “Fraud”

A former Calaveras County employee plans to ask the Calaveras County Grand Jury to investigate his allegations of “mismanagement, fraud, waste and abuse” in the Calaveras Works and Human Services Agency, the county´s welfare department.

Charles Berg resigned as the agency´s fiscal program manager this month after four months on the job.

“I (have) never witnessed the regular and ongoing practices and violations of basic requirements as I have in the four months here,” Berg said in an e-mail copy of his resignation he sent to county employees and members of the media.

Berg has worked for the federal Department of Veterans Affairs as a benefits counselor, congressional liaison, chief of operations in the finance division, and assistant to the director of operations and management. He also worked as an auditor for the Navy and a controller for the federal Department of Transportation.

“I am resigning … due to my belief of clear mismanagement, fraud, waste and abuse,” he wrote.

Supervisor Tom Tryon said Berg´s reason for leaving is “inaccurate.”

“Obviously he wasn´t doing much of his job if he´s an expert on every other department,” Tryon said.

County Counsel James Jones said he´s aware of the e-mail but can´t say anything more about it until later this week.

“We are investigating it,” Supervisor Merita Callaway said.

County counsel and the county administrator have already started looking into it, she said. “Some of the items could be true,” Callaway said.

Agency Director Terri Beaudreau and Deputy Director Sue Dodson are not going to be commenting pending a press release from the Board of Supervisors, David Sirias, assistant county counsel, said.

In the e-mail, Berg accused agency directors of “selected harassment” of employees.

An employee who was experiencing the onset of Alzheimer´s, was assigned “make work” projects and was never referred for a medical evaluation, Berg said.

Marty Torres, an eligibility worker since 1984, is the worker referred to in Berg´s e-mail, his wife, Tina, acknowledged.

When Marty became ill with the disease, he was threatened and harassed by his supervisor, Tina said. There was a lot of threatening to terminate instead of trying to help, she said.

“His supervisor knew there were some health issues we were trying to figure out, but she didn´t share that with anyone. She chose a different route, made life very difficult for him,” Tina said.

Marty´s supervisors exacerbated the problem since stress accelerates Alzheimer´s, she said.

“After things got bad for him, they finally sent him in for testing,” Tina said. “They waited until it was to a very bad point.”

Tina said if the Alzheimer´s was caught earlier, Marty might still be able to work. Marty is now on medication that slows the progression of the disease, she said. Marty left work in November and plans to go on long-term disability.

“When someone works for you for that long and it becomes apparent he´s having trouble doing his job, there´s usually a reason,” Tina said.

Tina didn´t want to name Marty´s supervisor because, she said, “We´re contemplating possibly seeking the advice of an attorney.”

Senior management has “trashed” the professional and personal reputations of certain employees, Berg said, specifically naming Lisa Walker, a former Cal Works employee who is now working in administration.

Walker worked under Beaudreau for nearly 20 years. She considered herself a loyal and dedicated employee. But, upon returning from a temporarily medical leave due to multiple sclerosis, Walker was demoted without a valid explanation, she said.

Beaudreau told Walker she wanted her to ease back into her duties, although Walker told Beaudreau she was fully capable. “Beaudreau said that she could assign me to any position in the department that she chose,” Walker said.

Walker left the agency in September 2003 for a better position in county administration, she said. However, Walker is now on a temporary disability and is filing for permanent disability status.

Walker said there were incidents during her employment that were similar to what Berg describes in his e-mail.

Berg also accused agency Deputy Director Sue Dodson of using county time to work on projects for the Salvation Army, where she serves on the board of directors. A further conflict of interest is that Dodson requests employees to volunteer for various Salvation Army events, Berg said.

“I would say that individuals felt pressure to participate,” when solicited by their supervisors to volunteer for “causes you would typically associate with the welfare department,” Walker said.

Beaudreau brought work for nonprofits into the agency, she said.

At the agency´s monthly staff meetings there would be updates and announcements about nonprofit events where employees were solicited and encouraged to participate, Walker said.

Employees were asked to participate in a walk for hunger and when the transit system first began, and Beaudreau asked that each person ride the bus at least once, Walker said.

In his e-mail Berg said when the director and deputy director were told about an employee submitting false time sheets, they did nothing.

Beaudreau failed to make decisions on personnel issues and overall policies and procedures, Walker said, which made it difficult for supervisors who went to her with problems.

Some employees had policies enforced and some did not, Walker said.

“Those people enforcing policies hands were tied because there were some employees that policies were enforced for and some that weren´t,” she said. “It was a difficult climate.”

Berg also claimed Beaudreau took no action when a contract employee, Patrick Keene, used a county credit card to pay the Calaveras Enterprise for advertising his personal business.

Keene, a Jackson attorney, said the newspaper simply charged the wrong credit card.

“The county never paid anything,” Keene said. “It wasn´t a big deal and (Berg´s) claiming it is.”

“At this point, the Enterprise views any business transaction between Mr. Keene and the paper as a confidential business-client matter,” Enterprise General Manager Nick Baptista said. “If called upon by the county and law enforcement, we will cooperate.”

Keene said he is seriously considering suing Berg for “smearing” his name.

In regards to Berg´s e-mail, Walker added, “My personal opinion is when comments like that are made, somewhere there´s an element of truth.”

Berg said he plans to put something together for the grand jury this week. “It´s the easiest way to clarify it,” Berg said. “That way the management doesn´t get everything muddied up.”

Berg said his main reason for writing the e-mail was because, “I´ve seen how (managers) attack your reputation when you leave.” Berg said his personal and professional reputation is very important to him.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news, click:calaverasenterprise.com