Balancing the County’s Budget Deficitson the Backs of Children
By Ray A. March
The Aftermath - Michelson Looks Back
“I sent letters and documents to anyone who would listen,” Michelson told the Modoc Independent News on the condition that her whereabouts would not be revealed. “My response was no response, and I guess the consensus was it was cheaper and easier to get rid of me than to remedy the problem.
“That way, millions of dollars of state Children and Families Commission funds could continue to be misappropriated from the state level on down to the 58 counties. In fact, Phil Smith, head of the department of health in Modoc County, told me the state wasn’t going to do anything, and unfortunately he was right.
“I warned the board of the Modoc County Children and Families Commission that they were co-mingling funds. This is the reason I was fired. I would not sign any checks for the commission because I didn’t know from one moment to the next in what bank account the funds were hidden.
“They refused to open an independent bank account, even though we were organized as an independent organization separate from the umbrella of the county -- at least it was organized that way up until my departure.”
Jan. 28, 2002
Michelson Goes to the State
Two days before her firing executive director Donna Michelson sent a personal letter to the state’s top Children and Families Commission officials with copies of documents suspecting that Modoc County officials were misappropriating Prop. 10 funds.
She suggested state officials “may wish, just to be on the safe side, (to) correct your annual report for the fiscal year 2000-2001 to read ‘material weaknesses’ rather than ‘no issues’ for Modoc County.”
This was a bold tip off to the state that not all was financially well with the Modoc County Children and Families Commission, and if the state followed her suggestion it could have resulted in a state audit of the commission’s books.
The result of a state audit would also have alerted the State Controller’s Office that something was seriously amiss in Modoc County.
Michelson’s letter was addressed to Jane I. Henderson, executive director of the California Children and Families Commission; Joe Munso, chief deputy director; and Lynne Roberts, fiscal analyst.
It is not known what their response was to Michelson’s advisory letter, but she recently told the Modoc Independent News that the state never followed up on any of her allegations of misappropriation of Modoc County treasury funds and the suggestion that audits findings of the Modoc County Children and Families Commission should be revised.
Next: Part 27
Michelson cleans out her desk and leaves Modoc County the next day, but in two weeks her departure is overshadowed by a seemingly routine remark by Treasurer Cheryl Knoch.