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License Plate Money for Kids Mismanaged, State Says

About 40 percent of the funds went to administrative costs, in violation of California law.

The money from state license plates with hearts, hands and star symbols has been misspent, according to a report released Tuesday by the California State Auditor.

State departments broke the law by hiring private contractors to manage the program, according to the audit. Between fiscal years 2006-2007 and 2009-2010, about 40 percent of the money paid administrative costs to private contractors, the audit says. That's nearly $2.1 million.

The Kids Plates program was approved in 1992. For a fee, drivers could order a custom license plate with a hand, heart, star or plus sign symbol. Half of the money was to be spent on prevention of child abuse and unintentional childhood injury.

The money from the plates was administered through the Department of Public Health. But when the department hired the private San Diego State University Research Foundation to manage the program between 2004 and 2010, it broke the law, according to the state auditor.

Public Health "paid the research foundation to administer the program from the funds that the Legislature had intended it to use directly for childhood injury prevention programs," the audit found.

The SDSU Research Foundation was also operating without a valid contract, meaning it could not disburse state funds intended for childhood injury prevention, according to the audit.

Here are key points from the audit:

  • The Department of Health Services and the Department of Public Health violated state law by hiring a private contractor to manage the Kids' Plates Program, rather than having state employees perform the work.
  • The contractor performed services without an approved contract, and was unable to award any funds that could have been used to help prevent unintentional childhood injuries.
  • Health Services and Public Health spent roughly 40 percent of total appropriations received during four fiscal years, or nearly $2.1 million on the contractor's administrative costs for the Kids' Plates Program.
  • Public Health did not comply with its own contracting procedures when it awarded 115 grants to community agencies.
  • The Department of Social Services did not fulfill certain monitoring requirements for trust fund expenditures. As a result, one grantee overcharged Social Services by $10,189, and Social Services' Office of Child Abuse Prevention may have used trust fund money to pay for expenditures that did not meet the trust fund's requirements.
  • Social Services failed to fully publish certain information about the trust fund on its website as state law requires.

Money meant to help children throughout the state was not disbursed for its intended use. Who should be held accountable for this mismanagement of funds? Tell us in comments.

Jim Smith November 28, 2012 at 11:23 PM
The Governor should be held responsible!!!!!
Mandy Wells November 29, 2012 at 01:08 AM
This is what happens when you cut all oversight funds. The governors involved, the department heads and whoever gave the go a head to hire a contractor should all be in trouble.
Bwood November 29, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Charles, are you even remotely aware of how tired we are of hearing the Republicans state that, no matter what the problem, it's all the Democrats fault? I didn't think so..
Greg M November 29, 2012 at 01:43 AM
I remember back in the earlier days when the "ELP" or environmental license plate program first started. If memory serves correctly, it cost an extra $15 to get the plates. Everyone had them. There were hundreds of thousands listed in the master catalog, that you had to search through when you were interested to see if a particular plate had already been taken. It was a thriving program, making boatloads of money. Then they jacked up the prices to ridiculous levels. Now the initial cost has gone to $49 to $98 (depending on which theme you order), with a renewal fee of $30 to $78 EACH FRIGGIN YEAR!!. They have made the program so overpriced that hardly anyone buys these things anymore. And now, we find out that some of the funds are being spent improperly. Wow.....big surprise. So, california -- hows this new pricing scheme working out for you? The DMV sure screwed the pooch on this one....
Charles Ferrell November 29, 2012 at 02:39 AM
I bet the Democrats are really tired of hearing about how it is their fault that things in California are going so wrong. Democrats are well in charge of politics in California, by a greater and greater majority. If our state's problems are not the fault of those in charge, who is responsible? Come on, Democrats. Own up to it. You are in charge in California's statewide politics and are in charge of our big cities. How is that going?
carmello November 29, 2012 at 02:42 AM
Just picture a slash between the words anal and retentive every time you come across a slash between the words liberal and progressive in a comment. Keeps the old blood pressure in check.
Charles Ferrell November 29, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Liberal/anal/progressive. Works for me. After all, isn't the donkey (or the ass) the symbol of the Democrat Party?
Mariana Zuelsdorf November 29, 2012 at 06:54 AM
Why am I not surprised that the State of California screwed up again?
Charles Ferrell November 29, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Because you pay attention and don't let your personal political ideology get in the way of paying attention to what you are seeing. This is how we all can become more informed and better voters. It is really simple. Pay attention, as you are doing. Then, let the pieces or the responsibility (blame) fall upon the shoulders of those who deserve the blame, whether they be on "our" political side or not. Let the pieces fall where they may. Look who is running things and decide if their performance, the results they are getting, merit allowing them to continue running things.
Cathy P. November 29, 2012 at 03:36 PM
@Bwood: thank you and you can say that again! @Charles Ferrell "Asses Rule," get over it!
Bud Burlison November 29, 2012 at 05:04 PM
The recent substantial loss by Republicans at the polls is affecting Charles Ferrell in such an unfortunate way. "Don't let you personal ideology get in the way..." Heed your own words there. You have a long way to go before the electorate is stupid enough to put a substantial number of republicans back in office. The republican party is shooting itself in the foot in California and it's starting to spread to other states. Have a nice 4 years Charles.
Janelle B November 29, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Hey Bwood - Now you know how Republicans feel when Libs blame Bush for everything. Tired of the stereotype? Stop conforming to it.
Ken Simons November 29, 2012 at 05:36 PM
While you are at it, audit the Lottery program. How much of that is going to our schools? Let audit every proposition passed in the last 20 years to see how much of those funds were diverted to the general fund of the state. Someone please notify the State Attorney General to prosecute those who are responsible for this malfeasance. At the end of the day there will be no-accountability, you watch.
Trisha Bowler November 29, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Charles, I couldn't agree with you more! You have stated it absolutely correctly! Just look who is in charge here in California!! Just LOOK and you will see that the Dems have had the mahority for a long time and the idiot voters have now given them the SUPER majority!! IF the Dems were doing such a great job in Ca. then why is there a huge exodus of people and especially businesses leaving this state? It's at the bottom in education but my oh my, we are the highest taxed state in the nation! Get real donkeys! It's the Dem's fault!! The "R"s in Sacto have tried and tried to get the spending reined in but they have no power! Thank a lot Dems!! Oh yes, one more thing! In every city in the union where there is a Dem mayor that city is a disaster!! Our city is and had been run by an all "R" council for years and we are a very healthy and thriving place!! I rest my case!
MellowMaverick November 29, 2012 at 06:09 PM
AMEN, Ken....as a retired teacher, I can attest to the fact that when they had the issue of the lottery put on the ballot to be approved by voters...they made a BIG issue about how it would fund and solve the education problems in the state...boy, was that a crock of doo doo! They quit subsidizing education with lotttery monies after the first three years (to the degree they should). They funneled those funds into the personal projects of various politicians.
Charles Ferrell November 29, 2012 at 07:15 PM
The people (in this case political party) in charge needs to be held responsible for the way things are going. California is a poorly-run state, a poorly-managed state and a state with government programs on the serious decline. Who's in charge here? Democrats. My city, too, is run by Republicans (who we elected and continue to elect) and we are doing well. We are a healthy and thriving place, which is why the voters here keep turning to the same people or people of the same political ideology. California, on a statewide level, and our big cities, are not doing well, and yet, the voters in those major cities (and thus the majority of voters in California) continue to elect those of the same political ideology that have not produced positive results. Go figure. Most cities in the US, even here in California, continue to elect conservative leadership and, compared the disaster that is our big cities across the land, our smaller, conservative-run municipalities are doing far better. However, the big cities drag us all down as a nation with a stronger downward pull than all the smaller cities with their conservative leadership can pull in an upward direction. I am long "over that," and have come to realize that the general/overall direction our country is headed, based on the power (political clout) of the big cities and the resulting strength of the Democrat Party, is a downward spiral. This is not the end of America, but the spiral does have a bad ending out there somewhere.
Roberto November 29, 2012 at 07:20 PM
California, a giant nest of Liberal Democrats, mismanaging taxpayers money? Gee, who would have thought?
Charles Ferrell November 29, 2012 at 07:28 PM
I'll get by, which is about as high a goal most Americans can aspire to, under the current political climate on a national level and in our decaying big cities. As a working man, a newspaper editor for more than 30 years, now retired, I accomplished just about everything I wanted to do, met a lot of fascinating and interesting people, saw many wonderful things happen and got to report on them and those interesting people. I was never told I had limits, other than the ones I placed on myself. I chose small town newspapers, rather than trying to make it in big-time, big city journalism, because I sought the rewards of helping to report on the happenings and getting to know the full spectrum of people who live, work and raise their families in small towns. However, for many if not most of today's young people just starting out, they won't have as many options as I did. The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen, it has been said, which means the young people of today will have smaller and thus fewer options than my generation had. My favorite President in my lifetime talked about America as a "shining city on a hill." He felt America was something special and urged we Americans to feel the same way. This President sees America as just another nation sitting at the table with all the other nations; nothing special, no "shining city," no great heights to achieve or to even aspire. Welcome to the new America, where "getting by" is as good as it gets.
Cathy P. November 29, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Oh please, even Reagan wouldn't even be considered a Republican by the GOP today.
None November 29, 2012 at 10:31 PM
And, JFK would not be recognized as a Democrat!
Cathy P. November 29, 2012 at 11:24 PM
He'd be more Democrat than Republican. Have you forgotten the "New Frontier?" Kennedy's New Frontier goals included new social programs like federal aid to education, medical care for the elderly, urban mass transit, a Department of Urban Affairs, the Alliance for Progress (civil rights) and the Peace Corps. Kennedy established the President’s Council on Aging, and expanded programs of food distribution to needy families (i.e. food stamps), shall I go on? Those don't sound like Republican concerns to me.
William Korn November 30, 2012 at 01:49 AM
If you really want to hold him responsible, Jim, it's fine with me.. Now let's see... Who was the Governor between 2006 and 2010? Was it Jerry Brown? Nope. Gray Davis? Nope. Ruh roh. It was the Governator himself, Ahhhhnie! The fact is that since Governor Brown took office in 2011, he's actually done what many governors have said they would do, but did not do - direct the examination of the books to look for just this kind of waste/fraud. Since I voted for Gov. Brown, I'm happy to make him responsible for helping to expose this kind of mismanagement and fix it.
Bwood November 30, 2012 at 01:52 AM
"Welcome to the new America, where "getting by" is as good as it gets." Yes, Charles, I'm noticing that we're even having to get by with a lower quality of posts on the Patch these days..
Bwood November 30, 2012 at 01:54 AM
"Those don't sound like Republican concerns to me." Never have been, never will be..
Danny Williams November 30, 2012 at 07:54 AM
Politicians and most government agencies are appointed by the people to manage such things...however greed and lack of accountability compounded by bad choices is unfortunately a widespread result of faithfully adhering to n idea meant to be prosperous for the masses.
Dan Mattingly November 30, 2012 at 12:28 PM
THis audit was for a piddly amount and just a tip of the iceburg compared to what Health Services contracts out. They award thousands of these huge multi-million contracts and these contractors pay their hires above civil service salaries + 20% benefit package + from 10-20% profit for their for profit or non-profit companies. Profits are guaranteed wether they do a good job or not. If you read yesterday's Sac Bee, the Health Services response was "we will tighten our paperwork" which is code for: go away, we will do what we want and you will forget about this. The managers know exactly that they were breaking the law and have made no serious effort to reform themselves. Why do they do it: Because it is easy and nothing ever happens to them. When something needs to be done, they just write a contract up without even thinking how they can do the work themselves, in-house using existing resources. I know of examples where these managers have even hired contract secretaries so they don't even have to answer their phone or write a memo. Even better, now they don't have to worry about the project. Just let the contractor handle it. I think this article is a tiny porthole on how really big this problem is. What a gigantic waste our state government has become.
Bill Viteri November 30, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Oh please, Kennedy balance the budget, reduced taxes, and decrease number of welfare recipients, something that Democrats of today dont care to do today. Reagan, a Republican, gave amnesty to 3 million illegals. Lincoln, a Republican freed the slaves. Bush, a Republican, was in favor of giving amnesty. Obama administration has increase the number of people dependent on the government by 63% from 32% during Bush to 52% at present. O bimbo, has increased the federal deficit by almost 400% in only 4 years of his administration over the 8 of cumulative federal deficit by Bush even with two wars. At the rate O bimbo is going, it will be 800% cumulative federal deficit over Bush's cumulative federal deficit. For Democrats, tax increases has the same effect as drugs are for drug addicts.
William Korn December 01, 2012 at 08:39 PM
What amuses me about the rantings of the conservatives on this thread (particularly the logorrhea being exhibited by the self-described editor Mr. Ferrell), is that the abuses being described are the logical consequences of what conservatives have always said they wanted. "Government can't do anything efficiently!", they say. "Bring back Maggie Thatcher", they say. "Cut down the size of government and let the private sector do it!", they say. The fact is that the private sector is expert at appropriating substantial percentages of money from government grants/contracts for purposes other than addressing the needs for which the money was to be used in the first place - most notably enhancing the profits of the private sector companies receiving those grants/contracts. The fact that conservatives can't seem to grasp this elementary truth is yet another reason that they should not be allowed to govern. Apparently Californians have, on the whole, grasped it. One can only hope that the rest of America will catch up.
ATC December 01, 2012 at 10:08 PM
You really think that the rest of the country needs to follow California's lead? With out of control spending, huge defecits, terrible public education, crumbling infrastructure, huge numbers of illegal immigrants, the highest tax rates and worst business climate in the country, 40% of the nation's welfare recipients (and growing), businesses and upper-income taxpayers leaving in droves...Is that the "elementary truth" that you are referring to, Mr. Korn? The fact that there are so many people like you that actually believe all of the above is the right direction scares the h__l out of me. Government's job is not to take care of you. That's YOUR job! Government growth has NEVER translated into economic growth, and it never will. And success does not mean that more and more people are getting help from Government; success means that fewer and fewer people NEED help from Government. The fact that liberals can't seem to grasp this elementary truth is yet another reason that they should not be allowed to govern. California's current condition proves it. And with their new super-majority, there will be no improvement in California, only further decline; more of the same that has gotten us to this point. I was born and raised here in SoCal. We used to be the "Golden State", we are now the laughingstock of the nation. What a waste, thanks to people with your mindset.
Washy December 02, 2012 at 01:06 AM
I am amazed at the level of "shock" Have you all had your heads in the sand? Three years ago one of the designers of the "support ocean life" plate pulled their permission to use his design because not one dime has gone to save the sea. But what we need to do is start turning in our neighbors who are driving on temp tags, out of state plates (the manager here in the mobile home park lives here but has AZ plates...therefore she is stealing about 100+dollars a year from CA) Perhaps if we all took the responsibility to pay the fees outlined instead of everyone buying used cars for 500.00 (to pay the least amount of tax) and defrauding our state might we be in a better place and might those special funds be able to get to their rightful place.

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