Wednesday, January 19, 2011

California State Auditor finds $600,000 Lost to incompetent and Negligent Psychiatrist Over Three Years

From Wyatt Buchanan, San Francisco Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
An incompetent prison psychiatrist was kept on the state payroll at a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of thousands of dollars according to a semi-annual report released by the California State Auditor on Tuesday.
The audit, the result of tips to a state whistle-blower hot line, found eight instances of what Auditor Elaine Howle called substantiated allegations of improper governmental activities. Instances of improper spending and incompetence by workers created costs of just over half a million dollars in the report.
The highest dollar figure cited in the report is that of a psychiatrist overseeing parolees for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The psychiatrist who is not identified by name or location was accused of negligently under prescribing, overprescribing and inappropriately prescribing medications.
Those accusations were made in June 2006, and the psychiatrist was reassigned to an administrative job in October of that year. The internal investigation was not completed until two years later, and the psychiatrist was not terminated until May 2009.
All the while, the psychiatrist received a normal salary, along with two merit-based salary increases, and accrued 226 hours of leave worth more than $29,000 that was paid out when the psychiatrist left, according to the auditor.
"According to our calculations, the amount of salary (the corrections department) paid the psychiatrist during this period exceeded the value of the administrative duties he performed by $366,656," the audit states. During the period, the psychiatrist earned more than $600,000.
Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the corrections department, said the situation was, "A very complex, resource-intensive situation and we completed it within three years as prescribed by law," adding that, "every investigation is different and I don't think you can just broad-brush them."
The auditor found that the department treated the investigation as a low priority, but Thornton challenged that assertion.

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