County employees say whistleblower complaints mishandled

August 27, 2016

whistleblower_hotlineBy KAREN VELIE

For years, San Luis Obispo County employees have lodged complaints about missing medications and conditions at the jail that they say endanger inmates and nurses.

More than four years ago, several medical staffers at the county jail began asking County Health Agency Director Jeff Hamm, Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein and Division Manager Michelle Shoresman to look into issues regarding a supervisor who they said appeared seriously intoxicated at work, missing inmate medications and staffing inadequacies. The staffers, who have asked to remain unnamed because of fear of retaliation, said their concerns were dismissed.

In addition, the medical staffers said they were ordered not to discuss allegations about a supervisor, Sue Cameron. In June, Cameron was caught on video stealing an inmate’s methadone and consuming the drug at work. Cameron was discovered the next day in her home in Cayucos where she suffered an overdose.

About two years ago, several county health department staffers filed complaints with the county’s whistleblower hotline. Auditor Controller Jim Erb said complaints were likely sent to the human resources department for an investigation.

Even though the hotline is supposed to be confidential, medical staffers said Cameron was aware of the whistleblower’s identities and that later both of the whistleblowers reportedly were forced out of their jobs.

Hamm said that the whistleblower’s identities were exposed because at least one of the complainants had provided her name in the complaint and that showed she was not seeking anonymity.

Susan Cameron

Susan Cameron

Nurses at the jail said Cameron’s recent overdose supports their repeated warnings about issues at the jail. On her last day of work, staffers claim Cameron put herself and the public in danger when she drove to her home in Cayucos while intoxicated on the drugs she had taken at the jail.

Hamm said that the county conducted a thorough investigation of the whistleblower complaints and determined the allegations were unfounded. Even though the prior complaints had been dismissed, the employees could be in trouble for failing to report Cameron’s apparent intoxication on June 6. The employees were required to report Cameron’s behavior on that day, Hamm said.

The nurses said several years ago Shoresman instructed them not to discuss Cameron’s behavior. But, Hamm said, that order was about gossiping and did not relieve them of the requirement to report Cameron’s drug use.

As whistleblowers asked for higher staffing levels, the county’s inmate death rate in 2014 was more than four times the national average. With an average summer population of 551 prisoners, three men died in the San Luis Obispo County Men’s Jail, or .54 percent of inmates, while the nation average is .13 percent, U.S. Department Justice data show.

In two of the cases, jail staffers did not provide medical care for inmates until they were unconscious. One man died from a drug overdose after flailing on a concrete cell floor for more than 20 minutes, according to the coroner’s report. Until he stopped moving, deputies offered him no assistance.

A second man died of influenza and a staphylococcus infection four days after he was discovered unconscious in his cell and transported to a local hospital. Jail mates claim he was sick for several days with coughing fits, but did not receive adequate medical care until he was no longer conscious.

The third man died of a heroin overdose. According to the coroner’s report, jail staff had not seen the inmate for 10 hours even though jail policy is to enter group cells every 30 minutes.

The jail provides adequate care, Hamm said.

“We have an obligation to maintain a standard of care which is difficult to quantify,” Hamm said. “We believe people are receiving an appropriate level of medical care. I don’t doubt they believe they are short staffed, but it is just a common complaint employees make.”


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Scott

The “Alleged” Hot Line is a third party paid by we the taxpayers to basically to learn who is turning in misconduct, corruption, bribes, missing funds, stolen items by County Employee’s


I had a “Private” meeting with Jim Erb some time ago after i turned in the missing donations, cash, gift cards, Bus Passes over 9+ new pre-paid cell phones to the VSO, ( Veteran Service Officer) these donations were meant for Veterans going through the VTC (Veterans Treatment Court) once Mr. Erb found out about the issues, suddenly the County VSO Mr. Cummings left and Chris Lopez was hired to replace him as our VSO.


The Hotline is a direct link to County Counsel, CAO and the Auditor, so it is not safe nor is it a proper method to report wrong doings, corruption and the many thefts within the County Government. The Grand Jury after filing a in depth formal complaint their response was, we are a “Civil Grand Jury” and do not have the authority to investigate wrong doings unless the Presiding Judge permits, in my and other complaints he did NOT allow a “Grand Jury” to convene to investigate.


The GJ informed me they are passing the torch to the next hand picked GJ for their consideration. In Mr. Erb’s minimal report he admitted an accounting of cash and deposits along with lack of transparency and no receipts led the VSO to change without charges. As one of many local Veterans who have donated in the past to the VTC, VSO the failures of the County and as well as Katcho’s office refusing to investigate cost him the election as he lost the Veterans votes.


The other problem with the so called “HOT LINE ” is when the NTF who got caught lying, stealing items all under the guise of “SUMMER JOHNSON” scam the “Hot Line” again failed to allow the investigation to happen. In short the Hot line is a “TIP OFF” line to the powers at be, to learn who is reporting their misconduct, thefts, missing funds, missing drugs, firearms,

filing of false travel expenses and misuse of of taxpayer funds.


Our County Counsel’s office who hires outside counsel (Coates & Coates) who are personal friends of Rita Neal, to defend against the many lawsuits it has against them for criminal and civil wrong doings , we the taxpayer are paying for the bills and as outside counsel keeps making false billable hours to increase their pockets the county is exposing it self to more legal action for its failures to take action against lying, corrupt, coutny employee’s many who have committed perjury.


It is time to have a State and Federal Criminal Grand Jury investigate the many problems SLO has, if have information do NOT give it to the “Hot Line” send it to State of California Attorney General’s officer for Public Corruption and the FBI’s Office of Public Corruption in Los Angeles as well to AUSA Eileen Decker also US Attorney’s Office attn: Public Corruption Division or to Special Agent Linguist US Treasury (CI) Criminal Investigations IRS, Santa Maria office.


Ricky2

Hamm’s as dumb as a doornail and as corrupt as they come. He was moved into this high-paying position after failing at his previous one. Bornstein’s a laugh — does just about everything except look out for public health. What’s happened to our health department is very sad. The blame ultimately falls on the board of supervisors — ALL of them.


San Louie

“The jail provides adequate care, Hamm said.”


That doesn’t appear to be the case.


Is too much money going for toys like Parkinson’s Navy and not for the things that will save lives?


CentralcoastRN

The Sheriff is a smart man. He will probably get a Unicorn catcher next. I mean, we have seen photographic proof they are running around now.


Also, the Sheriff has asked for more men (who get raises every year unlike the nurses that work in the SAME environments they do) for a gang task forced. I am not kidding you that a nurse will be in the very same house sitting on the very same couch as a LEO in the same danger, but that Sheriff gets safety pay the nurse doesn’t. Same at the jail. The management thinks a citizen high on bath salts will eat the face of the Sheriff over the nurse because “everyone loves nurses”.


When money is funneled into LEO and not anything else, you can get by for a time. But ultimately, when services like Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol, Nursing, Social Services are ignored/budgets slashed, things like the jail incidents occur. Things like LEO officers shooting mentally ill people to death rise. The mentally ill cannot get in to see anyone for 2 months, WTF do YOU think is going to happen. Underemployed people are going to get frustrated. Ever been to the social security office and seen their awesome efficiency and ability to take extra time to help you out? (Yes I know it is not county, but you all get my point. Infrastructure)


As a side note, the Sheriff’s Panga boat catcher hasn’t caught a single boat on it’s own. Ian Parkinson said it cost $XXXX dollars to tow a Panga boat away, which justified the need. He didn’t say it costs US the County of SLO that $$. The coast guard actually pays. If he were in charge of that jail, he would turn it around by asking for and getting the BOS to approve the stuff needed.


shudacuda

If you think the level of government corruption in many countries such as Mexico is bad, they don’t hold a candle next to SLO county.


Pelican1

“The jail provides adequate care, Hamm said.”

If that’s the case, then perhaps the current standard of care needs to be reviewed.

These sorts of incidents should at the very least result in an independent inquiry and a comprehensive desk audit of the facility.


Ricky2

Where’s the grand jury?


Scott

They are (MIA) Missing in Action, the new GJ has been again hand picked by the judges so do not expect anything to change. SLO GJ is as it has advertised for members, a CIVIL GRAND jury with NO POWER.


They can only make recommendations and even those do not have to be followed, what we need is a out of area, 100% independent Criminal GJ, with the powers to fully investigate, take sworn statements, surprise visits to all governmental agencies and there “Books” but do not expect that to happen, when many officials have there hand in the till.


Having myself sat on Federal Grand Juries, having indicted many criminals and governmental staff this is the only way to get to the problem of corruption and misconduct. Also having appeared to testify before Federal and State authorized Criminal GJ’s that is the only way to stop the ongoing corruption, misconduct and blatant thievery.


Truth does and should matter, when people lie under oath that is PERJURY and a Felony, as well if anyone lies to any Federal S/A that too is a Federal Crime under U.S.C. title 18 section 1001 a Federal Felony. This is what is needed in SLO a top to bottom house cleaning. The Guardian of our public trust, monies lie with the Auditor’s office but that office gets its marching orders from the Board of Sups, County Counsel so do not expect anyone to want to be investigated since they have so much to conceal.


PolyProf

Time to terminate Jeff Hamm. Long overdue. Vote for Peschong and Carpenter and let’s clean house!


Ricky2

That will make no difference. The guy’s job is protected by seniority and various rules and contracts. Besides, do you really think these republicrats will go after this sort of stuff? Seems unlikely.


sloweb

This article lists several names of people that should be fired without pension.


jonhartz

Time for the new Grand Jury to visit the Jail and do more than enjoy the cookies Ian provides from the inmate kitchen.


Scott

It is time for a independent, outside investigative body who has power to subpoena people, records take UNDER oath testimony have the power to Indict, the problem is the local Civil Grand Jury is picked by the Judges so you can not have our local GJ do anything to upset the apple cart.


You need to have a Federal Grand Jury convene they have the power resources and can and will indict corrupt officials as they have been dong all over California, such as City of Bell, City of Bakersfield, City of Beaumont, Oakland, San Francisco, Fresno, King City and so many more.


If we have no corruption then all members of the Court, DA’s office, County Counsel, Board of Supervisors, Cities in the entire County of SLO all should have no problem asking for a in depth criminal investigation into local misconduct, from Financial, scams, theft of evidence, altering of evidence, perjured testimony by police, lying to judges, lying in official reports, making false affidavits to obtain false warrants, wire taps.


Truth should always prevail, honesty, ethics, transparency should be the norm, so if no one has anything to hide, conceal or cover up then ask for a Federal Probe.


missmuffet

Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad


How you going to spin this one Cippola?


Bottom line is Ian Parkinson was asleep at the switch as usual or worse yet he probably swept it under the carpet.


Parkinson has been a joke from day one. He was qualified for the cover of GQ but not sheriff.


Sad for the people who died and sad for the whistleblowers who lost their jobs for doing what was right.


inmyopinion

Cippola is a joke. He had his butt burned when he did not get what he wanted at KSBY. Now he is a job justifyer who wants his 15 minutes of fame anytime he can get it. I just bet he doesn’t even show his face on this one. Parkinson on GQ? LOL, that’s a good one. If he would just grow a set and actually do his job instead of shaking hands and kissing babies, ahhh who am I kidding.


Perspicacious

“Parkinson has been a joke from day one. He was qualified for the cover of GQ but not sheriff.”


I agree.


Has anybody seen more CCW’s being issued? Not me.


I am not sure how much better Joe Cortez would have been but I know I voted for Cortez for two reason’s…his answer to my CCW question was MUCH better than Parkinson’s. Also, Parkinson’s arrogance just got under my skin. He fancied himself quite an expert at a particular type of investigation. At one particular trial, he was called by the defense as an expert and basically called the LE officers on the prosecution side incompetent and liars even though they were the TRUE experts at that type of investigation. He also had a conflict of interest in the case that he didn’t divulge…some connection to family member’s on the defense side…I can’t remember that exactly.


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