by Rong-Gong Lin II & Garrett Therolf | LA Times/LA NOW | http://lat.ms/uzMapD
Image: Screen shot of the First 5 LA website
November 11, 2011 | 5:56 pm - Evelyn V. Martinez, executive director of the First 5 LA education program, has resigned after heavy criticism from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, a spokesman confirmed Friday.
Days earlier, the supervisors expressed deep disappointment in the independent voter-approved agency that uses cigarette taxes to fund health, safety and educational programs for children.
Auditors had found that the agency accumulated more than $800 million of unspent funds and that it was overstaffed considering the paltry number of programs it had underway.
Additionally, auditors faulted the agency for a lack of record-keeping for the more than $200 million in contract and grant awards received in the last fiscal year.
As a result, auditors said they could not tell if the agency had signed agreements "for inappropriate purposes or with unqualified vendors or grantees."
A call Friday to Martinez's office was not immediately returned.
"She did submit her resignation late yesterday," said Francisco Oaxaca, the spokesman for First 5 LA. But he declined to elaborate.
Tony Bell, a spokesman for Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who chairs the First 5 LA commission, issued a statement also confirming Martinez's resignation, effective Saturday. He said the agency's board would meet next week to appoint an interim director.
●● smf's 2¢ – The always dangerous and potentially explosive conventional wisdom has it that the County Supervisors are the ones responsible for amassing and not spending the First 5 LA Funds – ether by policy or design ……or through a lack of consensus.
The First 5 LA Board of Commissioners is comprised of 13 members. The board includes members appointed by by each of the Los Angeles County Supervisors, the L.A. County Departments of Public Health and Mental Health, and the L.A. County Office of Education.
First 5 LA is nominally an “the independent voter-approved agency”, but every seat on the commission is either directly appointed by the Board of Supervisors or is appointed by a body appointed-by, accountable-to, or serving at–the-pleasure-of the supervisors.
California voters passed Prop. 10 in 1998 which established a 50 cent-per-pack tax on tobacco products that generates approximately $700 million a year to be invested in the healthy development of California's children from prenatal to age 5.
Eighty percent of this money is divided among California's 58 counties, based on the counties' birth rates, to be spent with local needs and priorities in mind. First 5 LA is charged with distributing the Prop. 10 tobacco tax funds in Los Angeles County.
- The rule-of-thumb (which is a data tool of conventional wisdom) says that 20% of California population is in L.A. County, thus Prop 10 should produce roughly $140 million per year for First 5 LA.
- First 5 claims we have invested more than $699 million in grants and programs since 1998 to champion the health, education, and safety causes of young children and families.
- The article above quoted audits saying First 5 LA is sitting on $880 million – the equivalent of over 5½ years of revenue.
There is not enough money for preschool education in LA County – and $140 million per year still probably isn't enough -- and $800 million has gone unspent? What, gentle readers, is with that?