UPDATE: November 25: Jason Song reports in the Los Angeles Times that Evelyn V. Martinez, founding director of First 5 LA, had a contract to receive a lump sum equal to 12 months' of salary ($240K/year), health benefits and unused paid vacation if she was "fired without cause." She resigned early in November "after a critical audit of the agency" (see story below); Craig Steele, who is serving as First 5 LA's interim CEO, said the commissioners gave her the option to resign rather than to fire her; however, he also told the LA Times that "First 5 commissiohnjers intend to pay her full severance package."
Previously reported on this story: "LA Times Scolds First 5 LA for hoarding $800 million"
At a time when government agencies are hard-pressed to find the money to serve all the genuine needs, First 5 LA has had its own peculiar problem: a nest egg of more than $800 million that it has hoarded instead of reaching out to more babies, toddlers and preschoolers. ... a recent audit found that First 5 LA had been building a huge surplus over the years — close to five times its annual budget — and had been serving a smaller percentage of the county's younger residents than its counterparts statewide. It also, according to the audit, signed too many contracts without competitive bidding and failed to provide its own governing commission with basic information about the budget and its contracts. There was no evidence of malfeasance, but the audit said the record-keeping was so bad, there is no way to tell for sure.
The local agency's failure to spend more of its money could cause it trouble given the attempts by the state to take $1 billion in statewide First 5 money to help pay for children's Medi-Cal services. It's all the harder for First 5 leaders throughout the state to argue, as they have been, that they would be forced to cut needed services when the Los Angeles County agency alone has been hanging on to a surplus of more than 80% of the amount the state seeks...the size of First 5 LA's bank balance went beyond good stewardship; young children who need help aren't getting it while the agency holds on to an extraordinary excess.
First Five LA's executive director, Evelyn V. Martinez, resigned last week, but the agency needs more than a competent replacement. Under Martinez, the governing commission, a group of 13 people from various agencies plus a representative of each Los Angeles County supervisor, failed to ask basic questions about contracts, expenditures or bank balances. Some commissioners should be replaced, and all of them should learn about budgets and contracting rules....