Inspector General Says San Diego Non-Profit Misused Stimulus Money

Ross Becker

The letter is addressed to Mr. Jose Lopez, Executive Director of Campesinos Unidos, Inc and when it was sent out this week it contained bad news. The letter was from the Office of Inspector General of California accusing the non-profit company of overbilling state agencies, keeping it's accounting in disarray and failing to train it's workers properly. The real problem is that Campesinos Unidos was getting thousands of Federal Stimulus dollars and the auditors report says it can't account for some of that money.

Campesinos Unidos is based in Brawley, California but was doing business right here in San Diego from its offices on Ruffin Road. Its job was to provide weatherization services to homeowners in San Diego and Imperial counties. The state now says the company took over $34,000 dollars in stimulus money and neglected to use it to train its workers properly potentially leading to the work being improperly done, or not up to code. The company is now ordered to cease operations until the training taxpayers paid for is completed and they can prove it.

But, this is potentially bigger. Campesinos Unidos was awarded a total of $2.6 million in stimulus funds set aside in California to help low income homeowners save energy in their homes. So far, the company claims it spent nearly $740,000. But, the inspector general wrote that “Campesinos' books are in such disarray that we cannot determine how much recovery money has actually been spent or how well it's been spent. This is not an acceptable way to account for people's money.”

While this country continues to throw around taxpayer money as part of some plan to stimulate the economy, it's important to keep tabs on it. The inspector general is doing that. I would love to hear from Mr. Jose Lopez of Campesinos Unidos with an explanation of how he and his company used our money. No doubt the state is asking the same hard questions.

To read the full inspector general report check out http://www.inspectorgeneral.ca.gov/res/docs/pdf/FinalReviewReportCampesinosUnidosIncReviewofContract09C1811.pdf

Here is the response from the company:

Good Evening Mr. Becker:

I just wanted to provide you with some information with regard to the news article that appeared today in your show. Camesinos Unidos, Inc., is a non-profit organization that has been operating for the past 38 years in Imperial, Riverside and San Diego Counties, throughout the years we have succesfully been providing services to our constituents. In June, 2009 we were approached by the State that here was going to be additonal funds released by the Obama Administration throught the Department of Labor for weatherization services, we signed our contract in late June. The focus of this program was to begin operations immediately and to create jobs(CUI hired a total of 20 employees in both Counties including crew member and program staff), unexpectedly this program was tied to several federal requirements which included additional training, prevailing wages and restricted measures. As weatherrization providers for several years we did not have the experience of working with prevailing wages, in the meantime while the Department of Labor and the State worked out several program requirements our agency sent out our employees to all of the required training session, this included Basic Training, Blower Door Training, Duct Blaster Training and Combustion Appliance Safety Inspection Training, all of our crew members are also certified as Lead Renovaters which was requirement of the Department of Labor. Each and every employee received a certificatre certifiy that they have received all of the required trainings. The copies of these certificates were provided to the representative of the Inspector General's Officed during their visit, why they were not provided to Mrs. Chick is unknown to us at this time. All of these certificates are in our files and are available for review upon request. All of the work performed by our weatherization crew to homeowners in Imperial and San Diego Counties has been adequatly performed an installed according to State standards.

With regard to our accounting in disarray, when we began operating this program there was nowhere in the reporting form to report expenses for actual program staff, this staff was being paid by our agency but was not being reported as an expense to the State. After several conversation and discussions between the State and the Department of Labor the contract was amended and the reporting was also revised. This gave us an opportunity to go back and make adjustment to reports that had already been submitted. But, after the Inspector General'svisit our agency was informed that these expenses were not going to be able to be reported in adjustments. Our agency seriously believes that these funds have adequately been used and that services have been properly provided to homeowners and up to State standards.

If you need further information or would like to stop by our office you are more than welcome to do so!

Thank you!

Toni Carrillo
Energy Programs Director
(760) 455-9651

Marlene Castro
Area Office Supervisor
(619) 403-4256

Categories: Becker’s Digital Notebook