Local News

Friday, Apr 06 2007 01:34 PM

Behind the story: Getting documents

By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN

Since November 2004, The Californian had tried on and off to get details about First 5 Kern’s spending with Cal State Bakersfield and other contractors.

Several information requests submitted to First 5 Ken failed to turn up what we sought: Receipts and other backup paperwork showing exactly how public funds had been spent.

Last spring we turned to Cal State Bakersfield for the receipts. The university ultimately provided more than 3,500 pages of documentation. The paper paid more than $800 in copying charges. You can read the original correspondence between The Californian and First 5 Kern at bakersfield.com.

Here is a brief history of our search:

Nov. 17, 2004

The Californian requests a range of financial information from First 5 Kern including staff salaries and benefits, travel expenses and itemized spending on consultants and reports.

Nov. 29, 2004:

First 5 Kern provides staff and salary information. It says it “does not maintain records of travel expenditures that will enable us to provide” travel information.

The response includes a 1 1/2-page printout listing spending on consultants and evaluators.

Read the correspondence for November 2004.

December 2004

The paper writes a story using the information provided Nov. 29, including a “grand total” of more than $3.3 million paid to Cal State — a figure that matches First 5 Kern’s annual audits and financial information it submitted to the state.

First 5 Kern says the story is wrong because that $3.3 million referred to the amount paid to Cal State from First 5 commissions in Kern, Tulare and Fresno counties, which was not stated on the document provided to the paper. The Californian prints a correction.

Feb. 8, 2005

The Californian requests more details about First 5 Kern’s spending on evaluation contracts with Cal State Bakersfield and a private company, the Corporation for Standards and Outcomes, or CS&O, which provides evaluation software. The request asks for, among other things, “copies of receipts those organizations submitted to to First 5 Kern for billing purposes.”

Feb. 17 and 25, 2005

First 5 Kern provides some paperwork submitted by Cal State and CS&O. About 75 pages of monthly invoices indicate spending in categories such as “supplies,” “rent” and “travel.” No receipts showing specific purchases are provided.

Read the correspondence for February 2005.

March 18, 2005

In another effort to find out how funds were spent on the Cal State and CS&O contracts, The Californian requests copies of checks written to both agencies.

March 24, 2005

First 5 Kern replies, saying it “does not issue any such checks and, therefore, no copies are available.” The letter refers The Californian to the county auditor’s department, which issues checks to Cal State and CS&O on behalf of First 5 Kern.

The Californian learns the auditor makes occasional lump payments but does not write checks for individual expenses.

Read the correspondence for March 2005.

July 2005

County Supervisor Michael Rubio gives The Californian access to copies of receipts showing First 5 dollars paid for much of a Morro Bay retreat, including an expensive dinner, by Cal State Bakersfield researchers the previous year. The paper runs a story July 15.

Spring 2006

The Californian learns First 5 money may have been spent on car payments for one of the Cal State Bakersfield evaluators.

April 20, 2006

Californian staffers start an ongoing request with Cal State Bakersfield for financial records of the former Applied Research Center’s spending of First 5 contract dollars.

Summer 2006

Over the next few months, 3,500 copies of reciepts, travel statements, check requests and invoices going back to 2001 are made available to the paper.

Oct. 29, 2006

The Californian runs a story about the expenditures.

Read about The Californian's investigation.

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