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Board hid investigators’ actual caseload with fake data for Auditor

The directive in a 2016 state audit of the California Board of Registered Nursing was clear: Investigators should not be handling more than 20 cases at a time; the board needed to get the investigators’ caseload down to manageable levels.

So the board, which receives an average 8,500 complaints year, did as recommended. Or at least, the figures issued by the board showed that it was happening. In 2018, State Auditor staff followed up on the recommendation and reported the board had complied. But this year, the Auditor announced June 30 that thanks to a whistleblower complaint, her office had discovered that the data received from the board was phony.

<p>A board executive had directed two managers to deliberately change the caseload distribution information. The object was to convince the State Auditor that the board had fully implemented the 2016 recommendations when it actually had not.

In reality, the average caseload was 24 per investigator. The scheme hid that fact by temporarily reassigning investigations from investigators who carried more than 10 cases to managers and another employee who did not carry a caseload at the time, then shortly afterward reshuffling the cases back to the original investigators.

Confronted by the Auditor after the deception was discovered, the two managers who had created the manipulated report acknowledged producing “fudged” or “inaccurate” numbers but said they had only proceeded after an official labeled “Executive B” disregarded their concerns and clearly directed them to carry out the plan.

When interviewed, Executive B and Executive C expressed regret for having participated in the plan and said they knew it was problematic. But they said Executive A, who was not interviewed by the Auditor due to having become an ex-employee by that time, either devised the plan to reassign cases or pushed to implement the plan.

The Auditor’s verdict on the behavior was that executives committed gross misconduct, violating several laws including the obstruction statute by providing intentionally manipulated data to deceive the State Auditor and ultimately the legislature. They were subjected to discipline for dishonesty and “other failure of good behavior.”

Also recommended by the Auditor, and agreed-to by the board, was a 90-day deadline for it to work with the audit team to develop a satisfactory approach to fully implement the 2016 audit recommendation.

Caseload Data Reshuffle

It only took one day for the California nursing board’s fake caseload numbers to be created after the plan was devised. On November 27, 2018, the Auditor reported, Executive A sent the following email to Executive B at 11:00 am: “[The auditor] said she needs us to provide any additional supporting documentation TODAY if we want to get the responses to Fully Implemented. Looks like we need to get busy.””

Reassignment of 38 cases began—reportedly in hurried fashion withsome quick reassignments required to make sure no one had more than 20 cases. And by 6:29 pm that day, the final caseload report was sent to the State Auditor. In the following 10 days, managers reassigned cases back to the original investigators.