Time to End the Children and Families Commission’s Autonomy

It's almost always about the children...

The public relations and tax revenue fixated OC Children and Families Commission needs oversight. How do I know? Because of the amount of money these people pay to PR types and lobbyists – who just happen to be pals of Commission members. Hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, in fact.

Last year the Riverside County Board of Supervisors addressed the same issue when their “First 5” Commission members were busted for distributing grants to their own organizations. Here’s a 2009 article from The Riverside Press-Telegram that talks about the problem. The solution proposed by the Riverside BOS was to subsume their “First Five” Commission into the County government structure.

Whether or not this sort of thing has been going on in OC is not known without a complete shakeout. But what is known is that the Commission has been paying for things like toothbrush distribution and facebook editing at a rate of $200 per hour – to a Matthew Cunningham, a pal of the current Commission Chairman, and a running board occupant of the John Lewis political machine.

Then there’s the small matter of the hundreds of thousands contracted for lobbying services to Phil Isenberg as well as our own local big-government gold digger – Anaheim Mayor for Hire, Curt Pringle.

When you awake you will feel completely refreshed...

It’s high time to place this Commission in a chain of command that puts ultimate responsibility in the hands of elected representatives – people who will have to account for grants and contracts awarded to political operatives, and to decide what sort of political lobbying, if any, is appropriate. And that would be the County Board of Supervisors.

24 Replies to “Time to End the Children and Families Commission’s Autonomy”

  1. The money raised from the tobacco taxes should go towards actual lung cancer treatment, smoking cessation, and public awareness ads- NOT TO POLITICAL HACKS!

  2. I distrust public entities that call themselves commission though its denotation is a warrant by which a trust is held. Evidenced by this commission’s actions, it can not be trusted to aid anyone except itself.

  3. It’s prone to skimin’ and scamin’ by the unsupervised doling out of tax dollars to unqualified political operatives as political payback. Note on the commission Facebook page how often the Jerbilito promotes his pal Hewitt on the taxpayers dime.

  4. You guys are right on the money. This issue is reflective of the problems with government. How are we ever going to solve the problems when the fat is feeding all these people? Get all the public relations consultants off the government dole.

    We have 5 republicans elected to the Board of Supervisors. When are we going to see some one take action on this issue, Tom Daly’s hiring spree and the like? Time to start behaving responsibly folks.

  5. Why does the commsiion need a FACEBOOK page again?

    Is’nt that what they paid $100,000 for the website development for?

  6. Senator DaveCox from theSacramento area is trying to rein in this crap. He has pending legislation tocontrolthe activities of the 58 county first 5 commissions. I will be that his office is completely unaware of this nonsense.

  7. I still can’t believe they are allegedly whoring themselves out against the interests and goals of the Commission to put unsupervised taxpayer cash into their pockets. Can they possibly be able to do that? Where is the supervision? I just can’t believe it.

  8. these funds are not “unsupervised taxpayer funds”. lets be very clear here: these are not state general funds dispersed to the first 5 commissions in each of California’s 58 counties. These funds are collected at the point of sale of tobacco products and are to be used on purposes spelled out in the proposition approved by california voters. The activities engaged in by Cunningham are not what were envisioned by the proposition’s authors

    1. Sure seems unsupervised to me. True, we can’t pull the plug, but we can try to put this thing under the Supervisors and add a lot more public scrutiny.

  9. I don’t begrudge Matt for demanding $200/ an hour. I know a lot of writers who have far more experience going back decades who are pulling in less than this, but it’s a free market. If he’s convinced that he can put the goods out, they’re happy with his work, that’s how it goes. But…

    I take issue with the commissioners because these are monies earmarked to go to direct services.

    So I’m wondering what percentage of the funds is going to direct services and then to administrative? Having been around county agencies before and also seeing how services can dry up, I wonder how much of these funds are being subcontracted to another agency to provide the services? Ex: A state-contracted county agency subcontracts to a private agency to give services for youth. The money is then burned up not on one administrative layer, but three.

    I also want to know if the commission sought to get any other bids for the job from other writers, and whether or not they were comparable to what Matt is offering?

    Believe me, I do not begrudge Matt from going out and getting freelance jobs. It’s what writers do to make a living. But I do wonder about the commission and their bidding process.

    1. I begrudge Cunningham milking a Welfare State he’s forever railing against – until it benefits him. I begrudge him making $200 an hour to hand out toothbrushes. I begrudge a system that let’s a political hack like Cunningham get this kind of gravy because he’s a John Lewis lackey and a pal and fellow churchgoer with the Chairman.

      He charges $200 an hour. Even if he’s scanning documents and typing up invoices. It’s a rip off.

  10. If he wants $200 an hour as a freelancer –go for it. But not when it comes to public funds. Especially when Orange County Mental Health and other agencies are routinely having to cull their lists of those who are eligible.

    There’s enough shame here to go all around.

    1. That’s the point. That guy couldn’t make a freaking dime selling his turgid prose to anybody – except in an arena where almost everybody is semi-literate and he’s got pals to hand him over $100K a year.

      It’s all there on his form 700.

  11. FFFF should have online contestant show called “what does this agency do?”. To win a prize, contestants must figure out the function of the agency from its title.

  12. SACRAMENTO First 5 (from Sacramento Bee)
    1. Commission delays vote on child art funding proposal May 3, 2010
    2. Critics: Art-exhibit plan ‘egregious’ while budget cuts imperil Sacramento County kids May 1, 2010

    RIVERSIDE First 5 (from Riverside Press-Enterprise)
    1. Fair bidding?, December 15, 2008
    2. Changes urged for ‘dysfunctional’ First 5 Riverside commission , December 17, 2008
    3. State deficit debacle threatens First 5, January 23, 2009
    4. First 5 Commission looks at perception of conflict of interest, February 25, 2009
    5. Riverside County supervisors want to make First 5 Riverside a county agency, March 17, 2009
    6. First 5 grant probe could take another month, March 25, 2009

    SAN DIEGO First 5 (from San Diego Union Tribune)
    1. First 5’s fund focus of county attention, May 24, 2009
    2. Member of First 5 Commission steps down, June 3, 2009
    3. Deeper conflicts emerge in First 5 funding, June 4, 2009
    4. Glaring conflicts: First 5 grant program needs thorough overhaul, June 5, 2009
    5. First 5 tightens funding policies: New bylaws target conflicts of interest, June 30, 2009
    6. New rules prompt 9 to quit First 5 advisory panel, August 18, 2009
    7. First 5 spending plan has old ties, September 13, 2009

    FRESNO First 5 (from Fresno Bee)
    1. Fresno Co. finds it hard to measure First 5’s results, Dec. 26, 2009
    2. Fresno Co. First 5 faces conflict-of-interest worries, Dec. 27, 2009

    SAN FRANCISCO First 5 (from San Francisco Chronicle)
    1. Not all First 5 grants are helping poor kids, April 19, 2008

    TULARE First 5 (from Visalia Times-Delta)
    1. First 5 spends $18k on invitations for a $486 party, just weeks before election, April 21, 2009

  13. the divine miss k identifies the real issue in public benevolence. Every tax fueled grant, every public agency who aims to help the poor automatically skims off the sum total of the grant or budget 11% for administering it to the poor. If an agency sub contracts then adminsitrative costs may increase to 22 even 33% of the total sum of grant/yearly budget.

  14. With the pattern of news articles that’s emerging, seems to this ol geezer that someone should make a special “First 5 Watch” blog – with a little word of mouth, I bet folks would start sharing some of the doodads they know in their hometown and some state wide accountability could get rolling.

  15. Here’s another First 5 Commission in trouble:

    Amongst other serious issues in the report link below, the CCC Grand Jury recommended that First 5 Contra Costa be converted to a county department, as was Riverside just last year. Though they are not a criminal Grand Jury, they did give a laundry list of many many issues that had been brought to the Grand Jury’s attention:
    “Complaints received by the 2009-2010 Grand Jury regarding the First 5 Commission alleged Board of Commissioners’ self-dealing, conflicts of interest, misappropriation of funds in the awarding of contracts, general dereliction of fiduciary duties, and unethical conduct. In addition, complaints alleged illegal or inappropriate employment practices, including discrimination, manager bias and favoritism, sexual harassment and the cover-up of such behavior. Due to the number and nature of the complaints, the Grand Jury conducted an investigation.”
    access the report (#1007) here:

    And… the situation may not be over. A Civil Grand Jury may choose to leave conclusions about illegal activities to an assessment made by the District Attorney’s office, which has 3 years or so within which to press charges.

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