Posted by Michael Kane on December 17th, 2009


Since deposed County Administrative Officer Mark Uffer has left it’s amazing what information is coming out of the woodwork. And at HSS it’s not looking good for Uffer-Appointees HSS Honchos Linda Haugan and Nancy Swanson. And a new name on the scene, HSS Fraud Chiefster Virginia Lugo.

Since the IE POLITICS story on massive internal fraud at HSS (TAD) a number of former and retired welfare fraud investigators have surfaced to share their opinions of why fraud detection and investigation is so ineffective at HSS. Apparently there are as many unhappy former fraud employees as are currently on staff.

This is their story:

Apparently the HSS welfare fraud operation started going downhill since Linda Haugan hand-picked one Virginia Lugo to be in charge of the HSS Fraud Unit. Sources who used to work in Fraud say that Lugo does not believe in fraud investigation and has embarked on a campaign of terror over the last 5 years to gut the fraud investigations arm of HSS through intimidation, firings, hounding people to leave, denying investigation resources, micromanaging, interfering and otherwise hindering fraud detection. They say she brags about her gutting accomplishments.

The former investigator insiders point out that Lugo has reduced the number of investigators from 53 to 14. SEBA sources say she had to be threatened with being sued to get her to agree to refill some vacant investigator positions. She has told staff the hiring process takes one year. ONE YEAR!

Lugo has refused to buy the fraud cops Thomas Bros maps, stopped them from meeting with Arizona welfare investigators, stopped them from doing arrest warrant sweeps in Calif and Nevada, won’t let them arrest people in California on warrants and constantly discouraged the staff from investigating fraud all the time preferring that they pencil whip fraud referrals from TAD staff (whatever that means). The morale was high until she came aboard and has plummeted ever since. (Ed. Note: are rubber bullets next)?

According to SEBA sources Lugo’s tyrannical conduct got so bad that SEBA filed lawsuits, grievances and the number of employee complaints to HR and HSS went so high that a civilian outside management audit was done of the Lugo operation. SEBA people said that every employee was interviewed and with 2 exceptions testified that she was totally unfit for the management position in charge of Fraud. They gave examples of vindictive, disruptive, mean-spirited, unprofessional conduct to the auditors. And apparently everyone knew about the infighting between her and the chief investigator. She put two investigators on desk duty for almost a year. They were eventually cleared of any wrongdoing. She has terminated or forced out a number of other experienced investigators. Coincidentally her discipline applied to those who disapproved of her anti-law enforcement stances.

The retired investigator informants said the audit results were deep-sixed by HSS Boss Linda Haugan and Mini Boss Art Gomez. Apparently Lugo is their Pet Tyrant.

According to these insiders after the audit was covered up, Lugo started REALLY going after those she suspected of filing complaints (practically everyone apparently). Staff was hounded, investigated and disciplined for minor infractions to the point that a number of seasoned high-producing fraud detectors quit in disgust or retired. A supervising investigator transferred to Animal Control. Another Supervisor retired in disgust. The chief investigator was escorted off the premises by HR officials at Lugo’s instigation and has never been seen since. Lugo has appointed her personal friends to replace the supervisors who left according to retired staff.

So as a result there are only 14 people investigating welfare fraud now. Exactly what Lugo wants! Just think… we have a huge welfare caseload but only 14 investigators! (Good Job Haugan!)

Linda Haugan is well aware of the trouble Lugo has caused. Cynics say that Lugo gutted the fraud unit at Haugan’s direction. Who really knows?

What does seem clear is that under the Haugan-Gomez-Lugo regime fraud detection has fallen off by 85% since Lugo took over. Coincidence you ask? You be the judge. Do things like this happen in a bureaucracy coincidentally?

Former HSS employees and SEBA sources say that fraud is not only tolerated but blown off. Anyone who is a true believer in fighting fraud is marginalized and eventually eliminated from the HSS Fraud workforce. That’s why they’re down to just 14 fraud cops.

So there you have the former employee’s stories.

Seems to me that if only HALF of what the insiders say is true it’s time to fire and replace all three of these clowns, Haugan, Gomez and Lugo. In fact the BOS should ask Haugan if ANY of the above stories is factual, like the employee turnover from 53 to 14. If the answer is YES then she should be immediately relieved of duty and terminated because she obviously knew of the lack of fraud staff and not only tolerated it but ENCOURAGED IT.

Since when, Miss Haugan, do you allow a staff of fraud detectors to go from 53 to 14? Has fraud gone down or up? Well, since you don’t have anyone investigating it anymore the stats say it has GONE DOWN!

And as for the amiable buffoon Art Gomez, you are paid to manage problems, not COVER THEM UP! If you knew one iota of the problems reported by the former employees you, sir, are unfit for public service and should be fired.

With respect to the Evil Miss Lugo all I can say is that you, madam, have joined the exclusive circle of hell populated by Laurie Ferguson and Ruth Stringer. You know what that means, right?

And last but not least we must address that extraordinary SEBA union boss. You know the guy that supposedly is making sure our public safety levels don’t fall below minimum staffing levels. You know, it’s called representing your members! Yes, we need to hold accountable Bill Abernathie. What was this clown doing while his fraud cop members slowly disappeared from the membership rolls? Not only do you screw your dues-paying members now you’re helping screw the taxpayers who fund the welfare system. Good job!

No doubt this latest HSS expose will bring even more former fraud workers out of the woodwork. You know that means many more entertaining stories about how your public servants…Haugan, Gomez and Lugo are allowing the taxpayers to be ripped off. And they are laughing all the way!

But in the end we the taxpayers will have the last laugh.