Legal Services Corporation
Board Of Directors
Meeting Of The Operations And Regulations Committee
Friday, January 18, 2002
Hilton Alexandria Mark Center
5000 Seminary Road
COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT:
John T. Broderick, Jr., Chair
Douglas S. Eakeley
LaVeeda Morgan Battle
BOARD MEMBERS PRESENT:
Ernestine P. Watlington
Maria Luisa Mercado
F. William McCalpin
John N. Erlenborn
STAFF AND PUBLIC PRESENT:
Victor M. Fortuno, Vice President for Legal Affairs, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary
Mauricio Vivero, Vice President for Government Relations & Public Affairs
Randi Youells, Vice President for Programs
Leonard Koczur, Acting Inspector General
Laurie Tarantowicz, Assistant Inspector General for Legal Review
Leslie Q. Russell, Director, Office of Information Technology
David L. Richardson, Acting Vice President for Administration, Treasurer, and Comptroller
Robert D. Gross, Senior Program Counsel, Office of Program Performance
David de la Tour, Program Counsel, Office of Compliance & Enforcement
Danilo Cardona, Director, Office of Compliance & Enforcement
Kim Heron, Program Counsel, Office of Compliance & Enforcement
Joe Green, Program Counsel, Office of Compliance & Enforcement
Bertrand Thomas, Program Counsel, Office of Compliance & Enforcement
Don Saunders, Director for Civil Legal Services, National Legal Aid and Defenders Association
Linda Perle, Senior Attorney, Center for Law and Social Policy
Alma Jones, Executive Director, Legal Services of North Louisiana
|C O N T E N T S|
|1.||Approval of agenda||4|
|2.||Approval of the minutes of the Committee's meeting of November 17, 2001||
|3.||Staff report on the status of Current Rulemakings: 45 CFR Part 1626 (Restrictions on Legal Assistance to Aliens); 45 CFR Part 1611 (Eligibility); and 45 CFR Part 1639 (Welfare Reform)||
|4.||Staff report on the status of the activities of the Regulations Review Task Force||
|5.||A report by David de la Tour on the Office of Compliance and Enforcement's planned activities in 2002||
MOTIONS: 4, 5, 74
P R O C E E D I N G S
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: I'd like to call the meeting of the Ops and Regs Committee to order. And the first item on our agenda, without surprise, is the approval of the agenda. So if there's a motion?
MS. BATTLE: I have one addition. LaVeeda Morgan Battle was available by phone at that meeting, and that does not appear in the draft minutes.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: All right. Well, we're just doing the agenda at the moment.
MS. BATTLE: Oh, sorry.
MS. MERCADO: She's ahead of you. She's getting ready to go.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: I don't want all the excitement.
MR. EAKELEY: She was planning that speech for an hour.
MS. BATTLE: I'll move for the adoption of the agenda, then.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: Should I declare her out of order, Mr. Chairman? So moved. I'll second it. All those in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: The agenda is approved.
With respect to the minutes, LaVeeda was mentioning that we need an amendment to reflect the fact that you were available by telephone.
MS. BATTLE: That's right.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: And so with that amendment, I'd entertain a motion to approve the minutes.
MS. BATTLE: I'll so move.
MR. EAKELEY: Second.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: All those in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: The minutes are approved. The third item on our agenda is staff report on current rulemakings, 45 CFR 1626, Restrictions on Legal Assistance to Aliens, and 45 CFR Part 1621, eligibility, and 45 CFR 1639, Welfare Reform. And Mr. Fortuno?
MR. FORTUNO: Good afternoon, everyone. Mattie Condray, our rulemaking specialist, is unavailable today. She's down in Florida. So I will report to you in her stead.
I think the first item would be the status of the working groups' activities. LSC contracted with the Marasco Newton Group to serve as the neutral facilitator for both the 1611 and 1626 working groups.
The 1611 group, working group, held its first meeting. That was held on January 7th and 8th. The next meeting of that group, the 1611 working group, is February 11th and 12th.
We do have a request from SCLADE by way of its chair, Jonathan Ross, to participate in both working groups. The Corporation does not have an objection to it, but we will poll the members of the working group because I think by its own ground rules, the other members of the group have to consent to it. I don't anticipate any problem with that, so I assume that come the February 11th-12th meeting of 1611 working group, SCLADE will be represented as well.
The 1626 working group is scheduled to hold its first two-day meeting on February 11th and 12th. Work seems to be going smoothly and we hope to be back to you with a recommendation at least as to 1611. Under the protocol, the working group would, by consensus, settle on a proposed rulemaking. It would come back to the committee for action by the committee, and if we get the consent of the committee, it would then proceed to publication for comment, as notice and comment rulemaking ordinarily would. And that's the status as to 1611 and 26 and the two working groups.
Did you wish to discuss the task force report? CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: Before you do that, are there any questions of Mr. Fortuno on those issues?
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: If not, the next item on our agenda is staff report on the status of the activities of the Regulations Review Task Force. I know you appeared in front of us at our last meeting. There was an anticipation that the proposed changes would be prioritized and there would be further meetings with NLADA to see if their comments couldn't be incorporated or at least further discussed, and with a recommendation back to us.
I understand because of schedules and workloads that may not have been completed. But Mr. Fortuno, you can fill us on that.
MR. FORTUNO: Actually, that's correct except that we managed to make more progress since we spoke with you, Judge Broderick, and are very near having a report, in fact, expect to have a final report to distribute and make available to the public this week.
We would ask whether the committee wishes to see it before it's made public or simply to have it made public after it's sent to the committee, subject to further direction by the committee chair. But we leave that to the committee.
I can brief you on what it's expected the report will say. It's not yet fully finalized. It is correct that at the November meeting of this committee, the draft report that was provided was discussed and the task force was asked to go back and review the comments submitted by those who did submit comments, and principally NLADA/CLASP.
We went ahead and considered those comments. there was interaction with field representatives. We have narrowed the areas on which there is any disagreement. In fact, the areas of disagreement of the 45 regs we're talking about, we're looking at nine individual regs, and it's actually a little less than that if you -- some of these get clumped together. So we're talking less than nine.
And on those on which there's disagreement, I don't know that -- I think those are regs on which we probably need to agree to disagree. But we've been able to make a great deal of progress. As you may know, the working group has been operating since November of the year 2000, and there was a solicitation for comments that was published in the Federal Register.
Comments were received from the public. A draft report was issued then for comments. Comments were again received to that, they were considered, and the working group incorporated some of the suggestions that were made.
And it was after that that a document was crafted to come to the committee. And that's what you had before you last meeting in November of this past year.
It's intended to aid you in developing an agenda for rule-making. And we hope that in the form in which you should be getting it this week -- and I'll discuss it with you a little bit now and let you know what it's anticipated you'll be getting -- does prioritize and -- identifies the regs that we believe need work, and prioritizes them in the way of low priority/high priority.
Within the high priority category, you have a prioritization. So you don't just have the half dozen regs or so in high priority, but those themselves have been prioritized.
And it will be something that the committee can consider and take up for purposes of developing a rulemaking agenda, if it's so inclined to do.
MS. BATTLE: Just -- I have a question of process as I heard you give us the background as to what has occurred with regard to the working group working on the Regulations Review Task Force, and that is that a report was put out for public comment and then the Regulations Review Task Force has taken that back under advisement and made some changes to it.
Does this committee have an opportunity to see and know what the public comment is and evaluate that in light of the final report, or do we simply get a copy of the final report? Just from a process point of view, how is that done?
MR. FORTUNO: In fact, the committee does get a copy of the public comments. And if you'd like, we can provide the -- as I said, there was a notice for comment, comments received, then those were considered and a draft report was again issued -- first time issued, the first draft -- for comment to that report, which factored in some of the comments received in response to the initial notice for comment.
That report was distributed. Comments were received to that draft. They were then factored into what actually came to this committee, which would be a second draft, if you will. That's what the committee had before it back in November.
And because that report did not prioritize within the high priority items, we were asked to please go back and consider coming to you with a prioritization of those so you'd have a half dozen or so high priority items that we believe need to be acted on in the order in which we think you might want to consider taking them up.
MS. BATTLE: I guess the question --
MR. FORTUNO: In addition -- yes. I'm sorry.
MS. BATTLE: I guess the question I had, I'm trying to understand the difference in the procedure. The procedure used to be that the public comment portion was evaluated by the committee and a final determination was made.
But now the public comment is evaluated by the task force and then the task force then makes a recommendation to the committee, and the committee has the benefit of copies of that public comment as well as the final recommendation from the task force.
MR. FORTUNO: Well, I think two things. One, there is a new protocol, rule-making protocol. But I think this is a little different because it's not a rulemaking. What we're talking about is information to be provided to the committee by staff hoping to support the committee in developing an agenda for rulemaking. So it's a different creature.
MS. BATTLE: I understand. I'm just trying to understand.
MR. EAKELEY: If we have a choice, my own druthers would be to get the report out and have it come to the committee as well so that by the next board meeting, the committee can make some plans or recommendations to the next board in terms of timetables and selection among and between the priorities, rather than delay it further.
MS. BATTLE: Sure. I would agree with that, with only one caveat, that maybe the chair of the committee look at it before it go out just --
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: We can arrange for that.
MS. BATTLE: Yes.
MR. EAKELEY: This committee is not bound by the recommendations of the task force.
MS. BATTLE: That's true.
MR. EAKELEY: These are just recommendations.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: But I still think it would be worthwhile.
MS. BATTLE: Yes. I think it would be good if the chair would look at it first.
MR. FORTUNO: So we could commit to having a report to the chair by the end of this coming week, give the chair an opportunity to review it in, say, whatever's appropriate, whether one or two weeks, then get back to us whether we may release it --
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: Well, I'm sensitive to both concerns. I would like to see it, but I also am sensitive to the chairman's concerns, which I think it's important to get it out, and then for some work and review to be done before we come back here, if we are back here, although the rate things are going, I think we'll survive the Bush presidency.
But in any event, hopefully we'll be back here in April and we can do some good work between now and then.
MR. FORTUNO: And that will be a comprehensive report. If you'd like, I can give you kind of a summary of what it's expected that will say so that you're at least aware of what the issues are; or we can just wait for the report since it's scheduled to come out fairly soon. Your choice.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: Well, you and I can -- we can talk about that.
MR. FORTUNO: Will do.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: But I don't know if there are any further questions. If there aren't on that issue, I know there's been an enormous amount of work done on that, and it's been in stages, and the task force has been amazingly responsive. And I know there are a lot of time constraints on a lot of people.
And so I'm delighted with what you're telling me, but I know that didn't come easily. So I want to thank you and thank the task force for the work that they have done. It's been very valuable.
And if there's nothing else, I would move on to the next item on our agenda, which is a report, David de la Tour of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement, relative to planned activities for 2002.
MR. DE LA TOUR: Let me addendum that right away. My boss was not able to be here originally right away due to some serious surgery he was to have to have. But as you can tell, he's here. So if we could have him be part of the presentation as well, I'd appreciate it.
MR. CARDONA: Thank you. My name is Danilo Cardona, for the record, and I'm director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement.
First of all, I wish to apologize to the committee for being here or not being here, whichever way you want to look at it.
MR. EAKELEY: We're glad you're here. We're glad you're here. I wouldn't have been interested in hearing what David had to say.
MR. CARDONA: Yes. I had surgery scheduled for -- I thought in my mind for January 14th, eye surgery. As a result, I went ahead, put all the paperwork for January 14th in for the recovery. It's serious eye surgery. My doctor -- I went to see him on January 10th and he disabused me that the surgery was on the 14th. He says it's on January 24th. So consequently, I will have to go to surgery next week.
Also, for all of those committee members who I don't get to say hello, I wish to present my apologies also because I've been declared legally blind. So sometimes I see people; sometimes I don't. Compliance issues I do see even with my eyes closed.
Having said that, I was instructed to present -- do a presentation to this committee about the activities of OCE. And so I prepared part of the presentation myself last week when I knew I was going to be available.
And with regards to the technical assistance reviews and trainings of staff, I would like, with the permission of the committee, if David could speak about that because I have delegated to him that function, with my full support. We discuss everything, but he is the one who has, since the year 1999, been the main trainer for OCE with regards to regulatory compliance.
So if I may proceed?
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: Certainly.
MR. CARDONA: Okay. The functions of OCE have been the same from 1996 to the present. I say from 1996 because on November 15, 1996, my then dear boss, John Anderson, told me to take over the Office of Compliance and Enforcement, which at the time was not that name. It was the Approvals and Investigations Unit. Subsequently, the name changed to Compliance and Enforcement, and I do claim no responsibility whatsoever for the name change. And I'm serious about that, and for the record.
With one -- so the activities have remained the same, with one very large change that came in the year 2001's appropriations from Congress. I'll go into detail about that change in a little bit.
The main functions of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement are the investigation of complaints filed by government agencies or entities, members of the public, Members of Congress, clients, potential clients -- usually those potential clients are denials of service -- or anyone else that wishes to bring forward concerns and evidence that a program has or is in violation of the law.
Second, we review and approve/disapprove all sub-grant agreements under Part 1627. We review, we approve or disapprove, fund balance waivers and deficits under Part 1628. We review and approve or disapprove purchases of equipment per Part 1630 and the Property Management Manual.
We review and approve or disapprove waivers of a PI requirement, the 12-1/2 percent requirement, under Part 1614. We review and resolve all referrals from the Office of the Inspector General under the 850 circular with regards to audit findings made by the independent public accountants, the IPAs, made as a result of their annual audits of the financial statements of the programs and their legal requirements.
We follow up and/or investigate all other matters referred to by the OIG that concern recipients with compliance issues. We also review all audits for the limited purpose of insuring compliance with the 1997 LSC Accounting Guide for Recipients.
We process emergency grants. We conduct onsite reviews and investigations, as warranted. Warranted prior to 2001 was an LSC discretionary item, and the visits were selected only for those programs in which there were active complaints or evidence of CSR issues. As a matter of record, the prior LSC president instructed OCE to conduct monthly CSR visits to programs in which such visits would be warranted.
Importantly, in 2001, Congress provided money specifically for seven new investigators in OCE with the specific instruction that OCE conduct onsite investigations to insure compliance with the law. The seven positions were filled between January and April of the year 2001 with qualified persons.
OCE provided substantial training for this new staff, even though two of those persons had worked in a Legal Services program and three others had been consultants with LSC. All seven were provided the same training, which includes ongoing extensive onsite work, which is the primary purpose for their hiring. As of this date, each new staff person has conducted at least five visits, and six of the seven hired had served as team leaders.
The 2000-2005 Strategic Directions discusses the need for LSC management to examine current methods of grantee oversight and to play a more active role in assessing grantee compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements.
LSC management in 2000 determined that an increased number of onsite visits and case service reporting and case management systems, which directly affects the CSRs, would be done. And average of two to three trips per month have been conducted, and a majority of programs selected in 2000 and 2001 were identified through different indicators of need.
Along with these increased resources available to the unit by the hiring of the seven staff in the year 2001, OCE has also increased the resources devoted to technical assistance and training.
Particular emphasis has been given to those situations in which large numbers of staff and programs can be trained. And as part of this, several statewide programs have been visited by OCE with a statewide training provided. Consistent with the ongoing goal of maximizing the use of LSC/OCE limited resources, several larger programs have also been visited or provided training.
As was stated in the Strategic Directions document, the provision of training and assistance is an ongoing and key component of onsite visits to grantees.
Consistent with the goal of the Strategic Directions regarding review of LSC statutory and regulatory compliance requirements, OCE has participated in this effort laid by the Office of Legal Affairs, and has participated in the regulatory working group by assigning a staff member to this effort. Also, the OCE director, along with an OCE staff member, are participating in the negotiated rulemaking process currently underway.
Regarding the specific onsite accomplishments for calendar year 2001, OCE conducted 32 travel visitations to programs or groups of program representatives. Of this number, 21 of those visits were case service report/case management reviews.
Four were compliance reviews that usually involve checking of case service reporting systems elements, but were focused on compliance issues due to usually a complaint. Three visits were strictly technical assistance reviews, and on three occasions, a trip was conducted for the pure purpose of providing training only.
However, trainings were provided in many other instances, including OCE staff participation in the fall 2001 NLADA conference as a trainer for the LSC-sponsored client board member training. A total of eleven accountability training for programs or groups of programs were provided in 2001.
Feedback obtained from attendees of these events, including both management and program staff, indicate that these trainings are very successful as affecting the goal of compliance oversight and providing clarity for programs as they design and implement compliance systems, often, though, the changes brought on by state planning ane mergers.
And as a strategic -- under which we are currently operating, the Strategic Directions are effective in January 2000. I wish also to report the onsite work of 2000.
In 2000, OCE conducted 17 visits to programs. Of these, nine were case service/case management reports. But some of them were focused -- also had elements of, you know, compliance investigation, due to usually a complaint.
Three were technical assistance reviews, and on one occasion a trip was made for the sole purpose of providing a statewide training. However, again, additional trainings were conducted as part of other visits, and a total of six trainings were provided in the year 2000.
For the year 2002, we intend to allocate more resources for training, more resources for technical assistance reviews.
MR. DE LA TOUR: And if I may pick up right there, what I'd like to do is take the opportunity -- that was basically our prepared comments. But I'd like to take the opportunity to bring to light the training and technical assistance that we've been doing that I'm very proud of, that we've received a lot of very positive feedbacks on.
With the GAO report that happened on the CSR disaster, let's call it, several years ago, they basically pointed their finger at LSC, and literally at me when I was sitting in a room when they met with us once, and said, "The Corporation needs to do more. They need to be more active in what they're doing."
With the very limited resources we had at that time, which were only four attorneys in our unit, we had to come up with better solutions than just going onsite to programs, writing reports, and have programs correct things.
We quickly moved into experimenting with different kinds of formats and different ways in which to train or bring the information out there. It quickly, quickly came to life.
People wanted a forum in which they could ask any question they needed to ask and have the Corporation either admit that we have the answer or, in many cases, do not have the answer yet.
We developed a standard format. We call it the accountability training. It basically answers a lot of the most standard questions that involve case service reporting.
Case management system, you hear us talk about the reviews. We've learned that if you don't proactive in the way you approach your review, if you go in and just look at what happened and say you need to correct that, that's not helping you insure that the compliance is going to occur, nor is it helping the program to understand how the compliance can occur.
So using our expertise, we've looked at the case management systems when we're onsite and doing a review. That is almost right immediately into technical assistance range.
The very kind words of Michelle DeBord this morning about our review, she had a normal review from LSC. Hers was not a technical assistance review, per se. I'm going to distinguish what that means in a minute.
But she had a standard review, and she was able to find that review very useful. And those words that she gave this morning were true because we worked hard to make her understand in that merger setting.
Let me distinguish the types of things we do now. In response to the continued GAO instruction that the Corporation needs to insure that the CSR's report to Congress are accurate, we continue to do CSR visits. We have the seven new staff, which brought the total number of attorneys that can travel onsite to eleven. That's made us a lot more flexible.
That flexibility also led to an, over time, increasing amount of resources, defined, as you're looking at the resources, myself, that my time has been freed to do less of what I used to do, which is more of our standard kind of complaint investigations, and to go and do more training.
A couple of the new staff as well have skills in presentation and have backgrounds in those kinds of skilled presentations. So they're also moving into being able to be present for that kind of work.
Let me get more specific. For example, I'd like to probably list our efforts in North Carolina. North Carolina is a huge state. There were several programs that were moving towards the process of merger. I didn't hear any horror stories there, like I heard some of the ones this morning. It seems to be going well.
However, very early in the process, we were invited to come down and to present at a statewide training conference in March of 2001, which we did. At that point, we met the then-executive director that LSC has since hired, Melissa Pershing, and the assistant director, who is now the acting director of the program, and discussed the kinds of things that we would like to do with them as they're working in the process of making this merger work.
Now, we only can offer compliance-related things. But our vision is, and I mean this sincerely, we can save a program a lot of time if we go into a situation, especially where we have a new executive director, or one that may not have existed for that long within the community, or even someone who's worked in a program who's never been in that leadership role -- in any of those circumstances in particular, we can save a program a lot of time by going and saying, "Here are those things that you need to concern yourself with from a compliance standpoint. Here are those things that are easier to set up in your case management system such that you don't have reporting errors that are very common. Here are the common errors to watch out for."
And then to answer the questions that they have of things; most importantly, to put names and telephone numbers and e-mail addresses in contact with someone so they don't have to go through and reinvent the wheel. We have some particularly pointed complimentary letters we've gotten saying, "We wish you'd come earlier." So we heard that over 2001.
This year what we plan on doing is looking at those situations in which there have been larger settings for mergers, and to try to get in at the appropriate time. That's an art, not a science, because if you call now and ask a program, "How would like the Office of Compliance and Enforcement to come down for a visit," you're not going to get, "We'd love it."
We have to convince them, okay, that it's not -- what we're trying to do is to come to participate in their process of bringing it together. We're usually successful with that. Occasionally some people may be too paranoid, or just have too much history; they just don't believe it. But most people allow us to start interacting with them and realize that we can save them time.
There are many mergers that have just come together or are in the process of coming together. We have those literally on a list, and we're trying to start to engage which places we'll provide technical assistance in what order.
But let me go back to my North Carolina example to show the flexibility that we're allowing ourselves in interacting with programs. I'm very proud about North Carolina in particular, but there are other examples I could give.
In North Carolina, we then were asked, after we did our first training, to come back to do a more guts-level training to the actual intake workers. They wanted to ask a different level of question than the audience that had been the earlier training, which had involved all levels, managers, attorneys, case handlers, paralegals, and intake workers.
So we came back to their biannual retreat, statewide retreat, and with their anticipation knowing that starting this year all of them are going to be moving towards being one program by -- I think their date is either May or June 1st, we went back and gave a -- what was going to be three hours, but we agreed to stay for five and a half hours, training that answered a lot of questions, that talked about how they're going to try to design and integrate the systems across the different programs. We actually had people -- we actually facilitated a conversation for about half that time.
Again, we got a very good feedback from that. but we went immediately back to the program the following week, which had been prescheduled, to the main program, North Carolina -- although the name is going to change; it's going to become a new entity. There's not one program that will continue to exist -- but we went back and we did an assessment, as if -- just like a mock review, a technical assistance review.
We did a mock review of the two different kinds of intake systems they use to give them direct feedback as to whether either of them had errors or had weaknesses in them, or if one had a particular strength.
And we gave that information straight back to the program management, so they had that going forward as they're all sitting at a negotiation table trying to understand what systems to use in the future.
It's very involved. It depends on the facts. It depends on the people. It depends on their openness. But we have several that were planning -- and I'm pleased to tell you that we have the ability right now -- the unfortunate thing with our work is, we do not know, and it's a running joke, what is in the mail coming to us or what is on my phone machine before I get back to the Corporation.
We have some very serious allegations. We have some people that are not mentally well that will take up a lot of our time calling everyone that we have to manage their denial from a program. There's lots of things that can eat at our time.
We have enough people now, though, that I feel relatively confident in saying to you that you should anticipate probably a doubling of that work this year, if we have a normal year.
But the way we're scheduling it on the schedule -- because last year we did a full technical assistance review about every other month. Now we're going to be scheduling one probably about every month. Last year we did a training about every month. Now I think we're going to be scheduling about two a month, maybe even more.
We have three requests in right now. People usually call their friends -- we're getting a lot of phone calls now, people calling and saying, "Come on down." We try to maximize the number of people obtained so that sometimes we go and give a training to four programs in a region, so they come together; sometimes just one program.
But we're doing it in lots of different forms and we're trying to maximize that work, which supports the overall management and strategic plan that has been adopted by the board. It also continues to do the stuff that we have to do, which is really boring.
Fortunately, being the last speaker, what I had to talk about wasn't that boring because you're still awake, which is really good. But that's as exciting as I can make it.
MS. BATTLE: We've been awake all day.
MR. DE LA TOUR: Pardon?
MS. BATTLE: We've been awake all day.
MR. DE LA TOUR: That's about as exciting as I can make our work. But actually, it's been very useful in some settings, and I think some directors have very much appreciated that. We'd like to be a little more proactive when we have a brand-new director. I think when a director comes in, for them to have to read the LSC Act and regulations and figure out what they have to do when and what needs an approval is kind of exhausting. It would probably be easier for us to interact with them more directly.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: Thank you. I want to throw it open to questions, but I had a couple of questions. And I guess I would address it initially to both of you.
And I don't want to go into great detail because I don't think we need to, but I'm aware that recently there have been some issues in Florida with respect to OCE visits. And that spurs a couple of questions from me.
One of them is, do we have currently or have we ever had written and public protocols on access to records for monitoring visits by OCE? That's my first question. Is there such a protocol that those who are monitored can review?
MR. CARDONA: We have a standard protocol for access to documents for programs. You know, it initially -- and I'll tell you how it works. Initially, when we decide, based on indicators and whatnot, where to go to visit a program or, let's say, a CSR case management review -- I have to distinguish the reviews, though; if there is an investigation, then it's for a very specific, you know, purpose, if there is a complaint investigation -- we have a data collection instrument that is the standard instrument that we use in which it has about 15 or 16 questions.
And that data collection instrument is available to the programs up front even before we get there. It has questions on -- it tells them what is the information that we are going to review when we get there -- eligibility information, both income and assets; eligibility based on citizenship; priorities; 1636 statements of facts; retainer agreements; whether they have a case management system; whether it's computerized; whether the information that they provide to us in the case list is contained in the case management system; whether there is double-counting, and so forth; whether eligibility has been determined appropriately -- those are the questions that are contained, and that is the information that we seek from them.
Now, there are programs -- and in 99 percent of the programs we have absolutely no problem getting in there. We have had problems in the past, and especially with, you know, two recipients I recall that raised the issues, and we were able to develop a protocol that suited their needs. One was in New York, Westchester/Putnam. The other one was with the Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland.
Although we have not completed the visit there, we tested a procedure in there for one day. A staff member here, Mr. Rick Thomas, who's behind us, he went and executed the Westchester/Putnam agreement, and went and executed for me the one-day testing in Baltimore.
The issues, unfortunately, in Florida, there are issues in Florida. We haven't come yet to terms in Florida. We are striving to come to terms with Florida. And I think that I'm confident that eventually we will.
It's the same information that I've just described to you, the ones that we're seeking in Florida, although they have raised issues.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: But before visits are made to these various states, before you go to these various states for these onsite compliance visits, is the Corporation informed and does it ask whether or not, in connection with this protocol you say exists, there are any ethical constraints that they see, or any statewide ethical standards that might interfere with your visit, so that if those exist, they're identified before people arrive on site?
MR. DE LA TOUR: Can I handle this?
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: How is that handled?
MR. DE LA TOUR: Myself and another person that works with us, Carla Smith, conduct all of the advance telephone calls to programs. And we coordinate very tightly with each other because sometimes when we talk to a program and we think we might want to come in the next three months, we realize it's not a good time for them.
Sometimes we think we want to do a normal review and they really need technical assistance. So she and I have developed a way in which we try to find out what's going on at a program, all while trying to decide where we're going to fit this program into our matrix of what we can do.
As part of that initial conversation, we explain that access to the documents that are required, first of all by 509(h) and also by grant conditions number 9 and 10, and things that we're going to have to do. Most programs are very aware of it, don't raise any issues.
In the majority of settings, we use intermediaries, so that a program will keep control of the files, which is great, because to have the whole file is not what we need to do.
And those pieces of information that Congress was very serious about and said, "You shall look at this," we can look at it. We can see the retainer is signed. We can see that the citizenship has been signed. We can see that that name matches someone who's eligible, the things that they wanted us to check specifically.
And then when it comes to -- let's say it's been a court decision. There's a filed pleading. And we can usually look it up and say, yes, they did a court decision, and that matches the CSR, and we're done.
If it's something less than that, which there may not be an unprivileged third party, we allow them to talk generally that we did a type of service for the client. It's worked very easily in some places.
In Florida in particular, I think what's happened in the current setting, the issue is outside of our control at the moment because it comes down to the enforceability of grant conditions 9 and 10, the way I understand it right now.
Florida, it wasn't just for us to negotiate how the protocol would work between the information in 509(h) and the information that we'd need to prove that they did a legal service.
It comes down to that they claim that under a rule -- and again, I was a team leader for one of the two programs that's currently having problems I think two years ago, so they didn't have a problem then, so this kind of caught us by surprise. And at the time, we had the same conversation, and everything was fine.
The point is that when we came to the current setting, they cannot give us anything that's public, they claim now. That means that we cannot do compliance with most of the regulations, which is like whether they ask for fees, whether they've done prohibited areas of work, because if we have a court decision, we'd have to in one program drive to the courthouse in one of 14 counties or to the federal courthouse, which would take months. And that's just not something that we've done ever.
And that's something that I think is -- the question is in front of our Office of Legal Affairs right now for us to get direction on before we can proceed with what could be a protocol that could work, which is why that Florida has probably come to your attention, because it's gotten stuck for a while.
MS. BATTLE: Yes. I just wanted to follow up so that I could understand.
MR. DE LA TOUR: Sure.
MS. BATTLE: Since you were the team leader just before this particular --
MR. DE LA TOUR: A couple of years ago, yes.
MS. BATTLE: -- a couple of audits --
MR. CARDONA: August 1999.
MR. DE LA TOUR: August 1999 I went to Withlachoochee Area Legal Services. We had a complaint on them.
MS. BATTLE: Okay. Was there anything specifically different about what was requested when you did your review and what's being requested now?
MR. DE LA TOUR: No. In all due respect, the only thing that could be different is that we found some substantial noncompliance at that program the first time, including outside practice of law and representation of ineligible persons and other things. That's the only thing.
The other program we had never noticed for a visit, and it was the same standard notice that we've done. But it's the exact same kind of visit so that, in other words, we're following up to that which we did before.
So, I mean, as I tell people when we interview for consultants or for staff, this is not a popularity contest. If you need to be liked by people, you shouldn't go into this like of work. You know, and I'm leaving off record there were some serious other things going on at that program, I mean, very, very, very serious.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: But with respect to these items, 509(a), which is from the appropriations bill, and grant assurance number 10, both have exceptions for attorney-client material. We do not have a right, it seems to me, to cause programs or lawyers in programs to violate their professional ethics. Congress isn't going to give anyone that authority.
So I'm just very sensitive to the issue. And I'm not trying to blame anyone here, but I think these kinds of fisticuffs, if they can be avoided, are in everyone's interest. And I say that without an in-depth knowledge of what's going on in Florida.
MR. DE LA TOUR: I could not agree with you more.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: But I would hope that if it is our policy and our practice to allow for those sorts of events, intermediaries, or coding, that the groups that are to be monitored know that in advance, that there's some discussion before the arrival, so that we don't create -- I'm not blaming you in this comment -- so that there isn't created a program that didn't need to be created.
So, I mean, I'm just -- I'm sensitive to that point, and I don't think it's in the interests of this Corporation to have those skirmishes unless they're absolutely essential.
MR. McCALPIN: John?
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: Yes?
MR. McCALPIN: I'm lost in all this. I have no idea what the Florida problem is. But let me ask this: Without going into detail, what is it that you have asked for that you have been denied?
MR. DE LA TOUR: In the standard approach to what we do on site, we've asked --
MR. McCALPIN: In Florida, what have you asked for and been denied?
MR. DE LA TOUR: Publicly filed pleadings.
MR. McCALPIN: Publicly filed pleadings?
MR. DE LA TOUR: Pleadings.
MR. McCALPIN: Good God.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: But it relates, as I understand it, to be fair to Florida for a minute, there's a 1974 ethics opinion in Florida that says that attorney-client privileges cannot be waived even if the information is made public. Am I right on that?
MR. DE LA TOUR: I don't know. I'm waiting for the Office of Legal Affairs to give us direction on what to do.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: I just don't want to leave the record -- right, and I don't want to leave the record here that the people in Florida are being outrageous. They may be.
But I understand Ms. McCalpin's reaction, which would be my reaction, but I think the record needs to be complete that there is something in Florida -- viable or not viable, do -- but they are relying on something that tells them that they'd be violating an ethics rule in the state of Florida.
So I don't think we need to resolve it here today, and it sounds like we're on a path to resolve it.
MR. CARDONA: You are correct. There is. And we didn't know about that. They had never raised it, neither when we went to Florida Rural Legal Services or we went to Withlacoochee or anything.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: I understand.
MR. CARDONA: Neither when they provided certain other information, which is precisely the information that is now being denied, they have never raised that.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: And I'm not raising it to fault anybody. I hope you understand that. I have great respect for what you do. But it's just -- it's bubbled up, and I don't know how or if it will be resolved. I hope it can be resolved.
But it's an issue that has recurred. This isn't the first time. And I'm not faulting anyone at the Corporation for it occurring. I'm just saying, I think because it's occurred several times, we need to take every precaution in advance of these visits to plumb the depths of that issue to find out what the problems are before we arrive, and perhaps tell them before we come what options are available to them to get around this problem.
MS. MERCADO: I'm just curious why, if they are public documents, we couldn't get the documents ourselves from whatever clerk or court they happen to be at. If it's going to somehow infringe in that particular attorney-client ethical problems they might have --
MR. DE LA TOUR: I think that's a question that the Corporation will ask itself. I believe that we did the right action at the time, which was to involve not just our unit in this decision-making. Okay?
So having the Office of Legal Affairs make the determination as to whether the sentence in the grant condition that said, "Publicly filed pleadings shall be provided," that didn't have a qualifier on it, whether that's qualified, these are not questions I should answer on behalf of the Corporation. And I don't want to be negotiating that point on behalf of the Corporation. I want our lawyers to do that.
We could. The average review would probably take two months instead of one week. There goes the technical assistance, and there goes the training, because the whole staff will be down just reviewing one Florida program. It's horrifically inefficient. And we do have to worry about programs following those rules.
I would like to be able to report to you that I've found no compliance issues in the last year in pleadings, but I can't. We found requests for fees. We found things that we shouldn't be finding. So we have to continue to do that work and to tell programs where we find that, "What are you doing," and ask them for corrective action.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: LaVeeda, do you have a question?
MS. BATTLE: No.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: I just wanted to ask one other question on one other area.
Some time in the fall, the late fall, of 2000, Office of Compliance and Enforcement was taken from the domain of programs, under the domain of the vice president of programs, and placed under the domain of the vice president of finance and administration. And that was done internally.
And I'm just asking you currently what interface is there, structural interface is there, between the Office of Compliance and Enforcement and the Office of Programs, for issues like the issue that we're alluding to in Florida, if there is any? And secondly, do you think there should be if there isn't any?
MR. CARDONA: There is definitely interaction between the Office of Compliance and Enforcement and the Office of Program Performance. There is at all levels. It begins -- for example, they get a copy of every single draft report and final report that we issue.
There is consultation with the Office of Program Performance with regards to sub-grant agreements, especially because of all the mergers and consolidations that is going on. They come to us. We tell them, you know, exactly when period of all the sub-grants are coming.
And, you know, staff communicate with us, with me, with Jay Brown, who is the lead person on it, and saying, "Put a hold on those sub-grants. Let us know when this comes." And we discuss them and everything. And everything is solved to the satisfaction.
With regards to the particular Florida issues, we decided that when we were involved in the -- we were trying very hard to negotiate with them in access protocol and everything like that. Yes, I did inform at that time OPP about that thing, but only on that particular issue.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: Is that something that ordinarily you would do?
MR. CARDONA: That is something ordinarily -- I wouldn't do that. I mean --
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: Would not do that?
MR. CARDONA: The negotiations between access to programs, unless it gets, you know, tricky and difficult. Then they go upwards to the executive office. That's traditional in the process of operation.
MR. RICHARDSON: Can I supplement also, just for a moment? When Mr. Cardona reported to me there was an access problem, I did discuss that with the vice president for programs to make sure that they were aware of the problem that was going on and the process that we were involved in in negotiation here.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: If there were a decision, David or either of you gentlemen -- if there were a decision as a consequence of a problem like the one we're talking about in Florida to recommend month-to-month funding for such a program, would the Office of Program Performance be consulted, involved or not, or is that something that goes directly to the president of the Corporation without that consultation, or do you know?
MR. CARDONA: Usually the process -- this is only the second time it's happened in the last nine years, or at least since I've been in the -- as a director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement -- and the first time, there was consultation, you know. But it happened that it needed to be that way.
This time, yes, I should have, you know, let Mike know in advance of it just to give him heads up, but I failed to do that, if that is what you're getting to.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: No, no. I'm not trying to -- you have to understand, I'm not blaming anybody. I'm just information-seeking.
I'm just trying to find out, ordinarily, if a problem like this arose in any state, and you thought it serious enough to make a recommendation for a change in funding for the grantee, would the Office of Program Performance be involved in any way along that path, or would that path to the president of the Corporation not include the Office of Program Performance? That's all I'm trying to find out.
MR. CARDONA: No. It would include the Office of Program Performance, yes.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: Okay. And this specific time, it did not?
MR. CARDONA: It did not.
MR. EAKELEY: But I think the answer also Danilo gave a minute ago suggests not only would it, but it should include that consultation prior to a decision and recommendation.
MR. CARDONA: Yes. There is consultation on all sorts of things. There is consultation on -- sometimes, you know, on grant assurances; on special grant conditions; as I said, on sub-grants; fund balances. You know, there is consultation every year on compliance aspects. Before they make grants, I get together with Mike.
MR. DE LA TOUR: Can I addendum what Danilo just said? He thinks he has control of me as his employee, but unfortunately, in this case, he's going to find out that he doesn't know everything I do.
When the Withlacoochee situation occurred, the first trip to Withlacoochee had been one of the very few joint visits that OPP and OCE had done simultaneously at the same time, as we had a complaint on the program that was so serious and so intertwined between everything, you couldn't pick the pieces apart.
So we went together. I did have a conversation with the responsible person that is thinking about conducting visits for 2002, and recommended to that person that they should conduct a visit to Withlacoochee because we have a new complaint on the program with similar issues that were related to the past one, and explained to him that this is one of the programs that we're having access problems and I'm not sure when we should -- or can get there, and that I still think these issues should be looked at.
So I did have that conversation. I do a lot of the running down the hallway and consulting with the persons that are the responsible persons. There can be a lot more formalized lines of communications between our units, but I'm also aware of programs put on month-to-month funding for quality issues that we hear about after.
It's a good idea to keep people informed, but I'm not sure that our feedback at that juncture necessarily is going to or should affect their decision that that program needs to be put on month-to-month funding because of quality.
And our standards of making sure that we're protecting the Corporation's interests in case they do, in fact, deny something here that the Office of Legal Affairs determines should be enforced, I think that we need to -- at least what we did here is to say, we're not sure. Let's at least recommend they get put on month-to-month funding.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: LaVeeda?
MS. BATTLE: I just -- because of the issue of the month-to-month funding being something that you can use for purposes of getting the attention of a program, but yet from our standpoint of view administratively, it seems to me before that kind of recommendation actually gets considered for implementation, that we need look across in-house and have some sort of formalized procedure for that to make sure that, on the one hand, we're not saying we're encouraging a particular program from a programmatic standpoint of view on some things, and on the other hand, we're pulling it for month-to-month funding, and at least that there's communication across the Corporation so that everybody -- the right hand knows what the left hand is doing in that respect for programs.
So from an operations -- since we're operations and regulations, from an operations standpoint of view, I think that noting that and really maybe making some suggestion to our president about how that can occur would be a very helpful part of the process of assuring that the right hand and the left hand are in synch when something as grave as a compliance issue comes to the top, so that everything is informed and everybody's on the same sheet of paper as to the appropriate measure for how it ought to be addressed.
And I also agree with the chair's suggestion that we become informed on a state-by-state basis about how those ethics rules may interrelate with our requirements because I think that that on the front end will help us to be able to make informed decisions about how to go about resolving the issues when they do come up.
MR. RICHARDSON: Can I speak for a second? Because since this issue has been coming up, Ms. Youells and I have been talking, talking quite regularly, and also speaking with Vic.
What we are going to do is to put in our protocol a statement to the point that if there is any reason that this information, this access to documents, is not to be made available to us, that you report us that you're not going to do that and the reason.
It's not just a matter of, we're not going to provide you access to records, but we want to know if there's a bar ethics opinion or a state law or something that prohibits you from doing that. And we've talked about that, and we will do that.
As far as going back to your comments here, there has been a problem of communication, and communication between the offices. But again, Ms. Youells and I have decided that we will on a biweekly basis sit down and discuss what is going on within the two units, and more closely coordinate the activities so that we're not -- we've a circumstance where we go on a compliance review and find out that there's performance people there also.
We're going to more closely coordinate that. We will get involved with this so that we can manage the issue more closely and try to prevent -- as Mr. Broderick has said, you know, we don't want the controversy.
We want to be able to get in and do our job, and if there's a system establishing up front that there's an access problem, if we have to get legal affairs involved as we're doing this time, we will do that. But we want to make sure that we are trying to cover all of our bases.
We can't possibly -- and as Vic has told me, and even our staff -- know what all 50 bar ethics opinions and access to records are. We've got to rely upon the grantees to provide that information. If there is a problem and we can't get it resolved, then it goes up to legal affairs and we look at it that way.
So we're trying to look at this more closely. We're trying to flesh this out, and we're trying to improve the procedure greatly.
MR. DE LA TOUR: Let me add to this also that as evidence, we agreed we do not want -- trust me, it is no fun; it is no fun for anyone to come to one of these, and it takes all the fun out of wanting to do technical assistance and training because everybody's already arguing.
However, as evidence that we do everything to avoid the issue and get advance notice, what's important to know is that we've had to abort no trip because of this. The problems, the discussions, are all in advance.
So we have been, as a standard -- Carla and myself had been flushing forward these issues before we ever take the resources to go on site. So the discussion happens in a form at LSC without wasting time.
If we were having this happen on site, I would think we were doing a very crummy job of planning. But it's happening in discussions in advance. And by the time we go on site, the protocol has been tested or it's made sense. And this has been working for several years.
I also can't emphasize enough that we have had many variations of programs having this problem or that problem. We've been able to accommodate real easily. Certain classes of clients that they can't disclose the name, but we can satisfy ourselves that we've seen the names sufficiently for audit purposes to satisfy 509(h) where we don't really see the name -- we've had lots of things that we've been able to be flexible and still stick by to be able to say to Congress, "We're doing what you set up for us to do."
But I'm very proud that we've not had to abort something onsite because a surprise comes up. This is flushed out in advance, quite in depth.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: Any other questions or observations?
MR. EAKELEY: I --
MR. McCALPIN: I have one. After you.
MR. EAKELEY: No, after you, Bill.
MR. McCALPIN: After you.
MR. EAKELEY: I've got my budget questions.
MR. McCALPIN: I'd like to ask a question which in the exercise of your judicial authority you might rule irrelevant, but which I would be interested in knowing the answer to. My recollection --
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: I'd never rule you irrelevant or your questions.
MR. McCALPIN: I doubt that. My recollection is that in the first year that we were here, the operations and regulations committee considered the gamut of grant conditions.
I wonder if they have been changed in the meantime, and if those changes have been brought to the attention of the board.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: That's a very good question. I don't know whether you gentlemen can address that.
MR. CARDONA: I don't -- I know that the grant conditions, but it is not my authority or under my purview. Sometimes I'm consulted about grant conditions; sometimes I'm not. Grant conditions are mainly drafted by the Office of Program Performance.
MR. EAKELEY: I would be very interested in the answer to that question for maybe the next -- I mean, the next committee meeting. That's a fascinating question and --
MR. McCALPIN: Obviously, 9 and 10 are referred to here, and I don't know whether they've changed or not.
MR. EAKELEY: I think it would be worth looking at.
I have non-Florida-related questions.
MR. DE LA TOUR: The budget questions?
MR. EAKELEY: And an increasingly set speech.
MR. DE LA TOUR: We're ready.
MR. EAKELEY: As of today. First, I was very pleased to hear Danilo start off his report by reference to our Strategic Directions. I don't -- we shouldn't need reminding, but it doesn't hurt being reminded that accountability is one of the key elements of our strategic direction, and obviously absolutely essential to the viability of our program and our credibility with the Congress.
And I was also interested in the direction you are planning on allocating your efforts in your budget this year because from my standpoint, I think that accountability training and assistance are -- and technical assistance give you sort of the preventative dose that helps reduce the number of complaints. But obviously, we need to have the capacity respond and investigate complaints whenever they occur.
It's just -- it's very helpful -- this is for the next board now, and I'm looking at David and John Erlenborn and Victor in particular, as well as Danilo -- I think that we ought to be having presentations prior to the consolidated operating budget being presented to the board for approval of each of the major operating units within management and administration so the board gets an idea of what's being approved in advance, what policy options might be available, and they're only on the margins and only in a meager fashion.
But if, for example, OCE had come and reported that they were planning on taking all of their funding and spending it on site visits and eliminating accountability training, I think the board would be interested in that in advance and wonder why -- and say, we think that priorities should be reviewed, looked at, and the like.
So I think next year budget process, budget cycle time, I would suggest involving the board in the planning that goes into the decision-making implicit in resource allocation.
MS. MERCADO: And Mr. Chairman, just so that I don't forget, initially when we started on this board of directors, actually the finance committee had every single division come and present --
MR. EAKELEY: Yes.
MS. MERCADO: -- to the finance committee what they were proposing for their budget, what they were going to do with that. The Inspector General's office did that as well. And we went in detail. Unfortunately, not the whole board was in attendance, but in the finance committee, that was done.
At some point along the way, it has been synchronized and just sort of a presentation rather than having a more full-blown detailed discussion of the budget.
MR. EAKELEY: And not to put you on the spot today, but can you give us some sense of the proportion of resources in the current year's budget -- we're now into the third month of the current year -- but how much of your budget and all goes to responding to complaints? How much goes into onsite visits? How much goes to the technical assistance and accountability training? Just rough dimensions.
MR. CARDONA: I'll give you rough dimensions because it's very difficult to do. The budget of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement for fiscal year 2002 is $2,300,000-some. Out of that, about $1,900,000-some is staff salaries, benefits, et cetera, et cetera.
The next item that comes in there is $280,000-some for consultant -- for travel.
MR. EAKELEY: Two forty?
MR. CARDONA: Two forty. And then about $84,000 for consultant fees. All that is devoted entirely to complaint investigations. The $240,000 and the other $84,000 is devoted to site visits, case management reviews, complaint investigations or compliance reviews, technical assistance, and so forth.
What we try to do specifically is at the -- an onsite review lasts five working days. We usually travel on a Sunday. We begin on a Monday, and return on Friday around midday or afternoon, you know.
What happens -- usually happens on that is why my statistical report here said that we are able to do some -- a lot of trainings is because part of the staff that is devoted doing the case management review visit, the CSR review visit, leaves on -- at noon on Friday. Some of the staff stay behind with program staff for that entire Friday doing a training or doing a technical assistance review. That's the way we do it.
MR. EAKELEY: And how much of your overall effort would you say is directed at either dealing with complaints relating to case statistic reporting or looking at case statistic reporting?
MR. CARDONA: Well, about half the budget goes to that.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: And of that half of the budget, we are -- we've been in the process of tinkering with, fixing, or replacing case statistic reporting for about four years now. I'm not quite sure where we are in that process.
But how will the compliance and enforcement effort change as the case statistic reporting process itself changes? Is that a subject of discussion?
MR. DE LA TOUR: Let me jump in there. We've kind of used a term that I think is too glossed over, so let me try to flesh it out.
The primary focus in a CSR/case management system, the GAO asks for updates. I think they asked for one a couple months ago: What are you all doing over there? Are you still doing enough to stay on top of this? Are we going to have to go to Congress and report on you again?
So we're very aware that we're being watched by different cadres. So we have that in the title. But when we do a CSR/case management system review, an average one, like the one that Michelle DeBord complimented this morning, we're doing two other huge things at the same time.
One, we're checking all the restrictions, because when you're looking at the types of service you're providing, you're making sure they're not doing things strictly prohibited. That's just what we have to do. Not popular work, but that's what we have to do.
MR. EAKELEY: No. We're not arguing with that one.
MR. DE LA TOUR: And the other side is we're doing technical assistance to see where the weak links may be or whether they could be shored up in their information, trying to fill that hole.
So it's not just that we're going out for the CSR. That just happens to be the sexy title right now. But we're kind of doing almost all of the regs that have to do with case service. We're not checking the board. We're not checking other things like that. But we're checking to make sure you have a PI program in place that is getting some value for the amount of money that's being expended for it, things like that. It's all in -- the title -- it's not like we're devoting it just to the case service report.
The other thing I wanted to also amend is that the complaints we get aren't just on case service reports.
MR. EAKELEY: No, no. I --
MR. DE LA TOUR: There are some really loopy ones on some weird stuff that take a long time to figure out.
MR. EAKELEY: I was just trying to -- if we're modifying -- I'm just wondering whether the accountability/enforceability aspect of a new case statistic reporting system is getting properly worked into the consideration of the folks who are doing that. CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: Maria Luisa?
MS. MERCADO: Yes. I mean, just looking at the -- last year they said they made 32 visits. An average visit is five days. I mean, that's 160 days, working days, out of the office. It's a little over half the year that they spent in the field doing all of these onsite visits. And I'm assuming that prior to that, you do preliminary work that goes to that. And that's not even including the technical assistance that you do.
And I'm not sure, looking at it, where there's a whole lot more time to do the kind of creative preventive education, if you will.
MR. EAKELEY: But I think that part of that takes -- a lot of it takes place during the field visits.
MS. MERCADO: Does part of that take place? Does it go in there?
MR. DE LA TOUR: It's still on site.
MS. MERCADO: Is it still done onsite?
MR. DE LA TOUR: Well, yes. It's done onsite, mostly. But again, and not trying to be too cute, the congressional language said, "hire investigators to investigate employee compliance." When you look at what the management direction of the Corporation is, to cause mergers and things to come into being, I interpret that message being that part of our task is to investigate. If we go in and find things wrong, report them as such.
But also, part of our task is to support the overall goal of compliance. Now, if you're going to do the most efficient way that you can do that, sometimes that's a training. Sometimes that's technical assistance. Because the average program, in my experience over probably 170 visits at this point I've conducted for LSC, wants to do the right thing. Sometimes they just don't have the time to get the information.
MS. MERCADO: Well, and even from your own statistics that you had for last year, out of the 32 visits, you said only four were a result of someone having filed a specific complaint to say someone's violating or doing something wrong.
MR. DE LA TOUR: Yes. And a couple of those came out of, we had a little sprinkling of staff complaining against programs on CSRs, which means we're just going to do a CSR visit and resolve that complaint.
MR. CARDONA: Also, during appropriation time, I have to keep certain staff in the office just waiting for a congressional complaint that is related to our appropriation that I need to exit the Corporation without lifting any dust, go and investigate it, come and prepare a report, and do whatever is necessary. It's coming up. February or March, whenever the hearing, it's coming up.
MR. DE LA TOUR: We pull straws for that.
MR. CARDONA: And so we just wondered -- so we have to, you know, stay put in that sense. I know that doesn't answer directly the question that you're asking, but that's part of the planning that goes into this time. At this time, we have to be very alert, very attentive to what is coming.
MR. DE LA TOUR: Let me also add that Danilo spoke correctly when he said that the average visit is five days. But I want to emphasize that word "average." Some of our programs have grown so dramatically that one of the programs we went to last year, Puerto Rico, we were there for a week and three days. Yes, for eight working days.
Some of our programs have gotten so large, we couldn't humanly do it in one week. We'd drive them nuts. We'd drive ourselves nuts. So we need to do it in a process of whether we may go back in two months or do it two weeks back to back.
But we're going to have to come up with some different solutions for some of the very large programs we've created. And like I said, in North Carolina, my ongoing example, we've been there three times last year, and one was for a week visit. It was an onsite visit. It counts.
But it was a technical assistance review -- we used the word "review" -- and we'll go back at least probably twice this year, too, because they need -- that's the kind of presence they'll need so that they don't have to recreate the wheel in bringing themselves together.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: Gentlemen, before you conclude, going back to Bill McCalpin's request, which is a pretty important request, is that something that you can follow through on in terms of grant conditions?
MR. DE LA TOUR: Yes. Victor?
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: Or whomever will do that. So that somebody leaves the room with the understanding that they will either do it or have somebody do it.
MR. RICHARDSON: We will discuss that in the management team and come with the appropriate --
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: Wonderful. Thank you for your presentation, and obviously for your service. And my inquiries today were not meant to be critical. They were meant to be for information.
And I think the suggestions that David has made, which is to get more advance notice to the field and more cross-fertilization within the Corporation, would be beneficial.
And lastly, I just want to wish you Godspeed on your eye surgery. As someone who's had a few of those myself, I know that's not something you're looking forward to. So good luck to you.
MR. CARDONA: Thank you very much.
MR. DE LA TOUR: Thank you very much.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: What I'd like to do, before we go to item 6, Victor pointed out that I had asked him to report on 45 CFR 1639, and then we never got to it. And just for the record, it won't take more than an hour, hour and a half, Victor said, to give us a report.
If you can give brevity to anything that you can, it would be wonderful.
MR. FORTUNO: I'll do my best to work within that time frame. No, actually, 1639 was discussed with the committee at its last meeting in November, and the committee directed that the notice for comment be published in the Federal Register.
1639 is not going the negotiated rulemaking route. It's actually a very plain vanilla, noncontroversial rulemaking because it's simply for purposes of conforming our welfare reform reg, 45 CFR Part 1639, with the Supreme Court decision in Velasquez and subsequent legislative enactment.
So it's simply a conforming revision to the rule. The committee has already considered that and directed that it be published for comment. It was, in fact, published for comment on November 26th. And we'll be coming back to the committee with a report once the comments are received and digested, and they'll be presented, of course, along with copies of the comments provided to the committee.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: Great, Victor. Thank you. The next item on the agenda is consider and act on other business, if there is any.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: And if none, the last item is public comment. I'm sure each of you would like to speak for ten or fifteen minutes.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: If not, we will entertain a motion to adjourn.
M O T I O N
MS. BATTLE: So move.
MR. EAKELEY: Second.
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: All those in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN BRODERICK: We're adjourned. Thank you very much.
(Whereupon, at 3:37 p.m., the meeting was concluded.)
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