Amended in Assembly May 11, 2015

Amended in Assembly April 23, 2015

Amended in Assembly April 16, 2015

California Legislature—2015–16 Regular Session

Assembly BillNo. 255


Introduced by Assembly Member Irwin

(Principal coauthor: Assembly Member Mathis)

(Coauthors: Assembly Membersbegin delete Brough and Brownend deletebegin insert Brough, Brown, and Salasend insert)

February 9, 2015


An act to add and repeal Sections 73.5 and 73.6 of the Military and Veterans Code, relating to veterans.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 255, as amended, Irwin. Veterans:begin delete Inspector Generalend deletebegin insert Internal Auditsend insert for Veterans Affairs.

Existing law establishes the Department of Veterans Affairs and designates the Secretary of Veterans Affairs as the chief administrative officer of the department. Existing law also establishes the California Veterans Board, and requires the board to advise the department and secretary on policies for operations of the department. Existing law provides for veterans programs, including the veterans farm and home purchase programs, and provides for veterans homes.

This bill would create the office of Internal Audits for Veterans Affairs, the chief auditor of which would be subject to the direction of the secretary within the department. The bill would require the chief auditor to be appointed by the Governor, subject to Senate confirmation. The chief auditor would be responsible for reviewing and investigating, at the request of the secretary or other members of senior management of the department, the operations and financial condition of each California veterans home, each veterans farm and home purchase program, and other department programs and functions. Beginning January 1, 2017, and each year thereafter, the bill would require the chief auditor to submit a summary report to the board and the appropriate committees of the Legislature providing information about the office’s activities and recommendations that lead to departmental efficiencies and improvements.

The bill would authorize the chief auditor to receive communications from any individual who believes he or she may have information that warrants a review or investigation of a veterans program. The bill would require the chief auditor to establish a toll-free telephone number to report alleged wrongdoing regarding veterans programs.

The bill would repeal the provisions described above on January 1, 2020.

Existing constitutional provisions require that a statute that limits the right of access to the meetings of public bodies or the writings of public officials and agencies be adopted with findings demonstrating the interest protected by the limitation and the need for protecting that interest.

This bill would make legislative findings to that effect.

Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes. State-mandated local program: no.

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

P2    1

SECTION 1.  

Section 73.5 is added to the Military and Veterans
2Code
, to read:

3

73.5.  

(a) (1) There is hereby created the office of Internal
4Audits for Veterans Affairs within the department.

5(2) The chief auditor shall be appointed by the Governor, subject
6to Senate confirmation.

7(3) The chief auditor shall be subject to the direction of the
8secretary.

9 (b) The chief auditor shall conduct reviews and investigations
10at the request of the secretary or other members of senior
11management of the department with the intent of increasing
12efficiencies, improving operations, and reducing fraud, waste, and
P3    1abuse. The chief auditor’s work shall include, but not be limited
2to, both of the following:

3(1) Reviewing the operations and financial condition of each
4California veterans home andbegin insert eachend insert veterans farm and home
5purchase program, and other department programs and functions.

6(2) Investigating allegations of department employee misconduct
7and reporting any findings of misconduct directly to the secretary,
8for further action that the secretary may deem necessary.

9(c) To ensure the independence of the audit function, the
10department and chief auditor are subject to the requirements set
11forth in subdivision (a) of Section 13887 of, and Sections 13887.5
12and 13888 of, the Government Code.

13(d) Beginning January 1, 2017, and each year thereafter, the
14chief auditor shall submit a summary report to the board and the
15appropriate committees of the Legislature providing information
16about the office’s activities and identifying recommendations that
17lead to departmental efficiencies and improvements.

18(e) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2020,
19and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute, that
20is enacted before January 1, 2020, deletes or extends that date.

21

SEC. 2.  

Section 73.6 is added to the Military and Veterans
22Code, to read:

23

73.6.  

(a) The chief auditor may receive communications from
24any individual, including, but not limited to, a participant in a
25begin insert veteransend insert farm and home purchase program or a resident of a
26California veterans home, who believes he or she may have
27information that warrants a review or investigation of a department
28veterans program. If requested, the identity of the person providing
29the information shall be held as confidential by the chief auditor
30and may be disclosed only to the secretary or senior management
31of the department when necessary to resolve the complaint.

32(b) begin insert(1)end insertbegin insertend insertTo enhance accountability, the chief auditor shall
33establish a toll-free public telephone number for the purpose of
34identifying any alleged wrongdoing regarding the department or
35its programs. This telephone number shall be posted at every
36California veterans home and throughout all department and county
37veterans service offices, in clear view of all veterans home
38residents, employees, and the public.begin delete In addition, theend deletebegin insert Theend insert telephone
39number shall be issued to every participant of a home purchase
40program.begin delete Whenend delete

P4    1begin insert(2)end insertbegin insertend insertbegin insertWhenend insert deemed appropriate by the chief auditor, he or she
2shall initiate a review or investigation of any alleged wrongdoing.
3 The request shall be confidential and is not subject to disclosure
4under the California Public Records Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing
5with Section 6250) of Division 7 of Title 1 of the Government
6Code).

7(c) The identity of the person providing the information that
8initiated the review or investigation shall not be disclosed without
9that person’s written permission, except in response to a court
10order or to a law enforcement agency in the furtherance of its
11duties.

12(d) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2020,
13and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute, that
14is enacted before January 1, 2020, deletes or extends that date.

15

SEC. 3.  

The Legislature finds and declares that Section 2 of
16this act, which adds Section 73.6 of the Military and Veterans
17Code, imposes a limitation on the public’s right of access to the
18meetings of public bodies or the writings of public officials and
19agencies within the meaning of Section 3 of Article I of the
20California Constitution. Pursuant to that constitutional provision,
21the Legislature makes the following findings to demonstrate the
22interest protected by this limitation and the need for protecting
23that interest:

24In order to protect the privacy of persons who provide
25information of alleged wrongdoing by or complaints against
26veterans programs to the Chief Auditor for Veterans Affairs, the
27limitations on the public’s right of access imposed by Section 2
28of this act are necessary.



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