AB 659, as introduced, Mathis. Inspector General 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 Inspector General for Veterans Affairs, who would be subject to the direction of the Governor, within the department. The bill would require the inspector general to be appointed by the Governor, subject to Senate confirmation. The inspector general would be responsible for reviewing the operations and financial condition of each California veterans home, each veterans farm and home purchase program, and all other veterans programs supported by the state. Beginning January 1, 2017, and each year after, the bill would require the inspector general to submit a report to the board and the Legislature and make any recommendations he or she deems necessary for improving the operations of the veterans programs. The bill would repeal the reporting requirement on January 1, 2020.
The bill would authorize the inspector general 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 authorize, and in some instances require, the inspector general to conduct a review or investigation. The bill would also require the establishment of a toll-free telephone number to report alleged wrongdoing regarding veterans programs.
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:
Section 73.5 is added to the Military and Veterans
2Code, to read:
(a) (1) There is hereby created the office of Inspector
4General for Veterans Affairs within the department.
5(2) The inspector general shall be appointed by the Governor,
6subject to Senate confirmation.
7(3) (A) The inspector general shall be subject to the direction
8of the Governor.
9(B) The inspector general shall provide ongoing and independent
10advice to the board regarding any issue that is being considered
11by the board.
12(b) The inspector general shall be responsible for all of the
14(1) Reviewing the operations and financial condition of each
15California veterans home and veterans farm and home purchase
16program. For the purposes of reviewing the operations of each
17veterans home, the Veterans Home Allied Council and home
18residents shall have unfettered access to the inspector general.
19(2) Reviewing the operation and financial condition of all other
20veterans programs supported by the state including, but not limited
21to, county veterans service offices and veterans memorials.
P3 1(3) Investigating any allegations of department employee
2misconduct and reporting any findings of misconduct directly to
3the secretary, for further action that the secretary may deem
5(c) (1) The inspector general shall conduct a
6investigation, as specified in subdivision (b), if requested to do so
7by the Governor, any member of the board, or the secretary. In
8addition, the inspector general may conduct a review or
9investigation, as specified in subdivision (b), as he or she deems
10necessary or if requested by any Member of the Legislature or any
11member of the public.
12(2) Whenever the inspector general conducts a review or
13investigation pursuant to a request of any Member of the
14Legislature, the inspector general shall submit a report of his or
15her findings to that member.
16(d) (1) Beginning January 1, 2017, and each year after, the
17inspector general shall submit a report to the board and the
18Legislature and make any recommendations he or she deems
19necessary for improving the operations of the veterans programs.
20(2) A report submitted to the Legislature pursuant to paragraph
21(1) shall comply with Section 9795 of the Government Code.
22(3) This subdivision shall remain in effect only until January 1,
232020, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute
24that is enacted before January 1, 2020, deletes or extends that date.
Section 73.6 is added to the Military and Veterans
26Code, to read:
(a) The inspector general may receive communications
28from any individual, including, but not limited to, a participant in
29a farm and home purchase program or a resident of a California
30veterans home, who believes he or she may have information that
31warrants a review or investigation of a veterans program that is
32supported by the state. The identity of the person providing the
33information shall be held as confidential by the inspector general
34and may be disclosed only to the Governor, any member of the
35board, any Member of the Legislature, or the secretary, as the
36inspector general deems appropriate and in the furtherance of his
37or her duties.
38(b) In order to properly respond to any allegation, the inspector
39general shall establish a toll-free public telephone number for the
40purpose of identifying any alleged wrongdoing regarding veterans
P4 1programs. This telephone number shall be posted at every
2California veterans home and throughout all department and county
3veterans service offices, in clear view of all veterans home
4residents, employees, and the public. In addition, the telephone
5number shall be issued to every participant of a home purchase
6program. When deemed appropriate by the inspector general, he
7or she shall initiate a review or investigation of any alleged
8wrongdoing. However, any request to conduct an investigation
9shall be in writing. The request shall be confidential and is not
10subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act
11(Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 6250) of Division 7 of
12Title 1 of the Government Code).
13(c) The identity of the person providing the information that
14initiated the review or investigation shall not be disclosed without
15that person’s written permission, except to a law enforcement
16agency in the furtherance of its duties.
The Legislature finds and declares that Section 2 of
18this act, which adds Section 73.6 of the Military and Veterans
19Code, imposes a limitation on the public’s right of access to the
20meetings of public bodies or the writings of public officials and
21agencies within the meaning of Section 3 of Article I of the
22California Constitution. Pursuant to that constitutional provision,
23the Legislature makes the following findings to demonstrate the
24interest protected by this limitation and the need for protecting
26In order to protect the privacy of persons who provide
27information of alleged wrongdoing by or complaints against
28veterans programs to the Inspector General for Veterans Affairs,
29the limitations on the public’s right of access imposed by Section
302 of this act are necessary.