Investigation Reveals ‘Negative Work Environment’ at Riverside County Agency

RIVERSIDE – Riverside County supervisors today directed staff to draft a response to a grand jury report critical of a county agency apparently teeming with unhappy employees who complain of a ”hostile” workplace where managers don’t observe policies intended to ensure fairness and lack appropriate training to handle supervisory tasks.

The county will have 60 days to answer the grand jury’s findings regarding conditions at the Community Action Partnership of Riverside County.

The 35-year-old agency, which relies primarily on federal funding and is a derivative of ”War on Poverty” legislation originating from the 1960s, provides various services to low-income county residents, including assistance with utility bills, obtaining tax credits and accessing youth mentoring programs.

The 19-member civil grand jury initiated a probe of CAP’s inner workings following complaints about the general work environment.

”Sworn testimony from current and past CAP employees revealed that a conflict exists between some employees and CAP management, which creates a negative work environment and impairs productive work performance efforts,” according to an introduction to the jury’s 6-page report. ”Employees reported … stress leading to headaches, stomach aches, insomnia and other health- related issues. The stress forced some employees to seek other opportunities within the county, retire early or suffer in a work environment that had become increasingly hostile.”

Jurors received testimony that managers used email to send reprimands instead of holding one-on-one sessions with employees. According to the report, there were instances when supervisors engaged openly in ”finger-pointing and eye-rolling” and threatened employees with termination over task failures.

”Executive management suggested employees were intentionally making mistakes,” the report stated.

Employees also alleged that supervisors failed to complete annual performance reviews. In one case, a CAP staffer had not received an evaluation in more than three years, according to the grand jury.

Jurors noted the apparent failure of managers to comply with county policies C-21 and C-23. The first provides specific steps for conducting regular employee evaluations; the second prescribes that all supervisors undergo training on the appropriate methods in which to mete out discipline.

Records obtained by the grand jury did not indicate that mandatory training for supervisors and managers had been consistently satisfied.

The report made several recommendations, including the following:

— CAP supervisors get refreshed on the county’s Disciplinary Process Manual, provided by the Department of Human Resources;

— managers conduct yearly employee evaluations, per county policy; and

— managers conduct ”regular monthly staff meetings,” complete with agendas and sign-in sheets, to improve workplace communication.

The county was expected to formally respond before July 31.

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