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Welfare:

October 24, 2001

County rejects proposal

By LAURA MITCHELL, Staff Writer

The county Board of Supervisors rejected the Workforce Investment Board's controversial recommendation to award $248,919 for welfare-to-work services to Campesinos Unidos Inc.

Representatives from three other agencies competing for the award money said they did not think the evaluation process was fair.

The supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to return the recommendation and suggest the WIB reconsider its decision.

Board Chairman Tony Tirado said the supervisors recognize and thank the WIB for its hard work.

"However, it is in regard to the public we serve, that I believe the board and the WIB should make every effort to eliminate the appearance of conflict in all decision-making processes," Tirado said.

Representatives from the three local agencies challenging the award, the Imperial Valley Institute of Technology Education, the Imperial County Office of Education and the Work Training Center, said there were inconsistencies in the proposal evaluation process.

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At a county Board of Supervisors committee meeting Monday, agency representatives said one of the WIB employees, Connie Jones, stood to gain financially if Campesinos Unidos received the award. Campesinos proposed to hire Jones, who was present during proposal evaluation committee meetings, Work Training Center Director Angela Silva said.

The request for proposal was for job-coaching services the WIB is giving up, WIB Interim Director Ken Phillips said.

Jones has run the job-coaching program for several years, Phillips said. He added, because of her expertise with the program, it was requested she be present during the evaluation process.

The WIB's request for proposal states it would give extra points to proposals that transitioned WIB staff to the new program, county Office of Employment Training Director Sam Couchman said.

Couchman oversees the WIB for the county on contract matters and is a member of the WIB.

The problem with the Campesinos proposal was it specifically named people it was going to hire, he said.

The three agencies appealed the award decision but the WIB rejected the appeal earlier this month.

Peter Ramirez, director of academic and employment services for the Imperial County Office of Education, said he has nothing against Campesinos Unidos, adding the organization does "great" work. However, he said, the problem is the evaluation process has to be revamped.

The WIB has several options, Phillips said. It can re-evaluate the proposals, completely reissue a new request for proposals or not take the supervisors' suggestion and move forward with the award to Campesinos, Phillips said.

He added if the WIB decides to reissue the request for proposal, it might not be ready until January or February.

The next WIB meeting is at 5:15 p.m. Nov. 19 at 770 Main St. in El Centro.

Staff writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 760-337-3452 or la_mitchel1@yahoo.com

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