County cuts ties to SER program

April 30, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

The county government has cut off its relationship with the SER Jobs for Progress program while it reimburses the state $48,094 to cover the program's debts, county documents state.

SER was repaying the state $64,000 for overbilling but only $16,000 has been paid. The last payment was in May 2000, county counsel documents state.

SER is a national organization that provides job referral and training and Hispanic recruitment services through state and federal grants. In Imperial County, SER was awarded a five-year $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education in October 2000.


However, that money cannot be used to repay the state, county Office of Employment Training Director Sam Couchman said.

Couchman said he doesn't know how SER could pay back the county because it only gets grant money and that money has to be used for specific programs.

"The state requested payment from the county. Since SER could not pay, the county is considered liable," he said.

Couchman said SER could probably continue to operate because it can get money from the state and federal government without county involvement.

Ruben Garcia, executive director of SER in Imperial County, disagrees with the county's decision. The county owes SER money, Garcia said.

He said he was surprised by the county's action because he was working with Couchman on getting a waiver on the money owed. Garcia said the county cut the program's claims in its last contract.

"They owe us a bunch of money. They owe us $49,133.74. They were only paying wages (on the claim) but they are supposed to reimburse for office space and other expenses," he said.

SER's money problems surfaced in April 1999 when an audit showed it had to refund the $64,000 but the program was running out of money. A year later, another audit found an additional $4,806 in questionable costs.

County Counsel Ralph Cordova Jr., who sent out the notice on the county's action, did not return phone calls.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or

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