Last week I couldn't believe what I was reading regarding the threats by Scott Walker to lay off nearly 200 workers because of some last minute deficit that suddenly surfaced. Not only did it suddenly surface but it surfaced right in the middle of the budgetary process. As if that fact wasn't enough, the details were even more breathtaking. Suddenly Walker announced that Milwaukee County had a $3.6 million deficit to close. Based on the reports last week almost the entire amount arose because of a screw up by John Chianelli, the alleged administrator of the Behavioral Health Division.
Apparently John Chianelli didn't bother to run the new reimbursement formula for Medicaid for most of the year. According to the reports, Chianelli didn't notice that the changes were going to be problematic until August. To make matters worse, even after learning this information, it was not revealed until last Tuesday to the board and everyone else. This is breathtaking because this screw up has threatened the operations of the entire county. It has threatened the budget and the jobs of some 200 hard working employees. Capper at Cognitive Dissidence already called for Chianelli to be fired last week. I can't say that I blame him for arriving at that conclusion. There is certainly a track record here to judge Chianelli's work. Consider some of the following:
- According to an October 17, 2008 report, the Behavioral Health Division had 113 fully funded positions that were left vacant last year. Those are positions that were fully funded by the board but were simply not filled. That same year (through October) the costs of overtime at BHD were more than any other division (over $3.6 million). So where did the money go for those funded but vacant positions? Did that large number of funded but vacant positions contribute to those massive overtime costs?
- Both last year and this year John Chianelli has proposed privatizing several programs at BHD that would end up costing the county more.
- Speaking of privatization, the privatized security service at the BHD was over budget by over a half a million dollars last year and was already over budget last month for the current year.
- As I wrote a few weeks ago, there also appears to be some sort of disconnect between Chianelli's budget and that of his boss, the County Executive.
The above points are just a sampling but there are also things that should still be verified and tracked down. Word on the street (specifically Watertown Plank Road) is that other curious staffing moves are being made out at BHD. Some allege favoritism for friends while nothing but vindictiveness for those that challenge the broken status quo. I can't personally verify it at this time but if even half of those things are completely legit, then the above list is only the tip of quite a large iceberg.
The bottom line is that someone must own the incompetence that has been demonstrated at the Behavioral Health Division. Scott Walker appointed John Chianelli to his current position and who knows, maybe Chianelli is just doing Walker's bidding out there. But if he is acting completely on his own then Scott Walker must hold him accountable. If he is unwilling to do so then Scott Walker is essentially volunteering to take ownership of that incompetence himself. And goodness knows that he has plenty of that all on his own.
UPDATE: Capper again addresses this issue in a new blog post. He also broadens the discussion a bit more.
UPDATE 2: This isn't really directly related but you may want to take a look at my "bold prediction" for this time next year!