VENTURA COUNTY: Former Mental Health Administrator Falsified Credentials
Continuing Ventura County's mental health problems, former administrator Kevin DeWitt was arrested and jailed Monday on "suspicion of forging a doctoral degree and lying about his felony past on an employment application," the Ventura County Star reports. Prosecutor Robert Meyers is alleging that DeWitt presented a counterfeit doctoral degree from the University of Kentucky and failed to reveal multiple felony bank fraud convictions on his application and during interviews. Meyers said, "He would not have obtained or kept his job had he not made misleading statements, and that's theft by false pretenses. These two charges are just two different statements of his actions. He lied." DeWitt faces theft charges to compensate for the more than $140,000 the county paid him in salary and benefits during his employment as deputy director of the Behavioral Health Department from November 1996 to February 1999. DeWitt lost his job in February, two months after supervisors reversed a decision to merge the mental health and social services departments. The merger, which DeWitt reportedly helped to craft, violated federal guidelines, prompted numerous audits and will end up costing the county tens of millions of dollars, the Star reports. Supervisor Frank Schillo said DeWitt "blatantly lied" to the county, but added that the county's lax hiring practices were partially to blame. Criminal background checks are performed on law enforcement applicants and those who would work with children; a "cursory check" is done for other positions. Schillo said, "I think we've learned here that we've got to do checks on all candidates for management positions and especially those dealing with financial matters." Human Resources Director Barbara Journet said she cannot understand why DeWitt would have presented a falsified doctoral degree when the position did not require one and the pay would have been the same for a master's degree (which DeWitt has). Supervisor John Flynn said, "I'm afraid the public perception of this arrest is going to be that he's the scapegoat, the one to blame for" the county's recent woes, which date back to 1990, before DeWitt's employment began. Flynn added that "there's layers of blame, a lot of mistakes were made, all honest mistakes and human errors, and the blame ought to be spread around" (Koehler, 11/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.