County officials reported receiving dozens of telephone calls Friday from welfare recipients complaining that their case workers, who are embroiled in a pay dispute with the county, are telling them to refer any problems directly to the Board of Supervisors.
John Sibley, the county's director of employee relations, said people receiving public assistance reported receiving short, typed, anonymous notes enclosed with regular correspondence from the county Social Services Agency.
"We wish to give you the best possible service, but Orange County management has made it impossible for us to do so," the notices said. They also provided the names and telephone numbers of the five county supervisors and two Social Services Agency officials and urged that they be called "if your benefits are delayed."
D.A. to Investigate
Sibley said that in some cases only the notices were mailed, without any other correspondence. He said the matter had been referred to the district attorney's office, which would investigate the use of county funds for non-county business.
The president of the Orange County Eligibility Workers Union, which represents the 550 men and women who administer the public assistance program, said all workers are continually warned not to use county facilities for personal or union business.
The union leader, JoAnn Horstman, said that "no union officer or any union member would tell a county employee to use the county mail, or the county duplicating equipment or anything else."
Dick Ruiz, director of the agency's financial assistance program, said the complaint office usually averages a dozen inquiries a day but received triple that number on Friday. He said most calls were expressions of concern or curiosity about the mailed inserts, rather than pleas for replacement of missing checks.
On June 11 an impasse was declared in negotiations between the union and the county. With a mediator present, both sides met June 21, but no new talks have been scheduled. The union's contract expires July 4.