Department of Developmental Services spokeswoman Nancy Lungren said she couldn't comment on Powell's departure because it was a personnel matter.
In the Veterans Home of Chula Vista case, 93-year old victim Raymond Germain testified at a preliminary hearing that he had never given anyone permission to open his dresser and take the money. So Linda Riccitelli was charged with burglary, and a San Diego County judge set a trial date, saying there was "sufficient cause to believe" Riccitelli was guilty.
Germain died shortly after that hearing, and prosecutors dropped the criminal case.
Then, the state's lawyers say, Riccitelli offered an explanation: Germain had asked her to go to his dresser and get his cigarettes.
The police report showed there had been a box of cigarettes in the drawer, but it wasn't missing when investigators checked the next morning and the video did not show Riccitelli, or anyone else, returning the cigarettes, according to Denise W. Lewis, the Veterans Affairs attorney who handled the case.
The California Department of Public Health revoked Riccitelli's certification following the charges. But the Personnel Board sided with Riccitelli.
The panel concluded that the 10-year veteran of the California Highway Patrol who conducted the sting wasn't qualified, the video wasn't clear enough to show what was in Riccitelli's hand as she withdrew it from the drawer and the department hadn't attempted "progressive discipline," lesser punishment designed to help employees learn from their mistakes.
Following her victory before the board, but with no certificate to work as a nurse's aide, Riccitelli agreed to resign in exchange for $22,000 and a promise from the department to remove all references to the theft from her personnel file. The legal maneuver means she remains eligible for jobs at other state agencies.
Riccitelli could not be reached, and her attorney was unavailable to comment.
The board came to a split decision last year on Carlos Gonzalez, the prison mechanic who asked for a leave of absence to address "family issues" while serving a 90-day jail sentence for beating his wife.
A Monterey County sheriff's deputy called prison officials to tell them that not only was Gonzalez in jail, but he was housed in a wing reserved for gang members. The state prison system has one of the worst gang problems in the country and is highly sensitive to the dangers of gang members infiltrating staff.
Despite all of that, the pressing question before the board wasn't whether to re-hire Gonzalez. It was whether to award him full salary and benefits for the two years he didn't work while his appeal wound its way to a decision, or to pay him for just one of the years as punishment for his proven misdeeds.
The debate added six months to the board's deliberations, records show. Former member Sean Harrigan, who had been executive director on the West Coast for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, argued they should only dock Gonzalez 20-days' pay because prison officials offered no proof that they had told him about the requirement to report arrests to his supervisors.
Gonzalez, who declined to comment for this story, had failed to report two arrests for domestic violence, a third for violating a protective order and a fourth for testing positive for cocaine while on probation.
The board settled on awarding Gonzalez one-year's salary in back pay. Harrigan said he doesn't remember the case, but he defended the lengthy appeals process. "I don't think it's elaborate," he said. "I think it's just a fundamental right of employees who are represented" by unions."