With an economic downturn in the past five years and state and federal government money troubles, senior citizen services have faced threats or actual cuts. Eastern Sierra Seniors hope services here will continue. Two of those services went before the Inyo Board of Supervisors Tuesday. One of the services has gone unfunded for now.
A contract for the Ombudsman Program went to the Supervisors for approval. An independent panel of six people had reviewed two applicants. The California Indian Legal Service office scored the higher of the two, and the current Ombudsman protested.
Pat West, a board member of the Ombudsman Advocacy Services, told the Board that their group has provided services since 1990 and never had a bad assessment. She questioned the relevancy of the scoring to actual service.
The Supervisors essentially said there were not any substantial reasons to go against the independent review panel. West indicated their group would appeal to the California Department of Aging. The Inyo Board said it would be difficult for them to go against the independent panel without good reason. They voted unanimously to give the contract to California Indian Legal Services which has provided senior services in the area for many years.
The Senior Legal Program, associated with California Indian Legal Services, did not do so well. That program was the only bid to provide senior legal services to the Eastern Sierra, but County Counsel Randy Keller said that an employee of the service had violated the conflict of interest code which does not allow Advisory Board members to advocate for the funding of their own services. The employee was a member of the board and had spoken about the needs of senior legal services in public comment. Because of that, the Supervisors voted to deny four years of funding to that organization.
County Counsel Keller admitted that the employee had no intention of violating the law and has provided long-time, valuable service. Health and Human Services Director Jean Turner also said the group had done a great job.
It is unclear how the County will provide this service now since there was no other respondent. Director Turner did say if any senior needs service, the County will provide it but it’s not clear how.
This service helped those considered senior citizens with social security problems, landlord issues, foreclosures and many other difficult daily life issues.