June 30, 2020
Investigative Report I2020-0027
The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
Sacramento, California 95814
Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:
The California State Auditor (State Auditor), as authorized by the California Whistleblower Protection Act, conducted an investigation into allegations that executives within the Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) intentionally manipulated data and delivered a falsified report to my office in 2018 to satisfy a recommendation we had made during a 2016 audit of BRN’s enforcement program.
The investigation substantiated that BRN executives violated state law when they carried out a plan to artificially decrease caseloads for BRN investigators before delivering a falsified report to my office. The plan involved temporarily reassigning some of BRN investigators’ cases to other employees who should not have had the cases assigned to them. Within 10 days of my office reviewing the falsified report and concluding that BRN had fully implemented the audit recommendation, BRN managers reversed the reassignments, which increased caseloads to their original levels. The executives’ deceitful actions obstructed our required follow-up to the audit recommendation and constituted gross misconduct.
The executives’ behavior also undermined the trust that our office had with BRN. When we received the whistleblower complaint that precipitated this investigation, we were midway through fieldwork for a separate audit of BRN’s oversight of prelicensure nursing school programs, audit 2019-120, which we anticipate publishing in July 2020. Consequently, that audit team closely reviewed the data it obtained from BRN and confirmed the reliability of the evidence the auditors used in readying their findings and recommendations for the forthcoming audit report.
We recommend that BRN take appropriate corrective action against the executives involved and that it take steps to address investigator caseloads and fully implement the recommendation from the 2016 audit. BRN must report to my office any corrective or disciplinary action it takes in response to recommendations we have made. Its first report is due August 12, 2020, which is 60 days after we notified it of the improper activity. It must continue to report monthly thereafter until it has completed corrective action.
ELAINE M. HOWLE, CPA
California State Auditor