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Civil Grand Jury criticizes First 5 LA's priorities, spending

Public agency, First 5 LA, accused of poor budgeting and lack of transparency by LA County Civil Grand Jury.
Public agency, First 5 LA, accused of poor budgeting and lack of transparency by LA County Civil Grand Jury. First 5 LA Logo

The Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury has issued a report that takes the multi-million dollar public agency, First 5 LA to task, criticizing it's administrative overhead, planning and follow through on initiatives.

In the report, grand jurors said three-years ago, First 5 LA spent 64 percent of its budget for "place-based" work on operating costs - including public relations and research and evaluations. Last year, the agency was much better, spending 25 percent on overhead.

The civil grand jury said the agency didn't provide enough detail on how much money it spent on each of its 14 target communities, and whether the funds improved the lives of kids under 5, the mandate of the tobacco tax-funded agency.

It also criticized the agency for not spending enough on programs in those 14 communities - just 10 percent of the $17.3 million it allotted to "place-based" program work. 

The report accuses First 5 LA of "insufficient planning,"of "making funding decisions on an ad hoc basis", and of budgeting practices that make it "impossible for the Commission to compare the level of funding with the outcomes achieved in each community."

First 5 LA Executive Director, Kim Belshé had no comment on the criticisms. She said she'd respond formally to the report in 90 days.

But apparently the agency has started to fix some of the problems. At the end of the 47-page report, grand jurors said over the past 18 months, First 5 LA has begun to address some of the issues.

The Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury is a group of 23 citizens appointed by the Board of Supervisors to investigate agencies and programs within the county. 

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