The mismanagement and misuse of public money by Timpanogos Mental Health Center officials could have been avoided had administrators followed organization policies outlined in state statute, according to a Utah County commissioner.
"It would have prevented a lot of it," said Commissioner Malcolm Beck. He added that the question begging to be asked is " `Why are we allowing it to be governed like that when it does not read that way in the state statute?'"I just don't agree with that. It's not my way of doing things."
Beck's comments came on the heel of Monday's developments involving seven health center officials suspended two weeks ago following the allegations.
Monday, three of the seven administrators director Glen Brown, administrative services director Craig Stevens and program director Carl Smith submitted their resignations.
According to the state statute, local mental health advisory councils may be established throughout the state in each county. Council members are appointed by their respective county commissions.
The council is responsible to and advises local mental-health authorities in planning, organizing, and operating community health programs.
Dave Lambert, an attorney representing Timp Mental Health, said an advisory council does exist, "but how they are functioning I don't know."
Beck said, "I doubt the council was set up and don't think it has operated for at least five years. There have never been any recommendations to organize a council and no recommendation from the advisory board to the governing body."
Questions of why there were only three commissioners on the center's board of mental health have also been raised. Some say all the county commissioners from each county should be on the board, making it a nine-member instead of a three-member board.
Utah County Commissioner Gary Anderson, Summit County Commissioner Ron Robinson and Wasatch County Commissioner Larry Duke make up the Timp Mental Health Board.
Lambert said the statute says nothing about how the board should be organized. One member from each commission acts on behalf of the commission by sitting on the board as a supervising delegate.
"This doesn't mean the other commissioners aren't involved," he said. "The board is organized within the guidelines of the statue, but they do have some latitude. They handle the organization in the fashion they want to."
"Everybody assumes we are dealing with different type management," Beck said. However, he reads the statute as saying that there should be nine commissioners on the board of mental health instead of one commissioner from each county. "That is the way I read the law. Who can delegate the authority to one commissioner? It's going to be different from now on."
Lambert said the state conducted 25 to 30 audits each year to check the center's financial record, but problems existed despite the safeguards. "I don't know what the advisory council knew and what they didn't."
"If what happened went on, then where's the audit?" Beck asked. "They should pick that stuff up. We depend on independent auditors to do that. If you trust them and they misuse or lie to us, we have serious problems. How they missed it I'll never know."
Beck hopes that the problems will be solved once an advisory council is in operation and the board of mental health is expanded to include each commissioner from the three counties.