Controversy Surrounds Mireles Position Elimination by Mental Health Region Group

Supervisors, attorneys, and county auditors from Winnebago, Worth, and Hancock County met in Forest City on Wednesday to discuss what actions need to be taken after learning that Sandy Mireles, Service Coordinator for the North Quadrant, had her position eliminated by the County Social Services Mental Health Regional Group.

Mireles had been with Winnebago County and the regional health group collectively for over 40 years. According to officials with the County Social Services, a regional mental health group comprised of 22 counties, Mireles was responsible for 66% of the funding approvals by CSS between February and October of 2017. Allegedly, she continued to approve payments for services to patients after the CSS had spent all of it 2017 budget. However, she was never made aware of where the current budget stood according to her and others present at the meeting. This may have been due to the lack of a Chief Financial Officer position being filled who could have alerted her and Karen Dowell who was responsible for the another 22% in funding approvals.

A Human Resources Audit performed by County Social Services officials evidently focused on Mireles actions according to Winnebago Supervisor Terry Durby.

  Three and possibly four of the area supervisors were interviewed for the audit and each said that a primary focus was on Mireles. Winnebago County Supervisor Bill Jensvold, who represents the county on the governing board of CSS, was one of those interviewed.

In the HR Audit, comments made by supervisors that were interviewed suggested the Mireles was not currently performing the essential functions of a Service Coordinator position as originally established by the CSS Governing Board. This contradicts a statement in the same audit that stated she would be promoted to Utilization Review Coordinator, a position which was never filled by her.

According to Jensvold, Jodi Draper, former Chief Financial Officer for County Social Services believes Mireles did nothing wrong.

Other spending practices by CSS were not addressed in the audit. These included spending over $300,000 annually for a crisis hotline which is now being used for free according to Jensvold. By rule, Mireles was to refer those who called her for help, to the hotline. According to Jensvold, the hotline assistance was suspect at best.

CSS is now moving forward with reorganization and has contracted with P. J. Gruefe & Associates to perform the service. CSS did not say how much they were going to pay the consulting company in order to reorganize. Meanwhile, Winnebago, Worth, and Hancock County do not want to lose the valuable experience of Mireles. As a result, the group consulted a Human Resources attorney. According to Winnebago County Auditor Karla Weiss, there is a process to retain Mireles.

Mireles is expected to be hired back by Winnebago County and work in tandem with Worth and Hancock County in a shared 28E Agreement as they continue with their application to join a different mental health region and leave CSS.