Sunday, June 21, 2009

County Must Pay for Representative's Visits

In a decision that illustrates the poverty (in more senses than one) of our social safety net, the Court of Appeal has held that a trial court has the power to order a county human services agency that places a child in an out-of-county group home to pay for travel expenses for quarterly visits by the child's "educational representative." The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency placed Samuel G. in a group home in Redding, California. The child's educational representative felt that visiting him quarterly would be beneficial and requested funds from the County to do so. (By this time the parents were out of the picture.) The County refused, saying that the financial responsibility was that of the representative's employer. The court nevertheless ordered the County to pay.

The Court of Appeal affirmed (here). Although a court can't compel an appropriation, it can compel an expenditure if appropriated funds are available. The court also held that the expenditure was not an improper gift of public funds, since it served a public purpose.

This decision breaks no new ground, and is therefore an unlikely candidate for Supreme Court review. Maybe the County will decide not to throw good money after bad and forego the effort.

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