Kern Regional Center faces heat for firing managers

Kern Regional Center faces heat for firing managers »Play Video

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — The Kern Regional Center hosts many services for the developmentally disabled around the county. The center held its annual board of director's meeting Tuesday evening. The meeting was attended by a number of angry clients.
Several families spoke out to defend people they say were wrongfully terminated by the center's board of directors.

Wilma Sweeny is upset over the recent firing of three former top managers at the KRC.

Sweeny attended the center's monthly board meeting to stand up for the people she said worked with her adult sons for almost 26 years.
"Right there alongside of us was Mike Clark, and Jeff Hopkins, and Diane Makay, and Virginia Ganton. Years and years and years and years of service. To be cast aside is absolutely unheard of," Sweeny said.

Clark was not terminated from the KRC, but Sweeny said his reputation has been tarnished since his retirement, along with the fired former managers.

A representative of the terminated members stood up during the meeting's public forum and read a statement.

"We were recently terminated by the Kern Regional Center for participating in the deferred compensation plans that were drafted by an outside law firm and approved and authorized by the Kern Regional Center Board of Directors,” Neil Gehlawat read from the statement.

The managers were recently let go amid accusations that hundreds of thousands of dollars had been inappropriately put into their accounts. Gehlawat said it was the board that approved the earnings.

“They were basically offered this plan in lieu of salary," Gehlawat said. "They chose to participate in it, not knowing that there was anything problematic with it."

The center declined comment, citing privacy laws, leaving many families with unanswered questions about the alleged mishandled money and the overall well-being of their loved ones with special needs.

"When you're a parent of children with special needs that are banging their heads, flapping their hands, and wetting their pants and they're out of control, you got to have some help. And these people were here to say, 'Let me figure out what we can do,'" said Sweeny.

No legal action has been taken against the KRC, though attorneys on both sides of the issue were in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.