Eau Claire County Courthouse

What started seven months ago as an inquiry into DHS financial practices has progressed into a criminal investigation that includes a forensic audit.

EAU CLAIRE — The Eau Claire County Department of Human Services has considerably better financial numbers this year compared to previous years.

Through the first 10 months of 2020, the department has revenue losses of $1.02 million and spending savings of about $980,000, resulting in an overall deficit of just under $40,000. That number represents far lower overages than last year. Through October 2019, DHS had losses of $2.69 million.

The DHS Board received this information during its meeting Monday. The three areas that constitute the vast majority of the revenue shortage are intergovernmental grants and aid, which has losses of $345,701; intergovernmental charges for services, which has a deficit of $571,037; and public charges for services, which has losses of $115,707.

The savings in expenses can be partly attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has resulted in lower spending on items like travel and payments to employees, who have gone through mandatory county furloughs and, in some cases, voluntary department furloughs this year.

Juvenile detention center

At the Northwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center, 30 people spent 437 days at the facility this November. That is lower than last November, when 44 people spent 438 days in the building.

The number of people and days spent at the facility are projected to be far lower this year partly because of COVID-19. In 2019, 441 people spent 4,968 days at the facility. It is estimated that the center will have 293 people admitted who spent 4,479 days at the facility in 2020, decreases of 33.6% and 9.8%, respectively.

Other business

Jim Catlin was appointed as a citizen member of the DHS Board. Catlin will replace Dianne Robertson. His appointment requires approval from the county Administration Committee and County Board.

DHS Director Diane Cable said a person has accepted an offer to fill the department’s operations administrator position. Cable said she plans to introduce the new hire at next month’s meeting.

The next DHS Board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 4.