May 15, 2012 | Last December, the Alameda County Office of AIDS Administration held its annual awards dinner. The theme of the ceremony was “Getting to Zero.” Ironically, some of its employees on Tuesday complained to the Board of Supervisors saying over the past three months, zero has been the amount on their paychecks.

Employees from the Alameda Healthcare Consortium, a group of eight county non-profits, say not only are they not being paid, but their roughly 200 patients with HIV/AIDS are also suffering. One employee estimates care worth around $100,000 is owed to employees.

Greg Miller, a nurse and health educator for the group, told the board he has not received his last six bi-weekly paychecks, while employees in other departments have been consistently paid for their services. “We don’t want to abandon our patients,” said Miller. “We’ve already had good people leave, but things are getting desperate.”

After the initial paycheck was skipped, Miller says, employees began complaining to supervisors. Ultimately, he and others started getting the runaround from the county’s Office of AIDS Administration, which is under the umbrella of the Alameda County Public Health Department and Director Anita Siegel.

Siegel addressed the board Tuesday by simply stating, “There is a delay and we’re working on it.” A spokesperson for the department could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Miller said it’s a familiar refrain from county administrators. “I can’t be risking my life and not getting paid,” said Miller, who said workers not only have to worry about infectious diseases, but since they often travel to the homes of their patients, they often encounter danger just by getting there. Recently, Miller could not care for his patient because a group of menacing-looking gang members had set up shop in front of the person’s home.

The news of county employees not getting paid seemed to have caught numerous supervisors and staff off guard, even though a similar group had voiced displeasure the day before at a county health committee. At one point, Supervisor Nate Miley appeared to be looking for answers from county staff while some speakers detailed their displeasure.

“We have no ability to work free so Alameda County can misrepresent the status of care for its indigent and HIV/AIDS population for whom the county has received federal funding and has an obligation to provide care,” an employee told the board. “Every county employee and the board of supervisors is paid on time while we and the patients wait and is unacceptable.” The same speaker also called for an investigation of the Office of AIDS Administration. “They seem to have no intent to pay,” she added.

Other were more sanguine. Carol Johnson, another employee, said, “Our
reason for being here is not create problems for you, but to be answers for the problem.”

Although, wrong-doing has yet been alleged, the ordeal eerily echoed another throng of unpaid employees in February 2011 who also demanded late payment for services rendered. The fall of the Associated Community Action Program and its dismantling also involved federal funding that somehow failed to reach its intended use.