Feds launch investigation into San Mateo County's handling of PPE after millions left out in rain

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Friday, January 28, 2022
Feds launch investigation into San Mateo County's PPE debacle
The ABC7 News I-Team has learned the Department of Homeland Security San Mateo County's handling of PPE after millions left out in rain.

SAN MATEO, Calif. (KGO) -- The ABC7 News I-Team has learned the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General is investigating San Mateo County's handling of personal protective equipment.

This comes after I-Team's Dan Noyes found thousands of boxes of it soaking in the rain at the event center and confirmed it's been out there for four months.

RELATED: San Mateo Co. officials vow to investigate after PPE found in rain, say it will never happen again

Dan Noyes: "What should viewers know that or what should they take away from the fact that the feds are looking into this?"

Mike Callagy: "That we're going to be completely transparent about this, and we're going to cooperate with them to the full extent, the fact that, yeah, we absolutely certainly did make an error."

San Mateo County Manager Mike Callagy provided an email from the feds that cites our first report and says, "The DHS OIG is responsible for investigating fraud, waste, and abuse. And is seeking information from your office regarding the funding for the PPE and if San Mateo County purchased the PPE using DHS/FEMA disaster money that was awarded to the State of California in response to the CARES Act."

VIDEO: Marines tagged to inspect $10M of COVID protective gear left in the rain

After nearly $10 million of PPE was rained on outside the San Mateo County Event Center, the Marines have been called in to do an inspection.

Callagy also told ABC7 News, it looks like management at the event center did not make the mistake of moving all that PPE outside in September to make way for a software conference.

Mike Callagy: "I think that it was moved outside at our request at some point in time."

Dan Noyes: "At the county's request?"

Mike Callagy: "At the county's request it and at some point in time, with the intention of moving it elsewhere or getting it off to other nonprofits like we're doing now."

On Thursday, the county started giving away the PPE that was salvaged from months in the rain: hospital gowns, goggles, face shields, bleach and other cleaning supplies to fight the spread of COVID-19.

RELATED: More than $10M worth of masks, protective gear left in the rain outside Bay Area event center

Rebecca Jackson is with a nonprofit that houses formerly incarcerated women with children called Cameo House.

"Face shields and goggles and bleach and all that stuff. It isn't that easy to come by, especially for a nonprofit that is doing what we can to keep our families fed," said Jackson.

Also picking up supplies free of charge, church groups, homeless advocates, the Peninsula Humane Society, and a volunteer loading PPE for the 23rd Marines, and the Suisun City and Fairfield Fire Departments.

The county called on a nonprofit, the Wine County Marines, to organize the giveaway.

VIDEO: Why are boxes of plastic face shields being shredded in San Benito County? I-Team seeks answers

In San Benito County thousands of boxes of PPE are not only sitting outside in unwieldly stacks, but heading to the recycling center to be shredded.

"We bring our network with nonprofits, because we've got, you know, 30 plus years working with other nonprofits, government agencies, and we have a reach beyond the county," said President of Wine County Marines James Brown.

Dan Noyes went to the event where he tried to see how they salvaged the PPE up close but he was barred from going inside.

Dan Noyes: "I'm not allowed to go inside?"

San Mateo County Spokesperson, Michelle Durand: "No, you're not."

Dan Noyes: "Why not?"

Michelle Durand:"Because we're gonna have vehicles coming through here, we are working here."

Dan Noyes: "Now, I just want to get a picture of the stuff. I can't get any video of the, of the supplies?"

Michelle Durand:"Here, the supplies are here, you can shoot through here, you can see all of these."

Dan Noyes: "I'd like to walk in and see it inside there. This is a county building, I should be allowed to go in and see what you've done."

Michelle Durand:"You can see right here."

Dan Noyes: "Can I walk in?"

Michelle Durand: "No, you cannot."

RELATED: Bay Area medical center puts more than half a million PPE and hospital gowns outside, may be ruined

The county manager told the I-Team Thursday, they've hired a former school superintendent from Redwood City, Jim Lianides, to investigate the massive PPE mistake. The county is paying him $150 an hour; the investigation is expected to take two to four weeks.

Late Thursday, the county manager invited me back to go inside the building and see the PPE after all. But, because of our deadline, we'll have to head back there Friday.

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