Director of the Public Authority In-Home Supportive Services, Sergio Alunan pleaded not guilty on Friday afternoon to felony charges of embezzlement, misappropriation of funds and unauthorized use of a vehicle from the very agency he was supposed to be helping. IHSS
, a quasi-governmental organization, provides assistance to elderly, blind or permanently disable people within the county.Its workers also help those unable to live safely at home without assistance or without the finances to pay for such services.
Having been disabled with polio at the age of three, Alunan
can understand the difficulties and struggles of the people he
uses an electric wheelchair and a modified van for mobility.
The van, which was originally purchased for transporting disable people around the county, was being used by Alunan
to go to meetings and presentations as part of his
believes all three charges stem, in part, from his
use of the van, which he
asked human resources for permission to use.
"When I took this position I asked for reasonable accommodation," Alunan
said."I had to go to meetings in other areas, including San Francisco and Sacramento and I can't use a regular county vehicle like other county employees because I wouldn't be able to drive it."
"I think these charges are ridiculous and I was really surprised by it because everyone in the county knows I've been using the van so for them to say they had no idea I was using it is untrue," he
intends to fight the charges and denies any wrong-doing on his
"For them not to give me reasonable accommodation and expect me to be able to attend these meetings goes against the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)," he
said."Any other employee would have been able to use a county vehicle or would have been offered a stipend, but they never offered it to me."
"I thought when I mentioned my transportation needs they would be proactive about it and take care of it, but obviously they didn't," he
said."I thought we had a verbal agreement and that was enough but I should have gotten it in writing." Alunan
is scheduled to appear in court again on March 24 for a pre-hearing conference. His
indictment is the latest challenge for the county, which is looking into allegations about its Health Department and Assessor's Office.