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INTERNAL AUDIT OF FUNERAL BOARD RELEASED

 SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Sandra R. Smoley, secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency, and Jim Conran, director of the Department of Consumer Affairs, today released an internal audit of the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers. The board has been under close scrutiny by both the department and Assemblywoman Jackie Speier, D-South San Francisco, for alleged mishandling of California funeral home audits and of consumer complaints.
 "Since my appointment in January, I have been concerned about the effectiveness of this board's enforcement program. The board needs to take immediate corrective action to reassure California's consumers and to ensure open, effective operations," said Secretary Smoley. "This should include a review of the board's rules, structure, staff and funding, as well as a review of the current executive officer's effectiveness."
 In March, Speier wrote to Director Conran regarding her concerns with the board audits of four funeral homes. In April, Director Conran asked that an internal audit be conducted of the board's funeral home audits and of certain consumer complaints.
 The internal audit revealed numerous deficiencies associated with the board's audit process, including: funeral homes not always notified in a timely manner of their audit results, restitution to consumers was not made, corrective action remained unresolved in most instances, and at least one complaint may have been improperly closed while others were not sufficiently investigated.
 The internal audit also found that Jim Allen, executive officer of the board, was not sufficiently involved in the audit process -- a precursor to enforcement actions against funeral homes not in compliance with California law. In one case, a funeral home had a trust deficit amounting to between approximately $57,000 to $154,000. No corrective action was taken, and no money was deposited into the trust account.
 "I am asking for a thorough and timely legislative review of the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers to ensure consumer protection in California's funeral services industry," Director Conran said. "It is essential that California residents feel protected in their dealings with funeral homes. In most cases, consumers are in vulnerable positions during such dealings, and they need to feel confident that the board charged with regulating that industry will do so."
 In addition to other duties, the board investigates complaints regarding the funeral industry and ensures that funeral directors properly hold money deposited in preneed trusts for advance funeral arrangements.
 -0- 5/26/93
 /CONTACT: Louis Bonsignore of the Department of Consumer Affairs, 916-322-2463/


CO: Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers; California Department
 of Consumer Affairs ST: California IN: SU:


LH-TM -- SF009 -- 2471 05/26/93 12:47 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:May 26, 1993
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