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Leader of First 5 LA education agency resigns after heavy criticism

Evelyn V. Martinez, executive director of the First 5 LA education program, has resigned after heavy criticism from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, a spokesman confirmed Friday.

Days earlier, the supervisors expressed deep disappointment in the independent voter-approved agency that uses cigarette taxes to fund health, safety and educational programs for children.

Auditors had found that the agency accumulated more than $800 million of unspent funds and that it was overstaffed considering the paltry number of programs it had underway.

Additionally, auditors faulted the agency for a lack of record-keeping for the more than $200 million in contract and grant awards received in the last fiscal year.

As a result, auditors said they could not tell if the agency had signed agreements "for inappropriate purposes or with unqualified vendors or grantees."

A call Friday to Martinez's office was not immediately returned.

"She did submit her resignation late yesterday," said Francisco Oaxaca, the spokesman for First 5 LA. But he declined to elaborate.

Tony Bell, a spokesman for Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who chairs the First 5 LA commission, issued a statement also confirming Martinez's resignation, effective Saturday. He said the agency's board would meet next week to appoint an interim director.


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-- Rong-Gong Lin II and Garrett Therolf

Image: Screen shot of the First 5 LA website

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