Director of California's Department of Consumer Affairs: Who Is Awet Kidane?

Thursday, July 03, 2014
Director Awet Kidane

Governor Jerry Brown’s new director of the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), Awet Kidane, cannot match his predecessor’s long history at the department, but does bring extensive connections to the legislative branch where he worked for a decade.

Kidane, who was appointed director in May, officially takes over for Denise Brown today. Brown retired after more than 30 years with DCA, holding numerous positions on various boards before being appointed director in January 2012.

Kidane, a Democrat, served as an associate consultant to the state Assembly in 2002 and 2003 and a legislative consultant from 2003 to 2009. During the last two years of that tenure, he was senior advisor to then-Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-47th District). Kidane was chief of staff for Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D-62nd District) from 2009 to 2012 before Governor Brown tapped him to be chief deputy director at the Consumer Affairs department.

The 38-year-old director takes over a department (pdf) that has a lot of trouble getting its work done on time, according to the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office. A report in March said the DCA, which supervises around 37 boards and bureaus, fails at one of its primary responsibilities, disciplining licensees.

Many of their reviews run way past deadlines for completing enforcement actions, led by the Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, which were an average 988 days late in 2012-13. That’s almost three years longer than the year and a half they are allotted.

The Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians averaged 693 days late, followed by the Veterinary Medical Board (592), the Acupuncture Board (448), the California Board of Podiatric Medicine (404) and the Board of Psychology (388).

The analyst said he lacked data to pinpoint just where the problem lay, but pointed at the usual suspect: not enough staff. But he also said many of the boards/bureaus suffered from difficulties in obtaining criticial information, such as personnel and medical records, especially for the “healing arts” boards like the Board of Registered Nursing.

The department recently underwent a reorganization, as did much of the executive branch of government, that placed it under a newly-created umbrella, the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency. The DCA oversees boards that certify or license about 2.5 million practitioners in over 240 occupations, including accountants, general contractors, landscapers, embalmers and cemetery workers, engineers, auto mechanics, veterinarians, doctors, dentists, optometrists and pharmacists.

Kidane came to the department just as the reorganization was being put in place, and just before a new electronic licensing and enforcement system was rolled out with a thud.

BreEZe is “a one-stop shop for consumers, licensees and applicants! BreEZe enables consumers to verify the professional license and file a consumer complaint (with or without registering). Licensees and applicants can submit license applications, renew a license and change their address among other services.”

The system was launched in Fall 2013 with nearly a dozen boards participating in the first stage. In February, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Board of Registered Nursing had a backlog—because of BreEZe—of 4,000 nursing graduates who desperately needed certification to start their new jobs.

Finger-pointing ensued. Lawmakers called for an audit of the department. Department spokesman Russ Heimerich told the Sacramento Bee employees were slow to adapt to the new system: It’s like “changing your golf swing. It’s like muscle memory,” he said. While employees toned up their grey matter, the department added personnel to assist in processing the applications.

The entire BreEZe rollout is expected to take two years.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Governor Brown Announces Appointments (Office of the Governor)

Written Testimony of Denise Brown (Little Hoover Commission) (pdf)

Briefing Report: Department of Consumer Affairs' New BreEZe System―Easy or Inefficient? Republican Caucus California State Senate)

State Computer Problems Strand Nursing Graduates without Licenses (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Governor’s Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 2012 (pdf)

Leave a comment