Over the last two months, the Kern County Department of Human Services has battled encroaching bedbugs at its call center on Wilson Road in Bakersfield.

Employees have reported bedbugs an estimated six times at that location since June, according to Deputy Chief Cindy Uetz, who added that she believes the problem has receded.

“It is serious,” she said. “It is something that we are responding to seriously, to make sure that if we do have somebody who reports it to us, we do make sure that we respond immediately.”

The department has provided employees of the call center, called the Kinship Center, with plastic bags to stow their belongings, lint rollers and plastic booties to wear in an effort to prevent the bugs from spreading to homes and other places.

On Friday, Dewey Pest Control completed the last round of a series of sprays meant to eradicate the insects from the premises.

Employees were asked to leave by 5 p.m. on Friday, and the offices will need to be aired out over the weekend, according to an email sent to staff.

“There haven’t been any new sightings,” Uetz said. “We’re hoping that this will be the last spraying.”

She noted the amount of bedbugs in the building did not rise to the level of an “infestation.”

Employees of the call center have been frustrated by the experience. The sightings have made many staff members worried that they could bring the insects home with them.

“It’s pretty evident that there has been a problem there and it has been ongoing for a while,” said Veronica Vasquez, president of the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union. “During our last negotiations this was an issue, the bedbugs. It has been ongoing.”

The call center has experienced bedbugs before.

In 2017, sprayings were required after reports of the bugs surfaced.

This time around, Vasquez said one employee noticed a bedbug as early as November of last year, indicating the issue has been around for many months.

“It’s not a seasonal thing,” she added.

Both Supervisor Leticia Perez and Supervisor David Couch visited the call center to talk to employees about their concerns. While on the premises, they donned plastic outfits for protection.

Vasquez said the supervisors’ visit comforted the employees and made them feel heard.

“They finally felt validated, and they appreciated that the supervisors went to Kinship and spoke to them,” she said.

Neither Perez nor Couch responded to a request for comment.

Bedbugs are small, brown insects that feed off human or animal blood. Typically, eradicating the insects from a particular area using chemical treatments can require two to three visits.

No cost estimates were available Friday afternoon for the sprayings at the Kinship Center although Uetz said the sprayings were “quite expensive.”

But with no other option, the price must be paid.

“My interest is making sure we’re taking all the precautions we can,” she said. “So we’re approving all of those treatments at this point.”

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

(55) comments

Athena Bragi

This bedbug issue is throughout all the county office's including the District Offices. Boxes came to a district office form the OC Sills location which had the first report of bed bugs 2 years ago. Those petty little creatures hid in the boxes and were transported to our office. We had no issues with our clients and or co-workers until those boxes from OC Sills arrived to us. I have pictures of the creepy little crawlers - photos of bites on my body and I was not the only one. I was told to no longer show to my superiors the photos of the bites. There has been a message from the Director that was sent via County email stating that this is a seasonal issue. We started to get bites in November and my photo's of the bugs and bites are date stamped March 2018. I have received over 20 bites since this infestation of bed bugs in the Department of Human Services began about 2 years ago. Bed bugs, black mold, unsecure and unsafe work locations, mental heath person tossing lite cigarette butts at your feet while pumping gas, workers being accosted as they walk to and from their personal vehicles which are parked along side the public we serve. personal vehicles getting stolen out of the parking lot during business hours, hit and run damage to our vehicles, vandalism to them, tires punctures. The list goes on and on of issues reported in the past 10 years at my site alone. what has been done?????? Nothing to insure our health or safety.

RetiredCountyWorker

Unfortunate that all these things are going on at the dept. working for the county used to be a privilege..unfortunately it is ran differently now..favoritism and unreported nepotism continues I’m sure.. Exec team..Do your job

RetiredCountyWorker

@GhostOfCesarChavez You have hit everything dead on. Thank you

County Worker

So no pay raises in many many years. Work place is infested with pest, and no real security. Especially after bomb threats and safety breaches last month. Who is our fearless leader in charge. Not to mention she requested to hire another AD.

Vico17

Right out of Idiocracy. Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Canacho. 2006. We are 146th...yeahh!! or soemting.

GhostofCesarChavez

This Department is a mess. I work there and have been a witness to the many abuses by the management team. The Director is easily manipulated by her management team. Make no mistake, she has been aware of the unprofessional behavior of her team and has chosen to live in the land of denial. Facts can slap her in the face and she’d rather deny, deny, deny, and bury her head in the sand. She is the problem. She needs to be fired by her bosses, the Board of Supervisors. The incompetent management team needs to go too. Too many young and inexperienced “girl bosses” are running down the Department. The “mean girls” run that place. The Director herself identified them as “mean girls”. Their time is up. Staff needs to continue to come together and get rid of the infestation of bad management. Dena Murphy- how about you get your head out of the sand and start dealing with the real issues instead of meeting with your select group for your “not so secret lunches” when these very same people kiss your butt yet turn around and talk about your incompetence. Deal with the understaffing, the favoritism, the horrible customer service, lack of follow through when something is reported. Start there. Bed bugs are the least of the worries.

BringUpTheHumanRace

Agree 100%!

County Worker

I agree. The discrimination against men is so obvious it's sickening. Her reign is done. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for her.

GhostofCesarChavez

Absolutely right. Very competent and hardworking males get passed for promotions unless they leave DHS and transfer to the “other side of the house” or at least, that was the practice. But unfortunately for CalWorks, they now have the biggest violator of employee rights as head of that program, so the promotion of males will cease as long as she’s in charge. I guess it was nice while it lasted and for those of you men who took advantage, transferred to CalWorks, and got promoted, I applaud your smart move. Hopefully with new leadership that is much needed, things can change. We will all breath a collective sigh of relief when Dena and her bad management team retire or get fired. The truly scary thing is that there are worse people “coming up” the ranks very quickly and we all know who those “girl bosses” are. They are ones to truly fear because they are young, inexperienced, and are power hungry: truly the worst combination. My advice to those of us still stuck working in this place: get out. I’m looking and I can say so are many more of my coworkers. The only way I would stay is if he BOS does their job and hold Dena Murphy accountable for her bad management as well as their unethical Human Resources department.

RetiredCountyWorker

Boom, 100% truth. Nothing has changed since I left. All the years I dedicated to DHS just to feel like I was forced out due to the chaos. It was an awesome place to work under different directors that did their job. I witnessed 5 directors come and go so yes, I can say, the dept under this director is an absolute disaster. Dena Murphy do your job or get out!

GhostofCesarChavez

100% agree. A good leader owns up to their mistakes; they don’t bury their head under the sand and hope it all goes away. The Director has been made aware by many employees of the issues, yet she chooses to continue to try deflect and email staff statistics instead of saying, “Look, I get it, I’ve screwed up royally by putting trust into people who have lied to me and have abused their power but from now on, I will clean house and listen to your concerns”. That would be a start. People are leaving because of the stressful environment her management team causes:” she refuses to get rid of the “bad apples” who continue to infect the rest. It’s quite insulting that their idea of raising employee morale is to hold a billion raffles, which by the way, is a complete waste and misappropriation of state and federal dollars, when the people who are supposed to lead this department are peddling raffle tickets up and down the aisles. Thank you to the Bakersfield Californian for shedding the light on some of the issues, but you’ve just scratched the surface. Keep digging.

RetiredCountyWorker

Issues ignored obviously.. I bet she wouldn’t walk the lobby on California Ave and see how bad it is. Others will believe or say that these comments are disgruntled employees or lies. I am far from a disgruntled ex county employee and by reading the comments, there are no lies regarding every single thing that has been discussed. Let see what will be sent out to the employees now. Do your job or get out rather than send ridiculous unethical emails trying to intimidate the employees. The employees have caught on.

County Worker

Wow

bobspapa

Ya know what'll fix it? A bullet train and some legal weed. Priorities people, priorities.

Twinal

It’s not just at that call center - I work for Conduent on 34th Street and a year ago they had bedbugs sightings and the company denied it and made us get rid of evidence. If an employee complained or even spoke about they were suspended until they were cleared at their home by pest control exterminator. All hush hush

Nevermind

I'm sure they'll get past it. The old Health Dept. used to have rats the size of squirrels, black soot coming out of the vents where desks needed to be dusted off daily and asbestos sitting on shelves in fine dust. That's what you're kids were exposed to when they got their immunization shots in clinic rooms that were originally used to house juvenile deliquents.

Jerry Todd

Wow! The Health Department today is sure quick to shut down local restaurants. A good thing, unless inspections are too infrequent to make corrections without drastic action. Seems the volume has picked up greatly the last few years. Something in the Declaration of Independence where the Colonials complained the king was sending out his agents across the land to "eat out the people's substance." Sounds like California in general.

BakoMark

I hope they itches all night. Those supes look ridiculous in those getups.

Ciscojav

"Public Servant" ..."Thank you to the executive team for handling this situation when it arises."....really? I think you need to speak to some folks at the Kinship building and see how that goes over with them. Is this ever a complaint from the the Peanut Gallery !!! "Public Servant".... Where have you been ? Have you been there to lobby the Board of Supervisrs when the Union meets with them ? Have been there to speak up at Board of Supervisors meetings ? Have you attended a COPE (Commitee On Politcal Education) meeting ? Have you gone to a Shop Steward Training meeting ? Have you become a Shop Steward or a CAT (Contract Action Team) member ? Have you expressed your concerns at a local SEIU officers meeting ? Have you thought of becoming eligible to participate in Labor Management meetings or to become eligible to be on the Bargaining Team ? Are you even a Union Paying member ? Have you spoken up at the Civil Services Commision meeting ? Have you accompany a county worker to a HR meeting or a disciplinary meeting to make sure they know their rights and to make sure that HR and Management dose not take advantage of the situation ? Have you lobbied in Sacramento ? Veronica wears all these "hats" but she is the NOT the UNION !!! We, the Union Paying county employees, are the Union !!! If you are not in favor participating in "Real Democracy in the Workplace" thru Union Activism then I can see why you find it necessary to be beholden to the "executive team" because maybe your "job security" depends on your access and personal relationship with members of the "executive team" and so you can't help to have such a bias perspective . I guess what ever the "executive team" says will be your voice. Union member choose to have their own voice and that's thru the Union.

Jerry Todd

Back in 1998, when all this stuff really got rolling, I wrote this Letter to the Californian. October 24, 1998 Letters Editor THE CALIFORNIAN P.O. Box 440 Bakersfield, CA 93302 - Sent by FAX Dear Editor: I’m for labor unions, but have a real problem with public employee unions. There’s a “Catch-22” here, because public employees need some form of collective bargaining at times, but the power they exercise in the body politic has become a possibly terminal cancer in our society. When they run their own candidates or push the election of others, they are cementing the status quo and bureaucratic inefficiency into the workings of the community and nation. See what a horrible price our children and wallets have paid for the power of the now well entrenched educational establishment! One politician’s ad sneers that his opponent has a “0” National Education Association rating. That, for those of us who hate socialism from the core of our beings, is the highest praise one could reap on a candidate. For the rest of you, cry for your beloved country for what you are doing to it! So, what's new?

JAKraft

Bed bugs are like head lice, anyone exposed needs to treat where they live since they hitch rides just anywhere. They are hard to get rid of and can last for years or longer. I have seen infestations that were expensive to eradicate. Some cost thousands of dollars/location.

JAKraft

I meant the residences of all those exposed to bedbugs need to be treated since they set up residence and spread everywhere they go. This needs to be done at the residences of all exposed people at the same time lest they present cross contamination. The only advantage of bedbugs is that those with them don't sleep alone.

Meeshka

Please no one be surprised. This fantasy denial stuff isn't good for anyone's health. What does anyone expect to happen when any yahoo from anywhere is allowed to cross our border unchecked? So now these employees are unfairly suffering.

Public Servant

Wow great way to blame this on migrants- we know who you are voting for. And just for your uninformed self - this office has no client contact! Meaning nobody but employees enter this facility. Am sure you will find something else to put blame on them... I know how about the earthquake?

RetiredCountyWorker

The employees that work at this center also need to occasionally travel from the dept in Calif Ave. And as it is known, the dept on California also have the issues with bed bugs.

BringUpTheHumanRace

Public servant: you are wrong that “nobody but employees enter this facility “ There are visitations done in this building still. And adoptions was housed there when the last bedbugs were sighted. Please do not put out false information.

RetiredCountyWorker

PublicServant is not stating the truth. BringUpTheHumanRace is correct, bed bugs have been an issue and just kept quiet. I personally know someone that has been attacked by bed bugs twice in the last few years. The statement from Cindy Uetz is also a lie, bed bugs were still spotted this past week at Kinship and also and the dept on California Ave. Two weeks ago, Dewey Pest control sprayed and then fans were set out due to the smell. Numerous employees went home sick. Had this issue been handled the right way from the start... which was years ago..things wouldn’t be this bad.

RetiredCountyWorker

You are correct. The lobby alone is worse than ever and the security of the customers and the employees are suffering.

Ashton

When you sleep with bed bugs you never sleep alone hahaha

Public Servant

Oops I mean shame on you Veronica.

Athena Bragi

Please note that Veronica is but just one person. It takes the commitment, unification, and voice of ALL the voting members of our Union. The more power we have the more we can do. Singling out one person when the county is over 4K employees? So to all those who want to point their fingers at another and lay blame I say Stand up and participate in making the voice stronger for it is the voice and vote of the majority that decides our next MOU and to better the lives of we the workers, our families and the community we serve.

Public Servant

Why doesn’t the union stop with these horrible overplaying this issue and spend more time and effort in getting these union represented employees a living wage. There are always some that will take advantage of an issue that’s not really the frustration of these employees. Ask them how many of them have lost OT pay because of the useless union. Shame on you Victoria. Thank you to the executive team for handling this situation when it arises. The employees in the picture don’t look in distress of their work conditions.

RetiredCountyWorker

Overplaying? Executive team? Wow. You must be part of the exec team.. Do you work in any of these locations? OT Pay? The employees are working on sundays to keep up with the workload. And I don’t know what situation the exec team is handling. Have you seen the lobby? Have you not read the articles of the issues? Enlighten us all. I would truly love to know as well. And quite honestly, this union has done more for the employees than the union has in over 30 years.

Public Servant

Is that why you are now a retired employee with a pension from this horrible department? Yeah must of retired a long time ago because you don’t have the current information. I disagree this union has done nothing but blame everyone else for there failure in negotiations. Get a clue and get more informed. Not part of executive team just being honest. Your retired go enjoy it.

RetiredCountyWorker

I am well informed.. apparently you are not.. and It’s you're, not your

BringUpTheHumanRace

Public servant: “ I disagree this union has done nothing but blame everyone else for there failure in negotiations.“. It’s “their “ not there. And I too am informed of the “current information “ and you are misinformed! What position do you have to put incorrect information out? Please inform those of us that are so misinformed.

GhostofCesarChavez

Public Servant- you are indeed part of the management team. Sit down Go sell your raffle tickets and continue to brownnose your way up.

RetiredCountyWorker

The union is also working on more raises.. however the director chooses to fill exec positions that are not needed.. Look into that

Public Servant

Really! Wow your not getting correct information.

RetiredCountyWorker

Enlighten me Public Servant. Do you work at any of these depts?

Athena Bragi

And what information would that be Public Servant and from whom are you getting it from?

Athena Bragi

Please note that Veronica is but just one person. It takes the commitment, unification, and voice of ALL the voting members of our Union. The more power we have the more we can do. Singling out one person when the county is over 4K employees? So to all those who want to point their fingers at another and lay blame I say Stand up and participate in making the voice stronger for it is the voice and vote of the majority that decides our next MOU and to better the lives of we the workers, our families and the community we serve.

RetiredCountyWorker

@Athena Bragi %100 correct

ISpy

Sometimes, in-your-face problems (like bedbugs) gain more traction than do abstract concepts like systematic corruption or wages that are unequal to the value of the work. It's not getting at the root of the problem, but it is bringing stark attention to the fact that there *is* a problem. The backfire of it is that such a 'squeaky wheel' can bring immediate attention from authorities, and then they will pat themselves on the back for putting out the small fire...while continuing to ignore the simmering volcano.

RetiredCountyWorker

This isn’t new.. The building on California has been battling bed bugs for at least 3 years.. regardless of what the director says or downplays the issues at the department. They are infested and I’m sure Dewey can vouch for that. Dewey pest control is and has been making tons of money with the amount of times they have been out to SPOT spray. This week as well. The dept doesn’t notify employees. Numerous employees have taken the bed bugs home and are stuck with paying the high cost of fumigating their homes. That dept is a disaster and only getting worse

JAKraft

Watch this; all locations need to be treated effectively at the same time or they will continue to hitch rides back and forth endlessly.

Public Servant

Good thing your retired! You don’t have to worry about this.

RetiredCountyWorker

You’re right Public servant, I am retired..maybe. But from what dept? And am I still working as an extra help employee? But again, do you or have you worked in any of these areas? This isn’t about me, it’s about the employees at human services right now and what is the truth. enlighten me

Athena Bragi

Here you are wrong Public Servant. As constituents and residents of Kern County we ALL should be concerned.

RefereeB

We’re all the employees provided the same plastic bubble suit the supervisors wore during their visit? Looks like another lawsuit we the tax payers will get to pay...

ISpy

That protective suit on the public official (next to the worker wearing no protection) was one of the first things I noticed. Surprised more people haven't commented on it.

JR

If this were a "communist" state, you would not be able to post that it's a communist state. Put that in your tiny mind and think it.

Jerry Todd

Check the operations at the state level. Great county public servants. Though many can easily become overseers in the Democrat plantation that has choked our major cities. Read Dinesh D'Souza's book, "The Death of a Nation," to see how the plantation mentality works in government.

JAKraft

Dinesh D'Souza's books are excellent. I also recommend those of David Horowitz.

Jerry Todd

With all the homeless encampments spreading around communist California, you ain't seen nuthin' yet. Public servants and first responders will be the first victims.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.