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The workers’ compensation office in Goleta – the only one in the county and open since 1999 – is being closed on November 30 with all of its clients and employees transferred to the Oxnard branch. The state’s Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) announced the decision last month.

At the City Council meeting of October 1, 2013 Goleta Mayor Aceves sought Council concurrence to agendize a letter opposing the proposed closure of the local Division of Workers’ Compensation District Offices by the State Department of Industrial Relations (DIR).

The agenda item noted that “It is unclear from the press release or the articles written on the closure what the exact motivation is to close this office and whether or not it is part of a statewide consolidation effort. No local hearing or outreach was conducted by the State Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) regarding this proposal. Moreover, the goals to be achieved and options considered were never shared with the public. Accordingly, the public was never given the opportunity to be part of the solution.”

“We regret any inconvenience,” said DIR spokesperson Peter Melton. “Because [Oxnard is] less than an hour away, the decision was made to merge the offices.” Melton added that the closure is mainly due to the building’s monthly rent – more than $20,000 – and the increased space at the Oxnard office. He added that the Goleta branch – the only one closing right now – is one of the smallest out of the state’s 24, with only one judge and 1,254 hearing requests so far this year.

Aceves said he hopes the letter results in a public hearing or perhaps a compromise in which cases are held in Goleta a couple of days per week. There is no word on whether other cities in the county plan on taking similar action. Employees at the Goleta office said they couldn’t comment on the closure.

Megan Compton, an attorney for the Santa Barbara law firm Ghitterman, Ghitterman and Feld, which handles many workers’ compensation cases, said she worries how this closure will impede not only people with legal representation but also those without. And those with severe disabilities and/or without cars will be further hindered, she said, as the trip from Goleta to Oxnard would take more than three hours and four buses.