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. Decrying the lack of public outreach, the Goleta City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to send a letter to the department opposing the closure and requesting it be postponed until people can weigh in. “It’s really going to be troublesome,” Mayor Roger Aceves said.
“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 & 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.