Friday, July 30, 2010

Delta College board mulls over San Joaquin County Grand Jury report, Brown Act

Posted: Thursday, July 29, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 7:49 am, Thu Jul 29, 2010.

By Joelle Milholm
News-Sentinel Staff Writer | 1 comment

As the Delta College Board of Trustees sift through another San Joaquin County Grand Jury report, this time accusing three trustees of violating the state's open meetings law, Lodi representative Taj Khan admits no wrongdoing as the board works on a response.

The report, which was released in June, accused trustees of violating the Brown Act on two separate occasions and suggested the trustees should be censured. It also called for the board to hold mandatory training on the Brown Act, which declares that public bodies, like the Delta board, must be open and public, and actions may not be in secret.
While the report didn't name the accused trustees, a motion was made at the board's meeting last week for the accused to step forward and Khan, Mary Ann Cox, a Stockton representative and former Lodi Unified School District administrator, and Ted Simas, who represents Manteca/Escalon, each said they were named in the report. Each denied any Brown Act violations.

"Our response is that we haven't done anything wrong," Khan said. "We don't accept any blame for anything."

The report alleges one of the violations came in the spring of 2009. Trustee Jennet Stebbins has said Cox contacted her, as well as Khan and Simas, in an alleged attempt to remove president Raul Rodriguez from his position.

Khan was then accused again of violating the Brown Act more recently. In a special meeting on June 24, the board decided that candidates applying for the interim president/superintendent position would be allowed to be considered for the permanent job to replace Rodriguez, who is leaving Delta for a chancellor position in Southern California in August. Khan said that shortly after the meeting a campus-wide e-mail was sent out saying the interim president would not be allowed to apply for the permanent position.

Khan disagreed with the e-mail and sent one asking why the policy had been changed. Khan said he hit "reply all," sending the message to all of the trustees.

"Some of board thought that was a violation of Brown Act and I didn't think it was," Khan said. "I don't know why they want to make this a big deal. There is no Brown Act violation that I am aware of. All of us are familiar that we don't discuss, deliberate or act. I think it is very clear to us."

This isn't the first time the Delta board has been confronted with negative Grand Jury findings. In 2008, another report accused the board of mismanaging Measure L Bond funds and wasting millions of dollars. Consequently, the board responded by forming a "bond team" and an oversight committee to oversee all bond projects.

Five of the seven current board members have two years or less experience on the board. Since being elected, they have held Brown Act training courses to get a better grasp on the details and complications of the law.

Despite those sessions, board president Teresa Brown said more training should be done.

"The Brown Act is a very complicated piece of legislation that has been amended many times since it was first written, and has also been interpreted through case law over the years," she said. "Ongoing training is essential for all public bodies that fall under this law — at least annually."

The board is currently working on a response to the latest Grand Jury report, which will be written by Delta attorney Mark Ornellas. Brown said each trustee will make their own comments and recommendations and give them to Ornellas. The board and Ornellas will then go over a preliminary draft at the trustee meeting on Aug. 17.

Brown said the board will include how much training it believes is needed on the Brown Act as well as how to move forward.

Meetings have been heated recently as Delta tries to respond to the Grand Jury report. Khan said Delta's trustees are divided on not only the Brown Act, but other issues facing the college as well.

"We have a divided board, but that's the way it turns out," Khan said. "There are things I see that the other board members don't. We see things differently."

The board will next meet on Tuesday for a regularly scheduled meeting. According to the agenda, the trustees will discuss the interim superintendent/ president issue in a closed session before the pubic meeting starts at 5 p.m.

Delta College interim president search

The Delta Board of Trustees held a closed-session meeting on Monday and decided on an interim president/superintendent to replace outgoing Raul Rodriguez. The announcement will not be made until negotiations on the new president's contract are finalized. Board president Teresa Brown said she hopes a deal can be struck by Aug. 6, which is Rodriguez's last day at Delta.

In June, Delta announced that Sherrill Amador, former president of Palomar Community College District in San Diego County, Susan Cota, former chancellor of Chabot/Las Positas Community College District in Alameda County, and David Mertes, former chancellor of the California Community College system, were the final candidates.

Earlier this month, the board of trustees decided the interim president would be allowed to be a candidate for the position. Delta administrators have said it could take a year to fill the position permanently.

"Now the big process starts to find the permanent president," said trustee Taj Khan, who represents Lodi.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Humboldt County Supervisors respond to grand jury report on holding facilities, coroner's office

Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Posted: 07/26/2010 01:15:17 AM PDT

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors meets Tuesday to vote on the county's draft response to the Humboldt County grand jury reports regarding law enforcement holding facilities and aging equipment.

While the county acknowledges the need for new facilities, it is saying there is not enough funding to carry out the grand jury's recommendations.

The grand jury released a series of reports in late June, some of which commented on the conditions of holding facilities throughout the county, the inadequacies of the Humboldt County Coroner's Office facility and the need for a residential drug treatment program for juveniles.

According to a staff report, the grand jury requested a response to the jails report from the board of supervisors. The county's draft response indicated that it is exploring options for facilities.

”In summary, the board does recognize and acknowledge the need for equipment and structural and facility upgrades in county departments and buildings,” the staff report said. “Recent economic conditions have left the board with minimal options to fund equipment replacement and structural and facility upgrades. A report to the board will be forthcoming from the county administrative office and the public works department for the board to further explore county facility options. The board continues to appreciate the work of its departments and all that they accomplish even with equipment and facility deficiencies.”

In regard to the Hoopa and Garberville stations -- the two facilities mentioned in the jails report to be inadequate -- the county said there is not enough funding to move operations into new facilities. The county's response said it may explore moving services into a planned Redway Fire public safety building.

The response also cited sufficient funds for moving the coroner's office operations, but added that a ventilation upgrade approved of in 2009 is set to be completed this month, and the county is working on replacing the coroner's van.

The jury report also discussed a need for more beds in Humboldt County Juvenile Hall and for a residential drug treatment program for juveniles.

The county's response said, “The probation department has already implemented the recommendation for the department to submit a detailed analysis that defines present and future housing needs and the supervisors resolve to make a priority of this expansion or new construction.”

According to the response, the department contracted in 2008 with the Criminal Justice Research Foundation to conduct an assessment in preparation for submitting a senate bill construction grant, but the county was not selected for the grant.

Regarding a drug treatment center, the staff report said, “The board is willing to work with interested parties in a feasibility study for a juvenile residential drug treatment center, and is currently doing so through departmental participation with the School Law Enforcement Network.”

Also on the board's agenda is the appointment of a county representative and alternate to the Klamath River settlement proceedings. Fifth District Supervisor Jill Duffy has been the Humboldt County Board representative to the Klamath River Settlement Negotiation Group since 2005. The board voted unanimously on Jan. 26 to approve, execute and be party to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Basin Hydropower Agreement, and on Feb. 18 authorized Duffy to sign agreements on behalf of the board.

According to a memo from Duffy's office, the supervisors will discuss and appoint an interim supervisor as the county representative until January and designate Duffy as the alternate.

”Supervisor Duffy is not running for re-election and believes it appropriate at this time to transition board representation as it relates to the implementation of the KBRA and KBHA, and the initial phase(s) of establishing the Klamath Basin Coordinating Council (KBRA), Klamath Basin Advisory Committee (KBHA) and the Technical Coordination Committee,” the memo said.

In other matters, the supervisors will vote on supporting a California Public Utilities Commission resolution that would provide about $2.2 million to Redwood Telephone LLC to help fund its Northern California Open Community Fiber Network Project, and vote on approving a RLF Redwoods Properties joint timberland management application. The board also will receive a presentation from St. Joseph hospital CEO Joe Mark at 10 a.m. on the hospital's tower construction project and financial situation.

The board will also hold an administrative abatement hearing on a Shelter Cove property on Springs Road. The abatement springs from 2001 violations of development in the coastal zone without permits. The Code Enforcement Unit is presenting a timeline of compliance for the board's approval.

For the complete meeting agenda and supporting documents, visit



What: Humboldt County Board of Supervisors meeting

Where: Supervisors Chamber, first floor, Humboldt County Courthouse,

825 Fifth St.

When: 9 a.m. Tuesday

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Gang membership withstands Fresno crackdown

Posted at 10:26 PM on Saturday, Jul. 17, 2010
By Brad Branan / The Fresno Bee

Most people arrested during the Fresno Police Department's well-publicized gang sweeps never set foot in the county jail, records collected by The Bee suggest.

About 75% of those snagged in a two-week stretch of the most recent gang sweep were cited by officers and let go after promising to show up in court.

This is by design, Chief Jerry Dyer said. The sweeps conducted by teams of officers are supposed to rattle the cages of gang members and reduce spikes in criminal activity, particularly shootings, he said.
* Merging of Fresno city, county services no easy task

Painful layoffs might have been avoided in recent months if city and county of Fresno officials had not dragged their feet on combining law-enforcement services to save money, say backers of government consolidation.

The Public Safety Service Joint Powers Authority -- a nine-member board created in 2007 to help the city and county save money by merging duplicate services -- has been plagued by canceled meetings, funding disputes and questions over direction, records and interviews show.

The city and the county easily could save $600,000 to $1 million a year by merging nine services, such as records management and investigations, according to a 2006 report commissioned by the Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce. So far, the two have begun to consolidate just one law-enforcement function -- prisoner processing.
* Fresno police adopt new gang policy

Fighting gang activity and violent crimes in Fresno is now a stepped-up, year-round effort for the Fresno Police Department, Chief Jerry Dyer said Wednesday.

The newly created Violent Crime Bureau is the department's latest strategy for battling gangs and replaces periodic anti-gang operations, Dyer said at a news conference in front of the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in downtown Fresno.

The Violent Crime Bureau brings together police teams that target gangs, street violence and drug activity under one command.
* Fresno police to ramp up anti-gang efforts

Fighting gang activity and violent crimes in Fresno is now a stepped-up, year-round effort for the Fresno Police Department, Chief Jerry Dyer said Wednesday.

The newly created Violent Crime Bureau is the department's latest strategy for battling gangs and replaces periodic anti-gang operations, Dyer said at a news conference in front of the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in downtown Fresno.

The Violent Crime Bureau brings together police teams that target gangs, street violence and drug activity under one command.

A new report highlights a contradiction in local efforts to stop gang violence: Despite years of gang sweeps and other high-profile crackdowns, gang activity shows no sign of waning.

An estimated 17,000 Fresno County residents are gang members, according to the report from local law enforcement and social service officials. They commit thousands of crimes each year and are involved in one-third of all homicides.

The task force concluded in the report released last week that Fresno County's approach to the problem has been incomplete and recommends greater emphasis on prevention and intervention.

The report -- which includes a five-year plan for reducing gang violence -- is Fresno County's response to a 2006 grand jury report that called gang violence an epidemic and said prevention programs were woefully underfunded. The grand jury asked county officials to seek a more comprehensive approach to the problem.

But after three years of cuts to social service programs, the situation has grown far worse, said Supervisor Henry Perea. Yet the county gang report makes no recommendation for new funding, which he said was a critical failing.

County administrator John Navarrette, whose office coordinated the report, said the county has no money for new programs.

The county recently cut millions of dollars in spending in its current-year budget, and expects even more cuts when the state approves its budget this year.

However, even if funds are absent, the gang study will lead to better coordination of existing resources, and money can be added to programs later when it's available, Navarrette said.

The poor economy creates another challenge in curbing gang activity -- finding jobs for gang members with criminal records, limited education and little employment history.

"There needs to be more opportunities for these guys," said Ernie Flores, who decided to quit the Bulldog gang because of the violence he saw in prison.

Flores, 37, often speaks to young people about the dangers of gang life. But he hasn't been able to find employment since losing a construction job last fall. Faith and a desire to help wayward youths keep him straight, he said.

A bad economy is just one of many obstacles that impede efforts to reduce gang activity, said Debra McKenzie, the county's gang task force coordinator.

"That's why we titled the report, 'Never Give Up!' It's going to be a long and hard battle," she said.

Funded in part with a $150,000 grant by the California Endowment, the task force report was three years in the making. Led by McKenzie, the group included almost 30 members of the District Attorney's Office, the Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium, county Social Services and other agencies.

The California Endowment, a private organization that provides financial assistance to health and well-being programs, funded the report because it saw the need for more gang prevention in Fresno County, said Sarah Reyes, the organization's Central Valley program manager.

"We're hoping the study will inform county leaders about gangs, and they will continue to focus on prevention," said Reyes, a former state Assembly member from Fresno.

Prevention is a more cost-efficient use of tax dollars than suppression, she said, echoing a point raised in the 2006 grand jury report.

A Fresno church paid $5,000 to put a gang member through its job-training program, Hope Now for Youth, the grand jury said. By contrast, incarcerating a gang member cost $50,000 that year.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer has been a strong advocate for gang sweeps and other suppression efforts. But law enforcement alone can't conquer the gangs, he concedes.

The department's Police Activities League has supported recreational activities designed to steer young people away from gangs, he said.

More recently, the department started Operation Cease Fire, an intervention program that also receives funds from the California Endowment.

Cease Fire brings together certified gang members and their families to a forum where law enforcement leaders essentially read them the riot act. Dyer, federal and local prosecutors and other officials tell gang members that they have been identified as law-breakers and already could have been sent to prison.

Or, an official from the Mayor's Gang Prevention Initiative talks to them about services that can help them become productive and law-abiding citizens, Dyer said.

Many factors make gangs prevalent in Fresno County, including poverty and a lack of education, the task force report says.

A survey of about 800 middle school students, completed for the report, revealed more specific reasons. The best predictors of gang activity are a lack of self-control, having a father in a gang and living in a neighborhood with a lot of disorder, the survey found.

Despite a common perception that gangs primarily exist in south Fresno, the problem is spread throughout the county. Maps in the report show gang activity in nearly every section of every city, from the Norte Brown Pride in the northwest part of the county, to the Pinedale Bulldogs in north Fresno, to the Sanger Boys in the eastern part of the county.

Focus groups conducted by the task force showed that residents often think gangs don't touch their lives. That perception could make it difficult to mobilize support for gang prevention efforts, task force coordinator McKenzie said.

At a time of shrinking government resources, volunteers are needed to help stop gangs, said Diane Carbray, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fresno County. Residents can serve as mentors for young people who are at risk of joining gangs or are already in a gang.

"Gang prevention starts at the grass-roots level," she said.

Read more:

Humboldt County Grand Jury looks at aging facilities, District Attorney's Office

Allison White/The Times-Standard
Posted: 07/02/2010 01:24:11 AM PDT

The Humboldt County Grand Jury released its latest report on Tuesday that echoed past recommendations for a few departments and discussed a few different problems.

The grand jury continued two investigations from last year and received 21 new complaints, eight of which they thought were handled correctly and thus did not file a report, according to the report. There were 19 members in the grand jury, two of whom died before the report was completed.

Government agencies identified in a grand jury report must respond to the findings, and the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office is already planning a detailed response, said District Attorney Paul Gallegos in an e-mail.

”Rest assured, we do not agree with the findings,” Gallegos said in an e-mail.

There were four main findings that the grand jury reported within the district attorney's office. The first being the office failed to file for some grant reimbursements in fiscal year 2006-2007, and that other grant applications were not properly processed or submitted. The result was that some reimbursements were not received and were covered by the county's general fund.

The second finding stated that nepotism, or favoritism toward relatives of supervising personnel, was a problem in the district attorney's office, and that current county personnel rules were not sufficient to stop it.

”It is the grand jury's belief that the current county policy that nepotism only occurs when there exists a direct line of supervision is ineffective ...,” the report states. “Nepotism creates tension, provides an unnecessary source of resentment by staff and usually becomes a source of morale and retention issues.”

No specific circumstances are listed in the report, and calls to the grand jury's office were not returned by deadline.

The report also cites a lack of routine personnel evaluations, and that “poor office management practices and communication continue to plague” the office.

Gallegos did not respond specifically to any item in the report, leaving that for the written response. However, he said the grand jury is “very politically motivated.”

The grand jury recommended that the county office organize a grant-management program, review policies on nepotism, require that evaluations be performed on a set schedule, and that Gallegos “recognize the ongoing responsibility of his department” and abide by county policies.

Humboldt County Sheriff's Office facilities were also reviewed in the report, and all but two sites were found to be adequate. The Hoopa and Garberville substations were determined to not meet current standards, and they recommend moving into new facilities as soon as possible, according to the report.

”We'd love to have new buildings, but that's not a fiscal possibility right now,” said Sheriff Gary Philp.

Philp said he agrees with much of the findings, but disagrees with some of their assumptions. Site maintenance was a primary concern in Hoopa, and the Sheriff's Office is attempting to fix some of those issues.

However, maintenance problems have to be resolved between Humboldt County and the Hoopa Tribe that owns the building, which can be time consuming.

”We're kind of caught in the middle there,” Philp said.

There have also been staffing issues at both the substation sites and outdated holding cells, but that is mostly due to a lack of funding and staff, Philp said. They may be outdated, but they are compliant with state law.

For the Humboldt County Coroner's Office, the facility was also the main issue. Coroner Dave Parris said previous grand juries have also recommended moving his department to another facility, replacing the department's van with a truck to better handle local terrain, and adding another deputy coroner to the staff.

The facility faces compliance issues with the Americans with Disabilities Act, sharply tilted pavement for the loading entrance to the morgue, and poor ventilation, according to the report. These items are not news to Parris, especially the steep slope.

”We've discussed it with risk management and they're just sitting on it because there's no funding,” Parris said.

The jury report also discussed a need for more beds in Humboldt County Juvenile Hall, and for a residential drug treatment program for juveniles.

Chief Probation Officer Bill Damiano said that although it is not at capacity right now, that can become a problem. They applied for funding to increase the number of beds to 30, but did not receive the money.

In regard to the drug treatment program, a group has formed to discuss the issue and the possibilities within the county. The grand jury recommends the Board of Supervisors make these two issues a priority.

To see a version of the full report, go online to jury/ or call 476-2475.

Allison White can be reached at 441-0506 or

Humboldt County Supervisors to consider budget, grand jury response, Ridgewood Village matters

Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Posted: 06/21/2010 01:24:10 AM PDT

In addition to discussing local, state and federal budgets, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will review the county's response to the grand jury's recommendation for a governmental overhaul and discuss whether the comment deadline for the Ridgewood Village environmental impact report should be extended.

The board is expected to approve the roughly $303 million 2010-2011 budget, with general fund expenditures totaling more than $91 million.

The overall budget and the general fund each grew by less than 1 percent from the previous year.

This budget includes a 15 percent cut for most departments. Earlier this month, supervisors restored some proposed cuts to the UC Cooperative Extension, the Office of Emergency Services and the grand jury.

According to a staff report, the board's request restored the grand jury's expenses as well as the cuts made to salaries in the Office of Emergency Services and the UC Cooperative Extension. These funds were covered by a reduction in the contingency reserve, which will be at $893,785.

Other cuts included may result in fewer animals at the animal shelter and reduced maintenance for groundskeeping, trash collection and upkeep of floors and public areas.

A cut from the supervisors' budget includes reducing travel expenses and extra help costs, and forgoing a pay raise. For juvenile hall and probation, the cuts mean one-time transfers of trust funds for both departments and holding 10 positions vacant for probation.

In addition to discussing the local budget, the board will decide whether it wants to weigh in on the state and federal budgets. According to a staff report, more than two-thirds of all revenues included in the 2010-2011 budget are derived from state and federal sources.

At Tuesday's meeting, the board will also consider support for a state budget titled “California Jobs Budget,” proposed by Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles.

”Very briefly, the budget proposal relies heavily on borrowing from the state's Beverage Container Recycling Fund and repaying debt through a new tax on oil severance,” the report said.

The additional revenue could save the CalWORKS program slated for elimination by the governor, provide repayment of a portion of mandated reimbursements owed to local governments and fund community mental health services that were expected to be reduced under the governor's plan, according to the report.

”All these items directly benefit Humboldt County and avoid costs to the county's general fund,” the report said.

The report cautions that the proposed budget would create a “much bigger gap” in the following fiscal year than any of the other proposals, and it would result in a shift of responsibility to counties, including a transfer to county jails for state prisoners sentenced to terms of less than three years.

The supervisors will also discuss the county's response to the grand jury's recommendation for an overhaul of the governmental structure at the county level.

The grand jury released a report in May saying that Humboldt County needs a stronger chief administrator and a part-time Board of Supervisors to be more efficient.

The grand jury made four recommendations: the Board of Supervisors should establish the position of CEO/manager to oversee day-to-day operations, including the authority to hire and terminate county department heads; the board should confine its efforts to setting county policy and other activities; the position of supervisor should be part-time and limited to the duties statutorily required in the setting of county policies; and all appointed department heads, except for legal counsel and independently elected officials, should report to the CEO/manager.

The draft response by the County Administrative Office disagreed with several of these recommendations and indicated that some were “unwarranted” and others “not reasonable, and potentially in violation of state law.”

In other matters, the supervisors will consider issues pertaining to the proposed Ridgewood Village subdivision.

The county released the 3,300-page draft environmental impact report for the subdivision last month. Some residents have expressed concerns about the size of the proposed project. A mixed-use planned community, the project would start with 249 residential units spread across about 76 acres in the Ridgewood Heights/Cutten area, and grow to about 1,442 units.

The developer, Forster-Gill Inc., is proposing multiple phases that would include land set aside for higher density housing, neighborhood parks, commercial space and roads.

The Humboldt County Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the project on July 1, which is the deadline for comments on the environmental impact report.

First District Supervisor Jimmy Smith is proposing an extension on the comment period.

”The Cutten and South Eureka residents are extremely worried that the current comment period for the Ridgewood Village development is inadequate,” a memo from Smith said. “The complex nature of the project requires a detailed analysis that is not possible within the proposed timeframe.”

The board will also discuss a legal services agreement proposed by the Humboldt County Community Development Department regarding the proposed subdivision. The agreement is for obtaining outside legal services for the purpose of drafting required documents related to the project, according to a staff report. The cost of services will be covered by the developer.

Staff reports regarding the meeting are available at

Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approves budget, grand jury report response

Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Posted: 06/23/2010 01:30:09 AM PDT

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approved the county's budget for the next fiscal year Tuesday and instructed staff to further explore the impacts of proposed state and federal budgets.

At Tuesday's meeting, the board considered support for a state budget titled “California Jobs Budget,” proposed by Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, which borrows from the state's Beverage Container Recycling Fund and repays debt through a new tax on oil severance.

The supervisors instructed staff to create a response that would weigh in on parts of the bill rather than support or oppose it.

Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace said this may be an opportunity for local government to provide input to its representatives.

”I'm seeing this as an opportunity to provide some feedback on specific elements of this proposal rather than a thumbs up or a thumbs down,” he said.

According to staff, the additional revenue could save the CalWORKs program slated for elimination by the governor, provide repayment for mandated reimbursements owed to local governments and fund community mental health services that were expected to be reduced under the governor's plan.

But the staff also cautioned that the proposed budget would create a bigger gap in the following fiscal year, and it would result in a shift of responsibility to counties, including a transfer of state prisoners to county jails for state prisoners sentenced to terms
of less than three years.

Department of Health and Human Services Director Phil Crandall, who has been meeting with the California State Association of Counties in Sacramento regarding the budget, said he is concerned over the shift in responsibility. He supported the county taking its time to see how the proposed budgets develop.

”This is a very dangerous time, and from my perspective, slower is better,” Crandall said.

State and federal sources account for more than two-thirds of all revenues included in the county's adopted 2010-2011 budget.

The roughly $303 million budget includes 15 percent cuts for most departments and a reduction in the contingency reserve to restore proposed cuts to the UC Cooperative Extension, the Office of Emergency Services and the grand jury. The contingency reserve will be set at $893,785.

The general fund's expenditures total more than $91 million, and the overall budget and the general fund each grew by less than 1 percent from the previous year.

Other cuts included may result in fewer hours at the animal shelter and reduced maintenance for groundskeeping, trash collection and upkeep of floors and public areas.

In other matters, the supervisors approved the county's response to the grand jury's recommendation for an overhaul of the governmental structure at the county level.

The grand jury released a report in May saying that Humboldt County needs a stronger chief administrator and a part-time Board of Supervisors to be more efficient.

The response disagreed with several of the grand jury's recommendations and indicated that some were “unwarranted” and others “not reasonable and potentially in violation of state law.”


At A Glance:

$303 million total

$91 million general fund

$893,785 contingency reserve

15 percent cuts across the board for most departments


Donna Tam can be reached at 441-0532 or

Grand jury recommends reducing Humboldt supervisors' salaries; supes challenge findings, say there will be detailed response to report

Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Posted: 04/14/2010 01:27:16 AM PDT

Members of the Board of Supervisors are challenging the accuracy of details presented in the latest Humboldt County Grand Jury report, which recommends they lower their salaries.

The report, released Monday evening, said the grand jury began looking into the salary issue after receiving a complaint and found the supervisors did not appropriately vet their salary raises before approval. The result is salaries much higher than surrounding counties with similar demographics, according to the report.

The grand jury report lists three recommendations for moving forward: supervisors reduce their salaries starting in fiscal year 2011; that any additional monetary salary rewards be based on additional workloads or duties, not longevity in office; and that a third party, such as the grand jury, provide guidance on appropriate salary levels for the Board of Supervisors, along with the methodology for adjusting the levels.

Supervisors voted 3-2 in 2008 to approve an annual 3 percent raise for three years -- fiscal years 2008-2009, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 -- with 1st District Supervisor Jimmy Smith and then Supervisor Johanna Rodoni dissenting. Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace, who was an incoming supervisor at the time, and 2nd District Supervisor Clif Clendenen, who was a candidate at the time, also voiced their objections to the raise during the September 2008 meeting.

Current supervisors Bonnie Neely and Jill Duffy voted in favor of the increase, along with then Supervisor John Woolley. Woolley said the 3 percent raise was in line with a cost of living increase and he was following previously set policy that provided guidance on how to set salaries.

Lovelace said the supervisors who initially approved the raise have since declined to take the 3 percent raise for the 2009-2010 year.

With the 3 percent increase in 2008-2009, the supervisors' salary increased to $77,000. The 3 percent raises were less than the staff's recommendation.

Smith said the county is working on a detailed response to the report, which, he said, did not take into consideration some relevant information, such as the supervisors' past voluntary pay cuts.

”We're doing a detailed response to that because the information is inaccurate,” Smith said. He reemphasized his ongoing decision not to take any increases.

Neely and Lovelace made similar statements.

”As best as I can tell, the grand jury deliberately avoided certain information that didn't tell the story they didn't want to tell,” Lovelace said.

A call to the grand jury office was not immediately returned Tuesday.

County Administrative Officer Phillip Smith-Hanes said the board will discuss the issue in its annual response to the grand jury report. The county has 90 days to respond.

The grand jury states it did a review of the salary schedules in response to a complaint that noted a discrepancy between the supervisors' salaries and those of supervisors in more heavily populated Shasta County.

The report found that the current methodology used for setting salaries has resulted in the supervisors receiving a salary that is 78 percent higher than the average salary of surrounding counties with similar economies and governance structures; 29 percent higher than counties within a similar population bracket; and 11 to 24 percent higher than the historic methodologies used. Some of the counties used in comparison included Butte, Shasta, Mendocino, Yolo and Napa.

Woolley said several years prior to the 2008 vote, the board decided not to use a Superior Court judge's salary as a benchmark any longer because it thought a supervisor's duties were not in line with a judge's.

Woolley said he did not want to comment on whether he thought the grand jury's report was a fair assessment, and said the current board will have to debate what to do about the grand jury's opinion.

He said the role of a supervisor is one that needs a sufficient wage to attract quality candidates, especially considering the number of issues that come across a supervisor's plate.

”I feel the work that the supervisors do is all-encompassing. You take it as a 24/7 type of job; you're never quite off,” he said.

The grand jury report recommends the supervisors reduce their salaries starting with fiscal year 2011 and suggests changing the “longevity” increase to an increase based on extra duties or workloads.

The only board member who benefited from the “longevity” increase -- an additional 5 percent raise for supervisors with 10 or more years of service -- was Neely.

Neely wrote in an e-mail that she declined the longevity increase in 2009. She said she also took a voluntary 10 percent reduction in salary in 2003 and 2004. Neely said she felt the salary discussion would be more productive in another setting.

”I think the manner in which the county sets compensation for supervisors is appropriate because it is developed by professional county staff and approved by the board of supervisors, all of whom are accountable directly to the voters. I'm open to additional methods of reviewing compensation,” she wrote. “However, the grand jury is the wrong choice. Determining the salaries of public officials is inconsistent with the grand jury's important role as an investigative body.”

Lovelace agreed, adding that the grand jury showed “a lack of integrity” in its approach on the matter.

”It's pretty clear to me that they took on this issue with a preconceived agenda of how they wanted to portray it,” he said.

Lovelace said he, Clendenen and Smith have filed letters indicating that they have “sworn off” any raises.

”We're the only people who have something contractually on file that says we can't take a raise if we wanted to,” he said.

Donna Tam can be reached at 441-0532 or

Humboldt County Grand Jury report calls for part-time supervisors, stronger administrator

Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Posted: 05/08/2010 01:27:10 AM PDT

A recently released grand jury report is saying Humboldt County needs a stronger chief administrator and a part-time Board of Supervisors to be more efficient.

The grand jury of Humboldt County released a report late Wednesday that said the county's current management system is one that “leads to erratic accountability, ineffectual assignment of responsibility and a weak system of checks and balances.” The report goes on to recommend the county change from a County Administrative Officer system to a Chief Executive Officer system, which it said would give the CEO more executive power.

Clif Clendenen, Humboldt County 2nd District supervisor and board chair, said he doesn't think the idea is a suitable one for county operations and would actually be less efficient.

”That's a massive rework of government, and I don't think that will suit the residents of Humboldt County,” Clendenen said. “I don't think that's what we've evolved to, and I don't think that's what people want.”

According to a grand jury press release, testimony was taken from several current and former public officials and business executives. A call to grand jury forewoman Sue Hemmann was not returned by late afternoon Friday.

”Several counties and most cities have a manager system of government, in which department heads report to the manager -- a professional -- who reports to the elected board or council,” Hemmann said in the written release. “Humboldt County, instead, has a chief administrative officer who serves as a coordinator, but department heads report to the Board of Supervisors. This adds considerably to the work load of the board, whose primary mission is to set policy. The grand jury concluded that a CEO system would streamline management, reduce the work load on the board and increase department accountability.”

The grand jury made four recommendations: the Board of Supervisors should establish the position of CEO/manager to oversee day-to-day operations, including the authority to hire and terminate county department heads; the board should confine its efforts to setting county policy and other activities; the position of supervisor should be part-time and limited to the duties statutorily required and the setting of county policies; and all appointed department heads, except for legal counsel and independently elected officials, should report to the CEO/manager.

Currently, the supervisors earn about $72,000 a year, while the CAO earns about $164,000.

According to the office of County Administrative Officer Phillip Smith-Hanes, Smith-Hanes will be commenting on the report in June through a formal response.

The board must formally respond to the report in 90 days.

Clendenen said Smith-Hanes already has many of the duties outlined in the report, and Smith-Hanes' work allows the supervisors to pay attention to their constituents, instead.

”I think Phil does a fantastic job, and Loretta (Nickolaus) before him, doing the day-to-day,” he said. “I'm not sure an executive officer system would be good for the county -- they won't be answerable in the same way to the electorate.”


To get the report on county government management

Write: Grand jury of Humboldt County
Room G03, County Court House
825 5th Street
Eureka, CA 95501



Despite law, county officials cool to new San Bernardino grand jury

James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/20/2010 05:39:24 PM PDT

San Bernardino County leaders are applauding a new law that will allow the county to have more than one grand jury, but it's not clear if or when the law might be used.

The law, signed last week by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, gives the county's presiding judge the ability to create a second civil grand jury that would be able to investigate government entities in the county.

But Presiding Judge Douglas Elwell said he has no plans on calling for another grand jury.

"I'm not required to empanel a second grand jury," Elwell said. "I don't have any current plans to do so."

Earlier this year, at the urging of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucaipa, introduced a bill that would allow the county to call an additional grand jury.

He said the bill - now a law - was important because doubling the number of grand juries would allow jurors more time to investigate the goings-on of county and local government entities.

In March, Supervisor Paul Biane testified at an Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing, advocating for the law.

After the law was signed last week by the governor, Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt said he supports the move and believes an additional grand jury will improve oversight of local government.

"As the largest county in the nation, with 24 cities and dozens more special districts and other government boards, there is more than enough work for two or three grand juries," Mitzelfelt said. "By having more than one grand jury, the jurors will be able to spend more time on complex issues affecting government agencies throughout the county."

In a statement earlier this month, Cook said, "Oversight and investigation of government goes hand-in-hand with the basic democratic principals we hold so dearly, and this bill will make sure this happens in the county."

But that's not quite true. Cook's bill allows for a second civil grand jury, but it does not require it.

The presiding judge can call for an additional grand jury and the district attorney can ask for one, but someone has to go out of their way to create one. And so far, neither Elwell nor the District Attorney's Office are champing at the bit.

Elwell said he doesn't know what might lead him to call for a second grand jury.

"If the Grand Jury or the Grand Jury commissioner or interested citizens were to come to me and say they feel there are certain issues that should be investigated or where there's a need for additional oversight, I'd look at it," he said. "But as to what those issues might be, I have no idea."

Assistant District Attorney Dennis Christy said his office hasn't discussed asking for another civil grand jury.

"In the future, as to whether there's a need for a second grand jury, we'd have to explore that," Christy said. "I can't say we won't, but it's not something we've discussed or contemplated."

The county's budget, he said, is part of the issue.

"There is a cost associated with any grand jury you assemble," Christy said. "Right now, that's something that is heavy on our minds."

The Grand Jury has a budget of $490,000 this year, and Supervisor Neil Derry said the county should spend money on a new ethics commission rather than on a second grand jury.

"A program without a budget doesn't do you much good," Derry said. "I would rather use that budget on something new rather than on doubling the size of an existing organization that already does a pretty good job of keeping an eye on us but that doesn't have any real policing authority."

Rather than creating a second grand jury, Derry said the county should simply allow the grand jury to serve for two years. Jurors now sit for one year, with some exceptions.

Biane said the supervisors should talk to Elwell about finding money for an additional grand jury.

"Now that this law has been enacted, it's time for the Board of Supervisors to actively engage the presiding judge to try to set forward what a proposed budget would be," Biane said.

Read more:

San Mateo Grand jury suggests greater coordination for sex offenders

By Lily Bixler [ ]
Published/Last Modified on Wednesday, Jul 21, 2010 - 11:51:23 am PDT

Following a review of sexual offenses in San Mateo County, the county civil grand jury last week said there is insufficient coordination of information about offenders among county law enforcement agencies.

The report found 10 registered offenders and 10 Megan’s Law registrants in Half Moon Bay; two Megan’s Law registrants in both Montara and Pescadero, one in El Granada and three in Moss Beach. There are 750 registered sex offenders in San Mateo County and 63,000 in the entire state.

Megan’s Law registration is required of those who have committed high-risk offenses; it’s a subset of the larger local sexual offenders registry. The report found 76 percent of sex offenses in the county are committed against children, with the median age reported for sexual abuse at 9 years old.

The grand jury report recommended that the county reinstate a sexual offenses task force and an investigation unit, teams that were reportedly cut back dramatically since 2007. The grand jury also recommended that the county and the cities work with the San Mateo County Police Chiefs’ Association to organize countywide levels of enforcement. The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office released a statement saying the Sexual Habitual Offender Program wasn’t entirely eliminated because that unit was incorporated into the Sheriff’s Investigations Bureau.

The Sheriff’s Office also reported that sex crimes are currently, “part of the workload shared by four detectives and one sergeant in the General Crimes Unit of the Investigations Bureau.”

“So while the Sheriff’s Office moves ahead in greatly constricted budget times and faces the daunting challenges of jail overcrowding and significant staffing reductions, core services remain the priority,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a prepared statement.

The report can be found at:

Jury Volunteer Stirs Up a Pension Fund Tempest

Published: July 24, 2010

Two years ago, a San Francisco accountant, Craig Weber, noticed a flier posted at the Mission Bay public library. It sought volunteers for the civil grand jury, a panel of 19 citizens empowered to investigate local government.
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Adithya Sambamurthy/The Bay Citizen

Craig Weber is part of a dispute involving a pension fund proposal.
The Bay Citizen

A nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization providing local coverage of the San Francisco Bay Area for The New York Times. To join the conversation about this article, go to

Eric Risberg/Associated Press

Dennis Herrera, the San Francisco city attorney.

Mr. Weber decided to sign up. He and his fellow jurors spent hundreds of unpaid hours examining San Francisco’s public employee pension fund. On June 24, they issued a report titled, “Pension Tsunami.” It warned that the soaring obligations “jeopardize the city’s future.”

Mr. Weber, 59, is a self-described “nobody” who graduated from Lowell High and the University of California, Berkeley. But he is no longer unknown. His volunteerism has placed him directly in the cross hairs of unions vigorously fighting efforts to overhaul the pension fund. The unions say they have made huge concessions in recent years.

They accuse Mr. Weber of abusing his power as a grand juror by supporting a pension-reform initiative sponsored by the city’s public defender, Jeff Adachi. That measure would greatly increase pension contributions from city employees.

A union lawyer, Peter Saltzman, stood on the steps of City Hall on Thursday and declared, “Weber has impugned the integrity of the civil grand jury.” Mr. Saltzman called for civil and criminal investigations into whether Mr. Weber violated conflict-of-interest laws or improperly used public resources for political purposes.

Mr. Weber said he had done nothing wrong, and he seems astonished by the political storm swirling around him.

Mr. Weber said he went to the city attorney in March to ask if he could work in support of the pension measure while continuing to serve as a grand juror.

The response, he said, was this: “Yes, as long as you don’t present yourself as a member of the grand jury.”

“I was very careful that my grand-jury work was totally separate,” he said.

More than anything, Mr. Weber’s odyssey shows how pension overhaul has become a blood sport — not only in San Francisco but also across the Bay Area, where the issue is convulsing municipalities contending with shrinking resources and rising costs, directly affecting social services.

The situation in San Francisco is serious. The grand jury report noted that the city’s annual pension and health-care costs would more than double, to about $1 billion, by 2014. The city’s entire annual budget is about $6 billion.

“Pension and health benefits enjoyed by San Francisco retirees are unsustainable,” the report said.

The unions have attacked Mr. Adachi and his supporters with ferocity. After a Bay Citizen article last week noting that Mr. Adachi’s pension measure had drawn support from business and civic leaders, including the venture capitalist Michael Moritz, the union described Mr. Moritz as a “billionaire” acting in concert with “cronies” and a “farm team” for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who advocates pension overhaul at the state level.

“Craig Weber is a good guy,” said Sean Elsbernd, a city supervisor who sits on the board of the city’s pension fund. “Labor is using him as a red herring, to distract from the fundamental problem” of the pension fund’s financial predicament.

Mr. Weber was well into his second year of jury service when he spotted a Nov. 25 op-ed article by Mr. Adachi about the city’s budget crisis and the need for a pension overhaul.

In its January meeting, the pension board determined that the city’s new contribution to the pension fund — a number determined by the fund’s performance and the cost of contractually guaranteed benefits — would be 13.5 percent of each employee’s salary for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

“A huge, huge increase,” said Mr. Weber. The civil grand jury report forecasts that the city’s pension contribution rate may climb to 30 percent in five years.

Around this time, the foreman of the previous year’s grand jury invited Mr. Weber to a meeting with Mr. Adachi, Mr. Elsbernd and another former grand-jury member to talk about pension issues. As Mr. Adachi’s plan for a ballot initiative to require increased contributions from all city employees developed, Mr. Weber said he wished to help.

He asked the City Attorney’s Office in March if acting as a proponent of a pension effort would conflict with his grand-jury role.

“We advised him that, under law, he was not precluded,” the city attorney, Dennis Herrera, said in an interview.

Mr. Weber was cautioned to not “use city resources for a political purpose,” Mr. Herrera said, adding: “I was trying to protect the process, and to protect Mr. Weber. The last thing I want is for the grand jury to run afoul of ethical restrictions.”

Then, Mr. Weber said, Mr. Adachi asked him to act as the treasurer of the overhaul effort and prepare its tax forms. Mr. Weber said that canvassing for signatures one day and preparing the forms were the extent of his active involvement before the grand jury report was issued.

In April, when Mr. Herrera’s office learned of Mr. Weber’s role as treasurer, a call was placed to Judge James McBride, the presiding judge of the San Francisco Superior Court who oversees the civil grand jury. After speaking with Mr. Herrera’s office and meeting with Mr. Weber, Judge McBride was “not then convinced” that a conflict of interest existed, according to a letter from Mr. Herrera to the judge recapping the exchange.

When meeting with Judge McBride, Mr. Weber said he offered to resign from the Adachi effort.

Meanwhile, the grand jury’s focus on compliance with a 2002 amendment to the city charter, Proposition H, was causing tension with Mr. Herrera’s office.

Proposition H enhanced police and firefighters’ pension benefits, but required workers to contribute more if the pension fund stopped running a surplus. The fund was showing a surplus when Proposition H passed in 2002, but has been running a deficit since 2004. The grand jury report asserted that the city had never sought to collect the proposition-mandated additional contributions from employees, and that an unfunded pension liability of $276 million was the result.

On June 8, Mr. Weber sent a letter to Mr. Herrera asking pointed questions about what he said were the city attorney’s responsibilities to enforce Proposition H.

“The issue became that the city attorney did not enforce the city charter,” Mr. Weber said. “That is the controversy. That is the issue the city attorney is trying to avoid.”

Mr. Herrera said it was the role of the pension board, not his office, to determine the proper contribution levels to the pension fund, and he produced a section of the charter to support his view.

Gary Amelio, the executive director of the city’s pension system, says that enforcing Proposition H is not his role, either. “We are not involved in policy or who pays,” said Mr. Amelio, who added that the $13 billion pension fund was 97 percent funded.

Micki Callahan, San Francisco’s human-resources director, said Proposition H’s “requirement to cost-share we believe has been met” in cyclically renegotiated labor agreements. “It is not possible to segregate pension costs when negotiating a labor contract.”

Mr. Herrera did not respond to Mr. Weber’s June 8 letter, but instead sent a letter on June 14 to Judge McBride.

“I have serious concerns,” he wrote, “that Mr. Weber’s dual roles create a conflict of interest, or at least the appearance of a conflict of interest, which could undermine the integrity of any civil grand jury investigation into these issues.”

Mr. Herrera asked Judge McBride to “screen Mr. Weber from any involvement in the civil grand jury’s examination” of the pension issues.

Mr. Herrera now says, “I have not made any allegations about Mr. Weber.”

It is too early to know whether Mr. Herrera, District Attorney Kamala D. Harris or the San Francisco Ethics Commission will heed the unions’ call to investigate Mr. Weber’s activities.

But drawing more public attention to the civil grand jury report may only undermine the unions’ position in the end.

“Craig Weber made a mistake, a political mistake,” said Mr. Elsbernd, the city supervisor, but “labor is making a big mistake.”

Typically, he said, “a grand jury report is read by a few hundred people.”

Not this one, not anymore.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Napa County Grand Jury named

Napa County Superior Court judge Diane Price announced July 2 the 19 residents selected to serve on the 2010-2011 Napa County Grand Jury, at ceremony held at the Napa County Historic Courthouse on July 1.

The grand jury functions as a watchdog arm of the judicial branch of the government and operates under the authority of the Napa County Superior Court. It investigates and reports on the operations, accounts and records of local government offices and agencies.

The foreperson of the grand jury is David Mendelsohn of Napa. The other 18 grand jurors are Glen Johnson of American Canyon; Holly Peterson of Calistoga; Melody Arevalo, Judith Bernat, Hettie Bortz, Robert Boucher, Craig Burgess, Timothy Cantillon, Bradford Cohn, Dorothy Glaros, Hugh Linn, Fernando Martinez, Howard Olson and Steven Ross of Napa; and Ellen Gallagher, Harriet Goss, Christine Talley and Joanne Wegsten of St. Helena.

More information can be found at

Friday, July 16, 2010

More emphasis needed on sex crime prevention, San Mateo County civil grand jury says

By Bonnie Eslinger

Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: 07/14/2010 07:28:27 PM PDT
Updated: 07/15/2010 12:35:05 AM PDT

A dip in efforts by the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and other law enforcement agencies to prevent sex crimes has heightened the risk of children becoming victims, a new grand jury report says.

About 750 sex offenders are registered in the county, according to the San Mateo County civil grand jury, which cited a study that found half of all convicted sexual predators strike again. And more than three-fourths of sex offenses in the county are committed against children.

"The citizens of San Mateo County, especially children, are at a greater risk of being the victims of sexual offenses because some law enforcement agencies (a) no longer vigorously monitor sexual offenders nor investigate sexual predators to the same degree and (b) no longer coordinate such activities on a countywide basis," the grand jury report concluded.

"We feel there's been an inordinate decrease in resources, considering the challenges posed by sexual offenses," said Bill Blodgett, the grand jury foreman.

Four years ago, the sheriff's office operated several programs that focused on preventing sex-related crimes, such as the county-funded Sexual Habitual Offender Program, or SHOP, and the state-funded Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement, or SAFE, Program task force, according to the grand jury. The office coordinated its efforts with police departments then, and the San Mateo County Probation Department's sex crimes unit monitored offenders on probation.

But at the end of 2006, the state stopped funding the SAFE Program, according to the grand jury. And in the following year, the county quit funding SHOP, resulting in the elimination of two detective positions and absorption of a remaining program sergeant and detective into the investigations bureau of the sheriff's office, where they no longer work on sex crimes full-time. Meanwhile the probation department, itself hit by funding cuts, is expected to fold its sex crimes unit into the general enforcement team, the grand jury reported.

In addition to recommending re-establishment of the SAFE Program task force, the grand jury said the sheriff's office should reinstate its three- to four-person sexual offender investigation unit, including all SHOP activities, regardless of funding.

Sheriff Greg Munks responded quickly to the grand jury report, issuing a statement soon after its release in which he insisted that "fundamental public safety remains the highest priority," but acknowledged that his office is hamstrung by "fiscal constraints."

Munks said in his statement that he immediately faced serious financial concerns related to staffing levels, excessive overtime and law enforcement priorities after he was elected in 2007.

When funding dried up for two sex crime detectives, Munks said he sought support from police chiefs, "but due to their own fiscal limitations, they too were not in a position to add staff to the SHOP unit."

At the height of its operation, the SHOP unit boasted a full-time sergeant and three full-time detectives. Now, sex crime cases are divided among one sergeant and three detectives who are also responsible for other cases, sheriff's office Lt. Ray Lunny said.

Despite funding concerns, a jail planning lieutenant's position was added to the department in 2007, the grand jury report noted.

In his response, Munks stated that with county jails overcrowded and the state threatening to release a large number of inmates into the county's care, building a larger replacement jail had to become "the number one public safety priority."

The grand jury report also pointed out that the number of suspected child sexual abuse and assault exams conducted from cases brought by sheriff's deputies had dropped 50 percent from 2004 to 2009 — or from 35 exams to 16 — while referrals by city police departments remained constant during that same time period.

Lunny told The Daily News the drop corresponded with a decline in referrals from the county's Children and Family Services Office.

The sheriff's office told the grand jury it would cost $930,000 per year to re-establish a SAFE/SHOP task force with a dedicated detective sergeant and two detectives. Lunny said he was not aware of any request headed to the board of supervisors for additional funding.

Blodgett said that even though the county is strapped for cash, sex crimes need to be a higher priority and urged the supervisors to take charge.

"Between the Board of Supervisors and the sheriff, we hope they'll rethink this area and look for creative approaches to restore at least some of the resources that were taken away from the program."

Supervisor Carole Groom said she supports Munks' staffing priorities, adding that while she knows more needs to be done to prevent sex-related offenses and other crimes, the county is limited by its finances.

"Every city and county is working as hard as they can to keep public safety at the highest levels it can, given the restriction on our funding these days," she said. "These are never easy questions to answer."

Grand Jury Report: Yolo County DESS

On June 30, the 2009-10 Yolo County Grand Jury released its Final Report. The "Report for the Citizens of Yolo County, California," included the results of an investigation of the Yolo County Department of Employment and Social Services.

Here are excerpts from that report (pages 16 - 19) that can be accessed at

Summary: The Grand Jury investigated the Department of Employment and Social Services in response to a complaint alleging mismanagement, favoritism, and fraud. The Grand Jury received witness testimony and reviewed documentation. The Grand Jury found questionable practices with regard to timekeeping, pay for non-work related activities, lay-off and promotion, employee evaluations, and pursuing client fraud.

Specific allegations included: (1) misrepresenting vacation and sick leave charges on time sheets, (2) using employee time for non-work related activities, and (3) reporting time spent checking e-mails by cellular phone or remote computers as time worked, despite the suspension of the telecommuting policy. The complaint also alleged that the county fails to pursue fraudulent claims by clients when the amount is less than $5,000.

What the jury determined:

• Misuse of Time Keeping – In reviewing calendars and e-mails, the Grand Jury found that DESS management kept incomplete records regarding employee absences. During its investigation, the Grand Jury was informed that the county is installing a new electronic time keeping system that will be in place by the end of 2010.
• Non-Work Related Activities – All interviewees noted that their paid time was used for non-work activities (e.g., long lunch hours and time off for shopping). This time was allowed as a morale booster. Eight interviewees claimed that it was the ELT and supervisors who regularly took two-hour lunches or three to four-hour shopping trips during work hours. Other employees were not allowed to do this.
• Telecommuting and Out-of-Office Work – The Grand Jury found evidence that some managers inappropriately claimed to be telecommuting in violation of the department’s written policy.
• Favoritism – The Grand Jury received testimony that older, more experienced employees have been selected for layoff rather than less experienced employees. Reportedly there is a lack of cooperation among co-workers, clients, and cooperating agency workers. Testimony regarding other forms of favoritism included unequal distribution of extra workload or clients, without explanation.
• Performance Evaluations – Some employees have not had annual performance evaluations for several years. Staff members, who were interviewed, saw the lack of performance evaluations as a way to reduce their ability to gauge if their work performance meets the job requirements and as a way to reduce their ability to protest what appear to be arbitrary and capacious decisions regarding layoffs, employee transfers, demotions, or promotions.
• Fraud Less than $5,000 – DESS has a Memorandum of Understanding with the District Attorney’s office regarding, among other things, fraud investigations. The current MOU does not mention a dollar amount threshold for fraud investigations. There appears to be an unwritten agreement of not pursuing cases of potential fraud of less than $5,000.

Pursuant to California Penal Code Sections 933(c) and 933.05, the Yolo County Grand Jury requests a response as follows:

• From the following governing bodies: Yolo County Administrative Officer (Findings F-1, F-4 through F-8; Recommendation 10-09, Recommendations 10-12 through 10-15); Yolo County Department of Human Resources (Findings F-1, F-4 through F-8; Recommendations 10-12 through 10-15); Yolo County Auditor (Findings F-2 and F-5; Recommendation 10-12)
• From the following individual: Director, Department of Employment and Social Services (Findings F-6 through F-10; Recommendations 10-11, 10-12, 10-14 and 10-15)

The 2009/2010 Yolo County Grand Jury was: Barbara A. Sommer, Foreperson, Davis; Maple Avery, West Sacramento; Omar (Sonny) L. Dodds, Woodland; Marie Kearney, Dunnigan; Earl M. Kynard, Woodland; Erich W. Linse, Jr., Dunnigan; Mike Maucieri, West Sacramento; Stanley Moorhead, Woodland; Linda Nelson, Davis; Shirley Stefano, Woodland; Kathleen Jean Stock, Woodland; Laura Melissa Turben, Woodland; Barbara Turpin, West Sacramento; Nancy Ullrey, Woodland; Enid Williams, Woodland; and Enas H. Wilson, Woodland.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Community colleges cash in on foreign students

Phillip Matier,Andrew Ross
San Francisco Chronicle July 12, 2010 04:00 AM Copyright San Francisco Chronicle. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Homegrown students may have trouble getting into classes, but community colleges in California are having no problem finding room for foreign students who pay top dollar to come here - and provide millions of dollars for the schools.

Take the Peralta Community College District in the East Bay, which recruits an estimated 800 to 1,000 students from Europe, Asia, Africa and Israel each year, according to a new Alameda County civil grand jury report.

Foreign students pay $5,332 apiece for 12 units per year - compared with $624 for students who come from in state. The foreign aid translated to more than $4 million this year for Peralta.

"It's not just Peralta - the jury found that everybody does it. It's a real moneymaker," said Jeff Stark, the Alameda County prosecutor who advised the investigation into the program's costs.

Peralta even has its own foreign recruitment office - including a full-time director who hunts the globe for students and a staff of eight full-time and 14 part-time workers.

The grand jury questioned whether for-profit students are, in effect, buying up class seats that could go to locals. But Peralta spokesman Jeff Heyman called the influx "good news on every front."

"It generates revenue and makes it a more interesting place for community college students to have international students," Heyman said. "We live in a global world."

Interesting to note that the district's statistics show that only 14 percent of the foreign recruits actually get an associate degree within two years.

What happens to the rest?

"We haven't got a clue where they go," Stark said. "As far as we could determine, the community college is making no effort to track them once they get here."

Read more:

Water board member's loyalty questioned Santos may have conflict due to Alviso holdings, Santa Clara County grand jury says

by Nick Veronin
Mountain View Voice Staff

The director of a subdivision of the local water district "has failed to uphold his ethical obligations," according to a recent grand jury report.

Richard Santos, District 3 director for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, "has significant property interests in Alviso" -- an area of North San Jose within his jurisdiction -- "that greatly limit his ability to ethically participate in SCVWD projects in Alviso," the report by the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury stated.

The report filed June 18, "Is a Conflict of Interest Guiding the Santa Clara Valley Water District in Alviso," said that "Santos has focused his efforts primarily on enhancing Alviso ... less than 1 percent of his constituency."

Santos is a part of several community action groups focused on improving Alviso and owns multiple properties in town.

It is unclear if water services in Mountain View have been or would be adversely impacted by projects supported by Santos, a spokeswoman from the grand jury said. District 3 does not cover Mountain View. However, money used to fund projects that may benefit Santos, his holdings and his family's holdings would come out of funds available to all cities and areas within the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

Santos denied the implications of the report. While he admits to owning property in Alviso, he said that his holdings in no way prohibit him from faithfully executing his duties as a water district board member.

"Just because I own property there doesn't mean I'm in conflict of interest," he said. Santos said he only acted in the interest of helping the community and his constituents.

"I vote for everybody," he said. "There is no conflict. It is a perception."

"I don't know how you can say that's a perception when the facts are in front of you," said Angie Cardoza of the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury.

The jury's findings can be viewed online at the superior court's website.

Richard Santos

Merging issues: Tulare County Grand Jury warns Lindsay of history, manner of public-safety consolidation of police and fire departments

BY ERIC WOOMER • • July 12, 2010

Adam Romero wanted to be a firefighter nearly his whole life. In 2008, the city of Lindsay gave him that chance.

Now, as part of the city's attempt to merge its police and fire departments, it's asking Romero to fight crime as well.

But the Tulare County Grand Jury, which released its year-end report last week, is skeptical that the city can make it work.

The Grand Jury noted that when the city's police and fire departments merged in 1976, the arrangement lasted less than 10 years.

Lindsay had 22 full-time police officers and three full-time firefighters when the latest merger attempt began in February.

A complaint to the Grand Jury about firefighters' living quarters and salaries prompted the investigation.

The Grand Jury report stated that:

# It will take at least $10,000 to train officers and firefighters over a six-month period. Covering their shifts while they're trained will cost still more.

# While more than 60 percent of fire calls are related to medical situations, the training offered police does not include medical training.

# The Lindsay City Council violated open-meeting laws when it met in San Jose to discuss the merger. The council later met in Lindsay to rectify the violation.

The Grand Jury also noted what it called a lack of outreach to Lindsay residents regarding the merger.

Some Lindsay residents last week shrugged off the report. They said the Grand Jury is just looking for something to do.

"I don't take the Grand Jury very seriously. I don't have much faith in them," said former Lindsay Councilman John Hill. "It's just a bunch of old folks who want to stay busy, bugging other people."

Hill, who was around for the first merger, says he thinks this effort can save the city money.

Police officers and firefighters say they're willing to give it a try.

Romero and police officer Andrew Robinson are looking forward to the merger.

"Not everyone thinks this is a great idea, but people have to be willing to roll with the changes," Romero said. "This is going to be a great opportunity."

Robinson said he's willing to do anything that increases his knowledge.

Half of the police officers have been trained as firefighters.

Firefighters will begin at the police academy at College of the Sequoias in August.

A response to the Grand Jury report is required. Rich Wilkinson, the city's public safety director, and the Lindsay City Manager's Office did not respond to calls Friday for comment.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grand Jury critical of foster-care system in Tulare County

BY DAVID CASTELLON • • July 13, 2010

Children in Tulare County foster homes do not undergo routine mental-health evaluation and not all get monthly visits from their caseworkers, the Tulare County Grand Jury reported this month.

In its final report for 2009-10, the Grand Jury recommended that Child Welfare Services follow its own guidelines. Those guidelines call for caseworkers to visit children in foster care every month and have all children undergo mental-health evaluation.

The Grand Jury also recommends that caseworkers make periodic, unannounced visits to foster homes and that Child Welfare Services provide the Grand Jury with access to foster-care records "to monitor the progress of social workers and ensure the health and safety of children in foster care."

No investigation of the county's foster-care program had previously been conducted by the Grand Jury, officials said.

County Health and Human Services spokeswoman Allison Lambert said Monday that a response to the Grand Jury report is being prepared by her office, which oversees Child Welfare Services.

Health officials did not respond to a request for the number of children in the county's foster care system.

With the information the Grand Jury did receive, members came to these conclusions.

# Some foster children have gone six months or more without visits by social workers.


* Merging issues: Tulare County Grand Jury warns Lindsay of history, manner of public-safety consolidation of police and fire departments
* Tulare County Planning Commission under fire; Grand Jury labels panel as unprofessional
* Tulare County Grand Jury: Inmate clothing draws inquiries
* Grand Jury report faults medical care at Tulare County's jails; 'significant' problems cited throughout system
* Tulare County Grand Jury seeks probe of shooting near Exeter Police Department firing range

Upset fire board responds to Shasta County Grand Jury report

* By Michael Woodward
* Anderson Valley Post
* Posted July 13, 2010 at 8:40 p.m.

The board of the Anderson Fire Protection District on July 13 approved a response to the Grand Jury's five recommendations made in the investigation of the district. The letter, drafted by Chief Andy Nichols, apparently was a watered-down version of how the board and chief actually felt about the Grand Jury investigation.

"I took a little offense to what they said," Nichols said of the Grand Jury, adding that there was "too much emphasis on us and the board when they should have gone after Joe Piccinini."

Former fire chief Piccinini resigned from his post following a district investigation that found him responsible for sexual harassment and driving district vehicles drunk among other allegations.

"We find the recent Grand Jury Report particularly misguided and having little facts to support the Grand Jury's conclusions," reads the opening paragraph of the district's response. "The report is based on information gathered without having heard from one of the key witnesses, the district's legal counsel."

The letter goes on to state that the board dealt with Piccinini "as swiftly and appropriately as possible."

"(I'm) highly offended by those that criticize but don't have a clue," Chairwoman Marsha Kelley said, asking whether any of the Grand Jury members had any experience working with special districts.

Kelley later qualified the statement, saying she didn't think those serving on the Grand Jury understand the hiring and firing process.

When asked for a copy of the initial draft of the letter, Nichols said the board previously told him to throw the first draft away.

The final draft included the following responses the Grand Jury's recommendations:

• Qualifications must be clearly listed when advertising for new employees. The district responded that "the fire chief is hired directly by the board of directors. Similar to other agencies, there are no pre-established job qualifications for the fire chief. Rather, those qualifications are established each time the position is filled...."

• The district policy manual needs revision and must be enforced by the board "to ensure certification is current and valid" for all emergency personnel. The district agreed, stating that the district "presently does, and will continue, to monitor the status of these certifications...."

• The board "needs to exercise close oversight of the operational and fiscal activities of the District." The district agreed, proposing to create numerous committees including board, staff and volunteers on various aspects of the district. Regarding the operations of the district, the response states that that is the job of the fire chief, but that the chief shall keep the district "informed of all situations which might extend beyond the operations of the organization."

• The board should create a way for employees to confidentially report misconduct. The district responded that board members are often checking-in on employees and volunteers, but the district will make a survey of other districts' policies.

• "The board should consider contacting California Special Districts Association regarding training for all board members." The board responded that the chief is seeking a way to get all special district boards in the county to join in on the training to help defray the costs which are prohibitively expensive to smaller districts.

Of the current board, only chairwoman Marsha Kelley and board member Paul Bosetti were on the board during the hiring and subsequent resignation of former fire chief Joe Piccinini.

Former board members Butch Schafer and Norma Comnick were present at the meeting and gave their vocal support to the board's actions as well.

In other business, a new water tender under construction for the district is scheduled for completion in September, Nichols said.

Grego responds to El Dorado County grand jury's report

Concerns raised by the El Dorado County Grand Jury about South Lake Tahoe City Councilman Bruce Grego's $937.50 reimbursement are misdirected, the councilman told the Tribune.

The 2009-2010 grand jury report released in June questions the reimbursement Grego received in March for a legal opinion on a potential conflict of interest related to the stalled convention center and condominium project near Stateline.

Grego has represented Lakeside Park Association for years. The company was slated to provide water to the project, whose developer is now in bankruptcy proceedings.

The grand jury report questions the reimbursement because jurors felt it was backdated, was unusual for it not to be approved in open session and did not include a written contract in accordance with city pol icy.

Grego said he was not interviewed by the grand jury during the investigation and said the grand jury got it wrong.

“They have the wrong set of facts to draw their conclusion,” Grego said.

“If they're really concerned about a thorough investigation, shouldn't they talk to the person they're accusing?” Grego added.

Grego reiterated previous statements he's made about the money, saying he followed direction from City Manager David Jink ens and City Attorney Pat rick Enright regarding the reimbursement. He maintains that he never saw a conflicting opinion from former City Attorney Jac queline Mittelstadt.

The councilman said the reimbursement was not backdated because he re ceived pre-approval from Jinkens.

He said he was unaware of any city policy that would require a written contract.

In an interview earlier this month, El Dorado County Deputy District Attorney James Clinchard said the grand jury findings are consistent with a letter he wrote to councilmembers regarding the Grego reimbursement at the request of Councilman Jerry Birdwell.

In the letter, Clinchard said the reimbursement did not appear to be criminal.

The grand jury report is consistent with the letter because it makes no mention of an improper public gift and did not include a recommendation to pursue criminal prosecution of the reimbursement, Clinchard said.

While Grego said he was disappointed in the grand jury report's characterization of the reimbursement, he said he wholeheartedly agreed with a recommendation in the report that city council members receive more training.

He said the city has been “really cheap about not sending us to the proper training,” Grego said.

“The only way we're edu cating ourselves is on the job, and it shouldn't be that way,” Grego said.

The city manager and city attorney are working on responses to the grand jury report and are expected to present them to the City Council for approval at a subsequent meeting.

Grand jury blasts Atascadero school district over finances

Atascadero's finances focus of probe
Herald Salinas Bureau
Posted: 07/14/2010 01:30:23 AM PDT
Updated: 07/14/2010 01:30:24 AM PDT

A recent San Luis Obispo County grand jury report cites a case of financial improprieties that has mostly gone unreported at a tiny school district in south Monterey County.

In a report issued in June, the grand jury criticized the hiring practices of Atascadero Unified School District for having promoted E.J. Rossi, former superintendent of the San Ardo Union School District, from assistant principal to principal of Atascadero High School.

The grand jury report chastised the Atascadero district for not thoroughly verifying Rossi's references and for ignoring allegations of financial impropriety made against him.

The report was prompted by complaints about misappropriation of funds for school activities at the high school, where Rossi remains principal.

The grand jury investigated the allegations, but could not find supporting documentation for the alleged misappropriation.

Rossi, who was at San Ardo from August 2003 through June 2007, was investigated for fiscal improprieties by the Monterey County Office of Education. Its analysis found he was paid more than $53,000 above what his contracts required.

At the request of Superintendent Nancy Kotowski, Monterey County's district attorney conducted a criminal investigation into the conduct of Rossi and San Ardo's former business manager, Julie Trescony (now Digges).

The investigation, which concluded in January 2009, found "significant and troubling concerns regarding the legitimacy of certain payments that Mr. Rossi and Ms. Trescony received while employed by the San Ardo Union School District."

But because of shoddy accounting practices, there was insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution, the report concluded.

In November, Rossi agreed to pay back $32,000 to San Ardo, without admitting any wrongdoing.

The financial irregularities were discovered by Carlos Vega, current superintendent at San Ardo, when he took over the 119-student district from Rossi in July 2007.

In May, Vega said shoddy accounting practices allowed overpayment to Rossi and his business manager. He discovered documentation for cash transactions missing and that equipment purchased by the district could not be located.

"At the time I began investigating, I only had two years of records," Vega said. "I met with the former superintendent (Rossi), shared with him my concerns, and he agreed he would pay $6,000 that he'd been overpaid."

But when an audit by the Monterey County Office of Education arrived, pointing to more than $50,000 in questionable expenditures, the San Ardo board of trustees turned down Rossi's offer to settle for $6,000 and returned to the negotiating table, Vega said.

In December 2007, Vega received a call from the Monterey County Office of Education announcing an "extraordinary" audit. That type of audit is conducted when there is reason to believe that fraud or misappropriation of funds have taken place.

Kotowski hired the School and College Legal Services of California to lead the investigation.

In July 2008, Kotowski made a presentation to the San Ardo board of trustees, informing them that the allegations were sent to the Monterey County district attorney.

"We cannot discuss nor share any findings that may have criminal implications at this time," Kotowski wrote in a letter dated July 16, 2008.

The District Attorney's Office concluded its investigation in January 2009, deciding there was not enough evidence to press criminal charges against Rossi or Digges. But Stephanie Hulsey, assistant district attorney, said San Ardo could still pursue civil remedies.

"They have a lesser burden of proof, and there were additional violations that may be pursued in civil court," Hulsey told The Herald last month.

The district began legal proceedings against Rossi before a settlement was reached.

The county's audit found Trescony was overpaid more than $8,000, and so far, only one offer to reimburse $500 has been made, Vega said.

"This is an exaggerated claim against Julie," said Digges' lawyer Michelle Welsh. "She had a contract that pre-existed this administration that was in effect while still employed there. After this superintendent came, he reinterpreted the contract that had money owed. This was not interpreted by the previous administration."

Rossi did not return phone messages from the Herald.

After agreeing to settle with San Ardo, Rossi was quoted in a San Luis Obispo media outlet saying, "I stand in the work that I've done, both here and in San Ardo and feel comfortable that based on the things that I have done I don't need to go into those details to justify it."

Claudia Melendez can be reached at 753-6755 or

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Opinion: School district consolidation should be just the beginning

By Larry N. Gerston

Special to the Mercury News
Posted: 07/10/2010 08:00:00 PM PDT

The recommendation by the Santa Clara County civil grand jury to consolidate school districts is the kind of out-of-the-box thinking long overdue in this county. The report suggests that aligning K-8 districts with high school districts would improve education and produce savings in the neighborhood of 7 percent, or $51 million annually. That's a lot of teachers and specialists at a time when cutbacks are threatening irreparable harm to our students.

The recommendations are a good start for schools, but the same thing needs to be done in other service areas in the Bay Area. For example, Santa Clara County has 11 local police departments plus the Sheriff's Office, and seven fire departments plus the Santa Clara County Fire Department. Why, in a mostly urban, compact environment, must we endure such duplication? The answer is we shouldn't.

Reasons offered for school consolidation are equally valid for police and fire departments. To quote the grand jury report, "The current organization [of school districts] is an outgrowth of the county's origins. Until the 1960s, the county was largely a collection of agricultural communities separated by miles of open space. "... The communities have become small cities, San Jose has become a large city, and the open land has disappeared."

And so it is with our other local government services. For years, various agreements have allowed these agencies to work in nearby communities in cases of emergencies. Why should only emergencies be the reason?

Just imagine the cost savings that would accrue from one police department and one fire department. With such reorganization, 10 police chiefs and six fire chiefs would disappear, along with numerous assistants and duplicative equipment and record-keeping systems. The dollar savings could be massive, and services could be coordinated to provide faster response times. At a time of overstretched resources and abandoned services, nothing could make more sense.

So why hasn't consolidation taken place?

Actually, some U.S. cities and counties have consolidated services and programs. Locally, San Carlos in San Mateo County is dissolving its police force and contracting with the sheriff's department at a savings of more than $2 million annually. And that's just for a 32-member police force. Imagine what could happen in Santa Clara County.

But there is tremendous resistance from two camps. First, the affected departments themselves don't want to surrender their autonomy and jobs. Second, residents of small communities don't want to lose their proximity to local institutions. Both arguments may be reasonable in an era of abundant resources, but that time is long gone.

Some people will caution against these reforms lest Santa Clara County take on the characteristics of Los Angeles County or even the massive Los Angeles Unified School District. To be sure, there is a point at which the jurisdiction becomes so massive that it is dysfunctional. But behemoth Los Angeles County has nearly 10 million people who live in 80 cities spread out over 4,000 square miles. Much more compact Santa Clara County has 1.8 million residents in 15 cities within a footprint of 1,300 square miles. In short, consolidation would require the cooperation of fewer governments in a much smaller land area.

Consolidation will generate push-back from traditionalists and folks who want to leave things as they've always been. Fair enough. But when you see after-school programs shut down, senior centers eliminated, libraries and parks closed, and local streets in disrepair, just remember the funds for those things and more are being sucked up by duplicative programs. We can no longer afford to pay the price.

LARRY N. GERSTON teaches public policy at San Jose State University. His most recent book is Confronting Reality: Ten Issues Threatening to Implode American Society (and How We Can Fix It). He wrote this article for this newspaper.