Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Alameda County supervisor meddled in church contract, panel says
Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan improperly intervened with the county Probation Department to help secure a contract for a mega-church in her district that ministers to teens at Juvenile Hall and whose pastor “has a lot of political clout,” according to a just-released civil grand jury report.
The story began in 2012 when the Probation Department entered into a $30,000 contract with Acts Full Gospel Church in East Oakland to act as spiritual counsel to the estimated 120 teens being housed at Juvenile Hall in San Leandro and the neighboring Camp Sweeney, a minimum-security facility for inmates ages 15 to 19.
Over the next two years, the church’s contract rose to $90,000 annually.
The church sought another big increase for 2015. The Probation Department said it wanted more services than Acts Full Gospel offered and began looking elsewhere.
Enter Chan, the former state assemblywoman whose supervisorial district includes the church on 66th Avenue. According to a civil grand jury report released last week, Chan emailed then-Chief Probation Officer LaDonna Harris in June 2014, “requesting” that the department renew its contract with Acts Full Gospel for $100,000 — with the understanding that the contract would be put out to bid the next year.
Bishop Robert Jackson of Acts Full Gospel Church in East Oakland, left, has a major supporter in Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, who helped secure a contract for the church.
That led to a series of telephone calls and emails in which Harris told Chan that Acts Full Gospel “was not providing all of the services the department needed.”
Also, she said, increasing the contract would require the county to open it up to other bidders immediately, not the next year.
“The supervisor apparently understood these concerns, but insisted that the contract be extended, and allegedly stated that the head of the local church ‘has a lot of political clout,’” the grand jury’s report said.
The report doesn’t name Chan, but the supervisor is cited in the correspondence.
Harris agreed to another renewal with Acts Full Gospel for $90,000 — below the amount that would require a round of open bidding. The one-year extension was approved by the county Board of Supervisors in July 2014, then again in 2015 and last year.
The grand jury concluded in its report that Chan had “exceeded” her authority by getting involved in the contract process without securing the OK of her fellow supervisors.
Acts Full Gospel Bishop Robert Jackson — the church leader with “a lot of political clout” — says the grand jury’s report doesn’t tell “the whole story.” First off, Jackson said, the contract never covered the full costs. “We were paying about $125,000 for a full-time and two part-time ministers,” he said.
Jackson said he had no idea whether Chan tried to help, but if she did, “she deserves a medal.”
Chan did not respond to requests for comment. There’s little doubt, however, that she’s a fan of Acts Full Gospel — a separate section of the grand jury report shows that in 2014, she gave $20,000 to the church out of her supervisorial office account.
911 help: While most San Francisco supervisors are pushing to redirect budget money to pet causes like neighborhood safety and food pantries for the homeless, Mission District Supervisor Hillary Ronen also wants $160,000 set aside to pay for a fourth aide in her office.
The move has some inside City Hall rolling their eyes. While none of Ronen’s colleagues is publicly criticizing her, Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s reaction to an earlier proposal to give all board members an additional aide was, “Over my dead body.”
Ronen — who was chief of staff for former Supervisor David Campos — says she needs the help because the amount of work in her City Hall office is “absolutely insane.” She says her three aides are working up to 15-hour days to keep up with the avalanche of emails, calls and other public contacts.
As evidence, she sent us stats showing that complaints to the city’s 311 hotline have resulted in 16,558 cases being opened in her District Nine over the past decade — more than any other district.
“The Mission is in crisis in many ways, and it’s why so many of my constituents are angry,” Ronen said.
And the phones in her office are likely to keep ringing. On Monday, a temporary Navigation Center that she championed to provide shelter and services to homeless people will open at 26th Street and South Van Ness Avenue — over the objections of many neighbors, who no doubt will soon be calling.
June 25, 2017
San Francisco Chronicle
By Phillip Matier & Andrew Ross