Saturday, July 1, 2017

Alameda County supervisor accused of influencing contract

Grand jury alleges Chan helped church secure chaplain services

SAN LEANDRO — Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan is pushing back against allegations that she helped an East Oakland church secure contracts for chaplain services at the county’s two juvenile detention and treatment facilities in the hills above San Leandro.
The Alameda County civil grand jury report accused a female supervisor of blocking the county’s top probation officer from openly searching for chaplain services at the county’s juvenile hall and Camp Wilmont Sweeney, an up to 50-bed residential treatment program for adolescent males 15 to 19 years old.
Instead, the supervisor “insisted a particular vendor with strong political influence in the county be chosen,” according to the report released June 19.
The report did not name the supervisor or the vendor, although documents cited in the grand jury report pointed to Chan, the only female supervisor on the five-member board, and Acts Full Gospel Church, located near the Oakland Coliseum.
Chan denied any wrongdoing, noting that a $90,000 contract extension for chaplaincy services at the two youth facilities was vetted publicly and approved by supervisors in June 2016. Acts Full Gospel Church initially had a one-year, $90,000 contract with the county’s probation department for the 2015-16 fiscal year, but the extension moved the end date a year to June 30, 2017, and provided additional funding.
“The board of supervisors wanted to ensure that the religious rights of detainees were not violated by not providing the religious services as required by law,” said George Matthews, Acts Full Gospel’s chaplaincy director of jails and facilities.
“Had not this contract been extended, Alameda County could have been subjected to lawsuits being filed against the county,” Matthews wrote in a June 23 email to at least 16 county officials, including the grand jury, supervisors, Sheriff Gregory Ahern and District Attorney Nancy O’Malley.
The probation department at the time “had problems getting a lot of their money out the door,” Chan said.
The main purpose was to extend the Acts Full Gospel contract while the probation department launched a competitive bidding process and accepted proposals from other churches, Chan said.
“At that time, I was just really concerned that the services would stop because they were actually very successful in lowering the number of people at juvenile hall,” Chan said in an interview.
“Having these spiritual counselors go in and talk to the youth has actually been very helpful to them,” she said.
The church, led by Bishop Bob Jackson, also provides chaplain services at the Santa Rita Jail and Glenn E. Dyer Detention Facility under a sheriff’s office contract approved by supervisors in November 2016 and worth $1.23 million for three years.
Acts Full Gospel began providing chaplain services at Camp Sweeney and juvenile halls in 2012 under a $30,000 contract. Its contract was renewed each year at higher rates until it reached $90,000 by 2014, according to the grand jury report.
When the church tried to get a $128,000 contract for the next year, the probation department sought to open up the bidding process for youth religious services because the church “was not providing all of the services that the department needed, especially the supervision and management of volunteers,” the grand jury report said.
The probation department opted to have county supervisors approve a one-year, $90,000 contract for Acts Full Gospel after Chan insisted on it and told then-Chief Probation Officer LaDonna Harris that Jackson, the church’s leader, “has a lot of political clout,” according to the report.
Chan denied saying that, calling the allegations “ridiculous.”
A probation department review later found that other youth chaplain programs “were much more comprehensive” than what Acts Full Gospel was offering at a similar price, the report said. The church, however, got a one-year contract extension for the 2015-16 fiscal year because “pressure from the supervisor (Chan) … to extend the contract” allegedly delayed the competitive bidding process, the report said.
Though the bidding process was ready to go last year, Chan “ignored” Harris’ recommendation to start it and urged supervisors to grant another contract extension to Acts Full Gospel, the report said. The bids for chaplain services at Camp Sweeney and juvenile hall is set to open next month for services starting Jan. 1, 2018.
The grand jury concluded that “all county department heads should be free to manage the day-to-day operations of their departments and make choices about delivery of services without political interference from elected officials.” It also urged supervisors to adopt “a robust anti-interference policy” and allow the county administrator to hire department heads.
“While individual supervisors have the right to seek clarification and to obtain information from department heads, they should not be permitted to interfere with department operations,” the grand jury report read.
“When county department heads are at-will employees appointed by the board of supervisors, they are subject to pressure from individual board members to make politically expedient choices rather than to use their own good judgments about what is best for the interest of the citizens of Alameda County,” the report said.
June 30, 2017
East Bay Times
By Darin Moriki

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