Wednesday, December 20, 2017

[Solano County] Solano board hears Elite Charter School proposal praised, panned’

Blog note: this article references four grand jury reports about the school district.
FAIRFIELD — More than 150 people in a standing-room-only meeting Wednesday heard supporters and opponents of the proposed Elite Charter School – and two Solano County Board of Education members say that the “opportunity gap” for African-American and Latino students must be addressed.
Board member Dana Dean said after 47 people spoke about the charter proposal that she was deeply troubled that every supporter is a person of color and every opponent is white.
That statement brought protests from several charter school opponents disputing Dean’s assessment of speakers.
Dean went on to ask that if Elite isn’t the application that will address the opportunity gap, what will? She called the petition from Elite the best she’s seen this year among several from proposed charters that went before the board.
“That’s not a high bar,” Dean said.
Board member Amy Sharp also asked opponents of the charter school what they are going to put forth to deal with the opportunity gap.
The charter school proposal is scheduled to return Jan. 10 to the county board of education for action.
Ramona Bishop, former Vallejo City School District superintendent and lead petitioner for Elite, said Wednesday that its charter school students will be “trilingual” in English, Spanish and coding.
“If you live in California, you should speak Spanish,” Bishop said.
Half of kindergartners in the state are Latino, she said.
Alameda, San Francisco and Sacramento counties are addressing the opportunity gap, Bishop said.
“We are just bringing this model to Solano County,” she said.
Judi Honeychurch, of the Fairfield-Suisun School District board of trustees, said to the county board that the programs Elite outlined in its proposal already exist in the Fairfield-Suisun district.
Cheri Summer, chief academic officer of the Vallejo City School District, told the county Board of Education that Elite’s petition doesn’t provide enough details about how it will put in place planned programs.
“The blueprint,” Summers said, “is simply inadequate.”
Opponents, including James Hinton, cited Bishop’s six years as Vallejo superintendent and problems that led to four Solano County grand jury reports about the school district.
Supporters said Elite will provide opportunities now unavailable to students.
The Rev. Danny Jefferson, president of the Vallejo Faith Organization, said people of color always have to struggle when seeking to obtain power and resources.
Alana Shackelford called Elite “more than just a school.”
“It is the answer to my concern,” she said.
The 506-page charter school petition states staff at the Elite schools will focus on accelerating the achievement of all students while “eliminating the opportunity gap.”
African-American and Latino students are the two groups in Solano County whose performance is below the average, according to the petition.
The graduation rate for the two student groups is below the average while dropout rates exceed the average, the petition adds.
“The Elite staff will focus on ensuring that students attending the school will receive instruction on the history and accomplishments of mainstream America while also receiving cross-cultural instruction on the history and accomplishments of African-Americans and Latinos,” according to the petition.
Schools would open in August 2018 with children in kindergarten through sixth-grade, and at full capacity in 2022-23 will serve more than 2,500 children and teens in kindergarten through 12th grade at three campuses, according to the petition.
December 14, 2017
Daily Republic
By Ryan McCarthy

Friday, December 15, 2017

[San Joaquin County] Our View: Time for SJ County to establish a coroner’s department independent of the sheriff

Blog note: this article references a 2006 grand jury report on the subject.
Dr. Bennet Omalu, the county’s chief medical examiner, and Dr. Susan Parson, the county’s forensic pathologist, quit their jobs within a week of each other .
Among the reasons Omalu and Parson cited for their impending departures — they are required to provide three months’ notice — was interference from Sheriff Steve Moore, who also serves as the county coroner, the person who confirms and certifies the death of someone not under medical care.
Under the county system, both Omalu and Parson reported to Moore.
Their impending departures illustrate the need for the office of medical examiner/coroner to be separate from the Sheriff’s Office.
Omalu and Parson allege that Moore has interfered in investigations, ordering them to change the cause of death in some cases, including officer-involved shootings. They also claim Moore made procedural changes, such as not informing them that he had ordered the hands removed from a corpse so they could be sent it out for fingerprinting.
Moore has denied all allegations.
The allegations are serious and should be reviewed closely by the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors and investigated by an independent outside agency.
However, the allegations also illustrate the need for the archaic coroner/sheriff system to be scrapped and replaced with a separate medical examiner’s office.
Supervisors previously considered separating the offices in 2005. That discussion was 10 days after Sheriff Baxter Dunn had resigned on the same day he pleaded guilty in a federal corruption case.
Determining the manner of death in cases when someone is not under the care of a doctor should no longer be left up to someone not medically trained in that area or someone who could have a potential conflict of interest in determining a cause of death.
A coroner is an elected or appointed official. In San Joaquin County, the sheriff is also the coroner. It could also be a funeral home director, a teacher, a musician, even a journalist, provided they received enough votes to win an election for sheriff.
A forensic pathologist, such as Omalu or Parson, is medically trained as a doctor with a specialty in determining a cause of death. On average it takes about 12 years of educational study to become a forensic pathologist.
According to the California Association of Counties, a coroner’s office has three primary functions:
Medical: It conducts autopsies to determine the cause of death in those cases that fall within its jurisdiction; transports and removes bodies; verifies cause of death and signs death certificates; appears at all unattended deaths unless the deceased has been seen by a physician within a specified period of time.
Administrative: It maintains all records; responds to inquiries by law enforcement agencies, doctors, and others with potential cases; provides proper custody and security of valuables; arranges sale of unclaimed property (which may also be done by the public guardian-public administrator); locates families when necessary.
Investigative: Conducts investigations to determine causes of death and/or to establish identity of deceased; conducts inquests.
Yet just 17 of the 58 counties in California have separated the two departments, according to the association.
Last year, Santa Clara County made the change, after merging the two departments in 2004.
Some of the reasons for that change echo what has happened here:
A 2006 civil grand jury report concluded that the union seemed “successful from an administrative perspective.” But a medical examiner testified at a June budget meeting that the relationship with their sheriff overseers had been rocky. And the death a year ago of a jail inmate allegedly at the hands of correctional deputies now charged with his murder has revived conflict-of-interest concerns in death investigations, according to The San Jose Mercury News
Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith said that the medical examiner merger with the sheriff had aimed “to improve management and oversight,” but “that was a different time and place.”
“We need to rethink it,” Smith said. “It’s better to have a separate, free-standing entity responsible for finding and holding evidence, in order to avoid the possibility of contamination or the impression that there’s some kind of impact being made on decision making.”
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith endorsed the move, stating while the county executive has commended the management of the medical examiner-coroner’s office, “the philosophy of the county has changed to have an independent coroner’s office,” the Mercury News reported.
The impediment in San Joaquin County would be the will of the supervisors to make such a change and also the cost.
In Santa Clara County, which has a population of about 1.8 million, the cost was more than $800,000 to establish and staff a separate medical examiner’s office. That’s about 0.013 percent of its budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year
It’s about 0.05 percent of San Joaquin County’s $1.6 billion budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year.
Without an in-depth assessment, it is unclear what the cost would be to establish a separate medical examiner’s office.
However, the question becomes, can San Joaquin County afford not to fund such an arrangement?
December 9, 2017
Stockton Record

[Santa Barbara County] Supervisors to appoint two members of Employees Retirement System board

Blog note: one of the appointees was foreperson of the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury for five terms. There is public life after grand jury service.
An ad hoc subcommittee will review the applicants — including one from Santa Maria and one from Solvang — for appointed positions on the Santa Barbara County Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees and recommend two for the Board of Supervisors to appoint in January.
Supervisors had the option of selecting a two-member ad hoc subcommittee to review applications and make recommendations or to have the entire five-member board interview the applicants in a regular open-session meeting to make a decision.
Board Chairwoman and 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann and 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino volunteered to review the applications for the two board-appointed seats expiring in December, and other members of the board accepted the offer with appreciation.
“I’m glad you’re taking this on,” 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf told them.
The Employees Retirement System board consists of nine members, four of which are appointed by the supervisors, and two alternates who oversee the investment of assets in the retirement fund and the distribution of benefits to retired county employees who are members of the system.
A total of eight people have applied for the two vacancies that will result from the expiration of Suzi Schomer’s and Al Rotella’s three-year terms, although additional applications could be submitted, according to county staff.
Rotella has indicated he will not seek reappointment to another term; however, Schomer has submitted an application for reappointment.
Of the eight applicants, one is from Santa Maria, one is from Solvang, one is from Goleta and one is from Summerland. The rest, including Schomer, are from Santa Barbara.
The Santa Maria applicant is Trent Benedetti, a certified public accountant, certified financial planner and registered investment adviser.
The Solvang applicant is Charles Stauffer, a small-business manager, nonprofit hospital trustee and commercial real estate broker.
Other applicants include:
Goleta resident Craig Geyer has served as a director at Goleta West Sanitary District, a commissioner for Santa Barbara Local Agency Formation Commission, a trustee for the county’s Mosquito Vector Management District and a member of the county’s Treasury Oversight Committee.
Summerland resident Ted Sten, a career manager for AT&T, has served as a budget analyst for the Los Angeles County Chief Administrative Office, administrative assistant to the Los Angeles County district attorney, chairman of the Arcadia Civil Service Commission and foreman of the Santa Barbara County grand jury for five terms.
Don Benninghoven, of Santa Barbara, worked for the League of California Cities as a field representative, lobbyist, assistant director and executive director, provided legislative advice to governors Pat Brown, Ronald Reagan and Jerry Brown and served on various commissions under governors Gray Davis, Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian.
Santa Barbara resident Scott Estby, a certified financial analyst and vice president and senior portfolio manager for Montecito Bank & Trust, has also served as an investment analyst for Plan Member Services in Carpinteria and a cash management analyst for Ocwen Financial in Palm Beach, Florida.
Michael Thompson, of Santa Barbara, has been the director of partnership development for AMTEC, sales and marketing manager for Electro-Optical Industries, vice president of business development for Friedman Research Corp., director of business development for Origin Data and vice president of sales for Magnetic Data Technologies.
December 8, 2017
Lompoc Record
By Mike Hodgson

[Riverside County] No grand jury report is good news, La Quinta attorney tells council

A grand jury complaint filed last year against La Quinta’s city manager and council is past due for a report, leading city attorney Bill Ihrke to conclude that the allegations could not be substantiated – or may not have been deemed worth investigating at all.
Grand jury proceedings are confidential, so unless a report is issued, it is not known what attention – if any – a complaint may have been given. 
In California, grand juries serve one year, from July 1 through June 30, and reports must be filed by the end of that year. There is no grace period, according to the California Grand Jury Association’s website.
“If a report is to be issued, a city must be allowed to respond to findings and recommendations before a report is final,” Ihrke said.
“Based on our research of when these reports would be issued (before July 1) … we do think it’s more likely than not that no report will come from that complaint,” he told the council Tuesday.
“So, in this case, no news is good news?” Mayor Linda Evans asked.
“That is correct,” Ihrke said.
December 6, 2017
The Desert Sun
By Sherry Barkas

[Shasta County] Got a complaint? This group wants to know about it

In January, the Shasta County Superior Court, assisted by the Shasta County Grand Jurors’ Association, will begin recruiting citizens of Shasta County to serve on the Shasta County Grand Jury for 2018-19.  
The grand jury is tasked with investigating the activities of local government agencies in Shasta County, including the county, the three cities, school districts and special districts. The grand jury is the only entity in the county empowered by state law to investigate and issue findings and recommendations about the operations of local government.
A couple of trends are showing up related to the Shasta County Grand Jury.  The first trend is the slump in the number of complaints the jury receives each year.  Some of the grand jury’s investigations are initiated by residents’ complaints. But out of nearly 180,000 Shasta County residents, only 21 submitted complaints during the last fiscal year. Of those 21 complaints, three resulted in grand jury reports.
Overall, the number of complaints being received is trending downward — from 63 in 2008-09 to just one-third that number in 2016-17.  To address the trend of declining complaints, the grand jury will be updating its website ( to include more information on the complaint process.
Complaints can provide information that would otherwise be unknown to the grand jury. While the grand jury is not required to act on information from residents, each complaint is acknowledged and seriously considered. Specific allegations about a public agency, program or official, especially if accompanied by supporting documentation, are most likely to yield results.
The second trend has been the decline in the number of people who apply to serve as grand jurors. Each year, the Superior Court is required to name a pool of 25 to 30 prospective grand jurors. From that pool, 19 names are randomly drawn and seated as grand jurors; the remaining applicants are named as alternates.
Over the past several years, fewer people have applied for grand jury service, so both the jury pool and the number of alternates available have been smaller. In recent years, just about all of the alternates have been asked to fill a vacancy on the jury. Most vacancies occur when a juror resigns due to a personal or family illness, work commitments or the juror’s inability to keep up.
Being on the grand jury requires a commitment to serve for a year for about 20 hours a week. Work includes meetings, training, interviews, research and writing reports.
Jurors best able to participate for the full year are those who can devote the necessary time, have a strong commitment to our community, are interested in learning new things, and are able to work productively with 18 other people.
It will soon be time to recruit a new grand jury and the Superior Court is looking for good men and women in Shasta County to apply. The 2017-18 application will be posted on the grand jury’s website in January and the new grand jury will be selected in late June or early July. Please apply.
December 6, 2017
Redding Record Searchlight
By Phillip Perry

[San Luis Obispo County] Community urges action on SLO County Jail, mental health improvements

Blog note: this article mentions that members of the county grant jury attended the Board of Supervisors hearing on the subject.
A mental health treatment wing in the San Luis Obispo County Jail and an emergency detoxification center are two projects that grabbed the attention of the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday among a list of recommendations for improving local mental health treatment.
Supervisors received recommendations from two ad hoc committees tasked with identifying problems at the jail and County Health Agency and suggesting solutions for preventing people from cycling through the criminal justice system.
“These are things that are urgent — they’re needed right now,” Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley told the board during public comment.
Following a $5 million settlement the county said it would pay the family of a mentally ill jail inmate who died in custody in January, the county created a Sheriff’s Task Force on Mental Health to bring together stakeholders to prevent similar deaths. Officials have said that the jail is overburdened with inmates with serious chronic medical and mental health problems.
In October, the supervisors voted to enroll the county in the Stepping Up Initiative, a national campaign in which local governments pledge to keep people with serious mental health needs out of the criminal justice system. Since then, the Mental Health Task Force was renamed the Stepping Up planning committee, which finalized a three-page list of recommendations to improve local treatment that included options for increasing mental health treatment at the jail, improving training for law enforcement and building detox and urgent care walk-in clinics.
A second executive committee made up of county officials prioritized those recommendations before the list went before the board Tuesday.
These are things that are urgent — they’re needed right now.
Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley
Separately, the county is also awaiting results of a review by a third-party consultant also tasked with providing recommended changes. Results of that review, requested by county administration, are expected within the first two months of 2018, County Counsel Rita Neal told the board.
A request for proposals to contract outside medical and mental health services at the jail is also expected to be released early next year.
Of the possible improvements already in motion, the Sheriff’s Office is expecting to open its newly constructed medical facility building at the jail in May 2018, Sheriff Ian Parkinson told the board Tuesday. The facility’s former building can be repurposed to provide an on-site mental health treatment and housing area.
“That process is moving forward in every which way we can,” Parkinson said.
Tuesday’s hearing was attended by the county’s seven police chiefs, officials from the jail and County Health, members of the county Grand Jury and several residents who say their families have been affected by a local lack of services.
Los Osos resident Linda Martin, who said her daughter injured herself after being denied medication and placed in a County Jail safety cell in 2016, said treatment of inmates at the jail now is a “crisis.”
December 5, 2017
The Tribune
By Matt Fountain

[Orange County] Tingle (opinion): Animals Also Need a Voice

Blog note: this opinion piece mentions five grand jury reports on the subject.
I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity be a voice for our precious animals, God’s Creation, and for those many people who care about their welfare. Animals can teach us human beings a lot……..if we are open to it. The belief that dogs and cats are not compatible is a fallacy, as you can see in the photo. As it is with human beings, it depends on the individuals.
My first introduction to politics and how it can affect the animals in Orange County began in the 90s. Volunteering for the nonprofit, IDA or In Defense of Animals, I attempted to change verbiage in the ordnances in my home city of Rancho Santa Margarita from pet “owners” to pet “guardians.”  Words and labels are powerful and this change would help increase respect and compassion for animals. As a newbie to the political realm at that time, I did not get very far in my quest, but I still refer personally to these people as pet guardians. Since then, I have learned the importance of paying attention to city council meetings, for their actions, or inactions affect our everyday life more than the national elections.  Case in point, I woke up one morning only to find a sign that a car dealership would be built practically in my back yard, a decision made by the city council!
I volunteered at the Mission Viejo Animal Shelter and was “mentored” by Sharon Cody, former mayor of the city and primarily responsible for planting seed which led to the now model and well respected city shelter. (Cody was recently recognized by the city council for her many contributions to the city.) Since I wanted the same humane treatment for the animals in my home city, I began working with Laguna Hills resident Jean Bland, founder of the South County Animal Shelter Coalition – a 5,000 member group of activists focused on creating a new shelter in South County. We didn’t get a new South County animal shelter, but Laguna Hills and Rancho Santa Margarita fortunately now contract with the Mission Viejo animal shelter.
One of the most blatant examples of what I feel is ignorance, and quite frankly cruel, is Orange County Board of Supervisors allowing the single county animal shelter, which is 76 years old, to fall to such a dilapidated condition while earning no less than five OC Grand Jury Reports and several lawsuits. To this the OC Board of Supervisors basically reacted for many years with a “ho hum” and continued to claim they were working on it. Public records revealed otherwise. Meanwhile, the public, shelter staff and volunteers and the animals were exposed to unhealthy and unsafe conditions and animals killed for ridiculous reasons and in violation of the law. Consequently, I felt all the animals in Orange County deserved humane treatment which led me to becoming an activists for them also. But before you can help solve a problem, people must be made aware. …..and this is what I am able to do, thanks to the nonprofit, nonpartisan Voice of OC.
The OC Board of Supervisors have finally decided to move forward and at last a new county animal shelter is finally under construction, however as I reported,  independent oversight and transparency has continued to be a “challenge.”  So much so, they are willing to “stretch the rules” of the Brown Act and the California Public Records law in order to avoid it………… and the mindset has been followed by their “colleagues” in the contract cities. What are they trying to conceal?
We are “called” to be the stewards of God’s Creation and animal cruelty is considered so serious it is now tracked by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There is a cultural shift about the way we think about animals, will Orange county get onboard?
California took a big step forward this year with the passing of the consumer and animal protection bill, AB485. California is officially the first state to ban puppy mills. But then came the recent egregious decision by Secretary of Interior, Ryan Zinke, to lift the ban on importing trophy hunted elephant parts from Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Let’s keep the momentum going forward, and not go backward, in this coming year.
November 29, 2017
Voice of OC
By Rose Tingle

Thursday, December 14, 2017

[Monterey County] County historian position headed for dustbin of history

Blog note: this article references a grand jury report.
Salinas >> Perhaps Meg Clovis really was irreplaceable after all.
Six months after longtime Monterey County’s de facto historian retired following a distinguished 36-year career with the former county parks department, her position is officially on the chopping block.
On Monday, the Board of Supervisors’ budget committee agreed to replace the existing Historical and Cultural Affairs Manager position with a Management Analyst II position, which would be responsible for overseeing a more formally regulated county parks volunteer program, as well as special events and community partnerships.
County Resource Management Agency Deputy Director Shawne Ellerbee told the committee on Monday the agency could simply contract with outside firms for historical review associated with specific development projects, one of the position’s key duties, and applicants would be charged for the cost.
According to a staff report, the Resource Management Agency is already coordinating with the County Librarian to address preservation of historical documents currently overseen through county parks and its museum exhibits, which was the subject of a previous county civil grand jury report.
Left unaddressed was the remainder of the position’s duties, including oversight of the acclaimed Agricultural Rural Life Museum in King City, and a number of other historical initiatives completed by Clovis over the past few decades.
The report suggested the management analyst position would “best serve the range of needs” in the Agency, which took over the county parks department last year and has been re-organizing it ever since. The report indicated Agency staff has struggled to absorb additional duties, some of them neglected for years, as a result of the elimination of three management-level county parks positions, including a parks director, management analyst and special events manager.
In the past couple of years, former parks director Mark Mariscal retired after just a few years on the job and his position was not filled as the Agency absorbed the parks department and then eliminated the position entirely, and special events manager Lavonne Chin was shifted to the County Administrative Office where she now focuses on the Laguna Seca Recreational Area.
The proposed re-allocation, which still needs to be approved by the full board, is part of a series of position shifts backed by the budget committee.
November 27, 2017
Monterey Herlad
By Jim Johnson

[Kern County] Kern County Grand Jury wants improvements for rural Kern County airfields, in addition to Meadows Field

The Kern County Grand Jury issued a report Monday urging the Kern County Airports Department to improve some of the smaller county-owned airfields and to push for development of Meadows Field, Bakersfield’s commercial airport.
Kern County operates seven airports across Kern County including Meadows Field, Taft, Wasco, Lost Hills, Buttonwillow, Kern Valley Airport and Poso/Famoso Airport.
Meadows Field is the only commercial airport in the Kern County stable, with flights to San Francisco, Denver and Phoenix.
The runway, lighting systems and taxiways at the airport are being renovated or rebuilt using a $49.6 million Federal Aviation Administration grant and $4.9 million in matching county money.
The Grand Jury lauded the Kern County Airports Department for working to improve the airport and better the surrounding community by bringing in more users.
But they urged Airports Director Richard Strickland not to forget the other smaller airports, which are used by variety of private flyers and commercial skydiving and agriculture operations.
Strickland said all seven airports have development plans but implementing them has to be coordinated with limited financial resources.
“Revenues depend on use,” he said.
He pointed to Kern Valley Airport which is in the midst of a major renovation project.
“We’re going to be putting in a brand-new full-length taxiway,” he said. “The Kern Valley Airport is an absolute gem.”
Meadows Field and Kern Valley are tops on the county’s list.
“They’re the two most beneficial airports to Kern County,” Strickland said.
Kern Valley is heavily used by recreational visitors. And, when a large fire or disaster hits, the airport becomes critical to emergency operations.
November 27, 2017
The Bakersfield Californian
By James Burger

[Sacramento County] Mental health urgent care clinic to open Nov. 29

Blog note: this article references a 2015 grand jury report that criticized the county for its neglect in providing access to mental health services.
After years of mental health patients inundating Sacramento area emergency rooms, Sacramento County will open a new mental health urgent clinic to provide an intermediate level of care for people struggling to find the right treatment, county officials said.
The clinic will open Nov. 29 on Stockton Boulevard next door to the county’s Mental Health Treatment Center. It will offer a variety of services from clinical and psychiatry services, to alcohol and drug screening, medication, peer support and recovery services, said Uma Zykofsky, mental health director for Sacramento County.
“It’s built to handle crisis situations, but self-described crisis situations sometimes,” Zykofsky said. “For instance, I might go to an emergency department because I’m running out of a refill and I’m trying to get a refill. That’s not really a crisis situation but it’s an urgent type of service need.”
“Our community has long needed these services in the middle, between outpatient and inpatient,” said Jonathan Porteus, CEO of Wellspace Health, which has a number of clinics offering outpatient mental health services to clients who are homeless or low income.
The clinic is funded by Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, as a pilot program for five years. Its annual budget of $2.5 million will pay for a “multidisciplinary team” of psychiatrists, social workers and peer navigators, said Al Rowlett, CEO of Turning Point Community Programs, a mental health service provider hired by the county to run the clinic.
The clinic’s staff will refer patients, depending on their need, to other services such as crisis respite, crisis residential or alcohol and drug treatment, thus avoiding expensive and sometimes unnecessary hospitalizations.
As a pilot program, Zykofsky and Rowlett said they expect to serve 400 to 450 people per month.
The opening of the urgent care facility is the newest in a series of reforms to fill in the gaps in the county’s mental health care system.
In 2015, a Sacramento County grand jury report condemned the county’s “shameful legacy of neglect” in its failure to provide adequate access to mental health services. In 2009, the county closed the Crisis Stabilization Unit and reduced the number of beds at its mental health treatment center by half, from 100 to 50.
The result was a flood of mental health patients into Sacramento area emergency departments. According to data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, in 2009 there were 3,798 people admitted for inpatient psychiatric care through emergency room visits in Sacramento County. By 2013, that number jumped to 7,780 people.
Local emergency departments had to make changes to handle the increase in mental health patients. At UC Davis Medical Center, they hired mental health workers, a substance abuse counselor and trained emergency department nurses in de-escalation techniques and common psychiatric medications, Dr. Lorin Scher said, director of emergency psychiatric service at UC Davis Medical Center.
“The ER is not the best place for people in mental health crisis, so we try to make it as patient centered as we can,” he said.
The county’s withdrawal from mental health services disproportionately affected low-income and indigent people, the grand jury report found.
A 2016 community health needs assessment by Valley Vision, a research and public policy group, shows African Americans had the highest rate of mental health-related emergency department visits – at least 50 percent higher than the county rate – in nine out of 15 ZIP codes. The ZIP codes with the highest rates of emergency department visits are in downtown Sacramento, Oak Park and Arden Arcade.
A white paper by Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society pointed out that wait times in Sacramento area emergency departments also increased from 10 hours in 2012 to 19.5 hours in 2013.
November 27, 2017
The Sacramento Bee
By Molly Sullivan

[San Benito County] Hollister city council sends responses to Grand Jury on Animal Shelter

The Hollister City Council passed a resolution Nov. 20 to authorize the city manager to sign and submit on behalf of the city council a response letter to the San Benito County Civil Grand Jury report. City Manager Bill Avera told the council the Hollister Police Department and the Animal Control Department responded to the grand jury’s findings.
When none of the council members had comments, resident Elia Salinas commented that she was saddened when she read the report concerning Animal Control’s euthanasia practices. She mentioned a program started by the founder of the software company PeopleSoft, David Duffield, to establish non-kill facilities through a foundation called Maddie’s Fund that attempts to find homes for pets by providing live video feeds of animals so people can see them from anywhere in the country. It also provides grants to graduates or veterinary students.
Salinas encouraged the city to look into applying for Maddie’s Fund grants. David Duffield, whose net worth is $6.5 billion, set up a foundation named after his dog, Maddie with a $300 million endowment and has awarded $172 million to animal welfare organizations and universities.
“I would like to see our staff or someone at Animal Control reach out to them and file for some type of grant,” Salinas said. “Hopefully, we can get full-time staff and maybe it could become a facility where they’re not going to euthanize any animals. Some of this funding could help so they could have adoption day once a month or every six months.”
(According to the Maddie’s Fund website, it no longer funds no-kill facilities, but continues to fund veterinary schools.) Salinas said from reading the Grand Jury report that when Animal Control goes out into the community using its mobile pet trailer they are more successful in getting animals adopted.
“If we got some funding we would be able to offer those services more often,” she said. “I’m going to reach out to the industry (cannabis) that I represent and ask them about donating money to these nonprofits to try to stop all these innocent animals from being killed.”
The Grand Jury report indicated that in 2016 Animal Control had purchased 26 bottles of Fatal Plus Solution for $1,565.87, which is capable of euthanizing animals with a body weight totaling 65,000 lbs. In 2016, Animal Control officers euthanized 1,411 animals, averaging 118 a month. The Grand Jury stated it was concerned about the emotional toll this was inflicting on the five officers tasked to euthanize the animals. The Grand Jury was told that there are mental health services available to the officer; even so, the report stated there is a high turnover of officers. The Grand Jury investigation reported that the majority of the dogs and cats euthanized were feral or had behavioral issues.
One of the Grand Jury’s findings was that adoptions are incredibly low, with only 274 animals being adopted, compared to the 1,411 that were euthanized, and that the high number of officer turnovers is directly attributable to them having to carry out the euthanizations. And because the shelter does not hold adoption fairs, 48 percent of the animals brought in are euthanized.
Councilman Karson Klauer commented about one of the Grand Jury’s findings: No information can be found on behavioral tests because no records are kept about any tests conducted. He wondered about this compared to the statement that the Hollister PD keeps records of behavioral tests only to prove a test was, in fact, conducted, and it’s unclear if it’s worth the effort or staff time to do so.
“I think, at least in certain cases, it’s going to be absolutely worth the staff time to keep those records, so I’d like to see us continue that at least with animals that are considered dangerous,” he said. “I think that’s a big thing because when people who have animals taken to the shelter because they may be dangerous, they need to see a paper trail of what happened.”
Councilwoman Mickie Luna agreed with Salinas’ earlier recommendation to search for grants and suggested the city manager or some other staff member follow-up.
“I read the report and am somewhat concerned at times that we need the report, but I don’t know how many of us are taking the time to go out there and walk in and visit the shelter,” she said. “You kind of want to walk out of there with all kinds of dogs and cats. I think just before the holidays a lot of people tend to think about adopting a pet, so maybe it would be wise to open the doors to the public on a Saturday or an afternoon.”
Klauer added it was obvious that both the Grand Jury and the city expected volunteers to do most of the work at the shelter. He said he doesn’t know of any other department that depends on volunteers to this extent.
“We don’t expect volunteers to deal with the water or the waste water or policing or code enforcement,” he said. “I pick up trash when I see it, but don’t think the city expects me to do that. We’re essentially expecting the volunteers are going to come out because of the goodness in their hearts and do a lot of this stuff that isn’t very fun.”
He said it’s a matter of committing resources and staffing, and the city needs to consider these more than relying on volunteers.
“When you read the Grand Jury report and it says that the people expect volunteers are going to do it, and we don’t have enough volunteers, we probably shouldn’t be leaning on volunteers that much that they’re an integral part of what we’re trying to do,” he said.
Without changing or adding anything to its response to the Grand Jury, the council voted 4-0 to pass the resolution, with Councilman Jim Gillio being absent.
November 25, 2017
By John Chadwell

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

[Orange County] Two male suspects killed in collision after Orange County sheriff's deputies gave chase

Blog note: this article references a recent report by the Los Angeles County Grand Jury addressing the likelihood of crashes during law enforcement agency pursuits in Los Angeles County. The author uses it to comment on an action in Orange County.
Two male suspects were killed Thursday afternoon when a pursuit involving Orange County sheriff's deputies ended in a collision at Imperial Highway and Big Sky Lane in Anaheim, authorities said.
Deputies responded about 12:40 p.m. to a report of suspicious activity in the 19000 block of Ridgeview Road in Villa Park, said Jaimee Blashaw, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Department.
The deputies made contact with the suspects, who fled in a gray Ford Focus, Blashaw and Anaheim Police Sgt. Daron Wyatt said.
During the four-minute pursuit, one of the suspects threw out a pillowcase that contained laptops and jewelry, Blashaw said.
As the suspects' vehicle headed north on Imperial Highway, it crossed into the southbound lanes and collided head-on with a Kia SUV, Wyatt said.
The driver of the Ford was pronounced dead at the scene. A male in the rear passenger seat was taken to a hospital, where he died. A female in the front passenger seat suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Wyatt said the female driver of the Kia was taken to a hospital with minor injuries.
The names and ages of the suspects were not given.
No deputies were injured, Blashaw said.
The danger of police pursuits has received renewed attention in recent years. The Los Angeles County civil grand jury in recent months released a report emphasizing the importance of training for law enforcement in reducing the likelihood of crashes during pursuits.
A Times data analysis showed that 1 in 10 car chases initiated by the Los Angeles Police Department from 2006 to 2014 resulted in injuries to bystanders.
November 23, 2017
Los Angeles Times
By Corina Knoll

[San Mateo County] Harbor District for a second chance and ran with it

The San Mateo County Harbor District is 84 years young and was given a new lease on life in 2014 with the release of a civil grand jury report, among others, that detailed a number of ways in which the district could improve. The district embraced that challenge, studied the reports and made the changes. Today, the district is stronger than ever and, with dedication, focus and transparency, stands ready to serve the county for another 84 years in keeping with our mission, “to assure the public is provided with clean, safe, well-managed and environmentally pleasant marinas.”
The district remembers the past, has studied the past, and has learned. The issues addressed in the 2014 civil grand jury report are now ingrained in our culture, which recognizes that this year is better than last, and next year will be better than this. Change does not happen overnight nor without leadership and commitment, and I can state without reservation that your district team is committed to providing the highest level of service to the public it serves. 
To that end, today the district is debt free, with an unqualified opinion from our auditor (that’s considered good in accountant speak) and increased transparency in our financial reporting (see our ‘OpenGov’ reporting on our website,
Today, the district has contracts in place for removal of the Romeo Pier ($2.3 million), for sealing and restriping more than 1.6 acres of parking lot ($156,000) and for electrical repairs on the docks ($485,000).
Today, the district has contracts in place for design of repairs to the fishing pier and for the replacement of one of the commercial docks, the first in a series.
Today, the district is in final permitting for improvements to the West Trail and for sidewalk improvements by the restaurants.
Today, the district pays the Resource Conservation District to work on water quality, consistent with our Clean Marinas certification.
And, today, the long-awaited Surfer’s Beach project has almost $1 million in dedicated funding just awaiting final regulatory approvals. This is but a small part of what the district is doing today, but this is what second chances look like.
But the fundamental question posed is existential: Why the Harbor District? Why, in fact, any special district? Let me turn that around and ask a rhetorical question: How connected do you feel to the federal government? To the state? The county?
If I were to guess, I would say that the sense of connection to government increases the more local your government. Special districts, like the Harbor District, are truly where “the rubber meets the road” in local government. Governed by people the voters elect, these districts address specific needs like roads, parks,  water, sewer, mosquito abatement, street lighting, or harbors and marinas, in a uniquely local and responsive manner. 
Your Harbor District is based here on the Coastside, and is intimately connected to the community. The staff and commissioners are accessible and responsive. The district is aware of the needs of the fishermen, volleyball players, recreational boaters, surfers, distressed mariners, dog walkers and many other interest groups, and listens to the concerns and needs of the Coastside. Your Harbor District staff has decades of combined experience in managing harbors and marinas. We are the experts in maritime matters locally, and we are better trained and more experienced than any other public agency to run the publicly owned Pillar Point Harbor and Oyster Point Marina. 
Last week’s editorial, headlined “Harbor District runs out of second chances,” made no mention of our role as your marine first responders, of public facilities and trails, of fishing and recreation, of boats lit up at the holidays, of fresh crab. What is important is where the district is today — and where it will be tomorrow.
The Harbor District is an essential and integral part of the Coastside, and of San Mateo County generally. We are proud to serve the public and intend to continue to do so as the tide continues to ebb and flow.
November 22, 2017
Half Moon Bay Review
By Steve McGrath, general manager of the San Mateo County Harbor District

[Humboldt County] Fostering Futures: Children at Risk

Blog note: this article references a grand jury report addressing how agencies work together in dealing with “at risk” children.”
HUMBOLDT COUNTY, CA. – “My horses are my family. They have always been my family. They are the one thing in my life that has always been very true and very solid always there for me. They’re everything to me,” said Savanah McCarty of Wild Souls Ranch.
Savanah McCarty grew up in foster care, and now provides equine therapy to foster and adopted children overcoming their own adversities through her non-profit, Wild Souls Ranch.
She’s been able to ride her way into a brighter future, but for many children now who were like her – they are stuck in cycles of abuse.
“When you experience trauma as a child, it affects everything about your life,” said Savanah, “If you’re exposed to domestic violence, or drug abuse, or sexual abuse, those are all things that are forever ingrained.”
“I can definitely say that when you experience trauma as a child, it’s a lifelong journey to get through,” she added, “Especially children who have been in the foster care system, you develop a mask where you can hide what you’re feeling, and the horse sees right through that. So they can see what’s going on, and change that.”
Savanah has been able to serve as many as 40 children here at Wild Souls Ranch.
The Department of Health and Human Services estimates there are 327 children in the foster care system as of this year, but because of an alleged history of issues among county agencies, there may be even more children that need help.
In a Humboldt County Grand Jury report released this year, three key agencies were called out – including Child Welfare Services, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, and school districts led by the Humboldt County Office of Education – for “having major problems in how they work together to handle issues of ‘at risk’ children.”
So we visited each agency to find out more.
“We receive reports of suspected abuse and neglect. Of those, we investigate the ones that meet criteria. If we find that ultimately the child cannot remain safe in the home, we do have to remove them and place them into care,” explained Child Welfare Services Program Manager, Alison Phongsavath.
Grand jury findings showed in recent years that CWS failed to respond to reports of neglect and abuse in a timely manner, or didn’t respond at all.
In 2015 and 2016, out of 50 cases which were supposed to receive a response in 24 hours – the average time it took CWS to respond, was 12 days.
During this same time period, CWS opened cases for investigation on only 6% of 2,859 mandatory reports received between 2015 and 2016.
Some mandated reporters, such as teachers or doctors, say they would continue to report on a certain child or family as many as 6-21 times and “when CWS finally agreed to investigate”, the situation had gotten worse for the child, over the weeks or months that passed.
“I think that the Grand Jury report shows that there have been times when there have been misses,” said Phongsavath, “Our system is made up of human beings and there can be human error which we strive every day to not have. Unfortunately we have had misses in the past, and we’re trying to improve that so there can be safeguards so there won’t be misses in the future.”
An issue CWS faces, like many Humboldt County employers, is high turnover – creating the problem of new social workers not necessarily knowing the history of a child, and generally not having much experience.
“Many young people that are completing college tend to not stay in jobs than people did historically before, so there’s a quicker turn around because they move because there are more options,” explained Phongsavath, “So that is definitely a struggle.”
As for the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, there have been issues with consistent cross-reporting.
“Over the last year or so, we have, Child Welfare Services and the Sheriff’s Office, has been in constant communication trying to fix a problem that was in existence. And that problem was lack of communication, lack of coordination. And that is something we have worked intensely on over the last year,” said Sheriff William Honsal of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies described this problem, explaining that new deputies and supervisors “need more training to handle the severity of child abuse and neglect cases” and found that some deputies were failing to write reports following investigations.
“The fact is that we have to give this specialty training to our deputies, and to enforce the fact that they are mandated reporters – they have to follow up, they have to cross report to Child Welfare,” said Sheriff Honsal, “It is very important that they get all of this training. The more and more exposure that we get to the deputies how to investigate these kinds of incidents – it’s going to benefit the county.”
Many signs of abuse and neglect show up in our schools, but issues exist there, too.
Humboldt County Superintendent Chris Hartley explained their school districts don’t have a standardized way of keeping records of mandated reports.
“Part of the situation could be what level of atomicity a district wants to have on filing a report,” said Hartley, “That’s kind of a district by district decision. You want to protect someone feeling comfortable to make the report on an anonymous level. So we’re working on how do we share information on a very basic level so we can take that and do planning and interventions for any particular student.”
All in all, these problems need fixing.
“If we don’t deal with this problem now, we’re going to be dealing with it twenty years from now,” said Savanah of Wild Souls Ranch, “So I think it’s so important that we address it and stop ignoring it like it’s not a problem. Social workers really need to dive in and be honest and not just have some paperwork that they need to push.”
“It takes a community to support the successful raising of a chil,” said Phongsavath of Child Welfare Services, “It’s not one family, one nuclear family. It’s not one agency or one system. It’s everyone coming together wanting to support the population.”
“I think the issue of mental health needs and trauma for students in Humboldt County is at a critical state,” said Hartley of HCOE, “We have to do everything we can, no just as educators, but with all of our agencies work together and cope with the issues that they face also become more proactive. I can’t emphasis how critical it is that we take that work extremely seriously.”
“We have a cycle going on in the county right now, where children are still with parents that have been abusive. They’re been neglected – and that just carries on when they become adults or teenagers and drug abuse occurs,” said Sheriff Honsal, “It’s important that we break that cycle now with the children and we have the opportunity to do that.”
If you encounter a situation where you suspect a child is experiencing neglect or abuse, you should contact Humboldt County Child Welfare Services at their hotline, 707-445-6180, or call 911 immediately.
November 20, 2017

[Santa Cruz County] Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office responds to grand jury report’s critique of jails

SANTA CRUZ >> Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office agreed with one finding by a grand jury’s review of six detention centers: The main jail lacks equipment to scan inmates for nonmetal contraband.
At the Water Street Maximum Security Jail, inmates are searched, but the Sheriff’s Office is considering alternatives, Undersheriff Jeremy Verinsky said in response Wednesday.
The grand jury report, issued in June, found most detention facilities are aging and crowded.
Blaine Street Women’s Facility, the only detention center that had spare room, remains closed. The Sheriff’s Office is seeking money to convert operations after applying for a grant in February and being turned down.
Grand juries examine special districts, and city and county governments. Findings are designed to improve operations. Jurors toured county detention centers in 2016 and 2017.
The vacant Blaine Street women’s facility, a two-story dormitory, is the result of poor planning, the grand jury reported.
The facility opened in 1984 but has been closed since December for a consistent lack of inmates.
The center is not fully secured, Verinsky said. As a result of recent criminal-justice reforms, the Sheriff’s Office no longer houses “sufficient numbers” of minimum-security inmates, Verinsky said.
The office is reviewing options after it did not receive the grant.
Those options include improving classifications for incarcerated women and upgrading security, Verinsky said. The Sheriff’s Office plans to report findings to Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors in January.
At the main jail, a maximum-security hold, there have been concerns about the cost to scan for nonmetal contraband, Verinsky said. There also were questions about whether staff would be exposed to radiation and where the equipment would be placed. New technologies will be considered, Verinsky said.
In other findings, the grand jury report questioned whether officers were breaking the rules for inmates placed in protective, padded cells.
Sheriff’s staff must fill out a placement form and a watch commander must approve placements in protective cells, Verinsky said.
The grand jury reported that the Sheriff’s Crisis Intervention Team keeps notes in inmate records but not minutes of meetings or summaries of daily record changes.
The Sheriff’s Office keeps daily general summary notes on high-risk inmates and those notes are forwarded to facility managers, mental health and medical staff, Verinsky said.
Long-term inmates at the main jail may suffer vitamin D deficiencies caused by lack of exposure to sunlight, the grand jury reported.
The Sheriff’s Office disagreed with this finding. Inmate medical lab tests would rule out deficiencies. Inmates go outside longer than health guidelines require, Verinsky said.
Main jail inmates with medical needs cannot reap the services offered at the Rountree Medium Security Facility near Watsonville, the grand jury reported.
Verinsky said inmates have about 100 hours of weekly programming at the main jail. During a visit to the main jail by the Sentinel in April, inmates were packed into two classrooms for religious and academic programs.
“Inmates are eligible to transfer to Rountree when they are medically stable,” Verinsky said.
The grand jury asked for data showing the outcomes of jail programs and proving whether the programs curb repeat offenses. The data was not provided and the grand jury questioned whether the lack of documentation would affect funding.
Program contractors give weekly data reports to the Santa Cruz County Probation Department, which funds AB 109 services, Verinsky said. Outcomes are reported to Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, he said.
November 16, 2017
Santa Cruz Sentinel
By Michael Todd