Monday, April 30, 2018

[San Diego County] School Board Election Town Halls Wrap Saturday

Blog note: this article references a grand jury report recommending election changes, which spurred the town halls.
A series of town hall meetings on San Diego Unified School Board elections wraps up Saturday at Lincoln High School. Meetings were planned for each of the district’s trustee areas, including one at Sherman Elementary School Thursday.
A few dozen people showed up to weigh in on whether trustees should have term limits and be elected in smaller, local runoffs, among other things.
Attendee Trace Cimins said the opinions at her table were split.
“It ranged from school district employees to parents in the community,” she said. “I was just really moved by the passion. We had varying degrees of opinions, but the bottom line, everyone wants what’s best for the students.”
Cimins said she doesn’t necessarily think school board elections should change, but more people should hold board members accountable.
A grand jury report recommending the changes spurred the town halls, as well as a packed San Diego City Council committee meeting earlier this year where several citizens urged the council members to put an initiative amending the election rules on the June ballot. The San Diego City Charter governs school board elections.
“We’re trying to have an open community process where parents, and neighbors, and fellow citizens can talk to each other, as opposed to having politicians or figureheads speak down to them and, on the opposite side, the audience lines up at a microphone and screams back,” said meeting facilitator Dwayne Crenshaw. “We’re trying to have a civil dialogue where folks get listened to, they get to express their thoughts and we put it down honestly and without bias.”
That feedback will go to the school board trustees, who will decide next month whether to pursue a November ballot measure on how they are elected. If a ballot measure moves forward and is approved, the changes would go into effect in 2022.
April 27, 2018
By Megan Burke

[San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties] Health care behind bars: Central Coast jails struggle to care for sick inmates

Blog note: this article references grand jury reports on the subject.
Kevin Lee McLaughlin woke up in the early morning hours of April 13, 2017, feeling unwell.
The 60-year-old inmate had been in custody in the San Luis Obispo County Jail since late January awaiting sentencing on an assault charge. At 2:30 a.m., he saw a jail nurse for an evaluation. He complained of numbness, tingling, and pain in his left shoulder and arm.
"I'm clammy," he said. "I need to go to the hospital."
The nurse took McLaughlin's vital signs, which were normal. The inmate wondered aloud if maybe he'd just slept on his arm. McLaughlin, whose jail medical records show that he was being treated for hypertension, was given 1,000 milligrams of Tylenol and sent back to his bed with plans to see a doctor the following day.
Less than one hour later, at about 3:13 a.m., a correctional deputy checked on McLaughlin and noticed he wasn't breathing normally. The deputy asked jail medical staff to conduct another evaluation. Five minutes later, that same deputy found McLaughlin unresponsive in his jail bed. An out-of-county medical examiner found that McLaughlin died of a heart attack, the result of chronic heart disease. McLaughlin's death was listed as natural.
Most of the inmate deaths in the SLO County and Santa Barbara County jails have been classified as natural. They made up more than half of the 41 inmate deaths at the two facilities over the last 18 years. New Times' review of dozens of coroner's investigation reports and medical examiner autopsies revealed that many of those inmates suffered from serious chronic medical conditions.
Grand jury reports and independent evaluations point to long-standing deficiencies in inmate health care at both facilities, and legal claims and lawsuits against both jails allege that those deficiencies have led to lapses in medical care that could be killing sick inmates. While the state prison system reviews inmate deaths to determine whether better care could have prevented those deaths and releases the results to the public, local jail officials say they review deaths but don't make their findings public
Advocates and some inmates' families have accused both jails of violating inmates' constitutional rights by providing substandard health care. The FBI is currently investigating the SLO County Jail for civil rights violations, while a federal class action lawsuit was filed against the Santa Barbara County Jail over conditions for sick and disabled inmates. Amid increasing pressure to address the issue, the sheriff's department and officials in both counties say they are working on reforms at both facilities, aiming to improve care and cut down on inmate deaths.
At risk
Johnny DeWitt, 49, had been in the Santa Barbara County Jail for nearly three months when he got into a verbal argument with another inmate on the morning of Nov. 26, 2015.
DeWitt—who'd been arrested for making violent threats—suddenly grabbed his chest and collapsed. He fell into the arms of another inmate and and was placed on the ground. The inmates yelled out to nearby deputies.
At 8:55 a.m., a "man down" call went out over the jail's radios. DeWitt lost consciousness and stopped breathing while custody and medical staff were trying to evaluate him. They started CPR. Emergency Medical Service workers arrived and spent 45 minutes trying to revive him. An ambulance took DeWitt to Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, but he never regained consciousness.
At 10:53 a.m., DeWitt was declared dead.
An autopsy determined that DeWitt's death was natural: a heart attack. Autopsy records stated that he suffered from coronary artery disease, hypertension, and diabetes, conditions further complicated by a history of methamphetamine use.
A review of deaths at the Santa Barbara Couinty facility showed that more than half of the 21 inmates who died in the jail since 2000 suffered from at least one type of chronic medical condition. That total includes seven deceased inmates who suffered from hypertension, four with heart disease, and four diagnosed with hepatitis C. In addition, the records showed three inmates had documented histories of diabetes, and another three suffered from cirrhosis.
Records on SLO County's inmate deaths show many of the same medical conditions. Of the 20 inmates who died in custody since 2000, more than half had at least one documented chronic medical condition. Among those, five suffered from heart disease, and two were diagnosed with high blood pressure. Three had liver-related conditions including cirrhosis, and another two were diagnosed with hepatitis. At least two were diagnosed with cancer, but only one had it listed as their cause of death.
"We see a lot of heart disease, we see a lot of cancer," said Dr. Christy Mulkerin, the SLO County Jail's new chief medical officer. "We see a lot of liver disease and ton of diabetes."
While such diseases aren't uncommon, Mulkerin and other SLO jail officials said that chronic illnesses within the inmate population tend to be more severe. For many inmates, medical conditions often go undiagnosed or untreated prior to their arrest and are exacerbated by homelessness, drug use, alcohol abuse, or other factors.
"When they come in, they come in directly off the street," said SLO County Undersheriff Tim Olivas. "It's not just a high-risk population, it's probably the highest risk population."
Inmates can request medical services by either asking a guard or submitting a written form known as a "kite." Mulkerin said in the first two months of 2018, the jail received 1,345 medical requests to triage and prioritize. Santa Barbara County jail staff field more than 12,000 requests for health services each year, according to California Forensic Medical Group, a company currently contracted to provide mental and medical health care at the jail.
Both jails are limited in what health care they can actually offer. Part of that is due to the facilities themselves. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said his jail did not have a dedicated medical clinic, but a "hodgepodge" of exam rooms spread throughout the jail, which was built in the 1960s. Brown said inmates can get the basics: physicals, check-ups and exams, and intervention and treatment for minor injuries or illnesses.
"But if it's anything more than that, it requires us to take them out of the jail to a hospital or a specialist," Brown said. "If it's an emergency, or if they need regular dialysis, or have cancer and need chemotherapy, that's also offsite."
The SLO County Jail's Stahl Hall, a medical and mental health clinic, provides a similar level of care. Mulkerin said Stahl's single examination room doesn't have "monitored beds," where an inmate can be placed for an extended period of time and have their vital signs tracked.
"We can't do that right now because that person would be taking up our one exam space, and we can't see anyone else," she said.
At both jails, inmates are transported to the hospital by deputies, or in the most severe or life threatening cases, by ambulance. According to Mulkerin, the jail recorded 59 hospital emergency room visits in the first three months of 2018. Inmate death records showed that seven of the 20 inmates who died in SLO jail custody were transported to a hospital, while 14 of the 21 inmates who died in Santa Barbara custody were transported to a hospital prior to their deaths.
Warning signs
John Kelly entered the Santa Barbara County Jail in March 2013 on a DUI charge. A type 2 diabetic, Kelly said he figured the jail and its staff would simply keep him on his treatment and medication schedule. Instead, he claims that the poor quality of care in the jail turned the 2 1/2 month sentence into a fight for his life.
"I understand I had a debt to society, but I never expected the kind of torture it was," he said.
Kelly described trying to get medical care in the jail as a "tug of war." While on the outside, Kelly took insulin before every meal. Inside, he was allowed two injections each day. He filled out and submitted kites, but appointments were few and far between. At one point, Kelly said the jail ran out of a long-lasting brand of insulin he and other prisoners used. For the next 10 days, they replaced it with insulin that didn't last as long but never changed his dosage to make up for it, according to Kelly. His condition deteriorated, at one point becoming so severe that Kelly said he had to be rushed to a nearby hospital.
As a result, Kelly said he spent much of his time in jail on a roller-coaster ride of blood sugar highs and lows, leaving him worried that he might slip into a diabetic coma or worse.
"It was a complete nightmare," he said. "I was pretty sick the entire time."
Concerns about medical services at the Santa Barbara County Jail surfaced in 2008, when a grand jury report on the facility stated that many inmates' complaints to the American Civil Liberties Union noted a lack of attention to inmates' ailments or pain and delays in getting medical attention. The grand jury also found that jail medical records were still handwritten and that staff had no access to online medical records for inmates.
In 2017, Dr. Scott A. Allen conducted an independent review of the jail's medical services. Allen is co-director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, and his review was commissioned jointly by Disability Rights California and Santa Barbara County. A number of Allen's findings echoed the 2008 grand jury report. Allen's report also found that staffing was inadequate, that physician availability was limited to just three days a week, and that the jail lacked protocols to manage ongoing care for chronically ill inmates.
"Chronic disease management is inadequate," Allen wrote. "My review found management of chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, HIV, and hypertension, among others, to be ad hoc, incomplete, inconsistent, and reactive as opposed to proactive."
In December 2017, Disability Rights California filed a federal class action lawsuit over substandard conditions in the jail. The organization alleged that Santa Barbara County and the Sheriff's Office failed to provide adequate medical care to inmates housed in the jail. The suit draws on Allen's findings and alleges that custody staff refused to provide or deliver sick call forms to medical staff and that the jail's south dormitory, which houses prisoners with serious medical needs, was dirty and crowded, with some chronically ill inmates forced to sleep on small plastic beds on the floor.
In SLO County, a grand jury raised concerns about medical services for inmates at the SLO County Jail after a string of high-profile inmate deaths in 2016 and 2017, including McLaughlin's. According to a 2017 report, the grand jury sought significant and detailed information about inmate health and safety but found it difficult to obtain that data.
"In some cases, we were told it was simply not available," the report stated.
The report attributes the lack of information to multiple agencies being responsible for inmate health care, including the Sheriff's Office, SLO County Drug and Alcohol Services, and the SLO County Public Health Agency.
"Such a structure raises a concern about how well various aspects of inmate care are coordinated, especially when health issues cross multiple boundaries such as drug abuse, psychiatric care, and ongoing medical issues," the report stated.
As part of a process to reform the jail's medical and mental health care services, SLO County commissioned an independent review and evaluation of those services from Dr. Alfred Joshua, chief medical officer for the San Diego County Sheriff's Office. While the county and SLO Sheriff's Office used Joshua's findings to craft a number of reforms, including hiring SLO jail CMO Mulkerin, they refused to release the evaluation, denying a New Times Public Records Act request for the document.
A legal claim filed against the county by McLaughlin's family accused the county of "decades-long deliberate indifference" to the medical needs of inmates. The claim alleged that the jail suffered from a lack of adequately trained staff; failed to develop and implement policies and procedures for how to care for ill inmates; and kept incomplete, illegible, and inadequate health records.
"[McLaughlin] entered the jail as an elevated health risk," the claim against the county stated. "[McLaughlin's] medical condition otherwise would have been manageable with proper medication and timely and professional treatment, including a transfer to a hospital for more specialized and acute care."
The county rejected the claim in November 2017. The family has until May to file a lawsuit.
Twenty-five percent of the medical malpractice claims filed against SLO County in the last 20 years were related to the jail. Of those jail-related claims, nearly half alleged negligent or denied medical care.
Ryan James Johnson wasn't surprised by the allegations. Johnson, 41, spent time in the jail in 2012 while on trial for first-degree murder.
"The level of care at SLO County Jail, I believe, is meant to just get people through with the bare minimum," Johnson, who is now serving a 26-years-to-life sentence in a state prison, wrote in response to questions from New Times. "I believe that the medical care is designed to focus on temporary treatment to essentially stabilize the person until they can pass them off to the next destination."
Deadly lapses
William Meredith Harvel, 73, was disoriented and confused when he was booked into the SLO County Jail on Feb. 18, 2008, for negligently discharging a firearm. In addition to showing signs of dementia, Harvel suffered from a number of serious medical conditions including hypertension and prostate cancer. He was put in a wheelchair and placed in a medical isolation cell. Eight days later, an X-ray revealed that Harvel had an enlarged heart and was suffering from congestive heart failure, mild pulmonary vascular disease, and possible pneumonia.
On Feb. 27, 2008, Harvel began having difficulty breathing and was hyperventilating. He was given a paper bag to breath into, which gave him "some relief."
Four days later, at about 6 p.m., an inmate worker who was mopping the floor said he saw Harvel place his feet on the floor and try to lean forward into a sitting position on his bed. Harvel fell back and hit his head against the wall behind him, slumping over on his side. The inmate alerted custody staff, who went to the cell to assess Harvel.
He became unresponsive. Twelve minutes later, medics arrived, but life-saving efforts were unsuccessful. Harvel was pronounced dead at 8:29 p.m. An autopsy lists his cause of death as congestive heart failure.
Although his death may have been natural, the coroner's report doesn't specify whether it may have been preventable. The report does state that the jail had access to both his medical records and medication regimen as early as four days after he was booked into the jail. The coroner also noted that Harvel was not given any medications during his incarceration, but didn't say what role that may have played in his death.
Records from SLO County's legal counsel show an administrative claim related to Harvel's case was filed in March 2008 and closed in September of the same year. The claim itself was not available, as California state law allows older claims to be destroyed. A decade later, the claim filed by McLaughlin's family alleged that a lapse in medical care may have led to his fatal heart attack.
In addition to stating that jail medical staff failed to recognize that he was having a heart attack, the claim alleged that McLaughlin was given medication that hastened his death. Health records included in the claim showed that McLaughlin was prescribed ibuprofen during his stay at the jail. The claim pointed out that in 2015, the FDA issued a drug safety notification that non-aspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include ibuprofen, increase the chances of or even cause heart attacks or strokes. The agency issued similar warnings in 2005.
The FDA's announcement also stated that patients with heart disease or risk factors for it have a greater likelihood of having a heart attack following NSAID use. According to his jail health records, McLaughlin was already taking medication for high blood pressure and hypertension, but was also prescribed a 1,200 milligram daily dose of ibuprofen for seven days in January and again in February for five days.
"It should have been known to jail personnel since 2005 that even short-term use of NSAIDs elevated blood pressure and could cause heart failure," the claim stated.
Tracking lapses in care related to inmate deaths is something that California's state prison system has been doing since 2008, and state prison medical officials believe that collecting that data led to a reduction in preventable deaths. Health care at the state's prisons has been in federal court-ordered receivership since 2005, the result of a 2001 lawsuit over the quality of inmate care.
"We review all our deaths and look at every single one intensely," said Dr. David Ralston, a regional deputy medical executive for California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS), a group currently providing health care at the state's prisons as part of the receivership.
According to CCHCS's data, the top three causes of death among the state's prison inmates in 2016 were cancer, cardiovascular disease, and liver disease. CCHCS reviews inmate deaths and makes their findings available to the public via an annual review. According to the reviews, none of the 334 inmate deaths in 2016 were classified as definitely preventable, down from 18 in 2006. The same data shows that the number of possibly preventable deaths dropped from 65 in 2007 to 18 in 2016.
Ralston, who oversees medical care at seven California prisons including the California Men's Colony in SLO, said the decreasing number of preventable deaths was, in part, due to the rigorous reviews and tracking of lapses in care.
"We really look to see if there was any way we could have improved their care," he said. "Continuous improvement is sort of our mantra."
According to CCHCS's data, the most common lapse in 2016 was failure to recognize, identify, or adequately evaluate important symptoms or signs.
Mulkerin said that SLO County conducts multi-disciplinary reviews to comply with the state's Title 15 law, which sets minimum standards for local detention facilities. Those reviews include identifying areas of improvement, but the results are not made available to the public.
"The confidentiality is a must to ensure that the conversation is frank and productive, without violating the patient's rights and privacy," Mulkerin said.
The Santa Barbara County Jail was found to be in compliance with Title 15's death-in-custody review requirement, according to a biennial inspection from the California Board of State and Community Corrections conducted in 2016. However, the December 2017 lawsuit filed against the Santa Barbara County Jail alleges that it failed to adequately review and document deficiencies in care and says that the jail's review of in-custody deaths is inadequate.
None of the documents reviewed by New Times—coroner's death investigations or medical examiner autopsy reports related to the 41 inmate deaths—identified lapses in care, nor whether the deaths were preventable.
"The defendants do not take the necessary steps to avoid similar treatment failures, and the consequent risks to human life, in the future," the lawsuit states.
Making improvements
As scrutiny over deaths at both facilities continues, officials in SLO and Santa Barbara counties have promised the public that they are making reforms.
After criticism of its former jail medical services contractor, Corizon, Santa Barbara County chose a new contractor, California Forensic Medical Group. The group began providing services to the jail in April 2017. The company is supposed to help improve care at the jail and help the facility gain accreditation from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC). According to a recent grand jury report, the jail also improved its intake screening process and implemented an electronic health records system.
"The dedication of our medical and mental health staff to our patients and county is exemplary," Craig Diamond, a spokesman for California Forensic Medical Group, wrote in an email response to questions from New Times.
In addition, Santa Barbara County is building its Northern Branch jail facility in Santa Maria. The $111 million facility will provide 376 beds, 32 of which will be dedicated for mental and medical health.
Sheriff Brown acknowledged that pressure from Disability Rights California helped push the county to support and fund those reforms.
"They focused on our facility and the levels of services and felt those were inadequate. ... It's really the impetus for doing more than what's been done in the past," he said.
Shortly after McLaughlin's death, the SLO County Sheriff's Office announced that it would implement a number of reforms to inmate mental and medical health services at its jail as well. One of the most significant of those was hiring Mulkerin as chief medical officer. With her in place, control of all aspects of inmate care will fall directly under the Sheriff's Office as opposed to being dispersed between multiple agencies.
"It's been an amazing shift," Undersheriff Olivas said. "Bringing it all under one person who answers to the sheriff has really solved a lot of problems."
The county is currently building a new medical clinic at the jail, which it hopes to open in June. SLO County is considering possibly contracting out jail medical and mental health services, similar to Santa Barbara County, but has not made a final decision. The jail is also working toward NCCHC accreditation.
While jail officials say that systemic problems such as a lack of space and resources, and a population with high rates of chronic illnesses make providing care to inmates a challenge, McLaughlin's family's claim said that's not a valid defense for indifference to inmates' medical needs.
"It's a crime to ignore an inmate's medical needs," the claim stated. 
This article was produced as a project for the 2017 California Data Fellowship, a program of the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.

April 26, 2018
New Times
By Chris McGuinness

[Contra Costa County] Pittsburg: Grand Jury says Los Medanos Healthcare District should dissolve

PITTSBURG — A Contra Costa Grand Jury has recommended that the Los Medanos Community Healthcare District be dissolved, considering it no longer runs a community hospital, spends more money administering grants than on the grants themselves and does not track the effectiveness of its programs.
The report, which was issued on April 19, details what it sees as the fiscal mismanagement, duplication of services, and a lack of transparency.
The district’s 2017-2018 budget anticipates bringing in $1 million in property taxes and spending half of that — $510,000 — on administrative overhead and $412,000 on the grants themselves. In the past six budgets, four have allocated more money for administering grants than on the grants themselves.
Similar local government entities spend around 10 to 20 percent of their budgets on administration.
The Los Medanos Community Healthcare District did not return calls requesting comment.
Additionally, the report indicated there was no evidence that the district collaborated with the county or any other entities in administering the grants. LMCHD gave out similar grants to the same groups as the county, through the Keller Canyon Mitigation Fund, though the two did not collaborate.
In terms of measuring impact, the grand jury found that LMCHD didn’t measure the outcomes of its grants in any transparent way, nor did it use a community health needs assessment to determine where grants should go.
After exit interviews with grand jury members, a Community Health Profile appeared on the district’s website. The profile was prepared by Dr. Vern Cromartie, a district board member and chair of the sociology department at Contra Costa College.
“When we did the investigation that report was not available,” said Mario Gutierrez, grand jury foreman. “It’s good they are proactive.”
The district came under fire in recent years following the arrest of a director, Emmanuel Ogunleye, of felony assault with a deadly weapon in 2014. A jury narrowly failed to convict Ogunleye in 2015 in an 11-1 vote. Throughout it all, Ogunleye continued to serve on the board and was promoted to president, until he was convicted in a retrial in 2017 and was sentenced to six years in state prison.
The scathing report wouldn’t be the first grand jury report critical of the healthcare district’s operational inefficiencies. It was the fourth.
A 2009-2010 grand jury report, titled “‘Lost’ Medanos Community Health Care District: Awash in a Sea of Inefficiency,” identified numerous grants that were dubious in nature, including $5,000 for a children’s reading corner at the Pittsburg Health Clinic with no books. The district said that the kids had taken the books home.
The grand jury recommended that the Local Agency Formation Commission dissolve the district, set the county up as the successor, maintain current funding levels and use the savings on administrative costs to expand these programs.
“Our recommendation is to expand the healthcare programs that are in that area,” Gutierrez said. “They don’t have an emergency center. I’m not saying the savings would cover that expense, but it could help.”
The district was initially formed in 1948 to operate the Los Medanos Community Hospital. The hospital went bankrupt and shuttered in 1994 and the district has lived on, leasing the former building to the Pittsburg Health Center.
The story is as old as healthcare districts. It took four grand jury reports to finally close the Mount Diablo Healthcare District in Concord in 2012. The Mt. Diablo Medical Center, which was the reason that district was formed, closed in 1996 and the district was criticized for spending more of its money on administration than healthcare.
April 26, 2018
East Bay Times
By Aaron Davis

[Humboldt County] OP-ED: So Many People Arrested Elsewhere Are Just Turned Out Onto the Streets in Eureka. Is That Right?

Blog note: this op-ed piece references a 2014-15 grand jury report on the subject.
Last Tuesday night at council, a man wandered in and found a seat. Turns out this fellow had been arrested for drunk in public in Arcata earlier in the day. He had been released from jail and came to council to find a ride back to Arcata. During council discussion he began an attempt to speak up but stopped. He then went back and had a talk with Captain O’Neill, with whom he shared his dilemma. Captain O’Neill secured a ride for this man back to Arcata.
How many drunk-in-public and catch-and-release folks from other jurisdictions end up stuck in our city every day? Watch Lost Coast Outpost’s “Booked” and “Released” sections for a week, a month, and notice a pattern. We seem to spend far too many resources through our police and fire on re-arrests and medical calls from folks who have no way to get back to their jurisdiction.
This is not a new topic of conversation in our county. Back in 2014-2015 the Humboldt County Grand Jury issued a report: Transportation of Indigent Detainees in Accordance with California Penal Code Section 686.5.
According to the Grand Jury report Humboldt County Correctional Facility Officers were not informing those that qualify that they have the legal right to request transportation assistance. 
My question is: What makes us think someone who has been arrested for things like drunk in public would always have the wherewithal to “ask.” No. I believe it is important for us to have infrastructure in place.
It is time to reopen this conversation. This issue impacts our city on so many levels — safety, police and fire time and resources, the list goes on.
It would seem that there should be a way through the Sheriff’s Office and other jurisdictions to provide some type of transportation back to city people are arrested in. 
Friends, the time is now. State laws have left our police and sheriff hamstrung. Returning people back to city of origin will certainly decrease the re-arrests and taxation on police resources.  My hope and goal is to bring this conversation forward and look at reasonable solutions for something that currently bogs our city down. 
Please join me in the conversation. Let’s work together to make our city more safe.
April 26, 2018
Lost Coast Outpost
Kim Bergel, member of the Eureka City Council

[Marin County] Editorial: Sewage agency consolidations require leadership

The Marin County Civil Grand Jury is doing its job pointing out ways local government can operate better and more efficiently when it comes to taxpayer cost.
It comes as no surprise that the 2017-18 grand jury focused on Marin’s many local sanitary districts and called for regional consolidations.
That same recommendation has been raised, studied, recommended and rejected before; most recently in 2013, when Southern Marin voters rejected a proposal to consolidate sanitary districts that serve the area.
But the grand jury raised the issue to echo the state Little Hoover Commission’s findings that California has too many special districts and many operate with little public oversight or participation.
The districts are mostly protected by the political rallying cry of local control, that the best government is small and closer to the people it serves.
It was that argument that submarined the ballot measure to consolidate Southern Marin’s sewer districts. Board members — often longtime incumbents whose re-election has rarely gone challenged — campaigned against the proposed reform.
Local officials wouldn’t risk their political capital to actually campaign for consolidation. It showed that winning voter approval of consolidation would take more than a bunch of bureaucratic studies and a measure on the ballot.
A proposal that several sewer districts — Ross Valley, San Rafael, Larkspur, Corte Madera, Murray Park and San Quentin Village — reorganize as a single entity with the Central Marin Sanitation Agency, which runs the sewer plant that the local lines run to, has been studied at length before, generating lawsuits and political power struggles, but no consolidation.
The 2013 measure would have merged the Alto, Almonte, Homestead Valley, Richardson Bay and Mill Valley sewer systems into a single agency. The directors of the small agencies campaigned against the measure and prevailed.
So, where will this grand jury’s recommendation go?
The grand jury is recommending that the county bolster its funding of the Marin Local Agency Formation Commission, a little-known agency that is supposed to focus on redrawing jurisdictional lines in ways that make sense in today’s geography and budgets.
LAFCO has studied this issue before and come up with the same recommendations.
Better funding of LAFCO could improve the odds that its recommendations could become reality, the grand jury says.
Increased staffing of an agency isn’t going to build the political will and mettle needed to make consolidations happen.
Maybe members of the grand jury, upon the end of their terms, should stay involved in the issue. Public involvement is the best way to build political will and alter the history of previous recommendations.
Until then, spending public time and money on proposals that make sense, but lack local leadership, will just add to the piles of consultant studies and staff reports that have already been devoted to this issue.
April 26, 2018
Marin Independent Journal

Thursday, April 26, 2018

[San Diego County] Report: San Diego Jails Face A Suicide ‘Crisis’

Blog note: this article, at the end, references a grand jury report on the subject.
San Diego County jails continue to face a suicide crisis and there is probable cause people jailed with disabilities are subject to abuse and neglect, according to a three-year investigation by Disability Rights California.
The group is the state’s designated advocacy system for people with disabilities, which gives it the legal right to inspect any facility holding people with disabilities. It found the jails did not have enough mental health staff and criticized the county's use of solitary confinement for people with mental health needs. There were more than 46 jail suicides in the past 13 years, though the annual rate fell to one suicide last year.
The Sheriff’s Department, which oversees the county jails, uses “enhanced observation housing units” for inmates who may be at a higher risk of suicide. Inmates there are kept alone and don’t have access to personal property, including clothes. Disability Rights California quoted a psychiatrist’s report that called the isolation “inhumane.”
“People told us they became more suicidal and depressed by being in these units,” Disability Rights California litigation counsel and report co-author Aaron Fischer said. “And it sends a message to people in the jail that if you say you’re engaging in self harm, you know where you’re going to go. It has a deterrent effect.”
The Sheriff’s Department, which cooperated with the investigation, issued an 18-page response to the report. It disagreed that the enhanced observation or safety cells were harsh or inhumane and said those protocols were designed to prevent suicides.
“The department wants to be careful not to create a housing option that would encourage other inmates to manipulate the system for personal gain,” Sheriff Bill Gore wrote.
Gore also rejected statistics in the report that San Diego County has the highest jail suicide rates among similarly-sized California counties. San Diego jails have a higher proportion of white inmates than other jails in the state, according to Gore, and whites are more likely to kill themselves compared to African Americans and Latinos. He suggested another way to calculate the suicide rate that would take into account that higher risk population.
“None of this is intended to suggest that the Sheriff’s Department suicide-prevention practices cannot be improved,” Gore wrote. “The Sheriff’s Department takes suicide prevention very seriously and has invested (and will continue to invest) significant resources to recruit and train jail staff, implement effective programs, and create an infrastructure conducive to preventing jail suicides.”
But Disability Rights California wrote in its report that even if a new metric would lower San Diego’s suicide rate compared to other counties, that higher risk population should still spur more action.
“The fact that San Diego County may have a higher-than average number of inmates at elevated risk of suicide only adds urgency to the need for action,” the report said. “Whatever the methodology for evaluating suicide rates, the number of suicides in San Diego County’s jails in recent years is a cause for extreme concern.”
The report comes about a year after the San Diego County grand jury found the jails lacked a clear policy statement on suicide prevention.
April 25, 2018
By Maureen Cavanaugh, Michael Lipkin

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

[Marin County] Dick Spotswood: Chances of Marin sewage district consolidation are slim

The Marin County Civil Grand Jury has a well-earned reputation for having the ability, desire and political courage to dive into important but politically dicey issues.
They’ve just issued their newest report, “Consolidation of Sanitary Districts,” which is a blueprint for the efficient consolidation of a slew of uncoordinated out-of-sight agencies that provide an essential service.
Most California counties are served by a large number of special-purpose districts providing sewage, fire protection, flood control, water and park services. These are historical anomalies that arose a century ago when cow counties, of which Marin was one, became populated.
There was no grand plan. Often a collection of houses outside an incorporated town grew into a neighborhood and there was a pressing need for fire or sewage service. Neighbors, with county permission, created special districts to perform those functions. Boards of directors were elected and the agencies charged fees or received part of the property tax to support itself.
As time passed, the special districts became to be ignored by residents, overlooked by the media and operated with little oversight. They had outlived their time. Having no one looking over an agency’s shoulder is the classic route to self-dealing, inefficiencies and outright corruption.
An example of an opaque system out of control was the scandal-plagued Ross Valley Sanitary District, which is only now emerging into the sunlight. Some, but not all, sanitary directors have taken advantage of their invisibility by paying themselves, and pay and perks that no Marin city council members — all subject to press and public scrutiny — would ever dare take.
Good-government advocates have long sought consolidation not only of the sanitary districts, but also the other special-purpose districts, each with its own board and management staff.
They’ve been thwarted by the only people that really care if the agencies remain: members of the agencies’ boards of directors fearful of losing their perks, their political allies and sanitary district employees who benefit from the status quo. Change is hard, since the issue is so below the radar that most voters tend to be swayed by the directors’ collective scream, “Keep local control.” Why “local control” of toilets and sewage lines is a political issue is mystifying.
The civil grand jury has the guts to tackle the issue. Its conclusion provides for significant but not radical change; it recommends that independent sanitary agencies remain, just fewer of them.
The report’s key recommendations are:
• First, the “Central Marin Sanitation Agency, Sanitary District No. 1 (Ross Valley), Sanitary District No. 2 (Corte Madera), and the San Rafael Sanitary District should reorganize into a single sanitary/sanitation district.”
• Second, the “Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin, Almonte Sanitary District, Alto Sanitary District, Richardson Bay Sanitary District, Homestead Valley Sanitary District, Public Works Department of the City of Mill Valley, and Tamalpais Community Services District should reorganize into a single sanitary/sanitation district.”
More efficiency, less bureaucracy, with as good if not better services at a lower cost. Who could object? Amazingly, the grand jury’s suggestion is a long shot. These agencies, perhaps with the exception of the cities of Mill Valley and San Rafael and Tamalpais Community Services District, will resist the suggestion with their dying breath. No agency ever wants to eliminate itself. The Board of Supervisors will be missing in action and the likelihood of this reform taking place, at best, is in the 20 percent range.
If such a basic reform doesn’t take place within two years, this tells taxpayers all they need to know about the dim prospects of even wider mergers of special-purpose districts that might save even more tax dollars.
April 24, 2018
Marin Independent Journal
By Columnist Dick Spotswood

[Kern County] Grand Jury report highlights dysfunction and law violations in Cal City government

CALIFORNIA CITY – The Kern County Grand Jury’s report released Monday paints the government of California City as dysfunctional and cliquish, with 26 different findings ranging from code enforcement problems to a lack of transparency and even violations of state transparency and whistleblower protection laws.
“The city government is in need of guided directions,” the report read. “It appears that many employees and council members believe they are in full control of the city business. But actually, personal bias appears to be in charge of the city. Most decisions seem to be made based on personalities, which are not necessarily good for the city.”
Rather than this report coming from a routine inspection, the Grand Jury came to town after numerous complaints were filed by local citizens.
The Grand Jury recommends that the mayor and council members stop meeting with the city manager outside of city council meetings; that meeting minutes be approved and posted in a timely manner; that code enforcement be allowed to do its job regardless of who owns the property; and that the city manager and department heads be trained on how to become better leaders, how to supervise staff, and how to resolve conflicts in the workplace, while not harassing city employees who act as whistleblowers, among other recommendations.
At the top of the list of findings is what appears to be the state transparency law violation.
According to the report, the mayor and council members met with the previous city manager on a weekly basis to inquire into city business. This action would be a violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act (California Government Code Section 54950), if the same discussion is shared among the other Council Members. The previous city manager, Tom Weil, stated in an interview with the Grand Jury that it was standard procedure to discuss issues and answer agenda questions with each of the council members prior to each city council meeting. The current city manager, Robert Stockwell, stated in a Grand Jury interview that most inquiries are now phone calls rather than frequent office visits.
The report stated the grand jury interviewed 21 current and former employees, and of those, eight said they had filed a grievance, complaint or concern about the working conditions. The Human Resource Director was involved in the resolution of most of these complaints resulting in promotions, resignations, placement on administrative leave for over a year, or reassignment to another supervisory position.
But some city employees shared concerns with the Grand Jury that they were harassed by supervisors or were written up for minor details after having interviewed with the Grand Jury’s committee. Although the report didn’t spell out that this would be a law violation, California Labor Code section 1102 states that an employer may not retaliate against a whistleblower.
Regarding code enforcement, one of the two code enforcement officer positions was vacant at the time of the Grand Jury’s visit, and the department is under the supervision of the fire chief after having been under the police chief and the city manager within the past 10 years. The Code Enforcement Department can red-tag a building when it’s not permitted or is unsafe, and the tag isn’t to be removed until the problem is safe.
But the report highlighted a few instances of interference with the Code Enforcement Department doing its job.
An unoccupied building was red-tagged at a local mall in August 2017 after a citizen complaint prompted an investigation that found two men working and living in the building. The fire marshal red-tagged the building due to finding living quarters. But city officials removed the red tag after the owner complained to the city and the living quarters were removed. The fire marshal was not able to gain access to ensure there were no violations with the electrical wiring, sprinklers, safety concerns, or storage of items. Code enforcement officers and the fire marshal were directed by city officials not to go back, according to the Grand Jury report.
People the Grand Jury interviewed regarding that building showed pictures of vehicular activity there, and stated the place was used as a church, nursery, storage area and office. Activity finally stopped in the first week of April, and the building might now be vacant, nearly eight months after the initial red tag.
The report also states that of the 54,000 parcels in town, about 7,000 are owned, managed, or otherwise under the control of one man and/or his companies. Code enforcement officers were told not to inspect some of them, according to the report.
Regarding late minutes, the report pointed out that the minutes for meetings on Aug. 8 and Sept. 26, 2017, council meetings weren’t approved until March 13, 2018. Also, during the Dec. 28, 2017, council meeting, one item on the consent agenda approved the minutes for meetings held on March 14 and 28, April 11, May 2, 9 and 23, June 13, and Sept. 12, 2017. The Grand Jury committee found that the approved minutes had many inaccuracies with the voting record of the council members.
Meanwhile, the city has a lack of public transparency, according to the report. The mayor and council members’ contact information isn’t readily available to the public, the city website isn’t up to date with photos or contact information of council members, and minutes aren’t published in a timely manner. It’s gotten to the point that people who want to know what goes on at the council meetings will watch the video or read posts and comments on social media.
The grand jury found at least two instances of emails between employees disappearing from the city’s email server, and several emails from city employees to the grand jury have also disappeared.
Although the city has passed ordinances allowing the cultivation, manufacturing and transport of cannabis, several departments have a hand in the permitting process, with multiple places to go to pay fees or get needed documents. Several employees at the front window can receive and receipt funds and fees, which can lead to inaccurate accounting.
So far, four cannabis businesses have been approved. But due to conflicting statements to the committee, it’s not clear how many funds have actually been received. About 185 applicants have started the process and paid at least some of the fees, but not all fees were entered under the same budget code, making it difficult to reconcile.
The account clerks at the payment window in City Hall collect payments for water bills, cannabis permits, business licenses, and other city charges. But the report said direct supervision is sometimes lacking, and there are instances of refund checks and account credits being issued for the same accounts.
The Grand Jury also found that not all council members were completely accurate on their Form 700 (Statement of Economic Interests with the California Fair Political Practices Commission) filed in September 2017.
There was one small bright spot toward the end of the list of findings, though.
“Community perception that the mayor has hired friends as city employees, dismissed employees that oppose the mayor, and issued cannabis business permits to friends is unsubstantiated,” the report stated. “In actuality, the mayor and council members, working as a body, only hire the city clerk and city manager. The city manager hires, dismisses, and disciplines all city employees. The city council is involved in the appeal process for employee discipline.
“The city council as a unit, will issue cannabis permits after all phases and vetting processes are completed.”
The city is legally required to respond to the report within 90 days.
The full report is posted on the Kern County Grand Jury website at This report and others are filed under “Early Releases.”
April 24, 2018
Mojave Desert News
By Aaron Crutchfield

[Marin County] Marin oversight panel renews call for sanitation mergers

Disposal of sewage is something most people would rather not think about, but that reluctance is costing Marin residents a pretty penny, according to a new Marin County Civil Grand Jury report.
The report, released Friday, recommends immediate consolidation of three sanitary districts in central Marin — Sanitary District No. 1 (Ross Valley), Sanitary District No. 2 (Corte Madera) and the San Rafael Sanitary District.
It also suggests that six entities in Southern Marin — Almonte Sanitary District, Alto Sanitary District, Richardson Bay Sanitary District, Homestead Valley Sanitary District, Tamalpais Community Services District and the Mill Valley Public Works Department — create just two large sanitation districts.
The grand jury makes clear that the ultimate goal should be consolidation of all Marin sanitary districts and agencies into a single Marin Municipal Utilities District.
To facilitate this goal, the grand jury recommends that Marin County allocate additional funds to Marin’s Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO, which oversees the formation of government agencies and special districts.
“We are open to looking into the merits of consolidation options,” said Assistant County Administrator Dan Eilerman. “On the issue of funding, the county already pays a significant portion of the LAFCO budget, and we believe that any increased funding should be spread to be consistent with the existing formula.”
In the past, the board of Sanitary District No. 1 has been resistant to the idea of consolidation. In 2005, three other sanitation districts and the Central Marin Sanitation Agency agreed to unite with Sanitary District No. 1, but Sanitary District No. 1’s board nixed the idea.
Nevertheless, Doug Kelly, the current board president of Sanitary District No. 1, said, “I absolutely support consolidation. I’m willing to work with my colleagues in the other districts to get this accomplished.”
Kelly said he has not discussed the grand jury report with other board members, but he said the resignation of the district’s general manager, Greg Norby, announced Monday, would make consolidation easier.
“Ross Valley Sanitary District has been a poor player in the past,” Kelly said, “but we have a very fine board now, and we work well with others.”
While the general public might not be paying close attention to the issue of sanitation, this report is just the latest of several Marin civil grand jury reports on the topic.
In a 2014 report titled, “The Scoop on Marin County Sewer Systems,” the grand jury wrote, “In total, there are 17 special districts, 2 municipalities, 2 JPAs, the National Park Service and the California State Park Service providing wastewater services to a population of 256,000 in an area just over 100 square miles.”
To bolster its argument, the 2017-18 grand jury quotes from three studies, one commissioned in 2005 and two published last year. In 2017, a study completed by the Little Hoover Commission called for legislation to eliminate roadblocks to special district consolidations and another study by Marin LAFCO made specific recommendations for consolidations.
Both of those studies focused on similar reasons for consolidation. First of all, they pointed to the cost savings realizable due to elimination of redundancies: one board of directors and one administrative department versus many.
The 2014 grand jury report noted that the total amount spent in fiscal year 2012-2013 for district managers’ salaries and benefits (excluding pensions) in all agencies was close to $2.4 million. That report also stated that the 109 board members serving on wastewater agencies received approximately $250,000 in compensation during the most recent fiscal year.
Another rationale cited for consolidation in the 2017 Little Hoover Commission and Marin LAFCO reports was the need to prepare for the effects of climate change.
The 2017-18 grand jury writes, “Specific to sanitation, the use of gravity in wastewater systems results in sanitation facilities being located at the lowest elevation, thereby exposing them to rising sea levels.”
The grand jury notes in its report that the search for cost savings have resulted in previous successful consolidations in Marin.
“A police consolidation in central Marin has demonstrated substantial cost savings and fire districts in southern Marin are currently collaborating with the end goal of consolidation,” the grand jury wrote.
Later in the report, the grand jury states that the Southern Marin Fire Protection District is projected to save $315,000 per year.
The grand jury also explains, however, that police and fire agencies have a financial incentive that many sanitation districts lack. That is because if sanitation districts run short of money they can boost their sewage charge fees using Proposition 218 rules.
The grand jury notes that a difference in sewage fees is one of the prime reasons that attempts to combine sanitary districts in Marin have been unsuccessful for decades. If residents in one district are paying less than in another district, it is a hard sell to convince them that they will benefit from a merger that will result in their rates going up. Fear of losing local control and a lack of oversight have also played a role, the jury states.
Kelly said two districts that the grand jury suggests should join with Sanitary District No. 1 — Murray Park Sewer Maintenance District and San Quentin Village Sewer Maintenance District — both charge their customers substantially lower fees than Sanitary District No. 1.
“We’ll have to address that if we are to consolidate with them,” he said.
April 23, 2018
Marin Independent Journal
By Richard Halstead

Monday, April 23, 2018

[Orange County] O.C. anti-corruption task force collapsed amid infighting between federal and local investigators

Blog note: in 2013, the Orange County Grand Jury made recommendations leading to the creation of the task force.
Back in 2013, Orange County's top prosecutor and federal authorities set up a task force to root out local political corruption.
The timing seemed appropriate: A grand jury report had recently declared that misconduct was "actively festering" in the county's halls of government. And the district attorney's office was receiving a growing number of public integrity complaints.
The creation of the Orange County Corruption Task Force and its work were shrouded in secrecy. But nearly four years after it began, the joint operation quietly fell apart last year amid conflicts between local and federal investigators who had little to show for their work together, according to a Los Angeles Times investigation.
About a dozen law enforcement sources recently provided details to the newspaper about the bad blood and the breakup.
Federal agents, they said, harbored suspicions about supervisors in the D.A.'s office seeking information about separate FBI corruption investigations. And officials clashed over separate inquiries into the mayor of Santa Ana, including a plan by D.A.'s investigators to use information from a federal informant to obtain a search warrant for their own case.
The tensions came to a head when Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas sent federal authorities a letter withdrawing from the operation, complaining that his office had been "threatened with 'Obstruction of Justice' violations."
Rackauckas' decision came weeks after the Justice Department announced that it was investigating whether his office had engaged in a "pattern or practice" of violating defendants' constitutional rights by misusing jailhouse informants. A few months later, Rackauckas' former top investigator filed a legal claim accusing the district attorney of interfering in corruption inquiries into his political allies. Rackauckas has denied the allegations.
It is unclear how many cases the task force investigated during its existence.
The district attorney's office declined interview requests from The Times or to say what cases the task force investigated. A statement provided by a D.A.'s spokeswoman said the office takes public corruption cases seriously and continues "to maintain a positive relationship" with the FBI, conducting "joint investigations on corruption, terrorism and other cases."
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller confirmed the task force had ended. She said she could identify only one task force case — the bribery prosecution of an Orange County court clerk convicted of fixing tickets. In announcing the charges in 2016, the U.S. attorney's office credited only FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents, not the district attorney's office, even though a D.A.'s investigator and prosecutor worked on the case.
Eimiller said federal agents assigned to the task force worked separately on several other investigations, including the case against a hospital operator convicted of paying doctors millions of dollars in kickbacks for patient referrals.
The end of the task force marks the latest setback in a county where attempts to target corruption have often run into apathy or outright resistance from political leaders.
The county's Board of Supervisors balked at creating a specialized public integrity unit within the district attorney's office and initially dismissed calls from the grand jury to set up an independent watchdog agency to police political activities. A bright spot for reformers came in 2016 when the board relented and put the idea of an ethics commission to voters, who overwhelmingly approved the idea. But the new panel is not set up to be as aggressive as a similar commission that Los Angeles city voters created more than a quarter-century ago.
Jodi Balma, a professor of political science at Fullerton College, noted that while Rackauckas' office has brought charges against some low-level government officials, it took federal authorities to swoop in and convict ex-Sheriff Mike Carona on charges of witness tampering — the biggest corruption case Orange County has seen in more than a decade.
The task force's collapse, Balma said, "reinforces what those who walk an ethical fine line already believe — which is there are no consequences for unethical behavior in Orange County."
Rackuackas, who is running for a sixth term as the county's top prosecutor, was elected in 1998 after his predecessor, Mike Capizzi, provoked sharp criticism from the county GOP over his aggressive investigations of local politicians. Rackauckas campaigned in part by arguing that such cases take away resources from more important types of crimes and are better left for administrative citations by the state.
Multiple sources said both federal and local officials deserve blame for not taking public corruption cases seriously enough and for failing to assign enough of their best investigators and prosecutors to work on the task force. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid undermining their ongoing relationships with the agencies that were part of the operation.
Federal officials on the task force were suspicious from the outset about the motives of the district attorney, whom they viewed as having close political ties with potential targets, according to the sources.
"When you have local elected officials at a D.A.'s office and they're naturally involved in politics — that's what they do — can they effectively investigate and be involved in those investigations?" one federal official asked. "It's not a good fit."
Within the task force, friction between the district attorney's office and federal investigators grew over their separate inquiries into Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, according to local and federal law enforcement sources.
In 2013, after an expose by a local news outlet, the district attorney's office began investigating Pulido in connection with a land swap deal in which a city contractor traded a small parking lot the mayor and his family owned for a house in Westminster worth more than double the fair market value of the lot. The company, a local auto parts store, later received a $1.35-million no-bid contract to be the sole provider of auto parts for the city.
The FBI allowed the D.A.'s office to take the lead on the investigation, according to federal sources familiar with the inquiry.
The D.A.'s office ultimately cleared Pulido of criminal wrongdoing, but its joint investigation with the Fair Political Practices Commission led the state agency to fine him $13,000 for violating California's Political Reform Act. The violations included not disclosing the real estate transaction on public statements of economic interest and an illegal vote for a contract with the vendor.
The next month, a medical marijuana collective filed a lawsuit claiming that Pulido and other city officials had accepted "currency" and gifts from pot dispensaries, that Pulido had a "pecuniary or membership interest" in at least one such business and that he and other city officials had directed police actions to shut down the competition to these shops.
A judge later dismissed Pulido from the suit, but the D.A.'s office launched an investigation into whether he had received money from collectives, according to sources familiar with the inquiry. (The city's police chief later said in a civil lawsuit he filed against the city that he reported similar allegations about Pulido to Rackauckas' office.)
Meanwhile, the FBI had a separate inquiry into whether Pulido was accepting money from another local business, the sources said. As D.A.'s investigators prepared to obtain a search warrant in their case, they approached the FBI and asked about information that an informant had provided the bureau about Pulido, according to one of the federal sources. FBI agents viewed the request as encroaching on their own inquiry, the source said.
Pulido has previously denied accusations of wrongdoing and has not been charged. He did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
Tensions between the FBI and the Orange County district attorney's office came to a head over the agencies' separate investigations of Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido. (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)
On Feb. 1, 2017, Rackauckas wrote to then-U.S. Atty. Eileen Decker, FBI Assistant Director Deirdre Fike and IRS special agent in charge Anthony Orlando giving notice that his office was ending its participation in the task force.
In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, Rackauckas complained that the "IRS never joined the task force and has refused to share information related to joint investigations."
He said his investigators had delayed seeking a search warrant in a significant investigation for two months during which "we have been asked to wait for the IRS and FBI to develop different leads." The search warrant, which was never executed, was related to the D.A.'s new Pulido investigation, according to a federal law enforcement source familiar with the matter.
Without explanation, district attorney's officials were then asked to end their investigation, he said.
"Instead of exchanging the information as outlined in the [task force's memorandum of understanding], our office was threatened with 'Obstruction of Justice' violations if we chose to move forward with our case," he wrote. He did not identify who made the threat.
"The core strategy of any task force is to develop synergy, efficiency and effectiveness," Rackauckas wrote. "Recently, it has not been possible due to the lack of willingness by certain agencies to share information and build the best possible case."
Federal law enforcement sources acknowledged the conflict but were divided over whether anyone had threatened obstruction of justice charges. One said a supervising FBI agent had warned a district attorney's investigator that continuing with the Pulido inquiry would obstruct the separate federal investigation into the mayor but didn't explicitly warn of criminal charges.
The Orange County task force's problems stand in stark contrast to the success of a similar joint operation farther east. The Inland Regional Corruption Task Force — which includes federal agencies and the district attorney's offices in Riverside and San Bernardino counties — has helped prosecute elected officials throughout the region.
In 2013, that task force's work led to the conviction of a Moreno city councilman who accepted a $2.36-million bribe from an FBI operative posing as a real estate broker, the largest bribe ever given to a public official during an undercover operation, authorities said.
In announcing Marcelo Co's guilty plea, federal and Riverside County prosecutors attributed the result to "seamless collaboration" between agencies on the task force, "whose members share a mission of rooting out corruption across the Inland Empire."
April 21, 2018
Los Angeles Times
By Adam Elmahrek and Richard Winton