Monday, July 24, 2006

Losing the Victim Witness Grant

Some of the clearest examples of Paul Gallegos' mismanagement of the District Attorney's office relate to the grants that provide approximately 60% of his office's funding. The spin that he employs to hide his failures is both fascinating and tragic. But before we discuss the spin, let's examine what happened with the Victim Witness Grant

The first the public heard of it, Paul was laying off almost the entire Victim/Witness Unit, what was left of it. That's a total of four people. That unit had been in the D.A.'s office for at least 20 years and losing four more people was going to do a great deal of damage to their efforts. (he had already laid off two positions.)

It was to be quietly passed through on the Board of Supervisor's Consent Calendar, without explanation, without discussion, without notice. Only when the item was pulled from the Consent Calendar did the public learn what was happening.
Even then, very little attention was given to it. Gallegos claimed it was political maneuvering, and the reporters seemed happy with that explanation

This saved him from explaining not only why this was happening, but why he hadn't alerted the Board sooner, asked for help, or sought alternate sources of funding.

Gallegos' muffed the federal grant application.

Take a look at the County's website. There are clues which suggest what happened:

Pull down the Board agenda (for 5/10/05 (co.humboldt.ca.us/board/agenda/questys/ ).  Look in the Consent Calendar for the item asking the Board for permission to De-allocate the positions for Victim Witness and to begin the lay-off process. (Note: FTE means Full Time Employee)

District Attorney
7.   Request for the Disallocation of a 1.0 FTE Program Coordinator Position and 3.0 FTE Victim Witness Program Specialist Positions in Budget Unit 252 Effective July 30, 2005
RECOMMENDATION: Approve request, and authorize the Personnel Department to begin the layoff process for the disallocated positions.

Next, you need to pull down the Agenda Item. You should get the Memo pages for the Item directed to the Board.
Documents
Victim Witness Positions Deallocated--2005 05 10

Attached to that is a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice and a one-page attachment to that letter explaining the reasons for the denial. Read that last page and it all becomes clear.

(co.humboldt.ca.us/board/agenda/questys/MG16273/AS16276/AS16290/AI41777/DO42894/BOSAgendaItem.pdf)

(co.humboldt.ca.us/board/agenda/questys/MG16273/AS16276/AS16290/AI41777/DO42894/6.TXT)

This is an example of Paul failing to do his job.

Looking at this Board Item, several things tell the story.

First, Paul tried to not attach the letter. You can see the handwritten asterisk adding the attachments.

The staff in the D.A.s office had been told that their failure to get the grant was Governor Schwarzenegger's fault and nothing more. Clearly that is what Paul wanted the Board to think.

Then what happens is that someone at the CAO's office asked for more as to what the factors were for the denial. That is when the letter gets added.

As you can also see the denial took place months prior, in a letter dated September 24, 2004, received by the Board September 27, 2004, yet the FAX indicator on the top of the DOJ letter is dated May 5, 2005, indicating that they couldn't even find their copy of that denial.

It looks like they didn't spend enough time working on it and hurried it at the last minute to meet a grant deadline.

The best evidence of that is that they did not tailor the grant to what the federal government wanted, they didn't provide enough detail on what was to be done with the grant, they didn't develop any new products, they didn't describe the partners role nor did they get the partners to sign on to the grant. 

That last detail is the key. You can rush something out the door when you realize you have waited too long, but what you can't do is to get your partners to rush along with you.

Related:
ER - Interview Process Cuts Down On Trauma Of Children 5/6/04
Losing the Victim Witness Grant
ER - Board of Supervisors talks over grant denial for program 5/11/2005
NCJ - VICTIM PROGRAM THREATENED: 5/12/05
ER - Gallegos says program is safe 5/15/2005
ER - Victim witness program funds sought by county 5/18/2005
TS - Proposed cuts to victims program delayed May 18, 2005
TS - My Word - DA leadership: The 8-step program May 24, 2005
County to fund Victim Witness Program The Eureka Reporter 6/8/2005
Supes mull grant application 5/14/07

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are a joke. And a bad one at that.


Boo!

Anonymous said...

No your not - I wish you could write for the local news. 11:46 is the bad joke. Boo - Richard, take a sleeping pill with your wine tonight.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:46 Sour grapes ?

Very informative Rose.

Rose said...

The following letter to the editor relates to the post:

Article Last Updated: Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - 6:13:40 AM PST

DA leadership: The 8-step program

My Word

by Allison Jackson

Paul Gallegos has gone out of his way to cultivate his image: The surfing DA, the individualist rebel with no use for bureaucrats, meetings or rules. He seldom attends county department head meetings (North Coast Journal) and appears at board meetings only rarely (Times-Standard). Unfortunately, all too often this cavalier attitude makes for a disastrously ineffectual leader. His latest debacle came to light last week in front of the Board of Supervisors. With a lack of careful attention causing the virtual elimination of his Victim/Witness Unit, it became clear just how much damage Paul Gallegos is doing to the District Attorney's Office.


Back in September of 2004, Gallegos bungled the application for a grant that provided funding for four people in the Victim/Witness Unit in his office. The grant denial letter went on for a page and a half with criticisms about the application's shortcomings. (Rule No. 1: When you apply for a grant, follow the application rules.)

Even though the denial of the grant would lead to the loss of four positions (75 percent of the unit) and a substantial loss of service to county residents, Paul did nothing and told no one for eight months. (Rule No. 2: When you lose money for something that is really important to the public, do all you can do to find a substitute.)

In May of this year, Gallegos authored a short, ambiguous request to the Board of Supervisors asking them to begin the layoff process for four of his positions. He didn't attach the grant denial letter (for obvious reasons) until asked by the county administrative officer for a further explanation as to why the grant was denied. What's more, he asked that the item be put on the "Consent" portion of the board's agenda, meaning that unless a board member took action to pull the item for discussion it would be summarily passed without comment. (Rule No. 3: If you really want to keep important positions, go to the board and ask them for help.)

Supervisor Geist, who clearly does understand the process, stated publicly that she called the DA's office before the board's May 10 meeting to ask about the grant denial and loss of positions. Unable to obtain clear responses to her questions, she said that she was going to pull the item off the consent calendar for discussion. At the May 10 board meeting, it was Wes Keat who appeared, without any answers or explanations to offer. The board expressed a desire to find some type of funding to preserve the positions and avoid the layoffs. They then continued the item a week to make it possible for Gallegos to be present. (Rule No. 4: When your office is told ahead of time that you are going to be asked questions about something you have requested, prepare for the meeting.)

When Gallegos learned that the item had been pulled for discussion, he went into full attack mode. He claimed that the item was just routine and that Geist had pulled it for political reasons. (Rule No. 5: Be aware that consent items are routinely pulled for discussion. It occurs at nearly every board meeting. Rule No. 6: If you ask any government group to take a specific action, be prepared to respond to any questions they might have about your request in a reasonable, tantrum-free manner. Rule No. 7: When you muff a grant application and a board member tries to find you money to cover your mistake and save your positions, that is not an attack.)

The following week, when Gallegos did attend the board meeting, he was arrogant and even confrontational when Supervisor Geist told him they were simply trying to find the money necessary to save the unit (Reread Rule No. 7). Further, when asked about the specifics of the Victim/Witness Unit and its sources of funding, he was unable to provide answers to their questions (Reread Rule No. 4).

We still don't know what will happen to the Victim/Witness Unit or to the jobs of four valuable county employees. We do know, however, that once the situation was on the table for discussion, something interesting occurred. The board began to generate and discuss possible ways they could help: Contact legislators; lobby for the passage of an existing Assembly bill; and work with other county officials to find replacement money. (Rule No. 8: Don't assume that problems created by your mistakes cannot be solved by others who know more than you do.)

Maybe ignoring the meetings and the rules gives Gallegos a certain cachet in the circles in which he travels. Maybe he thinks that if he responds with defensive petulance, attacking the very people trying to help him, it will distract the rest of us from seeing how poor a leader he is. He's a rebel, all right -- a rebel without a clue.

Allison Jackson, a Humboldt County deputy district attorney for over 10 years specializing in child abuse and sexual assault cases, is now in private practice. She lives in Hydesville.

The opinions expressed in this My Word piece do not necessarily reflect the editorial viewpoint of the Times-Standard.