Archive for the ‘Contra Costa County’ Category

Unhappy with Supervisors’ appointment process, coalition sends Interim DA applicants questionnaire; will hold forum Aug. 12

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Demand transparent, qualifications-based process to avoid conflicts of interest, secret deals

A press release issued on Friday, states “a community coalition of organizations and individual voters from Contra Costa County called on all candidates for the interim District Attorney position to complete a public questionnaire about where they stand on a variety of issues that matter to the organizations, ranging from bail practices and criminal justice reform, immigrant rights, worker and consumer protection to police accountability and the environment. The coalition issued the questionnaire after the Board of Supervisors failed to adopt a fully transparent and community-first process at their August 1 meeting. This coalition is also working with local organizations and volunteers to host a candidate forum on Saturday, August 12, in Concord.”

Of the twelve applicants, the Supervisors narrowed the field to five. (See related article, here).

The responses to the questionnaire will be made public before the forum.

View the questionnaire, here: CoCo Interim DA Community Questionnaire_FINAL

WHAT: Contra Costa Interim District Attorney Candidate Forum

WHEN: Saturday, August 12, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

WHERE: Church of the Nazarene at 1650 Ashbury Dr., Concord, CA

WHO: The forum is co-hosted by the ACLU of Northern California; Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE); Contra Costa AFL-CIO Central Labor Council; Contra Costa County Racial Justice Coalition (CCCRJC); Courage Campaign; #cut50; Democratic Party of Contra Costa County; East County NAACP; Safe Return Project; and Smart Justice California

According to their website, the ACCE “is a grassroots, member-led, statewide community organization working with more than 10,000 members across California…dedicated to raising the voices of everyday Californians, neighborhood by neighborhood, to fight for the policies and programs we need to improve our communities and create a brighter future” such as raising taxes on businesses and individuals to increase funding for education, working to preserve and expand affordable housing, and “raise the floor on wages and benefits.”

On the CCCRJC website it states that the organization is opposed to the expansion of the West County Detention Center.

The Courage Campaign states on their website that it “fights for a more progressive California and country” by focusing on three priorities of economic justice, human rights, and corporate and political accountability.

The mission of #cut50 is to “making communities safer while reducing the number of people in our prisons and jails.”

The press release also states that, “at a public hearing on August 1, the coalition pleaded with the County Board of Supervisors to adopt an open and transparent selection process for choosing the interim District Attorney that includes a community selection committee. The coalition urged the Board to avoid conflicts of interest by revealing whether they have ever received an endorsement or monetary support from any of the candidates, and pressed the supervisors to develop a system for ranking the candidates based on their qualifications and alignment with local values, over a consensus-based decision-making model that could be swayed by backroom deals. The coalition had previously sent a letter requesting similar action to the Board on July 6th, which was never acknowledged.”

A spokesperson for the coalition, Director of Contra Costa County Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) David Sharples, said, “We want a district attorney who reflects the values of Contra Costa voters. The selection process should focus on whether each candidate is qualified for the job, aligns with local values, has the highest level of ethical standards, and is ready to take on the challenges faced by our community, not the candidate who is the most well-connected. If the board won’t be transparent about this process, then we will go straight to the candidates so they have every opportunity to explain where they stand on the issues and why they are the best candidate.”

The coalition’s press release concluded with the following: “Contra Costa voters have bucked the position of their District Attorney and repeatedly voted for meaningful criminal justice reform over the last several elections. In 2012, 72 percent of county residents voted in favor of Proposition 36, which reformed California’s Three Strikes Law; in 2014, 66 percent of voters supported Proposition 47, which substantially reduced the penalties for several crimes; in 2016, 69 percent voted in favor of Proposition 57, which significantly expanded early parole opportunities for people serving time in California prisons; and 61 percent voted in favor of Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana and retroactively invalidated several types of prior marijuana-related criminal convictions.”

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Supervisors plan to appoint Interim DA by Sept. 19 draws criticism

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Ordinance on illegal Solid waste collection postponed

By Daniel Borsuk

With the field of interim Contra Costa County District Attorney candidates pared down from 12 to 5, Contra Costa County Supervisors on Tuesday are determined to select an interim DA by Sept. 19 even in the face of increasing public criticism over the selection process.

On a 5-0 vote supervisors selected for further consideration Contra Costa Judge Diana Beckton, Contra Costa Judge Daniella Douglas, Contra Costa Assistant District Attorney Tom Kensok, Contra Costa Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves and Santa Clara Supervising Deputy District Attorney Patrick Vanier.

Candidates not making the cut were former Contra Costa prosecutor and current private attorney David Brown, San Francisco deputy district attorney John Delgado, Contra Costa Bar Association Criminal Conflict Program Attorney William Green, private attorney Richard Madsen Jr., San Francisco assistant DA since 1996 Michael Menesini, Stanislaus County Prosecutor Brad Nix, and 50-year prosecutor veteran with the Alameda and Los Angeles DA offices Michael Roemer.

With the two judges as candidates, supervisors learned there might be a potential legal barrier where Judge Beckton and Judge Douglas might be found in violation of a state conflict of interest ruling that a sitting Superior Court justice cannot simultaneously serve as a county DA.  The supervisors decided to have each judge weigh in on whether they are in violation of the state conflict of interest law during the upcoming August 15 finalist interviews.

Supervisors forged ahead showing scant concern that there could potentially be a court injunction filed blocking their process to fill the $258,181 a year DA post that was vacated in mid-June when then DA Mark Peterson resigned from office after pleading in Contra Costa Superior Court to 15 felony charges that he illegally spent $66,000 of campaign funds for personal use.

In exchange for a no contest plea Peterson was sentenced to three years probation.  State prosecutors dropped 11 other counts of perjury and one count of grand theft.  The State Bar of California took steps to disbar Peterson last week.

Critics accused supervisors of privately meeting or consulting with interim DA candidates and some opponents said it is pointless to appoint a short-term DA when county voters could be electing a new DA next year.

“There is no need for the board to appoint an interim DA within a year of an election,” protested Marcie Garrett of El Cerrito.

“The Democratic Party of Contra Costa County calls for the board of supervisors to delay action to another date,” said Maria Alegria, chair of the county Democratic Party.

Alegria said the board needs to do more work to screen candidates because of the county DA office’s history of misconduct.  She referred to the recent Peterson case and the 2008 rape case involving DA Michael Gressett, who was accused of raping a junior DA colleague that resulted in a $450,000 out of court settlement.

Mainly because of the DA office’s track record, Walnut Creek resident Julie Davis commented, “I prefer that you consider candidates not in the Contra Costa District Attorney Office.  I’d prefer candidates from outside.  Your selection process is long, yet needs more transparency.”

Concerned about the rising human trafficking situation in the county, Judith Tannenbaum pitched to supervisors that they need to select Contra Costa Office Deputy Senior DA Paul Graves because of his work combatting human trafficking.

Concord Police Chief Guy Swanger representing the Contra Costa Police Chiefs Association encouraged supervisors to select an interim DA who will cooperate with police departments.  “Whoever you choose make sure your choice will work with us,” he said.

District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill attempted to defended the transparency criticism lodged against the board.  “This is a transparent process the board is using.  Everything is online,” she said.

Mitchoff also said state law requires the board of supervisors to appoint an interim DA under the circumstances the county faces.

“This is a challenging situation and ultimately the people of Contra Costa county will have to decide who will be their DA,” said District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville.

“We’re not going to please everyone, but I look for someone who will defend racial justice, is fair, shows leadership style, and can move forward,” Board Chair Federal Glover of Pittsburg added.

Supervisor Mitchoff was surprised to learn that the Bay Area Newspaper Group had filed in the past two days a public records request that the county disclose personal information that the five finalists provided in their applications.   The newspaper group had complained the county had redacted personal information and that it should now be public information.  That information will now be unredacted.

Ordinance on Illegal Solid Waste Collection Postponed

In other business, supervisors postponed action until their August 15 meeting on a proposed ordinance that would take aim at cracking down on the illegal solid waste collection and transportation operations in the unincorporated area of Contra Costa County.

The county environmental health department has identified more than 41 illegal solid waste transfer stations located in both incorporated and unincorporated areas of the county and 32 of those operations have been closed down, since early 2015.

In order to regulate the solid waste collection industry, the Contra Costa Environmental Health Department has been developing an ordinance where persons engaged in this business in the county would be required to apply for permits, have collection and transport vehicles undergo inspections, and operators must post bond.

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Supervisors narrow list of Interim District Attorney applicants to five

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

County to Host Public Forum on Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Five applicants remain under consideration to serve as the Interim District Attorney for Contra Costa County. The Board of Supervisors found all 12 applicants to be highly qualified, but during its August 1, 2017, public meeting, decided that only five individuals would move on to the next stage of the selection process. The finalists will be invited to participate in a moderated discussion to be held on Tuesday, August 15, beginning at 6:00 p.m. The public will have an opportunity to provide comments in advance beginning at 5:00 p.m.

The five applicants continuing in the process are: Diana Becton, Danielle Douglas, Paul Graves, Thomas Kensok and Patrick Vanier. Application materials for all 12 of the original applicants are available online. Background investigations will now be conducted on the five finalists. (See related article.)

At the public forum on August 15, a discussion with the applicants will take place, moderated by former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Steve Weir. The forum will be held in the Board of Supervisors Chamber at 651 Pine Street in Martinez. While the public will have an opportunity to offer questions and comments that evening, you can also provide your input electronically prior to the event. Find out how at the District Attorney Recruitment Information website. If you are unable to attend the forum in person, it will also be televised live on CCTV and streamed live online.

The June 14 resignation of Mark Peterson from the position of District Attorney created a vacancy that will extend until the current term of office expires on January 7, 2019. The next election for the District Attorney will take place in June of 2018, with a potential runoff election in November of 2018.

Following the August 15th public forum, the Board of Supervisors will interview the final applicants at the September 12th public meeting; a decision could be made that day, or possibly at the following meeting on September 19, 2017.

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Twelve apply for vacant position of Contra Costa County District Attorney

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Board of Supervisors to review applications on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017; public forum Aug. 15

Twelve people have submitted applications to serve as the Interim District Attorney for Contra Costa County. The Board of Supervisors will begin the next phase of the process by reviewing candidate materials at the August 1, 2017, regular public Board meeting. The meeting starts at 9:00 a.m., and the agenda and supporting documents will be available online this Friday morning.

“We remain committed to an open and transparent process during the selection period of our next District Attorney,” said Supervisor Federal Glover, Chair of the Board of Supervisors. “It is unfortunate the County is faced with this situation, but it important that the public have ample opportunity to provide input as we make this very important decision.”

The June 14 resignation of Mark Peterson from the position of District Attorney created a vacancy that will extend until the current term of office expires on January 7, 2019. The next election for the District Attorney will take place in June of 2018, with a potential runoff election in November of 2018.

The twelve candidates are:

·         Diana Becton – Judge, Contra Costa Superior Court

·         David G. Brown – Retired Deputy District Attorney, Contra Costa County

·         John Delgado – Assistant District Attorney, San Francisco County

·         Danielle Douglas – Judge, Contra Costa Superior Court

·         Paul J. Graves – Senior Deputy District Attorney, Contra Costa County

·         William H. Green – Director, Criminal Conflict Program of the Contra Costa Bar Association, criminal defense attorney

·         Thomas J. Kensok – Assistant District Attorney, Contra Costa County

·         Richard A. Madsen, Jr. – Criminal defense attorney

·         Michael Martin Menesini – Assistant District Attorney, San Francisco County, former Martinez Mayor and Councilman

·         Brad J. Nix – Deputy District Attorney V, Stanislaus County, former Oakley Mayor and Councilman

·         Michael James Roemer – Retired Deputy District Attorney, Alameda County

·         Patrick Vanier – Deputy District Attorney, Santa Clara County

You can view the application materials from each candidate online. So far, only two of the applicants are declared candidates for the 2018 election, Paul J. Graves and Patrick Vanier.

During the August 1, 2017, Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board will determine which candidates will be selected to continue in the process. The County Administrator’s Office will be conducting background checks on those applicants. The finalists will be invited to participate in a public forum to be held on August 15 at 6:00 p.m. At the forum, a moderated discussion will take place, with questions solicited from the public in advance, as well as during the forum. If you would like to offer a question, you can submit it online via the recruitment section of the District Attorney’s website. On that site, you can also offer public comment to be submitted to the Board of Supervisors and entered into the public record. The forum will be open to the public, televised live and streamed live online. More details about the public forum will be available after the August 1st meeting.

Following the August 15th public forum, the Board of Supervisors will interview the final candidates at the September 12th public meeting; a decision could be made that day, or possibly at the following meeting on September 19, 2017.

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Recruitment for Interim Contra Costa DA closes Friday

Monday, July 17th, 2017

Candidate Forum set for August 15

Friday, July 21, 2017, is the deadline to submit an application for the vacant position of District Attorney for Contra Costa County.  The June 14 resignation of Mark Peterson from the position of District Attorney created a vacancy that will extend until the current term of office expires on January 7, 2019.  The next election for the District Attorney will take place in June of 2018, with a potential runoff election in November of 2018.

At the August 1, 2017, Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board will review the applications and determine which applicants will continue in the process. The finalists will be invited to participate in a public forum to be held on August 15 at 6:00 p.m., with final candidate interviews by the County Board scheduled for September 12, 2017.

At the forum, a moderated discussion will take place, with questions solicited from the public in advance, as well as during the forum.  If you would like to offer a question, you can submit it online via the District Attorney recruitment section of our website. On that site, you can also offer public comment to be submitted to the Board of Supervisors and entered into the public record.  The forum will be open to the public, televised live and streamed live online.

Completed applications and a supplemental questionnaire must be returned to the County Human Resources Department no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 21.   Materials can be found online at: https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/contracosta. A background investigation will be conducted on all finalists. Any offer of employment will be contingent upon the successful completion of a thorough background investigation, which will include fingerprinting; county, state, and national criminal records checks; Economic Disclosure Form 700; and civil filings.

 

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Ron Leone, former Deer Valley Vice Principal, announces run for County Schools Superintendent

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Concord Councilman Ron Leone. Photo from his council campaign website RonaldLeone.net

Concord Councilman, former teacher and A.U.S.D. Director of Student Services

By John Crowder

Concord City Councilman and one-time mayor Ron Leone, a former vice principal at Antioch’s Deer Valley High School, confirmed today that he is running for the position of Contra Costa County School Superintendent in the June 2018 election. Incumbent Karen Sakata, serving in her first term, has not yet indicated if she will seek re-election.

Leone, who is also a former Teacher of the Year and was the Director of Student Services for the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD), has been involved in education for over forty years.  In an interview with this reporter, Leone said he is running because, “education is my passion.  Everything I’ve done over my career has led me to this point, and I want to use my experience to ensure our students achieve academic success.”

According to his bio on the City of Concord’s website, “Ron Leone, a resident of Concord since 1978, was elected to the City Council in 2010, re-elected in 2014. He served as Mayor in 2012 and Vice Mayor in 2014 and 2016. Leone served 35 years in education as a high school teacher and principal. He was the teacher of the year in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District and teachers’ association president. He coached high school baseball, and several championship mock trial and constitutional academic teams.”

“I believe that I have the vision our schools need now,” he continued.  “In many ways, our schools throughout the county need help.  For example, last year the Grand Jury delivered a report on truancy that was very troubling.  Our county is one of the worst in the state for truancy, but I know first-hand that we can turn this around.  I served as the Director of Child Welfare and Attendance in Antioch some years ago, and was the first to conduct truancy sweeps, coordinating with local law enforcement.  Students who were truant were given Saturday school, and phone calls went home to parents.  In subsequent sweeps, we found that, by having real consequences for the students who skipped school, we dramatically reduced the number of repeat offenders.”

Leone also mentioned the financial challenges he plans to address.

“Another potentially serious problem is the County Office of Education’s unfunded liabilities,” he stated. “They continue to grow, and this will undoubtedly impact our ability to keep dollars in the classroom, if it continues.  We faced the same issue in Concord, but by exercising the leadership needed to tackle the matter, we were able to pay down the debt and create a $30 million reserve.”

Vocational training is strongly advocated by Leone. He described a Regional Occupation Program (ROP) his students used during his tenure in Fremont.

“The Mission Valley ROP Center that was developed was part of a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) with three school districts,” he said.  “I believe this approach would work for our County, as well.  I’m proposing a vocational training center in Central Contra Costa County.  Students from several school districts would be able to attend after school hours.”

Leone wants to work closely with the local school districts in the County. As of today, he’s already met with twelve of the County’s local school district superintendents.

“One of the things that I’m seeing is that the County Office of Education can help our local districts through expanded support of teacher training,” he said. “In addition, we want to encourage school districts to implement programs that advance academic achievement, and to help engage parents in their students’ success.”

Prior to being elected to the Concord City Council, Leone served for 16 years as an elected member of the Mt. Diablo Hospital District Board, as well as Chairman of the Board of the John Muir Hospitals, and the City’s Planning Commission.

Leone invites anyone interested in learning more to contact him at RonaldLeone@comcast.net.

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County Clerk’s Office to stay open late on Thursdays during summer, beginning July 6

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

Residents can get married, obtain documents until 7:30 pm

Summertime in Contra Costa County means two things: warmer temperatures and the Clerk-Recorder’s office being open late on Thursday nights. So, now you can get hitched without missing work!

Every Thursday between July 6th and August 31st, the Clerk Recorder Division office, located at 555 Escobar Street in Martinez, will be open from 8:00 am to 7:30 pm, a welcome three-hour extension to the usual closing time.

Summer is an important time for parents to obtain birth certificates for school and those seeking documents for traveling. It is also a popular season for weddings.

“We want to provide a courtesy for our residents, especially those who work during the day and find it difficult to make it to our office before 4:30,” said County Clerk-Recorder Joe Canciamilla. Services provided during the extended hours include the issuance of marriage licenses, copies of vital records such as birth and death certificates, copies of recorded documents, fictitious business name and other professional filings.

Marriage ceremonies will also be available by appointment and walk-ins accommodated if possible. Document costs are available on the Clerk-Recorder website at www.contracostacore.us.

The Extended Summer Hours program debuted in 2015 and proved to be even more popular in its second year.

By holding longer hours in the summer season, customers are able to take advantage of the extra daylight. 368 customers were assisted during extended hours last summer, a nearly 50 percent increase over 2015. Marriage services accounted for almost half of those transactions.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 925-335-7900 or visit www.contracostacore.us.

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County Supervisors begin recruitment for interim District Attorney

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

Board seeks input; goal to fill position in September

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors met Friday, June 23, 2017, to determine the process for filling the vacant office of the District Attorney.  When a vacancy occurs in an elective county office, the Board of Supervisors has the responsibility to appoint a successor to serve for the duration of the unexpired term.   The June 14, 2017 resignation of Mark Peterson from the position of District Attorney created a vacancy that would extend until the current term of office expires on January 7, 2019.  The next election for the District Attorney will take place in June of 2018, with a potential runoff election in November of 2018.

The Office of District Attorney is provided in the State Constitution.  The District Attorney represents the people of the County in prosecuting all public offenses in the Superior Courts, including all felonies, misdemeanors, juvenile criminal offenses, and certain civil offenses, including high-tech crimes, environmental crimes, and many instances of fraud.

Although the Board of Supervisors has discretion in how to fill the position, there are some minimum requirements for the job.   To qualify, a candidate must be at least 18 years old, a California citizen, a registered voter in Contra Costa County at the time of appointment, and admitted to practice law in the California Supreme Court.   The Board of Supervisors is seeking candidates with experience in criminal law, familiarity with criminal justice issues in California, and the ability to effectively manage a County department with an annual budget of $19.5 million and more than 200 employees.

All applicants must apply online at www.cccounty.us/hr and submit the information as indicated on the job announcement no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 21, 2017.  NOTE that a background investigation/fingerprint exam will be conducted on all finalists, and a permanent job offer is additionally contingent upon the successful completion of a thorough background investigation, which will include a criminal records investigation and an economic disclosure (FPPC Form 700).

The legislature does not specify a deadline for making an appointment like this, but according to the California Attorney General, the appointment should be made within a “reasonable time.”   With applications due July 21, the Board of Supervisors will select finalists in early August.  The Board of Supervisors will host a moderated candidate forum at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 15, 2017.  Members of the public will be invited to submit questions for consideration that may be asked of the finalist candidates.   The Board will interview those candidates during a public meeting on Tuesday, September 12, with the goal of making a selection in September as well.

The June 23 meeting of the Board of Supervisors is available online in the video library found on the County’s homepage at www.ContraCosta.CA.gov.   It will also be replayed in its entirety on Sunday, June 25, at 6:00 p.m., Monday, June 26, at 5:00 p.m., and Thursday, June 29, at 6:00 p.m. on Contra Costa Television (CCTV.) CCTV can be viewed on Comcast Channel 27, Wave Channel 32, and AT&T U-Verse on Channel 99.

 

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