Archive for the ‘Contra Costa County’ Category

Supervisors OK $6.75 million purchase of new county voting system

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Supervisors honor County Auditor-Controller Robert Campbell for his 30 years of service. Shown are from left: District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis, District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover, Chairperson and District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, Campbell, District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen and Vice Chairperson and District 1 Supervisor John Gioia. Photo by Daniel Borsuk

By Daniel Borsuk

With scant protest, Contra Costa County Supervisors unanimously approved Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Joe Canciamilla’s request Tuesday to replace the county’s aging ES&S voting system with a system made by Dominion Democracy Voting Systems, Inc.

Courtesy of Dominion Democracy Voting Systems, Inc.

The new voting system, the Democracy Suite System made by Dominion will be delivered in time for the special March election for the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District and will be widely put into service for the June gubernatorial election, Canciamilla said.

The county has used the ES&S voting system since 2005.

Supervisors, particularly Chairperson Karen Mitchoff and District 4 Supervisor Candace Andersen, said they had received several emails from citizens questioning the fiscal validity of acquiring a new voting system in an era of election system security vulnerability.

Andersen wanted to know why the county did not put out a request for proposal (RFP), and Scott Konopasek, assistant county registrar, answered that the Secretary of State has to certify voting equipment suppliers.  There are few voting equipment suppliers that meet rigid state requirements.  It happens that both Dominion Democracy Voting Systems and ES&S are voting equipment suppliers the Secretary of State has certified and an RFP is unnecessary.

But in the county’s evaluation, Dominion Democracy took top honors, said Konopasek.

In evaluating the Dominion Democracy and ES&S systems, Dominion Democracy came out on top with a score of 39 points out of 60 possible points.  Dominion Democracy scored highest, especially in the areas of integrated software, ballot marking device, central count equipment and precinct count system.  ES&S did not prevail in any of the 11 evaluation categories.

Canciamilla told supervisors that the Office of the Clerk-Recorder has $4.7 million to pay Dominion Democracy Voting Systems.  Beginning in the second year of the contract, the office will pay $360,000 a year for six years to cover maintenance and licensing costs, Konopasek explained.

Canciamilla said the current ES&S system is rapidly deteriorating to the point that it needs to be replaced, especially now that elections will need to accommodate three languages: English, Spanish, and, starting this year, Chinese.  Furthermore, ballots are bulkier with more ballot measures.

In this era of national inquiry about Russian meddling in our elections, Konospasek said the Dominion Democracy Voting Systems passes the cyber security test.

Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood questioned the vulnerability of the Dominion Democracy Voting System to cyber security threats.

“We have always had great security” Canciamilla said.  “We have designated a person to manage our security.”

Voters will see no difference.  They will continue to receive and fill-in-the-bubble ballots that will be tabulated by digital imaging.  Poll workers will also see no difference with the new voting machines.

Before supervisors voted on the request to acquire the Dominion Democracy system, Canciamilla informed supervisors that he plans to eventually present a request to the board for the county to spend about $14 million to restore 3 million historic documents and 20 million maps that are now housed in inadequate storage.  Canciamilla did not state when he will present this request or how he plans to fund the request.

“We are excited to be bringing in this new equipment that will make our operation more cost effective and reliable and ensure a secure, accessible and transparent process,” said Canciamilla.

Supervisors Authorize Agricultural Planning Hearings

At the request of District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood, supervisors voted 5-0 to authorize the Conservation and Development Department to conduct meetings with farmers and residents with agricultural interests to assist the county in a policy review and the creation of new ideas to promote an “incentive” for agricultural sustainability and economic vitality in Contra Costa County.

The county has $150,000 to spend on agricultural planning, John Kopchick, chief of the Contra Costa County Department of Conservation and Development told supervisors.  He suggested that the department conduct a series of forums where 15 to 20 persons per forum can express ideas ranging from agricultural tourism to bed and breakfast establishments.

“How does cannabis get involved in this?” asked Board Chairperson Mitchoff.

“Cannabis is a background topic,” answered Kopchiick because the county does not yet have a marijuana ordinance on the books.

The department plans to conduct its first forum in April.

County Auditor-Controller Campbell Honored

The Supervisors also gave special recognition to the county’s elected Auditor-Controller Robert Campbell for his 30 years of service to the county on Tuesday.

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County Public Works to make public safety repairs on Marsh Creek Road Feb. 12 – Mar. 1

Monday, February 12th, 2018

The Contra Costa County Public Works Department will perform work on Marsh Creek Road from Camino Diablo to the Clayton City limits, from February 12 through March 1, 2018. The work will occur between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m to trim back trees and vegetation along the road edge and make spot shoulder repairs.

The purpose of this work is to increase driver visibility, awareness and public safety. The work may be rescheduled based on weather conditions. Electronic message boards will alert drivers of the scheduled work. There will be traffic control through the work area and motorists can expect delays.

About Contra Costa County Public Works Department:

Contra Costa County Public Works Department (CCCPWD) maintains over 660 miles of roads, 150 miles of streams, channels and other drainage and over 200 County buildings throughout Contra Costa County.   CCCPWD provides services such as Parks and Recreation, Sand Bag Distribution and Flood Control throughout unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County.  For more information about CCCPWD, please visit us here.

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Former state Associate Attorney General appointed Contra Costa Assistant DA

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Worked for former CA Attorney General Kamala Harris and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

Newly appointed Contra Costa Assistant District Attorney Venus D. Johnson.

Interim Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton today, Friday, February 2, 2018 announced the hiring of Venus D. Johnson as Assistant District Attorney. Mrs. Johnson will help shape criminal justice policy for the office, in addition to overseeing the Family Violence Prosecution units, the Community Violence Reduction Unit, and the Homicide and Gang Units. Johnson will begin her new role on Monday.

Most recently, she served as the Director of Public Safety for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. In that role, she served as a policy advisor to the mayor and co-led the Oakland Police Department’s working group responsible for creating the curriculum and teaching the second phase of procedural justice training for all sworn and professional staff. Johnson also worked with the California Partnership for Safe Communities, the Oakland Police Department, and city and community leaders to support Ceasefire, Oakland’s data driven violence reduction strategy. She also worked closely with Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth to promote those principles within the city, school district and criminal justice system.

Previously, Johnson served as the Associate Attorney General for California Attorney General, Kamala Harris. She managed the Attorney General’s executive team and served as a senior legal and policy advisor, focusing particularly on criminal justice, law enforcement, the interplay of technology and privacy as it relates to law enforcement, police and community relations, and criminal prosecutions, as well as criminal appeals, habeas proceedings, and cert petitions. Prior to that, Johnson was a Deputy Attorney General in the Attorney General’s Office of Legislative Affairs. As an expert in criminal law, she represented the Attorney General’s Office on a wide variety of matters before the California Legislature. Her duties included assisting in the development of the Attorney General’s legislative agenda and advising legislative staff and committee consultants on the technical and policy implications of proposed legislation.

Venus Johnson’s Facebook cover photo, and profile photo which shows her in a shirt with the words “Phenomenal Female”.

Johnson began her legal career as a prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office in January 2006. She spent eight years as a deputy district attorney prosecuting a wide variety of misdemeanor and felony cases. She served as a member of both the Child Sexual Assault Unit, and the Strike Team — a two-person team charged with handling Oakland’s most violent and repeat offenders. Johnson also served as a member of the Officer Involved Shooting Team.

Prior to her departure from Alameda County, Johnson worked in the DNA Cold Case Unit, a two-person unit responsible for investigating and prosecuting unsolved homicide and sexual assault cases with the use of modern DNA technology. The unit was also tasked with working with local law enforcement agencies throughout Alameda County to reduce the backlog of untested sexual assault kits.

Johnson earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Government from Loyola Marymount University in 2001, and her law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 2005. She previously served as a member of the Board of Directors for Holy Names High School in Oakland and is a past president of the Charles Houston Bar Association. Appointed by former Attorney General Harris, she currently serves as a member of the California Commission on Access to Justice, a state commission responsible for developing solutions to improve access to civil justice for low and moderate-income Californians.

Posted by Johnson on her Facebook page, Jan. 21, 2017.

“I am honored to join the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office,” Johnson said. “As prosecutors, we are responsible for ensuring the safety of our communities, protecting victims of crime, and ensuring the scales of justice remain fair and balanced for everyone. I look forward to working side by side with local law enforcement and our community partners as we work toward creating safer communities and a more fair and just system.”

Learn more about ADA Johnson’s background on her LinkedIn profile and her Facebook page.

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County fairgrounds renamed the Contra Costa Event Park, more changes to follow

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Home of the Contra Costa County Fair

ANTIOCH – As part of a re-branding and improvements of the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds the Board of Directors have approved a new facility name and logo. As of February 1st, we are the CONTRA COSTA EVENT PARK, Home of the Contra Costa County Fair.

Over the next year you will see signage change, improvements to the facility, and a new 8,000 square foot event venue become available for community events. CEO Joe Brengle stated that there will be lots of changes taking place at the fairgrounds over the next few years.

Looking for a place for your next event the Contra Costa Event Park still has 2018 dates available; contact our office (925) 757-4400 for availability.

Mark your calendars for the 2018 Contra Costa County Fair May 17 – 20, with the theme “It all Happens at the Fair”.

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Regional Medical Center CEO named new Director of Contra Costa Health Services

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Anna Roth, RN, MS, MPH. Photo courtesy of Contra Costa Regional Medical Center

After a nationwide search, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors chose a healthcare leader with experience in the county by appointing Anna Roth as the new director of Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) January 30.

Roth has served as Chief Executive Officer of Contra Costa Regional Medical Center and Health Centers for nine years. She succeeds Dr. William B. Walker, who served more than two decades as Health Services Director and over three decades as County Health Officer.

“We are pleased to announce the selection of Anna Roth as our new Health Services Director,” said David Twa, Contra Costa County Administrator. “Anna is a seasoned Health Services executive working in CCHS for nearly 25 years and we look forward to her leadership in addressing the many issues facing the health department in the coming years.”

Roth holds a master’s degree from the University of California, San Francisco, and a Masters in Public Health from Harvard University. She is a registered nurse with more than 30 years of healthcare experience and is an Institute for Healthcare Improvement Quality Improvement Fellow. Roth is a renowned leader in system redesign and innovation and a strong advocate for the inclusion of patients, families and the community as full partners in the delivery of health services.

“We congratulate Anna on her appointment and look forward to working with her on healthcare issues that impact our residents,” said Karen Mitchoff, Chair for the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors.

In addition to Roth’s healthcare experience, she’s also held executive leadership roles locally, statewide and nationally as board member and chair of both the Essential Hospitals Institute and the California Health Care Safety Net Institute. Roth is also a lecturer at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

CCHS is the largest department of county government in Contra Costa, with more than 4,400 employees and an annual budget of $1.8 billion. CCHS includes primary, specialty and inpatient medical care, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, public health programs, environmental health protection, hazardous materials response and inspection and emergency medical services, as well as a county operated health maintenance organization, the Contra Costa Health Plan.

More information about Contra Costa Health Services is available at

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Supervisors brush off Contra Costa Budget Justice Coalition for upcoming hearings

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Told they should focus on job training and housing in 2018 and beyond, during Tuesday retreat in Pleasant Hill

By Daniel Borsuk

The unveiling of a new citizens organization designed to inject more citizen involvement in the county’s budget development process was torpedoed by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Jan. 30.

During a board retreat at the Pleasant Hill Community Center, supervisors informed representatives of the two-month-old Contra Costa Budget Justice Coalition that since 82 percent of next year’s proposed $3.4 billion 2018-2019 fiscal budget will come from federal and state funding sources, those funds are mandated for either health services at 55 percent and the sheriff-coroner at 27 percent and there is no room for discussion from the public.

The county’s current fiscal year budget is $3.1 billion.

Supervisors are scheduled to adopt the proposed budget on May 8.  They have scheduled a public hearing on the budget on April 17 with the possibility a second hearing on April 24 if one is needed.

Supervisors told coalition representatives that it would essentially be a waste of time to make a pitch about the budget either at the public hearing or by scheduling meetings with supervisors in their district offices.

“We have a lot of restrictions on our money,” said Board Chair and District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill.  “Go ahead with holding your community meetings about the county budget, but they will be limited.”

“We have very limited money,” District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover said.  “Our health and safety funds are mandated by the federal or state government agencies.”

“I am always open to have the public engaged in public policymaking, but we have to face the fact that our budget is mostly funded through mandated categorical sources, “said Supervisor John Gioia of District 1.

“We understand that the budget is already stacked up with required mandated funding, but there is still some flexibility in the process,” Dan Geiger of the Contra Costa Budget Justice Coalition and director of Human Services Alliance of Contra Costa told the Contra Costa Herald.  “We are asking the board to give us some say.”

“We will likely do what we have initially planned to do and that includes meet individual supervisors in their district offices to discuss budget issues,” Geiger said.  “We will also attend the April 17 public hearing.”

Geiger said the objective of the organization, which began with nine non-profit organizations in December and is growing with the potential 48 new organizations, is to open up the county’s budget process.

The new coalition aims to practice its “values-based budgeting principles” that promote safety and affordable housing, stable employment with fair wages, sufficient healthy food, essential health care, access to critical social services, quality early care and education.

Geiger said formation of the Contra Costa Budget Justice coalition occurs at a time there is mounting uncertainty about the future of federal funding coming out of Washington for the upcoming 2018-2019 fiscal year and beyond.  Those budget priorities include housing, health care for low income residents, children and youth services, and mental-behavioral health.

Economic Outlook: Housing Shortage and Job Training

The economic focus in Contra Costa County in 2018 and beyond should be on job training and housing county supervisors were told by Christopher Thornberg, Director of the University of California at Riverside Center for Forecasting and Development.

The economist presented his yearly Economic Outlook Focus on the Contra Costa Economy during the board of supervisors’ retreat.

While the nation’s economy experienced “good growth in 2017” at 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter, Thornberg said California, and especially Contra Costa County is facing two economic problems, a shortage of trained workers even though since 2010 there has been a phenomenal number of job openings and a severe housing shortage.

“We are running out of trained workers,” he said.  This is due to an increasing number of trained workers retiring.  Thornberg suggested as a partial solution to the worsening employment crisis is raising the Social Security retirement age requirement age by two years from 70 to 72.

“In Contra Costa County you have the jobs.  There are a lot of job openings.  Job training and housing should be your focus,” he said.

Thornberg said it is up to the supervisors to find ways to address the housing crisis with rising housing prices.

“We’re seeing a tighter housing market in Contra Costa County with the median house price at $550,000, “he said.

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County’s Community Warning System functioned properly during Richmond fire Tuesday night

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

A fire burns at Sims Metal Management in Richmond, CA Tuesday night, Jan. 30, 2017. Screenshot of video by ABC7 News.

By Jimmy Lee, Director of Public Affairs, Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff

The mission of the Community Warning System (CWS) is to ensure the public gets emergency alerts as quickly and completely as possible once we receive the proper information from the requesting agency. CWS is not an internal notification system for a city or affected jurisdictions.

In regards to yesterday’s fire at Sims Metal Management shop located at 604 S. 4th Street in Richmond, CWS received all of the necessary information from Richmond Fire for an alert at 5:55 PM. There was no request to activate the sirens. The first alert was sent at 6:08 PM through the Telephone Emergency Notification Sys-tem (TENS), which includes phone, text, and email alerts. It is also posted on social media and websites.

As the fire continued to burn and produce smoke, and due to a shift in winds, the shelter-in-place needed to be expanded. CWS worked to get updates to additional shelter-in-place areas as they were requested by Richmond Fire and Contra Costa Hazardous Materials Program.

The second alert went out at 6:44 PM, the third alert went out at 7:57 PM, and the last one went out at 8:50 PM. These alerts went to expanded areas at the request of Richmond Fire and the Contra Costa Hazardous Materials Program.

After the situation became somewhat stabilized and it was believed no additional shelter-in-place areas would be needed, a comprehensive map was created that included all affected are-as and was posted in on our website and Facebook page and sent directly to the media.

“In yesterday’s incident, the CWS worked as designed — alerts were sent once all the information was received from the requesting agency,” said Assistant Sheriff Mark Williams. “Mayor Butt’s statement that it took an hour to get out the first alert after receiving the necessary information from Richmond Fire is totally inaccurate, misleading, and presumptuous.”

CWS continually reviews it system and procedures in an effort to improve delivery of alerts. CWS encourages all county residents to receive alerts by registering at and to follow CWS on Twitter and Facebook at CoCoCWS.

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Walgreens to pay $2.25 million in price scanner and expired products case in Contra Costa, other Bay Area counties

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

At the corner of happy, healthy and higher prices? Violations attributed to human error.

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office announced on Tuesday that its Consumer Protection Unit joined with the District Attorneys of Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties in a civil law enforcement action against Walgreen Co., the operator of more than 600 Walgreens stores in California. Walgreens, a nationwide corporation, has its headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois.

The civil action was based in part upon scanner inspections conducted by local Weights and Measures offices, including the office of Contra Costa County Department of Agriculture Division of Weights & Measures, Humberto Izquierdo Director. The District Attorneys alleged that Walgreens violated state law by charging customers more than the lowest posted or advertised price for items.

The alleged violations also included Walgreens’ failure to comply with laws prohibiting selling or offering to sell infant formula or baby food after the “use by” date and over-the-counter drugs after the expiration date has passed. These violations were discovered as a result of inspections by the County Environmental Health Services Divisions and District Attorney Investigation Units. The Santa Clara County Superior Court approved the Modified Stipulated Judgment on January 29, 2018.

“It seems that Walgreen’s couldn’t get their act together here, more than other counties,” said Deputy District Attorney Gary E. Koeppel of the Consumer Protection Unit. He was the lead Deputy DA from Contra Costa County, prepared much of the documentation and was the main contact for negotiations with Walgreens’ law firm in San Francisco. “We were having probably a larger problem here in Contra Costa.”

Without admitting wrongdoing, Walgreens agreed to pay $2,250,000 in civil penalties and costs. The judgment also prohibits violating applicable laws and requires Walgreens to institute a compliance program. That program includes procedures to ensure the removal of infant formula, baby food and over-the counter drugs prior to the “use by” or “expiration” dates. The program also requires procedures to ensure that consumers are charged accurate prices, such as removal of shelf tags from store shelves prior to expiration and adjusting charges at point of sale to reflect the lowest advertised, posted or quoted price on the sales floor for in-store purchases.

The present Modified Stipulated Final Judgment “superseded” or replaced a 2013 pricing violations judgment against Walgreens, by adding new injunctive, compliance and civil penalty and costs provisions to address the new pricing and expired product violations. Walgreens cooperated with prosecutors during the investigation and the resolution of this case.

District Attorneys work with Departments of Weights & Measures to protect consumers from pricing errors and with Environmental Health Divisions to enforce laws prohibiting the sale of certain expired products. Consumers should always check receipts to verify that they are charged the correct price and make sure that the products they purchase are not beyond their expiration dates.

“If there’s a tag on the shelf that indicates a price and when scanned it indicates a higher price, it’s a violation,” Koeppel said. “The provisions in the state Business and Professions Code are clear. You have to sell it at the lowest, advertised price, even if it has expired. If it’s still on the shelf at the lower price with a tag in black and white, they have to sell at the expired price.”

“The County Agriculture Department’s County Weights and Measures are responsible for this, including gas stations,” he added.

“During the course of our negotiations over the scanner violations we did an undercover operation with our health departments throughout the state and we came up with about 33% of the stores that came back with over the counter pain medication and baby formula that had expired dates,” he stated.

Part of the injunction includes the requirement that at least 90 days before the expiration on pain medication and 30 days for baby formula Walgreens must remove those items from the shelves,” Koeppel explained, “Then other requirements such as posting of conspicuous signs.”

“Regarding the scanner violations, we’ve had this term placed in other injunctions with other big box stores, requiring managers have to walk through the aisles once a week and pull expired tags,” he continued. “Plus, they’re required to keep records whenever customers complain any time prices are higher and enter that data into a system that keeps track of scanner price modifications, when the shelf price was lower than the scanned price.”

Asked if the stores are required to provide a period report, Koeppel replied, “No. But, Weights & Measures has the right to go in any time and request a copy of the report.”

He wanted to point out that “Walgreens has been very cooperative and primarily blame the violations on human error,” due to “the turnover in employees and difficulty training them. Nothing constitutes an intentional violation. For clarity, they’re not alone. I’m not going to name other stores. But, scanner violations are very common in big box situations. It’s been pretty rampant, over the years. Unintentionally, for the most part.”

Asked about the liability the stores face, Koeppel responded, “It’s a big, potential liability issue with the baby formula and pain medication if someone got sick. But, from our discussions with experts, the best would be weaker potency, not greater health risks.”

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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