Board says yes to district attorney, but no to county clerk
With the demand for services for the criminal defendant population growing dramatically due to the impact of Assembly Bill 109, District Attorney David Hollister asked the Board of Supervisors for authorization to reorganize the alternative sentencing program.
The program had been developed in 2012 with an anticipated average of 25 participants.
“As of the end of March there were 170 participants and more services than originally conceived,” Hollister said during the board’s April 8 meeting.
Supervisor Terry Swofford asked if Hollister’s proposed reorganization would impact the general fund, but Hollister indicated that any changes would be grant funded.
Hollister didn’t ask for more positions, but rather more flexibility in job titles and compensation.
His request led to a discussion of pay parity for the probation department and eventually morphed into an overall salary discussion.
“We’re establishing something that’s right, but when do we start addressing others?” Kennedy asked.
Supervisor Sherrie Thrall said, “We’re only two months away from budget hearings,” but cautioned that she wasn’t seeing an increase in the county’s revenue streams.
Acting Probation Chief Dan Prince said his staff had been voicing concerns about salaries.
“I’m acutely aware of recruiting and retaining probation officers,” he said. “Perhaps there is an opportunity to look at salaries in a compensation study.”
The board voted to approve Hollister’s request, but Clerk-Recorder Kathy Williams didn’t fare as well.
For the past 15 years, County Clerk Kathy Williams has sought to restore staffing levels in her department. On April 8 she tried again.
“This department has been one of the first departments considered for staff reduction each time the budget needs to be reduced,” Williams wrote in her request to the board. “We struggle to get by then have to come back to the Board to reinstate staffing levels.”
Williams asked for two positions to be reinstated and for $14,420 from the general fund to pay costs for the remainder of the year.
“These positions aren’t currently allocated,” Thrall said, adding that it’s “basically a request for new positions.”
“This is a difficult time before budget; I think this is premature,” Thrall said.
“At this point I’d take even half,” Williams said as she described the difficulty of allocating staff to meet the public’s needs.
“Just about every department is in the same boat as you’re in,” Supervisor Terry Swofford told Williams.
“We tend to be the stepchildren of this county,” Williams said. “We try to make ends meet and work behind the scenes.”
She shared her frustration with losing employees to other departments.
“It’s just complicated to keep this department running effectively,” Williams said.
“You’re making a very good argument for every other department,” Swofford replied.
But Williams maintains that her department is different than the others because it generates revenue for the county and could fund the positions. As it is now, the money goes to the general fund.
Thrall argued that it wouldn’t be fair for other departments that don’t generate revenue and therefore wouldn’t have money to hire needed staff.
Supervisor Lori Simpson asked if extra help could offset the workload until the positions could be considered during the budget hearings.
But Board Chairman Jon Kennedy wasn’t optimistic that there would be money in the budget for the positions, and Williams said it requires too much training to make hiring extra help a solution.
“Obviously this won’t pass, it needs a four-fifths vote,” Kennedy said.
“You have already approved 35 positions,” Williams told the board. Most of those were in departments such as public health and mental health, which have no general fund contribution.
The discussion grew testy at times, with Williams continuing to lobby for the positions and Thrall ultimately calling for a vote.
“I make the motion that we deny all of the request at this time,” Thrall said. By roll call vote, her fellow supervisors unanimously agreed.