County to take over West Contra Costa Healthcare District
By Daniel Borsuk
After listening to a large delegation of financially disgruntled but professionally principled Contra Costa Public Defenders describe the woefully inadequate health benefits and salary conditions they endure in comparison to what attorneys in the District Attorney’s Office earn, County Board Supervisors said on Tuesday they will discuss the compensation parity issue as a closed session item.
“We are going into closed session and we’re are going to discuss this issue with our negotiator,” Board Chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill announced in a board chamber with more than 50 public defenders in attendance, voicing protests on how entry level Public Defenders attorneys are underpaid 20 percent less than their district attorney counterparts.
“We know there is a disparity,” Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond acknowledged. Gioia said talks will begin for a wage increase for the Public Defender’s Office where the current one-year wait on health coverage will be on the negotiation table.
While newly hired DA attorneys instantly receive health benefits, Public Defender attorney’s, who represent the indigent, the uneducated and clients who are mainly black or Hispanic, must wait one year and pay $7,632 in annual health insurance premiums. A Public Defender’s starting salary of $71,100 is 20 percent less than that of a beginning District Attorney’s salary, $89,088.
“The issue is true equity,” Brandon Banks, President of the Public Defenders Association said. “There is need to end the one-year wait for health benefits.”
Because of the pay inequity, entry level Public Defender attorney Blanca Hernandez said supervisors are “devaluing people of color.” Furthermore, Hernandez said, “With low pay, no health insurance, and untenable workloads you are hemorrhaging Public Defenders. It’s really harmful for our clients. The vast majority are Black or Latino, and many have been profiled, so providing a solid legal defense is a racial justice issue.”
At Contra Costa Herald press time, supervisors were still in negotiations with the Public Defenders Association.
Hearing Set to Cut Airport Rental Fees
Supervisors set an October 16th hearing to adjust rental fees at the county’s two airports – Buchanan Field Airport and Byron Airport – to reduce rental costs for new and existing services in order to make the fees for county-managed hangars and tie-downs competitive with other airports in the region. The rental fee reduction will result in a $65,514 a year decrease to the Airport Enterprise Fund.
The rates and charges for the county airports were last adopted on May 24, 1994, over 24 years ago. At that time, the rates only applied to Buchanan Field Airport and included rental fees for tie-down locations plus itinerant landing fees for non-based aircraft and for two services that are no longer provided.
Burgis Requests Countywide Illegal Dumping Report
Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood has requested a report on what the county can do to turn around the illegal dumping problem in the county. “The Illegal Dumping Forum we held in April made clear that this is a problem affecting county residents and multiple county departments. I’ m pleased that our departments have come together to determine what they can do collectively to address the issue and I look forward to their report.”
Following the April forum, an Illegal Dumping “Think Tank,” consisting of county experts on the problem was formed to foster discussion about illegal dumping in far East County. The five county departments represented on the Illegal Dumping “Think Tank” include the Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Public Works, the Health Services Department’s Environmental Health Division and the Department of Conservation of Development.
Supervisors to Take Over West Contra Costa Healthcare District
Without public opposition or public support, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to take over the governance duties of the financially troubled West Contra Costa Healthcare District. Commencing Jan. 1, 2019, the existing locally elected five-member Board of Directors of the WCCHD will dissolve and the Board of Supervisors will assume the duties of overseeing the governance duties of the financially troubled district.
Under Senate Bill 522, authored by State Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on August 18, Supervisors had the option to serve as Board of Directors of the WCCHD or to appoint a Board of Directors. The Supervisors chose to take on the duties themselves. The Health District had initially declared bankruptcy in 2006, but was never able to fully recover. The District had to permanently close its doors and filed a second Chapter 9 bankruptcy petition in 2016.
By replacing the locally elected districted board with the Board of Supervisors, the goal is to reduce administrative costs, increase operational efficiencies, and maximize the use of health care funding though collaboration with the county, which is the only other public health agency provider in the district.
Supervisors Endorse Safe Schools for All Initiative
Supervisors unanimously endorsed and supported schools and the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s three-year partnership in Safe Schools for All initiative and active partnership with the Sandy Hook Promise. SHP works on preventing gun violence before it occurs by educating and mobilizing youth and mental health and wellness programs that identify, intervene and help at-risk individuals
The supervisors will promote and support the success of the Sandy Hook Promise no-cost “Know the Signs” programs in high schools and middle schools throughout the county.Read More
By Jimmy Lee, Director of Public Affairs, Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff
Lafayette Police have arrested a suspect involved in a battery and kidnapping case that occurred early yesterday morning.
On Tuesday morning at about 4:25 A.M., Lafayette Police Officers were dispatched to a battery incident on the 3500 block of Mt. Diablo Boulevard.
As a resident was walking towards the Lafayette BART Station, two individuals pulled up next to her in a dark colored sedan. Both of them were wearing masks. One subject got out of the vehicle and grabbed the woman, attempting to pull her towards the vehicle. She was able to break free and yell for help. The subjects then fled the area.
The suspect is identified as 19-year-old Jordan Andrew Wilson of Pittsburg. Wednesday morning at about 4:20 A.M., Wilson was in a vehicle that was stopped by Pittsburg Police in the city of Pittsburg. He was arrested and transported to Lafayette PD for an interview. Following his interview he was booked into the Martinez Detention Facility on kidnapping and conspiracy charges. Wilson is being held in lieu of $200,000 bail.
Two suspects remain outstanding. Lafayette Police Detectives are actively investigating the case and are asking anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious dur-ing that time to contact Detective Sergeant T. Rossberg at (925) 299-3234. You can also call police dispatch at (925) 646-2441 or send a tip to the Lafayette Police Department at: 94549TIP@gmail.com.Read More
Rider safety will be the focus as the BART Board of Directors holds its Thursday, September 27th meeting at 5:00 P.M. at Pittsburg City Hall. The BART board voted in August to hold a special night meeting in a suburban location to further discuss General Manager Grace Crunican’s Safety and Security Action Plan.
“The special time and location of this board meeting will give more members of the public the chance to share their thoughts about public safety directly with board members,” said BART Board President Robert Raburn. “We need their input as we take action to make BART safer.”
The meeting will include an update on BART’s proof-of-payment strategy. There will be a presentation with citation data as well as a hearing on a request to hire more community service officers to expand the program, which was launched in January. Further, the board will get an update on station infrastructure efforts to deter fare evasion. That is likely to include a discussion on whether to replace BART’s fare gates.
BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas is scheduled to present a new report from the University of North Texas on the BART Police Department. The report includes recommendations for adequate police staffing levels at BART.
The board is moving towards adopting a district surveillance policy. A final vote on this policy could come at this meeting depending on actions that take place at the September 13th meeting. BART has already made clear that any boosts to system safety will not include the implementation of facial-recognition technology.
The board could also vote on a plan to provide alternative bus service for when the system moves to a 5am start time as part of the Transbay Tube seismic retrofit project. The switch to the 5am service start is expected to happen on February 11, 2019.
We also anticipate an update on efforts to increase parking around the new BART to Antioch line.
The meeting is open to the public. The public may comment at various points throughout the meeting- including the public comment period or during specific agenda items. The agenda will be posted the Friday before the meeting at https://www.bart.gov/about/bod/meetings/2018
Because this meeting is not taking place in the BART board room, we will record it and post it on our website several days later due to the post production time needed. It will not be livestreamed.
The meeting will be held in the Pittsburg City Council Chambers, which is on the third floor of the building. The council chambers are located at 65 Civic Avenue, which is a short walk from the Pittsburg Center Station on the new BART to Antioch line. Courtesy of Tri-Delta Transit, there will be a shuttle available in the pick-up lot at the corner of Railroad Avenue and California Avenue to transport attendees between the BART station and the City Council Chambers. The shuttle will run from 4:15 pm to 11:15 pm. There will be directional signs at the Pittsburg Center BART station and the shuttle pick-up and drop-off locations. See map below:
Pittsburg City Hall shuttle route
From all points west:
Take Highway 4 eastbound toward Pittsburg/Stockton
Exit Railroad Avenue (exit 23)
Turn left onto Railroad Avenue
Turn left onto Center Drive, drive past the Justice Center and the Library
There is a parking lot in front of City Hall
Parking is free.
Take Highway 4 westbound toward Martinez
Exit Harbor St/Railroad Avenue (exit 23)
Turn left onto California Avenue
Turn right onto Railroad Avenue
Turn left onto Center Drive, drive past the Justice Center and the Library
There is a parking lot in front of City Hall
Parking is free.
Editor’s Note: We need to pack the room and make sure our voices are heard, by letting the full BART Board know about our concerns with safety, so that they don’t just hear from the folks who live close to and/or were able to attend their day-time meeting during the summer the BART Headquarters in Oakland.Read More
By Jimmy Lee, Director of Public Affairs, Office of the Contra Costa County Sheriff
On Thursday, August 23, 2018, at about 11:41 PM, Bay Station Deputy Sheriffs in Rodeo noticed two individuals exit a vehicle and discard an unknown item in a suspicious manner at the Rodeo Post Office at 499 Parker Avenue.
The Deputies attempted to conduct a traffic enforcement stop of the vehicle. The vehicle did not yield and led Deputies on a pursuit southbound on San Pablo Avenue.
The suspect vehicle went through the red signal light at San Pablo Avenue and Richmond Parkway where it collided with the side of a truck. The passenger was able to exit the vehicle on his own. The driver was pronounced deceased at the scene. They are not being identified at this time.
The item discarded by the two at the Post Office was later found to be a firearm.
The officer-involved fatal incident protocol was invoked. This incident is being investigated by the Richmond Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Contra Costa DA’s Office, and the Office of the Sheriff.
The CHP has issued a traffic alert for the closure of the intersection of San Pablo Avenue and Richmond Parkway because of the investigation.Read More
All cases to be prosecuted in Sacramento County
Martinez, Calif. – The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office announced today, Tuesday, August 21, 2018 that Joseph DeAngelo, the 72-year-old Citrus Heights man suspected of being the East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer, is charged with four felonies from the alleged attacks in Contra Costa County from 1978 to 1979. DeAngelo could face four life sentences plus ten years for his alleged crimes of kidnapping during the course of a robbery in Contra Costa County if he is convicted.
The Contra Costa D.A. announced that these cases will be prosecuted jointly by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office in Sacramento County. This joint prosecution includes cases from Sacramento, Orange, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Contra Costa Counties. An amended complaint, charging crimes from all six counties was filed today in Sacramento County Superior Court. A copy of the amended complaint is available here. (See counts 23-26 on pages 16-18)
In announcing this decision, District Attorney Diana Becton stated, “The horrific crimes committed by Joseph DeAngelo terrorized the victims and residents of Contra Costa County. For decades he evaded justice and devastated communities across California. Today, I am pleased to announce that four Contra Costa County cases are filed in Sacramento County. As we take another step today toward justice, our office will continue to support the victims and their families through this difficult time.”
DeAngelo now faces 13 felony counts of murder. Special circumstances sentencing enhancements include: multiple murders, murder during the commission of rape, robbery, and burglary, and personal use of a firearm. DeAngelo was charged today in an amended complaint with 13 felony counts of kidnapping to commit robbery with sentencing enhancements for personal use of a firearm and personal use of a knife during the commission of the offenses. He faces a minimum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole.
DeAngelo is expected to appear in Sacramento County for his arraignment on Thursday, August 23rd at 1:30 p.m. in Department 61 at the Sacramento County Superior Court.
Watch the video of the press conference by the six District Attorneys on YouTube.Read More
By Allen Payton
In a brief interview while he is out of town on vacation, Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer responded to the censure against him by the Board of Supervisors at their meeting on Tuesday, August 14 over sexual misconduct allegations. (See related article).
The conversations and text between assessor Kramer and complainants were mutual and consensual, he explained.
“In fact, most were initiated and or sent by one of the complainants,” Kramer stated. “No inappropriate physical behavior was claimed at all. No touching or asking out on dates of any kind.”
It was only after the two women were not chosen in civil service competition for a supervising appraiser’s position in the Assessor’s Office in 2014, were the complaints made.
“Only then did the conversations become unwelcome,” he said.
Upon being advised of their complaint, Kramer said he stopped all communication with both of the complainants, and they were advised of all of their options.
“None were pursued,” he pointed out.
The independent investigator, hired by the county in 2018, who is a female attorney in Oakland, determined there was no sexual harassment on Kramer’s part. The investigation was not conducted until this year, over three years later, when he was facing re-election.
According to Kramer, during that same time, and at least five years prior, one of the complainants had been lobbying members of the Board of Supervisors to be appointed to the position of County Assessor, should he retire or leave office midterm.
“She didn’t want to stand for election because she did not want to spend the money on a public campaign,” Kramer stated.
He ran unopposed in the June primary and won re-election for another four years.
The Board’s action occurred when neither Board Chair John Gioia nor Kramer could attend the meeting and defend himself or offer his point of view before the vote. He is considering suing the county.Read More
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors recognized the 2018 Veterans Initiative in the Arts ABOUTFACE Program at their meeting on August 14th. The ABOUTFACE: Self-Understanding through Self-Portraits Workshops offered visual arts activities that helped motivate veterans and their families to explore self-understanding, to think creatively, to be innovative and to improve their quality of life.
The teaching team of the recent ABOUTFACE, which consisted of: Coordinator, Ryan Berg (U.S. Marine Corps Veteran); Facilitator, Felisa Gaffney, Ph.D., (U.S. Air Force – Retired); and Artist, Victoria Bianco, Ph.D., were honored by the Board.
The 2018 ABOUTFACE participants in the six workshops were from across the County and represented a cross section of military service and age groups. All of the participants said they would recommend ABOUTFACE to other veterans and over half said they are looking forward to exhibiting their self-portraits for the public to see and understand.
The Arts and Culture Commission of Contra Costa County (AC5) worked with the County Veterans Service Department, the County Office of Communications & Media and the County Library to help select locations, distribute project information and to identify potential participants. AC5 Commissioner Anderson was the Project Director, and the other AC5 Commissioners all contributed to the success of this outstanding program. AC5 would like to thank the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors and the California Arts Commission for the funding that made this program possible.
To learn more about this program or to interview the honorees making a difference for veterans, please contact Roger Renn, AC5 Executive Director, at (925) 646-2278.Read More
Kramer, Board Chair Gioia unable to attend meeting
By Daniel Borsuk
Contra Costa County Assessr Gus Kramer was censured on sexual misconduct charges by the County Board of Supervisors on a 4-0 vote Tuesday, paving the way for a potential lawsuit by the longtime elected official. Board Vice Chair John Gioia was absent at the meeting because he was touring the tar sands of British Columbia as part of a joint tour for serving as a Board Director on both the California Air Resources Board and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
Elected to the county assessor post since 1994, Kramer was represented by his attorney Bruce Zelis of Walnut Creek. He warned supervisors before taking action that the assessor had sought a continuance on the board censure item because of Kramer’s inability to attend the meeting and because of questions that arose about whether the supervisors had violated the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state public meeting law.
Kramer’s attorney also questioned whether the board can discipline an elected official for actions he allegedly committed three years ago and there have been no similar charges leveled against him since then.
Zelis also questioned whether the board can discipline a countywide elected official, which conflicts with the board’s resolution recommendation that states:
“There are six county departments that are managed by elected department heads: the Assessor, Auditor, Clerk-Recorder, District Attorney, Sheriff, and Treasurer-Tax Collector. These elected officials are responsible for managing the county employees who work in their departments. The Board of Supervisors does not have the power to discipline elected officials when their conduct fails to meet the standards of behavior expected of all other county department heads.”
Obviously, supervisors went against the resolution recommendation and moved to censure the county assessor, who last year earned $221,946.80 before benefits.
Zelis refused to comment further with the Contra Costa Herald about the Brown Act violation allegations or other issues about Kramer’s case, but Board Chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill said there were no Brown Act violations when she and vice chair Gioia consulted over the proposed Kramer censure resolution prior to the meeting.
“We did not confer with our colleagues,” Mitchoff said.
This may not be the end of line for County Assessor Kramer case. The Contra Costa County Civil Grand Jury will now be handed the case to determine if the allegations involving the assessor and two female employees merit additional investigation.
Supervisors acted on a 2018 outside independent attorney investigation on two charges of sexual harassment dating back to 2015 by two initially unidentified Assessor Department female employees, one of whom has since been identified as associate assessor Margaret Eychner, a resident of Walnut Creek.
“The investigator found that, prior to mid-2015 it is more likely than not that Mr. Kramer made certain comments and engaged in conduct that two individuals who worked in his department considered to be offensive and inappropriate in the workplace.” a board report stated.
In the board’s resolution, the supervisors found “there was sufficient evidence to prove Assessor Kramer had engaged in the following conduct in 2014 and 2015:
- Kramer frequently visited the complainant’s cubicle on the first floor and the complainant frequently visited Mr. Kramer’s office during 2014 and up to March 2015. During these visits they discussed work related and nonwork-related matters.
- On one occasion Mr. Kramer told her that he had given a vibrator to a woman (not a county employee) as a gift. She thought that this was inappropriate and offensive.
- Mr. Kramer sent her two text messages in 2014 that she believed suggested a romantic/sexual interest in her. She considered the texts to be inappropriate an unwelcome.
- In May 2014, he offered her a rose, which she interpreted to be a romantic gesture.
- As to the second employee/witness, there was sufficient evidence to indicate that Mr. Kramer made a comment in her presence in 2008 and told a story in her presence in 2013 concerning his social interactions with women that she thought were inappropriate and offensive; and that on one occasion in 2015 he made a comment to her that she believed was intended to be sexually suggestive and considered inappropriate, offensive and unwelcome.”
The independent attorney investigator found that evidence did not show Assessor Kramer, who earned $221,946.80 in salary only in 2017, had retaliated against the two employees or had acted to “negatively impact their careers.” In addition, the investigator’s evidence did show the assessor stopped making inappropriate and offense comments of a sexual nature to both employees after he learned of their complaints in 2015. No further harassment complaints from the two employees or other employees have been lodged against the Assessor Kramer since June 2015.
“This is not a witch hunt and perhaps there wasn’t any retaliation,” said Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville, “but you have to remember the county had to pay $1 million in a sexual related case involving the assessor in 2009.” Andersen was referring to a $1 million settlement paid to Assessor department employee Bernice Peoples in 2009 that Kramer had sexually retaliated against her.
“I want all our employees to feel safe and comfortable,” said Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood after voting in favor of the censure resolution.
Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg did not comment on this item.
Sandy Hook Promise Impresses Supervisors
A Contra Costa County Office of Education presentation on the nationally acclaimed Sandy Hood Promise, a non-profit organization designed to prevent gun violence on K-12 school campuses, won endorsements from all four supervisors in attendance. Supervisors plan to place a resolution of endorsement on its next board meeting agenda slated for Sept. 11.
Sandy Hook Promise and the county office of education and eventually 18 public K12 school districts in the county are expected to work with the no-cost program that Sandy Hook Promise Vice President of Field Operations Paula Fynboh says is based on a heavy emphasis on student mental wellness.
“You brought us a great gift,” remarked Supervisor Burgis. “You have my personal support.”
County Real Estate Fraud Unit Reviewed 71 Cases in 2017/2018
Supervisors also approved without comment the District Attorney Office’s annual real estate fraud report for the 2017/2018 fiscal year during which time the Real Estate Fraud Unit reviewed 71 real estate fraud cases, an increase from 64 cases that were reviewed during the 2016/2017 fiscal year.
“Within the last year, our office has secured felony convictions in 3 different cases and has conducted preliminary hearings against another 7 defendants in complex white-collar fraud cases, involving over 2 million dollars in stolen assets,” wrote Deputy District Attorney Adam Wilks, who leads the Special Operations-Real Estate Fraud.
Because real estate fraud is a sophisticated crime targeting especially senior citizens, Wilks wrote: “Within the last year, the Real Estate Fraud Unit restored title to the home of an elderly woman after the home was fraudulently slated for foreclosure auction. This unit is currently working with federal prosecutors to help elderly victims of a foreclosure scam in operating around the Bay Area.”
Wilks reported that in the 2016/2017 fiscal year the Real Estate Fraud Unit tracked international cases as far away as Nigeria. “These investigations involve rental fraud, forgery, embezzlement, foreclosure consultancy fraud, short sale fraud and elder abuse,” he reported.
Established in July 1996 by the board of supervisors, the DA’s Real Estate Fraud Prosecution unit is staffed with one deputy district attorney, one senior inspector and one legal assistant. Last fiscal year, the unit spent $399,705 for salaries, benefits, travel and necessary services.
Resolution Boosts Two County Airports Economic Assets
Supervisors unanimously gave the county’s two airports – Buchanan Field Airport in Concord and Byron Airport – an economic boost in the form of a resolution recognizing the contributions of the two airports to the aeronautical community and economic growth of the county.
The resolution materializes when the airports, especially Buchanan Field Airport, has drawn increased development interest. The City of Concord has made overtures to annex the airfield, but Board Chair Mitchoff, whose District 4 covers the Concord air field, said, “There is no way, no how that the city of Concord will annex the air field. It is an economic asset for the county.” Both airports are self-sufficient and do not need to use county general fund money to cover expenses. Instead both airports are moneymakers contributing about $2.77 million to the county general fund, $1.2 million to local schools, and $273,216 to other public entities from associated possessory interest and sales tax.
The supervisors’ resolution boasts how the two airports provides a base of operation to over 600 aircraft, generated about $106 million in total direct and indirect annual economic output in 2016, which includes the creation of 828 jobs, $8 million in state and local revenue and $10.2 million in federal tax revenue.Read More
By Jimmy Lee, Director of Public Affairs, Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff
The Investigation Division of the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff is requesting the public’s assistance in an ongoing death investigation.
On Friday, July 20, 2018, at about 10:16 AM, Deputy Sheriffs were dispatched to a report of a deceased body in the Contra Costa Water District canal near Driftwood Drive and Pacifica Avenue in Bay Point. A Water District employee found the body while doing a regular check of the canal. The Sheriff’s Office Dive Team removed the body, which was transported to the Coroner’s Division.
The person was later identified as 25-year-old Kreonna Smith of Pittsburg. The cause of death is pending. It is believed that Smith was in the water for several days.
Smith is described as 5’6”, approximately 175 pounds, with brown colored eyes and black hair. She was last seen wearing dark pants and a white shirt with dark horizontal stripes. She was reported missing to the Pittsburg Police Department on July 16, 2018. Smith does not have a vehicle and was on foot.
Anyone who may have seen Smith or has any information on this case is asked to contact the Office of the Sheriff Investigation Division at (925) 313-2600. For any tips, please email: email@example.com or call 866-846-3592 to leave an anonymous voice message.Read More