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 made it clear on Tuesday they’re 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.
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.