12.07.2006

TS - Gallegos responds to grand jury findings

Gallegos responds to grand jury findings
Chris Durant The Times-Standard
September 02. 2005

EUREKA -- Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos has responded to the Humboldt County grand jury report issued July 1, saying he agrees with some of its findings, but disagrees with others. Gallegos, in an e-mail, said some of the grand jury's recommendations have been implemented while others cannot be because of budget constraints.

Grand Jury finding No. 1: "The Grand Jury finds that the DA's office is seriously understaffed."

Gallegos' response: He agrees, saying the statewide budget crisis resulted in the loss of three attorneys, four investigators, two clerical positions and three victim-witness advocates. He said the recommendation of hiring more attorneys and staff will be implemented when the budget allows it to be.

Grand Jury finding No. 2: Not enough feedback is given to law enforcement agencies regarding their reports.

Gallegos' response: He disagrees, saying he meets monthly with county heads of law enforcement, the DA's Office is one of the primary staffers to the Humboldt County Drug Task Force and the office holds weekly meetings with law enforcement to discuss cases.

Grand Jury finding No. 3: Failure to respond to inquiries from victims, witnesses, defendants or the grand jury in a timely manner.

Gallegos' response: "The respondent, District Attorney, disagrees wholly with the finding." He said the workload for attorneys has increased over the past two years and most attorneys are assigned to courtrooms. "The District Attorney is regularly contacted by people about incidents, police reports, filing decisions, disposition decisions and communication with attorneys, investigators, clerical staff and victim-witness advocates. If issues are raised about the failure of staff to respond to inquiries those claims are immediately presented to the attorney, investigators, clerical staff and/or victim-witness advocates and addressed."

Grand Jury finding No. 4: "The Grand Jury finds that the DA does not hold regular meetings with his supervisory staff."

Gallegos' response: He agrees, saying there's not enough time due to staffing shortages, workload increases and increased criminal filings. "Regular formalized meetings were considered more detrimental than beneficial."

Grand Jury finding No. 5: "The Grand Jury finds that there is no procedure and policy manual for the office."

Gallegos' response: He agrees, saying "the office did not have and does not have a procedure and policy manual."

Grand Jury finding No. 6: There's no way for people to leave messages for the office after hours.

Gallegos' response: He agrees, saying getting a phone system that lists all the attorneys' and staff's extensions has been a goal for the office. He said money and the time to train staff on a new system are primary reasons this hasn't been done yet.

Grand Jury finding No. 7: "The Grand Jury finds that the DA does not provide performance evaluations for 'at will' employees."

Gallegos' response: He disagrees. "Performance evaluations are provided as necessary to train and/or correct conduct that can be addressed by training or by direction from supervisory staff."

Grand Jury finding No. 8: The firing of an experienced, "highly competent" deputy DA without having a replacement available.
Gallegos' response: He simply stated he disagrees.

Grand Jury finding No. 9: The "at will" employment status of deputy district attorneys keeps experienced prosecutors from seeking employment in the office.

Gallegos' response: He said the county does attract "quality" and "experienced" prosecutors and the at will status has never been an issue in any interview process.

Grand Jury finding No. 10: "The Grand Jury finds the reasons for plea bargains in serious felonies as required by penal code sections 1192.6 and 1192.7 are not documented in the court minutes."

Gallegos' response: He agrees, saying those penal code sections do not require the reasons for plea bargains to be in the court minutes.

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