Ronald L. Wood Comments to Lassen County Board of Supervisors
707 Nevada Street
Susanville, CA 96130
February 25, 2014
Subject: Lassen County Board of Supervisors Decorum at Public Meetings
On February 18, I attended the Board of Supervisor’s regular meeting as a member of the public and not as a licensed private investigator. I spoke during the public comment period regarding Agenda Item H-3, Staff Allocation for the Sheriff’s Department. After addressing the Board on this sheriff budget item the Chairman suggested that I might also speak to this issue later when it came up on the agenda. It should be noted that Agenda Item H-3 was to be presented by undersheriff Mineau later in the meeting. He was also there to receive a service commendation from the Board.
When the undersheriff came to the front of the boardroom to receive that commendation he began by thumping his knuckles on the podium and making the remark about how he has to come to this Board and hear negative comments “rock throwing” by the public. It was a bit unnerving to hear this aspersion, knowing it was directed at my previous public comment regarding the Sheriff’s budget.
His unprofessional behavior continued when Agenda Item H-3 was finally introduced for discussion by the board. Undersheriff Mineau incorrectly argued that my budget questions were somehow not timely because the item had already been vetted through a public review process. In fact, this current budget item was the last of that series of public discussions. This argument appeared to be little more than an attempt to discourage my comments to the Sheriff Department budget item.
During the discussion that followed, the undersheriff displayed a series of aggressive behaviors, including “staring me down” in the room. The undersheriff was joined by a number of his staff who stood in the entrance to the boardroom. This behavior had a chilling effect on the public discussion. The video recording of the meeting posted on the Internet’s Youtube by Lassen County Scoop clearly shows the undersheriff’s display of anger and his intimidating challenges. Members of the public who choose to speak to this Board should never be placed on the defensive as the undersheriff attempted to do.
Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors also contributed to undersheriff Mineau behavior in failing to immediately put the undersheriff ‘s behavior in check. Instead, Supervisor Bob Pyle was allowed to add to this contentious behavior when he asked, “Are you accusing the sheriff’s department of corruption?” Supervisor’s Pyle unprofessional remark implied that I was somehow the one on review and not the Sheriff Department’s budget. Supervisor Pyle, like Mineau, were simply allowed to shift the discussion to me as a participant instead of addressing critical questions I offered to the budget discussion.
How many of the18 Sheriff’s Department correctional officers have been certified and completed the State training as required by California Penal Code section 831.c? This central question of certification presented to the Board was never answer.
The Board of Supervisor’s boardroom is the public room. The Board of Supervisors has a responsibility to ensure proper decorum is maintained at board meetings that allows ALL those participating to be treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.This is fundamental to the public process. It is my right as well as other citizens to participate in a climate of impartiality. Making the public feel welcome and not threatened is an important part of that democratic process.
This failure to control the decorum of the meeting was not lost on some of those from the public who witnessed the discussion. I received more than one comment regarding the overzealous actions of those officials mentioned above. I realize that each official is personally responsible for his own actions. However, government codes of conduct and ethics certainly demand as much from this Board as a whole.
It is my expectation that the Board of Supervisors will take my remarks regarding meeting decorum under serious consideration. No citizen should be subject to the same difficulties I experience while addressing this Board.
Additional Funding Approved for Jail Staff.
By Ruth Ellis
Lassen County Times, February 11, 2014
Assembly Bill 109 Public Safety Realignment Legislation - has posed the greatest challenge to the Lassen County Jail budget. The realignment bill that went into effect in October 2011 provides that non-serious, nonviolent, nonsexual felony offenders will be incarcerated in county jails rather than state prisons. The counties also will assume responsibility for felons’ post-incarceration conditions.
According to undersheriff John Mineau, the staffing levels set in 2011 were based upon 70 inmates in what was then a county jail. Now there are 140 people in what he described as a county prison. “More than a third of our inmates are realigned. They are what used to be felons. They are harder to deal with, they are harder to manage, it’s just a more difficult environment...,” he said.
Mineau discussed the issue during a Tuesday, 21 January 2014 meeting of the Lassen County Board of Supervisors where an additional $85,000 was approved out of the county contingency fund to hire four correctional officers.
“We’ve talked an awful lot since realignment care into play about inmates, their criminal sophistication, their gang activity, the violence, the fights, things that are going on in the jail.” Mineau said. He said staff if fighting through the transition and the short answer is: “We need more people in there,” he said.
In written information provided to the board, sheriff Dean Growdon described the current staffing plan as “terribly deficient,” with the new makeup of the jail. Staffing is drawn down when inmates have to transported to court, medical appointments or are hospitalized.
The issue was discussed during the board budget hearings when Growdon requested extra money to deal with staffing shortages. According to Growdon, staff has recruited for both full-time and part-time correctional officers.
The hiring process was also revamped to streamline the written test, and a dedicated background investigator is used to keep the process moving. Even with the improved hiring process, Growdon said the part-time extra help positions have been ineffective in solving the problem. A consultant provided three days of training for jail and patrol personnel. Based on feedback from staff, the consultant identified deficiencies and made recommendations that require on-going maintenance and monitoring for the sheriff’s office to operate a jail that meets constitutional standards.
Two patrol deputies are now being reassigned to the jail as acting sergeants which, in turn creates a lost and burden for the patrol division. In addition, the California Board of State and Community Corrections was brought in to do an analysis on staffing, but according to Mineau, they are still waiting on the results. He said, however, they have every confidence the recommendations is going to be more than four new officers, they could say eight additional people are needed. “Then we’re going to come back and talk about four more. That’s just to throw it all out there,” he said.
Mineau told the supervisors they are still looking for ways to increase revenue. Other budgets dispatch and patrol - do look good at this point according to Mineau. But in the sheriff’s office and a critical event such as a major crime, some unusual spike in coroner’s cases and search and rescue can change the picture.