Item W on the Board of Supervisors Consent Calendar last Tuesday read: “Approval of a five-year agreement between the Sheriff's office and BI Inc. and authorization for the Sheriff to sign for an additional three one-year extensions."
BI Inc. had scored big time.
Supervisor John Pinches had pulled the item from the consent calendar. He rightly felt that if the taxpayers were on the hook for a large amount of money for a long time, the deal ought to be aired out in public.
“First of all,” Pinches began, “it always bugs me because there's no name on the CEO review box. Does that mean that nobody in the CEO’s office has reviewed this? BI Inc. That’s the same company that we have a contract with for the realignment and we're having the grand opening there right away? Is this part and parcel of the full contract? It says were going to get $50,000 for the first year but after that it's going to be $200,000 annually. And it says the current fiscal year, which we are in, and which started three weeks ago, so why can't we get the same deal for every year as we're getting with this fiscal year? Is this part of a bigger contract? And why didn't the whole contract come before us instead of this one segment of this BI Inc. contract?”
The supervisor was on-task.
BI Inc. provides the ankle bracelets and runs the probation drop-in/check-in office.
Jail Commander Captain Tim Pearce: “There's two separate processes. One is the Day Reporting Center. That's over here. The home detention piece is separate from that. Three different companies, one of which was BI, bid on that project and for that process.”
Board Chair John McCowen: “That is a little confusing though. Because the way it’s coming to us — so, then, are you telling us that the home detention is $50,000 per year?”
Pearce: “That's only if reach if we reach 90% of our capacity and we start pushing people out the door. Up until that point it's all funded by the inmates. So if we — how I'm looking at is maybe in May or June we may get close to that number but I'm going to do everything I can to avoid that number.”
McCowen: “So then there may be no net county cost to the county?”
Pearce: “Correct. The number on here was only placed on there for a cap.”
Pinches: “That's the $200,000? Does that work out right?”
Pearce: “That's based on if we have people put out on home detention 365 days a year.”
McCowen: “So you don't see any way that we would even hit the $50,000?”
Pearce: “From October to now we went from an average of 206 inmates to a daily population of 253.”
Pinches: “That seems counterproductive. Because it seems to me that the more people you can put out on these electronic bracelets, that would keep your jail costs down… But this contract reads that if we were worried about hitting this cap getting so many of them out there because it would make our contract jump up, but then that means we’ll hold them in jail so that makes the jail costs go up. It's kind of like you're working against yourself.”
Pearce: “The cap is in place just to come back to the board for authorization to go above that cap.”
Pinches: “But if you go above that cap the contract really increases?”
Pearce: “No. The daily rate stays the same.”
Pinches appeared stumped.
Pearce: “You take $10 a day as opposed to over $100 a day is what it comes down to.”
Pinches: “So the incentive to put people out on electronic bracelets is still there? Right?”
Pinches: “I mean, even if you go over the contract amount it's not going to really— I'm concerned about why this is costing us $50,000 a year, what will make this jump up to $200,000 a year, and you are saying if we keep a lot of people out on electronic bracelets that still won't—”
Pearce: “If we have an average of 50 people out on home detention every day that's where that $200,000 comes in. For that entire year.”
McCowen: “But would that $200,000 — would it be repaid to the county by the people who are out on electronic monitoring?”
Pearce: “No. Because we would actually be pushing them out the door onto home detention.”
McCowen: “Because we need to save capacity at the jail.”
Pearce: “Yes. The other thing in place here is the CCP. We will be going to the CCP with a request to fund home detention out of the CCP funds. That hasn't been done yet but that is certainly coming up in the future CCP meetings.”
McCowen: “And please state the acronym in its full—”
Pearce: “Community Corrections Program, I believe. I always forget the acronyms too.”
Pinches: “Maybe this is a question for Kyle [Knopp, Deputy CEO]. Kyle, under the source of funding it says realignment and budget unit 2510 which is the jail. So is that revenues that we are getting from state for realignment? Is that—? We are not creating a separate budget unit, that's all, that realignment revenue is all included in the jail budget?”
Knopp: “Correct. It's supposed to be from, basically, from the AB 109 fund.” [The realignment funds which are supposed to pay for the prisoners going to county jails instead of state prisons.]
Pinches: “Yes. I know that. But I thought we were going to create a separate budget unit to track that, that cost and revenue.”
Knopp: “The funds are being tracked outside whenever— First of all, the CCP will make a budget and then the request to bill against the charges of the CCP will come back through the executive office and the auditor's office and we sign off on them and create a paper record and the intention was on a quarterly basis to present that record as an attachment to the quarterly reports and so I believe we missed the last quarterly, attaching it to the last report but at the close out this year we will include a summary of the uses of the CCP funds and how those were authorized and each actual request individually for reimbursement.”
Pinches: “My question is, Will it continue to be tracked in budget unit 2510, the jail budget, or will a separate budget unit be set up?”
Knopp: “It will be in 2510.”
Pinches: “It will all be in 2510. The revenue and everything. All in 2510?”
Pinches: “So basically, this, what do you call it? This rehabilitation center, you have the grant there, what was the name of the —”
Pearce: “The CCP?”
McCowen: “The Day Reporting Center?
Pinches: “The Day Reporting Center!
Pearce: “The Day Reporting Center.”
Pinches: “That's all going to be budgeted through this 2510, the jail budget, right?”
Pinches: “Well, I'm hearing two different things.”
Pearce: “The Day Reporting Center is through the CCP and [Probation] Chief Brown controls that budget.”
McCowen: “And the Day Reporting Center is separate from this item?”
Pinches: “Kyle just said it was going to be included in budget unit 2510. Which is the jail budget.”
Pearce: “If I can jump in. It's different strains.”
Pinches: “I understand that! That's why I think it should be a separate budget unit. To track it all. The revenues from the state—”
McCowen: “I think we are getting off track with this individual item.”
Pinches: “Well, when else are we going to discuss this, Mr. Chairman? If not while the item is before us?
McCowen: “But again, creating a separate budget unit is distinct from this item of whether we are going to approve this item or not. So I think as part of our ongoing presentations on the criminal justice realignment we could certainly discuss—”
Pinches: “Isn't it fair to get it an answer to a simple question: Is it going to be handled through budget unit 2510?”
McCowen: “Well, you got the answer. You don’t like the answer.”
Pinches: “I got the answer from Mr. Pearce and the CEO’s office.”
McCowen: “That's not what I heard.”
Supervisor Carre Brown: “Mr. Chair.”
McCowen: “Supervisor Brown.”
Brown: “I think Supervisor Pinches has a point. And I think it's best discussed when we get back on budget.”
McCowen: “Do I hear a motion?
Brown: “I move the recommended action.”
McCowen: “Is there a second to the motion?
(No second. McCowen handed the gavel to Supervisor Dan Hamburg, vice chair.)
McCowen: “I will second the motion. I pass the gavel to Supervisor Hamburg. You are in charge.”
Hamburg: “We have a motion and a second.”
Smith said she thought the length of the contract before coming back to the board is too long.
McCowen: “I think it may be appropriate to have annual reports which I think we would probably get anyway and then the extensions would come back before the Board for approval. Is that your understanding, Supervisor Smith?”
Hamburg: “Pardon me.”
McCowen: “Oh. I’m sorry. (Laughs — Hamburg had the gavel; McCowen forgot and quizzed Supervisor Smith, then apologized.)
Hamburg: “I will ask you the same question. Is that acceptable? Is there a way to change this motion?
Smith: “Yes, that would address my concerns.”
Pinches: “My main concern here is that the CEO’s office didn't pay much attention to this item because if you look at the source of funding, it says realignment $50,000 but budget unit 2510 which is general fund dollars and it may go up to $200,000 and I guess that's why I want to know how this accounting is going to be to where— I'm not against doing this contract. Don't get me wrong. I just want to make sure the accounting’s right because we get basically full cost recovery from the state reimbursement, realignment dollars and not to where it ends up eating into our— because if we use our general fund dollars of the Sheriff's office, Sheriff [Captain] Pearce, you know the first thing that will happen is we will want you to lay off deputies. And I don't want that to happen. So I want this to be set up right to where this, what's the name of your building over here, again? What's it going to be? So that works, so our accounting, so it’s kept separate, so that we keep these realignment costs— because I understand they are pretty much 100% reimbursable where the 2510 is not, it's a county general fund expense so I want to make sure that we are— you know, I've never seen us get a state dollar yet and three or four years down the road you get audited and we have been dinged on several— in fact we're practically paying many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year right now on an accounting mistake the county made in our District Attorney's office. So I do not want us to let this come back and bite us in the butt because we done our accounting wrong and that's why it needs to be tracked from Day One. And that's the only point I'm trying to make. It's not that I'm against the contract. Apparently — I don't think there's any rush because apparently we are under contract with them right now for this fiscal year for $50,000 a year.”
Pearce: “Yes. That's what you would be signing. We are under contract currently with a company called LCA to provide home detention.”
Pinches: “Oh. When does that contract expire?
Pearce: “As soon as this contract is signed.”
Pinches: “Oh. [Laughs.] But there's no drop-dead date? I mean it's just—”
Pearce: “Not yet.”
Pearce: “The drop-dead date is today if this is signed. If you approve this contract, the drop-dead date is today.”
Pinches: “And next week or something—”
McCowen: “We don't meet for another three weeks.”
Pinches: “So is this time sensitive in three weeks?”
Pearce: “Yes. It certainly is. Because we need to end the one relationship and begin the next.”
Pinches: “I will support this but I want to make sure that, as I stated, we get this funding so it’s tracked and not— if you comingle with general fund dollars you'll run into a real problem later on down the line when you get audited. And certainly we are going to get audited. We always do with these types of funds coming in.”
Pearce: “I'm not sure how the funds are in place but I believe Chief Brown was going to come in and do a presentation to the board on the CCP.”
Pinches: “Yes. It seems to me like the funding, how it's distributed and whatnot, should be tracked by our CEO’s office. They should be the lead in this, not a department head, not any department.”
Pearce: “I agree.”
Knopp: “I want to reassure the board that we are tracking the funds and basically what occurs is if a budget unit, for example 2510, incurs realignment related costs that budget unit is then reimbursed for the costs of that which is incurred and so that process is tracked and submitted by the departments who are required to keep auditable records, maintainable records and then they make those requests and submit them either to the Probation Chief, the Auditor-Controller, and the CEO under certain circumstances depending on different funds, the combination of those three signatures changes but the bottom line is that those funds are requested, they are tracked and they are presented to the board and we will be doing that within the next I believe couple months as the books close for 11-12.”
Pinches: “That's the thing that upsets me most on this. Not really upsets me, but got me concerned. Under the CEO review that section is left blank. I want somebody from the CEO’s office to be on top of this realignment stuff. It's not that I don't trust the Sheriff's office or the Probation department, but this is a major function of the CEO’s office and I think somebody ought to be able to put their name on a piece of paper anyway.”
Brown added annual review to her motion.
Pinches: “I still have a concern about we still have the options for the last three years. Going this far out. Because this realignment program is all based upon state funding and a commitment from the governor saying that the money is going to be there. First of all we’re probably going to have a new governor before this contract expires and things do change. We got hit pretty hard by the state saying, Yeah, this money is going to come through all the way back to my first term. Remember ERAF? Educational Revenue Augmentation Funding? It never came through. I'm just concerned about that. In the meantime, we still have to do business.”
The motion passed unanimously as originally proposed but with annual reviews added.
* * *
Is the County on the hook if the funding doesn’t come through when (ok, if) Governor Brown’s tax initiative fails in November? We don’t know. Will the home detention contract funds be separately tracked? We don’t know. Will the CEO do the tracking? We don’t know. Will the County be reimbursed for home detention by the state? We don’t know. How much of the home detention costs are paid by the inmates? We don’t know. Will inmate payments be properly accounted for? We don’t know. Will the home detention program become a cost-pressure relief valve for the jail if too many prisoners are sentenced to the County Jail instead of state prison? We don’t know. Will the Day Reporting Center funds be comingled with the Home Detention Funds? We don’t know. Will the Probation Department be putting people on home detention instead of jail if probationers violate the terms of their probation? We don’t know.
Will there be some kind of annual reporting on whatever they were talking about?