From the March 14, 2012 edition:
By Daniel Mintz
Press Staff Writer
A consulting firm specializing in grant regulation compliance is reviewing management of grant funds in the District Attorney’s Office and its work has expanded to include what a county staff report describes as “all prior year grants and revenue sources.”
The firm’s expanded contract is said to be connected to a personnel matter. The District Attorney’s Office’s legal business manager is on administrative leave and a separate county investigation has reviewed the job performance of that employee.
Failure to claim grant revenues is one of the issues being analyzed and it’s one that’s been noted by the county’s Grand Jury. District Attorney Paul Gallegos had refuted the 2010 Grand Jury report’s finding that two quarters of grant funding reimbursements for a victim-witness program hadn’t been claimed in the 2006-07 fiscal year.
But the accuracy of Gallegos’ response is in serious doubt. The DA’s Office, the County Administrative Office and the county’s Auditor-Controller’s Office noticed that grant revenues failed to materialize in the 2010-11 fiscal year, said Assistant County Administrative Officer Cheryl Dillingham.
“Money hadn’t been claimed,” she said, leading to “a lot of backwards research to maximize revenue.”
The Sacramento-based consulting firm, Intellibridge Partners, was hired by the DA’s Office to look into the situation. Originally contracted for $30,000, Intellibridge began work on June 14, 2011 and its contract has been extended to March 31 for a total cost of $147,805.
Dillingham said that once Intellibridge began its review, it was determined to be “cost effective” to enlist the firm for additional work.
At the March 6 Board of Supervisors meeting, the DA asked for and got approval of transfers from asset forfeiture funds to pay for the contract, which is part of a larger supplemental budget funding request.
“The underlying reason for hiring the outside consultant somewhat emanated out of a personnel matter but certainly, it’s important for us to make sure all the funds we received, both from grants and from the General Fund, are actually being spent as they should be,” Gallegos told supervisors when asked about the Intellibridge contract.
Irregularities in DA’s Office grant management were publicized through the Grand Jury’s report and media coverage of concerns raised by the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA) last summer. The agency informed Gallegos that county public safety departments weren’t being notified of the availability of hundreds of thousands of dollars of grant monies.
At the time, a spokesman for CalEMA said that “management papers weren’t being filed and the state doesn’t like to delay getting money to locals.” But CalEMA has not responded to several messages requesting follow-up information.
Gallegos said that so far, one grant from the federal Office on Violence Against Women has been identified as having been affected by lack of reimbursement. “In and of itself, it’s not an issue, it depends on the magnitude of what wasn’t reclaimed,” he continued.
Asked if there’s a grasp on the magnitude, Gallegos said there isn’t. He said he isn’t certain if the grant is the same one that the Grand Jury focused on in its finding.
The grant mentioned by the DA is related to domestic violence services and spanned multiple years. Gallegos said it was discontinued in 2008 but the staffing that it supported remained in place because the funding was thought to be active until last year, when its non-renewal was discovered.
Gallegos declined to say more about the situation due to its status as a personnel matter. But he acknowledged responsibility for it.
“It is my fault? Yes, because it was my employee and I allowed it to happen,” Gallegos said.
Linda Forbes, Intellibridge’s director of marketing, said the firm will draft a report when it completes its work. The firm won’t release the report to the public, she continued, as that decision will be left to the county and the DA’s Office.
Gallegos said anything in the report related to the personnel matter won’t be disclosed but information on the status of grant funding will be.
Forbes said Intellibridge is “providing critical fiscal services related to grant management, ensuring that requirements are followed concerning the use of grant funds.” Responding to a question, she said there’s no indication that grant funds have been misused.
“It’s just a matter of meeting their compliance needs,” she continued.
The county has handled the situation as a personnel matter. An inquiry to the County Administrative Officer last month was referred to Amy Nilsen, the county’s risk manager, for response.
Nilsen declined comment, saying personnel matters can’t be discussed. She also declined comment for the same reason when asked for general information about the status of grants.
Gallegos said that all grants affecting his office’s services are now being properly managed. The county agrees.
“I feel fairly confident about what’s going on up there now,” said Dillingham. “They have a good handle on what’s going on with all of their grants.”