July 25, 2023 — Kings County Board of Supervisors
Documented by Matthew Carnero-Macias
Here’s what you need to know
- The Kings County District Attorney’s Office is experiencing an exodus of employees. At least five attorneys have resigned and pursued employment in other counties, and another two will leave after August. A last-resort proposal brought forth by District Attorney Sarah Hacker aims to employ two independent contractors.
- The proposal is being scrutinized and criticized over what some consider an exorbitant pay rate. A counter-proposal in discussion would adjust current district attorneys’ salaries in hopes of stabilizing retention and boosting recruitment. Several attorneys are fearful the office may falter and become highly ineffective in its services, such as prolonging prosecution and empty courtrooms. After tabling the proposal until the next meeting, both the board and Hacker agreed that several other counties are in the same position.
- In view of ineffective recruitment efforts to secure new attorneys, how will the board work in conjunction with the district attorney’s office and other departments and agencies to mitigate understaffing problems? What is the cost incurred from drawn-out prosecutions, inadequate staffing and so forth? Are crime rates impacted by the half-staffed offices?
The Kings County Board of Supervisors met for a regular meeting on July 25, 2023. The board members are: District 1 Supervisor Joe Neves, District 2 Supervisor Richard Valle, District 3 Supervisor Doug Verboon, District 4 Supervisor Rusty Robinson and District 5 Supervisor Richard Fagundes. All supervisors were in attendance.
The consent calendar was unanimously approved and its items did not receive any discussion from the board. Items included in the consent calendar were the consideration of two appointments to the Corcoran Cemetery District Board, consideration of authorizing step hire procedures for Public Health Department personnel and consideration of amending a memorandum of understanding for a public health services contract.
The regular agenda items consisted of four items related to the District Attorney’s Office, the Sheriff’s Office, the Public Works Department and the Administration Department.
The board recognized Operation Moovin’ Out, a four-year-long joint operation between Kings County Major Crimes Task Force and the Department of Justice, with assistance from local agencies.
Four years after the operation started, 62 criminal arrests have been made, resulting in a large-scale takedown of the Crips criminal street gang and its associates.
“This was an operation that developed several years ago when law enforcement had noticed that there was a rise in Crip criminal street gang activity,” said District Attorney Sarah Hacker. “They started to develop a case, build it and appealed to the Department of Justice to assist them in a wiretap investigation.”
Sheriff David Robinson has curbed drug sales, human trafficking and money laundering in the region, he said.
“It’s a special moment when we can recognize employees from not only our own agencies but other agencies as well,” he said.
Hacker informed the board of the proposal to hire two independent contractors to work remotely and assist the office. She told supervisors that job applicants have dramatically decreased, starting with college admissions dropping a quarter and very poor Bar exam results. Despite the uncertainty the near future presents, Hacker believes paying $190 per hour and an additional $100 per hour for two independent contractors is a short-term solution.
“I would rather use this money for the staff that I have and the staff that I can get to work here full-time rather than spend it on an independent contractor that’s only temporary,” Hacker said.
The board was concerned that swift approval of the proposal would discourage current attorneys. They unanimously approved tableing the item until the next regular meeting.
Public Works Director and County Roads Commissioner Dominic Tyburski reported the new Juvenile Center Remodel Project is complete, and is seeking approval of the notice of completion.
The Senate Bill 81 Juvenile Center Remodel Project closed at $17.4 million, after change orders resulted in an increase of $832,792. The center was built within the existing Kings County Branch Jail. .
After initial inspection, the State Fire Marshall concluded the facility cannot be occupied until a number of items are corrected.
Tyburski explained that the notice of completion pertains to the original bid and contract agreement. Despite the required changes — estimated to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars — to come before the board’s approval, he still anticipates the center will open before the end of the calendar year.
The board unanimously approved the notice of completion.
Kings County Administration staff member Matthew Boyett presented the findings from the grand jury report titled “Follow Up To Corcoran Cemetery District Report 2021-2022”.
He informed the board that they are not legally required to respond. However, they are listed as an invited response.
The Corcoran Cemetery District is under investigation by the Kings County grand jury after several complaints and public outcry. Discovery included issues concerning watering, headstone upkeep, grounds upkeep, cemetery accessibility and a lack of transparency in services as well as operation information.
The jury also conducted an investigation into the Kings County Finance Department. As a result, the jury found the department was subject to fraud by an internet scam, was responsible for discrepancies in purchases and travel expenses and filed inaccurate 1099 filings after the IRS deadline.
- Cindy Craddock addressed the Corcoran Cemetery District report conducted by the Kings County Grand Jury. She was pleased with the district’s response to the gophers. Craddock claimed the district neglects the cemetery, and at least once a year it goes unkept. The board suggested she apply to the Corcoran Cemetery District Board.
- Kevin Cook, a deputy for the district attorney’s office, informed the board of the impending hardship at the District Attorney’s Office. He announced the recent proposal aiming to alleviate some of the backlogs is to hire two part-time out-of-state attorneys. Cook said the proposal is unsatisfactory and needs revision. The attorneys would earn at least $190 an hour while working remotely if hired. He said he fears if the proposal is accepted, current deputy district office attorneys will quit. He said the attorneys feel like it’s a slap in the face and insulting.
- “If the board decides to approve this recent proposal I believe that there will be several more attorneys that leave the office, creating a situation where we won’t be able to function effectively as a District Attorney’s Office,” Cook said. He added that a more viable solution would be to adjust current attorney salaries for retention and recruitment efforts.
- “I’m concerned about public safety. I want to ensure that everybody’s aware that the District Attorney’s Office in about a month will be 50% down on our attorneys,” said Kevin Cook, deputy district attorney of 17 years. “In my opinion, that’s a situation that makes us ineffective. It’s hard to do our job with that limited number.”
- “Due to the attrition that has been happening in the office, we will be down to approximately 50% t of the deputy district attorneys that this county needs,” said District Attorney Sarah Hacker. “My concern with having a level of district attorneys so low is that we will not be able to file in-custody complaints and man our staff in all of the courtrooms.”
- “We learned of the issue through the pandemic that all of the cemeteries, not just Corcoran, all of the cemeteries were having an issue because of an overload of higher than average burials each month,” said Chairman and District 2 Supervisor Richard Valle.
- The next board meeting will be Aug. 1 at 9 a.m.
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