Documented by Josef Sibala
Here’s what you need to know:
- The Kings County Board of Supervisors approved several district attorney positions. District Attorney Sarah Hacker said that the added positions will increase operational efficiency, improve team trust, and alleviate workplace pressures.
- Human Services Director Wendi Osikafo shared that the number of EBT theft cases in Kings County increased from 9 to 1,117 from July 2022 to July 2023, while the benefit replacement amount peaked in May 2023 at more than $500,000.
- For the next meeting, Supervisor Valle suggested that General Assistance benefits continue to be issued via warrant, direct deposit, or EBT, along with a limit of $8,000.
- The board approved a memorandum of understanding with Kings Community Action Organization for joint use of the Family Resource Center in Kettleman City effective Dec. 1, 2023, through Nov. 30, 2024.
- Vice President of Kings County Firefighters Local 3747 Mike Ronelos said the county is losing skilled firefighters to operate the trucks and equipment. He said that there is a significant compensation gap of 25 percent between firefighters in the county and those in surrounding agencies.
- Why did Supervisor Valle abstain from voting on the consent agenda items and not follow the FPPC rules of stating the reason for his recusal?
- How will the county cope with the reemergence of Tulare Lake?
- How will the county address EBT fraud?
- When will the county deal with wages across county employees, especially firefighters?
According to its website, Kings County is a “general law” county, meaning the state constitution and general law determine the county’s governmental structure.
The Board of Supervisors is the governing body for Kings County and many county special districts. Each of the board’s five members is elected in a nonpartisan manner to a four-year term. The board sets policies and depends on the county administrator, county officials, and department heads to fulfill its wishes.
The Board of Supervisors has administrative, legislative, and quasi-judicial duties and responsibilities prescribed by the state constitution and statutes.
The meeting was held at 9 a.m. in the board chambers at 1400 West Lacey Blvd. in Administration Building No. 1 in Hanford.
Kings County County Board of Supervisors members present:
- Joe Neves, District 1 (Lemoore and Stratford)
- Richard Valle, District 2 (Avenal, Corcoran, Home Garden, and Kettleman City)
- Rusty Robinson, District 4 (Armona and Hanford)
- Richard Fagundes, District 5 (Hanford and Burris Park)
- Doug Verboon, District 3 (North Hanford, Island District, and North Lemoore)
- Chairman of Child Abuse Prevention Coordinating Council Amory Marpole
- Vice President of Kings County Firefighters Local 3747 Mike Ronelos
- Human Resources Director Carolyn Leist
- District Attorney Sarah Hacker
- Personnel Analyst Danyele Leap
- Personnel Analyst Melissa Avalos
- Human Services Director Wendi Osikafo
- Human Services Deputy Director Antoinette Gonzales
Chairman of Child Abuse Prevention Coordinating Council Amory Marpole said that their organization is working to build a Commercially Exploited Youth Coalition (CEYC) to provide education and prevention. Their informational meeting is on October 25 at 3:30 p.m. at Kings County Ed Round Building.
She invites the public and the board of supervisors to give input and raise awareness of the issue.
Vice President of Kings County Firefighters Local 3747 Mike Ronelos said the county is losing skilled firefighters to operate trucks and equipment.
He said that there is a significant compensation gap of 25 percent between firefighters in the county and those in surrounding agencies.
A. The board (5-0) approved the Oct. 10, 2023 meeting minutes.
The board (4-0) approved the consent calendar items below. Supervisor Valle abstained from voting on the entirety of the consent calendar and did not state the reason for his abstention or leave the meeting room, as required by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.
A. County Counsel:
1. The board appointed Kim Brown, John Vidovich, and Matt Payne to four-year terms as Directors of the Dudley Ridge Water District instead of election to qualify, take office, and serve exactly as if elected at a general district election.
2. The board renewed the declaration of a local emergency due to flood conditions in Kings County.
According to the agenda packet, the declaration of local emergency may provide some financial and administrative relief to help local farmers, businesses, and government agencies in addressing the problems associated with flood risk.
The circumstances necessitated the renewed declaration of local emergency due to flood conditions.
During the first quarter of 2023, the Tulare Lake Basin experienced an unprecedented amount of precipitation due to twelve atmospheric rivers between January and March of 2023 that brought significant rainfall and snow to the region.
As of April 2023, the 6-Station precipitation index for the Tulare Lake Basin was equivalent to the amount of precipitation recorded during the wettest period on record, which was in 1968-1969.
The series of atmospheric rivers that occurred in March contributed to partially filling Tulare Lake.
The California Department of Water Resources (“DWR”) conducted snow surveys and reported that as of April 7, 2023, the statewide snow water content was 246% higher than the average amount recorded to date.
In the southern region, where the watershed for Tulare Lake is situated, the snow water content was 296% of the average.
Runoff from the snowpack has grossly exceeded the capacity of reservoirs along the Kings River, Kaweah River, Tule River, and Kern Rivers.
Prolonged high releases from these reservoirs have flowed into Tulare Lake since Spring 2023 and continued to flow throughout the summer months.
These flows have caused severe flooding of Tulare Lake and other portions of Kings County and have severely stressed the water conveyance infrastructure in Kings County and the region, resulting from erosion caused by high velocities and seepage from elevated water surface levels in the channels.
Tulare Lake is projected to remain flooded for at least a year.
Flooding continues to place local agriculture, residential communities, and the economy at risk by removing farmland from active production and causing delays in critical activities, including without limitation, pruning, preparation for and planting of crops, permanent crop maintenance, and animal mortality.
The current estimated damages for Kings County are $25 million. The estimated number of acres damaged is 890,545 with a total estimated loss of $209 million
Conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property continue to exist within the County of Kings caused by excessive precipitation and flooding, and local resources are insufficient to address the situation effectively.
B. Human Services Agency:
1. a. The board approved the agreement with the University of Massachusetts Global for employee social work program internship placement in the Human Services Agency effective October 17, 2023, through October 16, 2027.
b. The board approved the agreement with the University of Massachusetts Global for non-employee social work program student internship placement in the Human Services Agency effective October 17, 2023, through October 16, 2027.
According to the agenda packet, these agreements will allow bachelor and master-level student interns to gain experience under the close supervision of a field instructor, provided by HSA.
Internships will provide students with the opportunity to integrate social work theory and practice in real-world settings, and they aid in the recruitment of qualified personnel to HSA.
C. Information Technology Department:
1. The board approved the first amendment for technical support with CherryRoad Technologies effective October 17, 2023.
According to the agenda packet, the monthly billable hours will go from 75 hours to 100 hours. This amendment will result in an annual increase of $49,500.
The county’s usage of support hours from CherryRoad has increased to where an increase of 25 hours per month is warranted, for a total of 100 hours per month.
In addition, the hourly rate for the work is going up from $125 per hour to $135 per hour. This rate has been $125 per hour since 2017.
1. The board approved the closure of all Kings County Library branches on Saturday, November 11, 2023, and Saturday, November 25, 2023.
According to the agenda packet,
E. Public Health Department:
1. a. The board accepted the California Department of Public Health Control Branch real-time allotment to support tuberculosis prevention and control activities
b. The board authorized the Director of Public Health to sign the acceptance of allotments and the required certifications thereunder to support tuberculosis prevention and control activities and any future real-time allotments retroactively effective July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024.
According to the agenda packet, the recommended action will increase the fiscal year 2023-24 adopted budget by $5,633.
The award amount can change based on the number of tuberculosis cases reported by the Kings County Department of Public Health between January 1 and May 31, 2023.
The initial installment consists of $1,055 in state and federal funds. The department was also awarded $5,000 in funding, exclusively from federal funds.
LHJs reporting an average of less than six TB cases annually receive an initial notice of real-time allotment in late June 2023.
The allotment amount is determined by the number of TB cases reported by each LHJ between January 1 and May 31 of the previous year, as well as the number of completed B1- notification evaluations for immigrants with a TB B-1 classification arriving in LHJs, reported between December 1 and May 31 annually.
The department received additional federal funding to enhance TB prevention and control efforts. KCDPH faces ongoing challenges in maintaining treatment adherence due to the nature of the disease and the patient population served.
Socioeconomic hardships, such as poverty, homelessness, unstable housing, transportation barriers, and similar circumstances, influence access to resources.
The real-time allotment funds are intended to cover expenses associated with food, shelter, incentives, and support for TB patients, ensuring treatment adherence, reducing transmission and supporting less restrictive treatment alternatives that decrease or eliminate the need for civil detention
2. The board authorized the Director of Public Health to accept the $10,000 sponsorship from Anthem for Women, Infants, and Children program Baby Shower incentives and prizes.
According to the agenda packet, On August 25th, 2023, the Regional Vice President of Local Engagement and Plan Performance for Anthem agreed to sponsor the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Division’s Quarterly Baby Shower.
WIC is a federal program that aids low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, as well as infants and young children up to age five. The program also provides nutrition education and counseling.
The WIC Quarterly Baby Showers are held to provide WIC participants with essential items for their new babies.
The sponsorship will be used to purchase supplies for the events as well as incentives and prizes for the participants that will include car seats, strollers, breastfeeding supplies, diapers, wipes, gift cards, and additional outreach materials.
All participants will receive breastfeeding education.
The WIC Baby Shower goals are to:
- Increase the breastfeeding rates of Kings County WIC’s participants by 5% annually.
- Increase total prenatal enrollments by 5% annually.
- Increase healthy outcomes for all mothers and infants participating in the program.
- Improve infant safety for all infants born to mothers who participate in the baby shower events
3. The board approved the memorandum of understanding with Kings Community Action Organization for joint use of the Family Resource Center in Kettleman City effective Dec. 1, 2023, through Nov. 30, 2024.
According to the agenda packet, the Kings County Department of Public Health (KCDPH) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Kings Community Action Organization (KCAO) in 2015 to allow the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) mobile unit to park at the Kettleman City Family Resource Center (FRC) two to three days per month.
In March 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, WIC transitioned to providing all services by telephone.
The department required WIC’s mobile unit to provide COVID-19 testing and healthcare services throughout the County.
The mobile unit was sold to the Kings County Fire Department in early 2023 due to the maintenance demands and operational complexities faced by KCDPH.
The FRC at 75 Fifth Street in Kettleman City is funded by First 5 Kings County and operated by KCAO. WIC and KCAO share a commitment to enhancing the overall health and well-being of County residents and serving similar populations.
The approval of this MOU will ensure that Kettleman City WIC participants continue to receive services at least twice a month through the utilization of the FRC building.
4. The board approved the agreement with California State University, Fresno to provide students internship placements in the Department of Public Health, effective upon execution until December 31, 2026.
This agreement between the Kings County Department of Public Health (KCDPH) and California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) will help students obtain practical experience.
Students will assist KCDPH staff in a full range of public health activities including administration, environmental health, and other services during their scheduled time and receive educational experience that will help meet learning objectives for their degree.
KCDPH will provide learning activities, and the student’s KCDPH supervisor will provide support, feedback, and verify service hours.
Fresno State will advise students to exhibit professional, ethical, and appropriate behavior, and maintain the confidentiality of client and county private information.
F. Sheriff’s Office:
1. a. The board authorized the retroactive purchase of a new garbage disposal for the Kings County Jail.
According to the agenda packet, the full cost of $7,373 was paid from the Sheriff’s Jail budget.
The Food Services Division of the Sheriff’s Office runs a commercial kitchen and prepares over 600,000 meals annually for both adult and juvenile incarcerated persons.
Recently the kitchen’s larger garbage disposal stopped working and was not able to be repaired, requiring immediate replacement with a new disposal.
The commercial grade disposal allows for large quantities and pieces of food that are not easily removed from reusable food service trays and cookware during the sanitation and cleaning process.
Without the commercial-grade garbage disposal, service of meals would need to be made on Styrofoam trays to the entire incarcerated population.
The use of Styrofoam trays is not cost-effective, causes an increase in large quantities of trash, and other security concerns in a jail facility.
In the consent calendar, the board (5-0) unanimously approved items as follows:
A. Human Resources Department
1. a. The board (5-0) approved the new job specification for law clerk and set the salary at $4,576 to $5,583 monthly.
b. The board (5-0) added 2 full-time equivalency law clerk positions.
c. The board (5-0) deleted 2 full-time equivalency paralegal positions allocations.
According to the agenda packet, the cost of the new positions offset by the deletion of the vacant paralegal positions is anticipated to cost an additional $13,856 for the remainder of the fiscal year 2023-24.
The department’s salary savings will absorb this cost due to current vacancies.
Personnel Analyst Danyele Leap said that the position will perform legal research, prepare motions and matters on the calendar to expedite court calendars and hearing dates, and perform clerical and investigative duties as assigned.
Incumbents in this position will not be permitted to perform duties constituting the practice of the law until California Bar membership has been established and are expected to pass the bar and be promoted to an attorney-level position upon graduation.
The District Attorney’s Office has requested the Law Clerk classification to promote the incumbents to an attorney-level position once they have passed the bar.
If the incumbent cannot pass the bar within one year of the hire date, they may be separated from employment.
2. a. The board (5-0) approved the new job specification for the senior deputy district attorney and set the salary at $10,147 to $12,383 monthly.
b. The board (5-0) approved the new job specification for the deputy district attorney supervisor and set the salary at $11,209 to $13,678 monthly.
c. The board (5-0) approved the range change for the assistant district attorney position and adjusted the incumbent’s salary.
d. The board (5-0) added 2 full-time equivalent senior deputy district attorney position allocations
e. The board (5-0) added 1 full-time equivalent senior deputy district attorney position allocation
f. The board (5-0) added two full-time equivalent deputy district attorney supervisor position allocations
g. The board (5-0) deleted 1 full-time equivalent assistant district attorney position allocation
h. The board (5-0) deleted one full-time equivalent executive assistant district attorney position.
i. The board (5-0) deleted four full-time equivalent deputy district attorney positions.
j. The board (5-0) deleted one full-time equivalent deputy district attorney position.
According to the agenda packet, the net impact of adding positions and preceding previously approved office improvements is approximately a savings of $366,380 annually.
Human Resources Director Carolyn Leist said that the funding adjustments for the positions are included in the fiscal year 2023-24 adopted budget.
The DA and the Assistant District Attorney (ADA) are the direct supervisors for all attorneys and support staff. This organizational structure causes delays in task completion and infringes on the effectiveness of management.
Creating the Deputy District Attorney Supervisor and Senior Deputy District Attorney positions will increase operational efficiency, improve team trust, and alleviate workplace pressures, such as stress, anxiety, and burnout.
This supervision structure will provide a positive and supportive working environment, crucial for driving service and efficiency improvements.
Adding three full-time equivalent Senior Deputy District Attorneys and two full-time Deputy District Attorney Supervisors is proposed.
The Senior Deputy District Attorneys will handle the most advanced and complex caseloads, provide support and advice to attorneys in their unit, and fill in for deputies if they are absent from work.
The Deputy District Attorney Supervisors will handle some cases. Still, they will mainly assign deputies to courtrooms, manage the caseload for their unit, and supervise the attorneys, law clerks, and clerical staff for their general or special prosecution units.
In the reorganization proposal, the Assistant District Attorney will supervise the two Deputy District Attorney Supervisors and the Victim Witness Program Coordinator.
The Deputy District Attorney Supervisor will be a management-level position. This change will balance the management structure and alleviate the day-to-day supervision of staff from the DA and ADA.
Under this structure, the DA and ADA can focus and execute important executive-level management responsibilities.
Additionally, with the mass exodus of seasoned staff, new hires will need more focused day-to-day supervision.
Adding the Senior and Supervisor levels creates a wage compaction for the ADA position.
District Attorney Sarah Hacker said that approving the item will help retain and recruit district attorneys.
Supervisor Valle said that in raising deputy attorney compensation, other public safety agencies’ needs, particularly of firefighters, must be considered.
3. The board (5-0) approved the range change for the assistant county counsel position.
According to the agenda packet, This classification is an assistant department head who acts for County Counsel in their absence.
Personnel Analyst Melissa Avalos said that the Assistant District Attorney acts in the same capacity as the District Attorney.
Due to recent salary and organizational changes in the District Attorney’s Office, the salary for the Assistant District Attorney was recommended to be set at $12,383 to $15,109 monthly. The current range is $12,080 to $14,739.
Setting this salary range for Assistant County Counsel would be consistent with the Assistant District Attorney.
The County Counsel office has 15 full-time equivalent positions budgeted for the fiscal year 2023-2024, and the District Attorney’s office has 71 full-time equivalent positions
1. The board adopted a resolution proclaiming October 15-21, 2023, as Friends of the Kings Library Week in Kings County, during National Friends of Libraries Week.
Study session includes:
A. Human Services Agency
1. a. The board received an overview and update on the general assistance benefits stolen via electronic theft.
b. The board directed staff as necessary, to update the general assistance standard and procedures to address electronic theft replacement.
Human Services Director Wendi Osikafo said that statewide electronic theft of cash and CalFresh ranged from $5 million to $10 million from July 2022 to July 2023.
Electronic theft in benefits (EBT) skimming and scamming. Skimming involves the electronic equipment to capture the recipient’s EBT card information without the recipient’s knowledge.
Scamming involves deceiving or misleading a recipient to access account information to steal the recipient’s benefits. She said most scamming and skimming has been reported on the East Coast.
She shared that the number of electronic theft in benefits (EBT) cases in Kings County increased from 9 to 1117 from July 2022 to July 2023, while the benefit replacement amount peaked in May 2023 at over $500,000. She said that victims left shocked when their balance was zero.
The Human Services Agency has a workload of approximately 16,500 cases between CalFresh and CalWorks.
In April 2023, the agency had 357 cases impacted, 2.17 percent of the caseload. In May 2023, the agency had 1117 cases impacted, 6.7 percent of the caseload.
The majority of cases are skimming and are placed in ATMs and stores.
The State reimburses the County for electronic theft in the cash and CalFresh programs from the State General Fund; General Assistance (GA) is not reimbursed.
The State is working on EBT card security, including chip/tap pay, planned for Spring 2024.
HSA has been working with other counties to identify ways to be proactive regarding this issue.
HSA has been informing its clients of skimming and scamming so they can decide on how to receive benefits and update their PIN codes.
To avoid skimming the same client, HSA has been adjusting the payment method from EBT card to warrant or direct deposit.
She said that police districts across the county are coordinating to tackle EBT fraud and asking for photos and videos from stores and banks.
California Welfare and Institutions Code § 17000 established the Aid/Care Standards for Indigent and Dependent Poor
GA Program aids residents ineligible to receive cash assistance and is funded by County general funds
On May 18, 2021, the board adopted updated GA Standards/Procedures
In August 2021, the county implemented a conversion from vouchers to EBT Cards.
The General Assistance (GA) average caseload is 92 cases. The caseload contains employable and interim cases
Employees are eligible for 3 months, while Interims are eligible until the recipient’s SSA/SSI benefits are granted or denied.
During the fiscal year 2022-2023, the county issued a replacement of $1688, which was skimmed by the General Assistance Fund.
Deputy Director Antoinette Gonzales said that the General Assistance Fund this fiscal year is $268,000.
She added that any skimming could be absorbed, but would be an issue if the amount increased.
California has the option to deliver benefit assistance on EBT cards.
Since April 2023, Kings County has identified eight instances of electronic theft of GA benefits totaling $1,688.
HSA replaced $1,190 of GA theft benefits.
However, it has ceased due to a lack of Board policy on the issue and the unforeseeable financial impact it may have on the GA budget.
GA benefits stolen via electronic theft will be replaced when a completed EBT 2259 is submitted within 90 calendar days.
Per ACL 18-148, all cash assistance programs that are issued via the EBT system are to be replaced if electronic theft occurs.
Contra Costa, Solano, Sacramento, L.A., Stanislaus, and Alameda County are replacing these benefits.
Option A is for GA benefits to continue to be issued via warrant, direct deposit, or EBT.
A change to warrant/direct deposit after the client is skimmed.
Option B is for GA benefits stolen via electronic theft will not be replaced by the agency.
Option C is for GA benefits stolen via electronic theft will be replaced by the agency.
Supervisor Robinson asked whether chip technology for Spring 2024 could help. Gonzales added that it could help in monitoring.
In response to Supervisor Valle, Gonzales added that inspecting skimming devices every day is a challenge.
Supervisor Verboon suggested giving disbursement weekly. Gonzales said that giving weekly doesn’t apply to another program, particularly for people paying rent.
For the next meeting, Supervisor Valle suggested that GA benefits continue to be issued via warrant, direct deposit, or EBT, along with a limit of $8,000.
The next board meeting will be on October 24, 2023, at 9 a.m.
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