DA’s office lays off grant-funded position
At a meeting Tuesday, March 8, the Plumas County Board of Supervisors approved the layoff of a position that split time between investigative and victim/witness work in the District Attorney’s (DA) Office.
DA David Hollister recommended the move, informing the supervisors several grants that used to fund the position disappeared over the last two years.
He added that if the layoff were not made, his budget would be “about $12,000 short come the end of this fiscal year.”
The DA said the move was “fiscally responsible, albeit horribly unpleasant, but I think it’s the reality of what has to happen.”
Hollister added that he didn’t have any reason to believe that the grants would return in the next fiscal year.
DA Fiscal Officer Barbara Palmerton explained the office received the grant for about 15 years and she fully expected it to be funded when she prepared the current budget.
“The state budget wasn’t passed until October and it was another two or three weeks before we heard that this wasn’t included.
“I spoke to the previous district attorney and to Dave Hollister at that time about my concern about the loss of this money.
“The people funded by this grant were only partially funded by it, and I knew that the funding for those people was approved through approximately February or March, so I knew it could be postponed till this year, and the previous DA declined to respond to it anyway.”
Hollister elaborated: “The conversation statewide was a recognition that that grant funding wasn’t there but the hope that it would be there.
“Come about October it became very clear it was not going to be there and that we needed to start lobbying our legislators to get back in the budget and that’s occurred statewide.”
Chester Supervisor Sherrie Thrall asked how the department funded the position so far this year.
Palmerton said the position got 44 percent of its funding from the county’s general fund, and 10 percent from another grant, which was still funded.
Hollister explained the position first changed when a “spousal abuser prosecution program” grant went away.
Palmerton said a new grant appeared that same year, which allowed the position to be retained, while shifting some duties.
“In other words, you’ve been doing everything you could to find the funding until finally you hit the wall,” Indian Valley Supervisor Robert Meacher concluded.
BOS Chairwoman Lori Simpson commented that layoff proposals usually came to the budget committee before the full board.
“I didn’t realize we had skipped that step. We did speak to the human resources director before we submitted the board report,” Palmerton responded.
County Administrative Officer Jack Ingstad said Hollister and Palmerton understood the supervisors’ stance that “with positions that are funded by grants, when the grant went away the position went away.”
“I hope we don’t have to go through this again; I fear we will. If it does happen again I certainly will alert that committee,” Hollister added.
Thrall agreed with Ingstad that the board created a precedent for laying people off when grant funding disappeared.
“If we deviate from that policy, where are we going to be with union complaints?” she wondered, “— unless we have that policy discussion before we make an exception.”
Moving to the budget side of the issue, she continued, “I have great concern with contingency transfers right now because everything we transfer from contingency is not going to be in our fund balance to start the year.
“We already know we’re going to have a huge shortage so I think these are all issues that are probably a lot deeper than they appear to be on the surface.
“As these grants dry up, especially from the state, and it looks like a lot of them will, it’ll be hitting our social services, public health — mental health as well — and almost all of those positions are grant funded so we really need to look at our overall policy of what we are going to do when these things dry up.”
The supervisors approved the layoff with only Simpson voting “no,” explaining she wanted the proposal to go before the budget committee.