EUREKA – District Attorney Paul Gallegos has said that a personnel issue is being investigated in connection to an ongoing failure to claim reimbursements for upfront spending of grant money.
Unclaimed reimbursements were probed by the county’s Grand Jury last year and Gallegos disagreed with its findings. Recent events have led to a reversal, however.
The California Emergency Management Agency’s concerns about a lack of communication about various public safety grants contributed to the launch of an investigation into the performance of one employee.
Gallegos said ongoing gaps in reimbursement claims have been confirmed.
“Have there been grants where we haven’t claimed all the money awarded to us – absolutely,” he said. “There have been times when we have not claimed the amounts of grants.”
Gallegos said the issue of unclaimed reimbursements probably won’t affect the viability of grants that are currently active or pending.
“I don’t think it will result in us losing funding or diminish our capacity to do work,” he continued.
The Grand Jury made its findings in the midst of a sharply-fought DA election campaign. There were speculations that the findings were politically motivated and Gallegos refuted them assertively.
The findings focused on administration of grants, particularly one associated with the DA’s victim-witness assistance program.
The Grand jury found that victim-witness grant fund reimbursements for at least two quarters of fiscal year 2006-07 were not claimed, “Resulting in the loss of significant reimbursement monies to the county.”
Related findings were that county General Fund money “made up the victim-witness reimbursement shortfall” and that “grant applications have not always been properly processed, resulting in the loss of potential funds to the county.”
In his response, Gallegos said that the Grand Jury failed to consider the full cycle of grant funding. “A review of the complete cycle of the grants at issue will reveal both: 1) that all quarters of the victim-witness grant were submitted for the fiscal year 2006-2007 and 2) the county lost no reimbursement monies,” he wrote.
But the employee-related investigation has led Gallegos to conclude that he was probably wrong. “I question the accuracy of my response,” he said, adding that he based it on “information I was receiving at the time.”
The response wasn’t politically motivated, he continued. “I refuted (the finding) because I believed it was wrong, not because there was a campaign going on,” he said.
Gallegos said he requested the investigation and the county hired an independent investigator to do it.
For now, Gallegos is retracting his Grand Jury response based on what’s been discovered so far.
“I can’t say that it was accurate and if it’s not, my apologies to the Grand Jury,” he said. “I am currently looking into it and people have the right to be upset – it’s an appropriate response to that.”
The employee whose performance is being investigated is on administrative leave. The recent revelations will influence a variety of improvements, similar to the ones the Grand Jury had recommended.
“The consequence is that we will put in better monitoring systems and checks and balances,” said Gallegos.