DA Wants a Fair Shake for a Budget Increase but Only Knows Attacks; This Time He Attacks Saylor for Asking Tough but Reasonable Budget Questions
During times of COVID and budget cuts and decreasing crime rates, the Yolo County DA is proposing a $23.8 million budget for 2020-21, an increase of $5.6 million or 31% over 2018-19 actual spending of $18.2 million.
“I believe the substantial increase in proposed funding is worthy of scrutiny. The questions I have raised are appropriate matters of inquiry and within the reasonable scope of exercise of my responsibility as a member of the Board of Supervisors,” Supervisor Saylor wrote in an op-ed based on questions he sent DA Reisig that generated a 29-page response.
Now Deputy DA Matt DeMoura has written an op-ed in the Daily Democrat in response, attacking Supervisor Saylor for publishing what he calls “a misleading, disingenuous letter in the press attacking the Yolo County District Attorney’s budget request and a supposed lack of transparency by the Yolo DA’s Office.”
DeMoura writes, “We anticipated answering questions and justifying our budget, we had not expected to be singled out in an unfair or politicized way.”
He explains, “On July 10, Saylor sent a lengthy list of budget related questions to our office, questions that required detailed answers and evidentiary support. We prepared our response, in earnest; we knew that a failure to provide completely thorough justifications would hurt our budget efforts. On Aug. 21, Saylor demanded our report by Aug. 26. Our office informed Saylor that we needed until Sept. 1. With great effort, and working many extra hours, on Aug. 31 we produced a 29-page, data-intensive response to Saylor’s questions; we did so on Aug. 31 — a full 30 days prior to the Board’s final budget decision on Sept. 29.”
DeMoura argues that “no other county department” was “grilled” in this way about their budgets. He adds that “the list of comprehensive questions was the work of Saylor alone.”
He asks, “Why not involve the other supervisors? And why not pose a list of challenging budget questions to every County department?”
DeMoura’s answer: “Saylor is manipulating the recent calls for reform to set the stage for his own political performance.”
Let us start by taking both these questions straight on. First, Don Saylor is an elected official. He has a vote on the budget. He is entitled to ask any questions he wants if he has them.
The DA’s office asks why other departments were not grilled, but it is not clear that any other department is asking for that level of budget increase during a time when the county’s budget is likely to face huge cuts, with a collapsing economy and COVID.
It therefore seems rather prudent to ask those kinds of hard questions. Perhaps if other supervisors don’t have those kinds of questions, the real question should not be why Saylor is asking tough questions, but rather why aren’t the other supervisors asking them.
But there is a second level to this. The DA continues to respond disproportionately to any alleged offense.
DeMoura continues: “Saylor first promoted his one-man show when he took actions outside of the boardroom by writing a letter attacking the DA’s Office and publishing it in the media on Aug. 30. Disingenuously, this letter claimed that the DA’s Office lacked ‘transparency’ for failing to answer his questions — even when Saylor knew that the very answers he sought would be produced in two days.”
DeMoura is actually wrong here —we published Saylor’s comments first, on August 28, received on August 27, and it wasn’t clear at that time if and when the DA would have answers to those questions. Moreover, the op-ed he sent to the Vanguard was hardly an attack and more along the lines of questions that needed to be addressed.
DeMoura continues: “The letter also professed that the DA’s Office was asking for significantly more budget this year than what was spent in earlier years, knowing full well that less was spent because of a hiring freeze and employee departures, and more is being requested now because of things beyond our control like increased PERS contributions.”
But that leads us to a bigger question—why is the modus of the DA’s office to attack?
On June 8, Tracie Olson made a comment on the news about the disproportionate rate of incarceration for Blacks in the Yolo County Jail. That comment, which did not mention the DA’s office, triggered two press releases brutally attacking the public defender.
If you read the commentary from August 28 in the Vanguard from Supervisor Saylor, it hardly reads like an attack.
Indeed, he lays out the request and then writes, “While these strategies may be laudable, they are not described in any manner or linked to any budget detail.”
He concluding paragraph notes, “I believe that a full and transparent response is a reasonable expectation of any elected official. This is especially reasonable, given the stated strategy of the Yolo County District Attorney to ‘Become more transparent to the Citizens of Yolo County.’”
Read the commentary for yourself: There is no attack there.
Yet the response from DeMoura once again is not only over the top, but disproportionate to the comments made by Supervisor Saylor.
Writes DeMoura: “How could someone so vilify an agency in their public comments and then sit with an open heart and mind when conducting official duties? Here, not only did Saylor write a letter in the press singling out one county department, not only did he act alone and before hearing all the facts (like an angry, misguided TWEET), but also omitted key facts and told the public the DA has not provided something that he knew he would have in 48 hours.”
DeMoura continues: “Citizen comments during the supervisors’ meeting on Sept. 1 showed Saylor’s letter had the intended effect. At least two citizens specifically referenced the misleading letter. The Daily Democrat, in a recent front-page article, also relied on Saylor’s shenanigans. The Democrat, unaware of the background, also suggested that another supervisor was frustrated with the DA over the 29-page report.”
Is this really how the DA should conduct himself? The supervisor has questions, wants to alert the public to the issue of the budget request, and the DA has one of his deputies blast the supervisor in a local paper?
Concludes DeMoura: “If Saylor wants to find a prosecutor’s office to be his political punching bag he should look elsewhere or, better yet, focus on the value the DA’s Office brings to the county.”
As Shakespeare once wrote, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
Show me where in the article did Don Saylor attack the DA’s office or ask an unreasonable question?
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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