By David M. Greenwald
This was not a good week for either the CDAA or Jeff Reisig, but you would never know it reading the Davis paper—because all they had was a cheerleading editorial last week on AB 1542 and no coverage at all on the CDAA scandal, despite the fact that the local DA is in fact the Vice President and in line to be the President shortly.
The CDAA scandal went from back to worse with an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee on Friday, “California district attorneys must pay back misspent environmental funds.”
“This outrageous misuse of public resources contravenes California law,” writes Assemblymember Luz Rivas and Senator Henry Stern. “While the CDAA has acknowledged the misappropriation of environmental enforcement funds, that’s not nearly enough. The CDAA must immediately reimburse the environmental enforcement account in full — as demanded recently by a wide range of environmental groups in a letter to the Legislature.”
Bear in mind these aren’t the typical folks to speak out against DAs—Rivaz heads the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, and Stern, the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. These are environmentalists, not criminal justice reform crusaders.
The op-ed came out before the news of the exchange between the AG’s office and CDAA. On March 4, Acting Chief Assistant Attorney General Edward Ochoa got fed up with the CDAA (remember these are DAs who are supposed to hold others accountable for the law) and had to warn the CDAA to respond or lose out on funding from the state.
In that letter, Ochoa warned that the AG’s office would stop funding the environment settlements until the CDAA can demonstrate that it has changed its practices.
“These actions by CDAA, an organization composed of prosecutors, and which has served a critical role in providing training to the law-enforcement community, only serve to undermine the public’s trust in our governmental officials and institutions,” Ochoa wrote.
In response, the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) acknowledged in a letter Friday that they had misused even more funds than originally believed and called on the AG’s office to further investigate wrongdoing by the DA’s Association.
This week began with an editorial in the Davis Enterprise praising DA Jeff Reisig for his support for AB 1542, writing, “Yolo County has an opportunity to be a leader in criminal-justice reform.”
As we have criticized all week, the paper failed to talk about the other side on these issues and note that the reform community sees AB 1542 not as an opportunity to lead the way on reform, but the opposite.
The Human Rights Watch notes, “The apparent premise of AB 1542 is that people with ‘Substance Use Disorders’ (SUDs) have a medical condition that is best addressed through treatment as opposed to punishment. Human Rights Watch supports increasing the availability of evidence-based voluntary treatment for people who struggle with problematic use of psychoactive substances.”
However, “this bill proposes forcing people involuntarily into ‘secured’ or locked treatment, regulated by the courts, thus blurring the lines between medical care and punishment, and undermining the goal of helping those in need. It runs directly counter to the principle of free and informed consent to mental health treatment, which is a cornerstone of the right to health.”
So where was the local paper on this issue, which captured the attention of many throughout the state? Absent.
On Friday came the story of the California District Attorneys Association acknowledging in a letter to the AG that they misused money collected from asset forfeiture and high-tech funds by putting it directly into the general fund and acknowledging the “unauthorized and improper use of these funds by Association staff.”
This follows a scandal that came out in January where an audit revealed that nearly $3 million in funds that should have gone into environmental enforcement was misused.
Why is this such a big matter of local importance? How about, again, the fact that Jeff Reisig is currently the Vice President of the CDAA and in line to be President?
To date, Yolo County DA Jeff Reisig has yet to make a public statement on the controversy surrounding the organization he is in line to lead. This despite his reputation as being a fierce law and order advocate.
To date, the Davis Enterprise so far as we were able to determine has yet to publish a single story on the scandal, even though the DA in their county is on the board and set to lead the organization.
Why have they failed to cover this story? Why have they failed to ask the Yolo DA to account for his own actions?
Reading the letter from CDAA’s Chief Executive Officer, Gregory Totten, I came across an interesting line.
He wrote: “It is very troubling that former staff members appear to have prepared and submitted reports to the Association’s independent, annual auditor and the Board of Directors that did not disclose these accounting practices.
“The Board and I ordered these practices to immediately cease and implemented appropriate safeguards to prevent any similar future actions,” he writes.
“No one is more angry and disappointed than the Board and myself that these actions occurred. A satisfactory resolution is our highest priority, and we are committed to restoring these funds,” Totten added.
At first glance that seems to be a statement of contrition. But it begs the question: Who is in charge here? Apparently not the Chief Executive Officer and not the board. Not the DAs who are supposed to hold others accountable for violations of the law—and now can’t even hold their own organization accountable. The bucks stops with… no one.
And the local paper is apparently very interested in cheerleading for the local DA, but not interested at all in holding him accountable.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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