Thursday, April 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

County reforming policies in wake of Rist grand jury report

Marjorie Rist. Enterprise file photo

WOODLAND — The county continues to follow up on last fall’s grand jury report that found troubling behavior and possible ethics violations by former Yolo County Chief Probation Officer Marjorie Rist.

An ad hoc committee formed by the Board of Supervisors continues work on a written code of conduct for high-level county employees and managers while the county administrator’s office focuses on implementing the grand jury’s recommendations for avoiding such problems in the future.

The office of Auditor-Controller Howard Newens, meanwhile, completed an audit of the Probation Department and made additional recommendations for reform, but found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

“Nothing came to our attention that would indicate the existence of fraud,” the audit report said.

Nevertheless, the whole episode, said Supervisor Don Saylor, is one “we all should see as a red flag, an alert to areas where the county has had some exposure and where we need to be balanced and judicious in addressing … the risks that have been clearly identified.

“The board is taking this very seriously,” he added.

Rist resigned abruptly last June while under investigation by the grand jury for her relationship with a Utah-based contractor who was providing risk assessment software and training to the Probation Department.

The grand jury found that Rist had a personal relationship with the contractor — Sean Hosman, CEO of Assessments.com (ADC) — that included knowledge of his substance abuse problems and related arrests, but that she didn’t report those issues to county officials and she maintained sole authority for oversight of the contract, including payments to ADC.

In addition to Hosman reportedly conducting training of Yolo County employees while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he was arrested in Sacramento for driving under the influence while Rist was in the car with him and was arrested for cocaine possession in Nevada, none of which was reported, the grand jury said.

The grand jury also found that Rist improperly authorized a compensation package for a small group of probation officers who had been trained by ADC as subject matter experts in motivational interviewing techniques.

One month after resigning as chief probation officer, Rist was hired by ADC. The company was in receivership by then because of Hosman’s multiple arrests and the receiver hired Rist in part because of Hosman’s disability and the departure of other key ADC employees.

While Rist could not be reached for comment, the county counsel’s office reported that she was hired because the receiver “felt it was crucial to obtain someone with direct experience with the use of evidence-based practices and computerized risk assessment tools in the criminal and probation fields.

“The receiver stated to county counsel that the hiring of the former chief probation officer was not a reward or any kind of quid pro quo for benefits or special treatment that Assessments.com received from the former chief probation officer while she was still in charge of the Yolo County Probation Department,” the county counsel reported.

The county, meanwhile, terminated its contract with ADC at the end of December.

In the course of its audit, Newens’ office found no evidence that the county paid ADC for services it did not receive. It did, however, recommend more oversight by the county counsel’s office and human resources department of compensation packages, shared services agreements and outside contracts.

An ad hoc committee, meanwhile, continues to tinker with a code of conduct policy that would spell out who maintains oversight of third-party contracts, among other issues.

The committee is expected to report back to the Board of Supervisors next month.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at aternus@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

 

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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