California Victim Compensation Board June 18, 2020, Board Meeting Minutes
The California Victim Compensation Board (Board) convened its meeting in open session upon the call of the Chair, Yolanda Richardson, Secretary of the Government Operations Agency, at 400 R Street, Sacramento, California, on Thursday, June 18, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. Also present via conference call were Member Richard Chivaro, Deputy State Controller and Chief Counsel, acting for, and in the absence of, Betty T. Yee, Controller, and Member Michael Tubbs, Mayor of Stockton, California.
Executive Officer Lynda Gledhill, Chief Counsel Kim Gauthier, and Senior Counsel Jenny Wong attended in person. Michelle Greer, Board Liaison, was also present and recorded the meeting.
The Board meeting commenced with the Pledge of Allegiance.
Item 1. Approval of the Minutes of the May 21, 2020, Board Meeting
The Board approved the minutes of the May 21, 2020, Board meeting.
Item 2. Public Comment
The Board opened the meeting for public comment and noted that items not currently on the agenda may not be discussed at this time but may be put on a future Board agenda.
Ed Little of Californians for Safety and Justice (CSJ) addressed the Board. Mr. Little discussed the growing statewide network of over 12,000 crime survivors and how it is an organized constituency. He thanked the Board for its dedication to supporting crime survivors in California.
Mr. Little indicated that CSJ was seeking support from the Board and the Legislature of legislative and regulatory changes to ensure that victims of police violence can access compensation. He explained that CSJ is honored to stand with the San Francisco District Attorney and his office, which recently announced a new local policy to provide compensation and other key supports to victims and witnesses of police violence. Mr. Little encouraged the state to follow San Francisco County’s lead. He further explained that CSJ has long advocated for new safety approaches that remove barriers to support, caused by contact with the legal system, and for improving access to resources for survivors who have experienced violence at the hands of police.
Mr. Little went on to explain that that in 2019, CSJ sponsored AB 1449 (Garcia), which would have allowed victims to provide documentation in lieu of a police report, including medical or mental health records, to verify with CalVCB that the crime occurred. AB 1449 also proposed limiting denials based on a victim’s implied involvement. CSJ also sponsored AB 2649 (Webber), which sought to remove consideration of a deceased victim’s actions when considering compensation for funeral and burial expenses.
Mr. Little stated that it is imperative that the legal system provide accountability for and prioritize the needs of all victims of violence by ensuring immediate access to care and support for survivors who need to address their trauma, regardless of who exacted that harm. For victims of police violence who suffer particularly acute trauma, the need is especially great, and the urgency is especially crucial. He indicated that CSJ is grateful for CalVCB’s long-standing commitment to supporting survivors to access the resources that they need to heal and CSJ is anxious to support the Board’s efforts to remove barriers to access for victims and witnesses to police violence. He noted that CSJ submitted a letter detailing the changes that it is urging, and that he looked forward to further discussion on this extremely important issue.
He continued by pointing out that California law allows documentation other than a police report to verify that a crime occurred for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking to access compensation. But other victims are not afforded the same flexibility. For survivors of police violence and family members of those killed by police, this is especially perverse because in these types of cases, a police report fully documenting the victimization is often elusive, except in rare cases where an officer is prosecuted. Victims and witnesses may also hesitate to speak with officers, resulting in exclusion from compensation for non-cooperation. Additionally, victims of police violence can face denial of a compensation claim based on a victim’s perceived involvement in the events leading to the crime. CalVCB regulations encourage giving significant weight to the evidence from and conclusions of a law enforcement agency in making determinations regarding applications and claims. In cases of state violence, the very people responsible for the injury or death may be tasked with assigning blame, which can lead to neither victims nor their loved ones having access to needed resources. Mr. Little stated that current reporting and cooperation requirements, as well as statutory exclusions based on a perception of the victim’s responsibility, effectively deny victims of state violence access to compensation.
He also stated that current laws also disproportionally result in denials for otherwise marginalized victims. Recent analysis of denial data in other states, for example, have shown that subjective contributory misconduct exclusions and compensation laws are disproportionately used to deny compensation for black families and black victims. These policies entrench racialized bias, casting survivors as deserving or undeserving and denying survivors what they need to heal. To expand access to compensation for all victims, and especially victims and witnesses to police violence, CSJ urges CalVCB and the Legislature to, at the minimum, immediately take the following steps:
- Legislature allow all victims to use forms for documentation other than a police report to verify that a crime occurred, extending the flexibility already available to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.
- Remove or greatly narrow exclusionary criteria based on a victim’s alleged involvement, and bar such collusion in cases involving police use of force and in cases where the victim was killed.
- Ensure that definitions of crime, and victim, for the purposes of compensation presumptively include victims of excessive police use of force, regardless of whether an officer is arrested or charged, and relying on evidence other than the contents of a police report.
- Amend regulations to promote examination of evidence beyond a police report before denying an application, especially in cases of police brutality and police killing, giving less weight to law enforcement opinion.
- Develop regulations and/or procedures to review evidence other than police conclusions when reviewing an application in a case of police involved violence.
- Process applications based on incidents of police violence and police killings in Sacramento, rather than in satellite offices, to avoid local conflicts of interest.
Mr. Little emphasized that CSJ is eager to share its comprehensive series of policy recommendations for the CalVCB and the Legislature to remove additional barriers for victims of crime and to further include survivor experiences with the compensation program. It is imperative that the legal system provide accountability for and prioritize the needs of all victims of violence by ensuring immediate access to the care and support survivors’ needs to address their trauma, regardless of who exactly inflicted the harm. For victims who suffer particularly acute trauma, the need is especially great, and the urgency is especially critical. Mr. Little expressed his gratitude for CalVCB’s long standing commitment to supporting survivors to access the resources they need to heal, and indicated he is anxious to support the Board’s efforts to remove barriers to access for victims and witnesses of police violence.
Chair Richardson reminded everyone that, consistent with the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, non-agendized items may not be discussed at this time but may be put on a future agenda.
Item 3. Executive Officer Statement
Chief Executive Officer Ms. Gledhill updated the Board on a few items:
The tragic and senseless death of George Floyd is unacceptable and serves to remind us that we have so much to do in this country to eliminate systematic racism and it highlights the issue of police violence and the impact on so many communities and families.
As the Executive Officer, I have two responsibilities, to our employees and to the people that we serve. As an employer, I want to make it clear that as a department we do not stand for discrimination in any form. I’ve had an open-door policy from my first day at the organization and I am committed to the fair and equitable treatment of all our employees. I am equally committed to making sure we are serving victims of crime in our state to the best of our ability. I understand the concerns expressed today about potential limits in the way we currently handle some of these cases and as we move forward, staff will be discussing and examining ways to help more victims access our services.
On June 16, 2020, Pacific Gas and Electric pled guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Because of the guilty plea, those who were victims of the fire are eligible for CalVCB services. CalVCB is the payor of last resort and most of the victims are part of the PG&E bankruptcy settlement. Accordingly, while CalVCB will accept applications from Camp Fire victims, if they are part of the bankruptcy settlement CalVCB will be waiting until those funds are dispersed to repay any unpaid expenses.
Telework – Stay at Home Order
The majority of CalVCB staff continues to work primarily remotely, although some staff are in the office to assist the public, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Employees who work with the public, specifically those working in customer service and application processing continue to adapt and improve, while serving the needs of victims, advocates, and providers.
Stay at Home Order – Impact to Victims
We have seen a year-to-year drop in our customer call center, whether that is due to the pandemic, we are still assessing, and the numbers continue to fluctuate. When people were sheltering in place, there was a potential for them to have difficulty reaching out, so we are continuing to promote our services with the hope that those who may have been a victim of a crime, but were unable to reach out, will do so now. For the second month in a row, nearly half of CalVCB’s applications came from the online portal, showing that again that is one way that people who need our services can find help. Also, Victim Witness advocates can access the portal as well.
Kim Gauthier was introduced to the Board as the new Chief Counsel. Ms. Gauthier comes to CalVCB from the Secretary of State’s office where she served as Special Counsel. She also served as the Deputy Secretary of State for Operations and the Assistant Chief Counsel at the Secretary of State’s office. She was also Chief Counsel for the First 5 Children and Families Commission.
The Board thanked Jenny Wong, who has been serving as CalVCB’s acting Chief Counsel since January.
The board does not meet in July and staff will be researching how best to conduct Board meetings moving forward considering the pandemic and restrictions on public gatherings.
Mayor Tubbs congratulated Ms. Gledhill on her permanent appointment. He asked her what support or direction the Board needs to provide to for changes that will allow victims of police violence to access to CalVCB benefits.
Ms. Gledhill responded that staff would look at all the documents submitted to determine what needs to be done moving forward, whether that be legislation, regulations, or Board action. If it does require board action, she stated that it could be placed on the August agenda. Ms. Gledhill indicated that regardless of the approach, she would provide an update at the August board meeting.
Item 4. Contract Update
Chief Executive Officer Lynda Gledhill provided the contract update, which was purely informative.
The Ten Up Inc., item was removed from the agenda.
Ms. Gledhill told the Board that CalVCB would be creating an e-learning course for the new online advocate portal. The portal, which will be launching in September, will allow advocates to track applications they have submitted on behalf of victims. This will be paid for by the CalOES grant that CalVCB received.
Additionally, Ms. Gledhill noted for the Board amendments to the Santa Barbara and San Francisco District Attorneys office contracts to allow more applications to be processed on behalf of CalVCB,
Item 5. Legislative Update
Senior Attorney Jenny Wong presented the legislative update:
Senate bill 417
This bill would appropriate $5,087,040 from the general fund to pay seven erroneous conviction claims approved by CalVCB for Moonshadow Naomi Taggart, Lionel Omar Rubalcaba, Ruben Martinez Jr., Michelle Marie Poulos, Lawrence M. Martin, Ricky Leo Davis, and Samuel Bonner. It passed off the Assembly floor and moved to the Senate floor for concurrence.
Senate Bill 74
This is the Budget Act of 2020 and includes a transfer of 23.5 million from the General Fund to the CalVCB Restitution Fund. Upon order of the Director of Finance, the amount available for transfer in this item may be increased by an amount sufficient to backfill the restitution fund if a determination is made that revenues are insufficient to support the CalVCB.
Assembly Bill 2028
There was an amendment to the bill which clarified that writings and materials provided to members of a state body, such as board members, in connection with a matter subject to discussion or consideration at a board meeting, must be posted on the internet at least 48 hours in advance of a board meeting, or on the same day writings and materials are provided to board members, whichever is earlier. This bill passed off the Assembly floor and was referred to the Senate.
Victim Compensation Program
The Board commenced the Victim Compensation Program portion of the meeting at 10:19 a.m.
Disqualification of Susan Swim, MFT, a Provider of Mental Health Services
Natalie Mack, Deputy Executive Officer of the Victim Compensation Division, addressed the Board regarding the disqualification of Susan Swim, MFT.
Staff proposed to permanently disqualify Susan Swim as an authorized provider of mental health services to eligible claimants of the California Victim Compensation Board.
Dr. Swim submitted Additional Treatment Plans (ATPs) for 11 different claimants, all of which contained the same information for each client’s symptoms, behaviors, interventions, and functioning scores.
CalVCB filed a complaint with the Board of Behavioral Sciences and, on June 28, 2017, they ruled that Dr. Swim engaged in gross negligence or incompetence and failed to keep acceptable records in connection with her provision of services to CalVCB claimants. The Board of Behavioral Sciences stayed the revocation of Dr. Swim’s license and imposed 19 terms and conditions and placed her on a three-year probation.
Dr. Swim stated on several occasions that she no longer plans to serve CalVCB claimants and has paid the overpayment owed to CalVCB in full, totaling $6,804.00
The board voted to adopt the staff’s recommendation to disqualify Susan Swim, MFT.
Amended Proposal to Approve Trauma Recovery Center Grants Awards
Natalie Mack, Deputy Executive Officer of the Victims Compensation Division, presented the proposal to the Board.
Staff proposed to amend previously approved TRC grant award amounts due to a reduction in funding as published in the May revision of the Governor’s proposed Fiscal Year 2020/2021 budget.
At the March 19, 2020 Board Meeting, the Board approved seven TRC grant awards totaling $13,567,344 based on the projected appropriation of $12,178,000 from the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund (SNSF) and $2,000,000 from the Restitution Fund as published in the Governor’s budget in January 2020.
The May revise reduced the TRC SNSF appropriation to $10,251,000, resulting in the total funds available for the TRC grant awards now being $11,738,450.
The revised award amounts reflect equitable increases based on previous grant awards and requested amounts.
The board voted to approve the staff recommendation to adopt the amended contract awards to the following 4 Trauma Recovery Centers:
- Downtown Women’s Center for $1,056, 679.22
- Christian Counseling Services for $863,409.33
- Miracles Counseling Center for $1,042,496.64
- South Alameda County for $1,380,556.81
Pursuant to Government Code section 11126(c)(3), the Board adjourned into Closed Session with the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Counsel at 10:29 a.m., to deliberate on proposed decision numbers 1-50 of the Victim Compensation Program.
The Board reconvened in Open Session pursuant to Government Code section 11126(c)(3) at 10:33 a.m.
The Board adopted the hearing officers’ recommendations for proposed decision numbers 1-50 of the Victim Compensation Program.
The Board meeting adjourned at 10:34 a.m.
The next Board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 20, 2020.