California Victim Compensation Board
Open Meeting Minutes
March 18, 2021, Board Meeting
The California Victim Compensation Board (Board) convened its meeting in open session upon the call of the Chair, Gabriel Ravel, General Counsel of the Government Operations Agency, acting for, and in the absence of Yolanda Richardson, Secretary of the Government Operations Agency, via Zoom, on Thursday, March 18, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. Also present via Zoom was Member Diana Becton, District Attorney and Member Richard Chivaro, Deputy State Controller and Chief Counsel, acting for, and in the absence of, Betty T. Yee, Controller.
Executive Officer Lynda Gledhill, and Chief Counsel Kim Gauthier, attended in person at 400 R Street, Sacramento, California. Legal Secretary and acting Board Liaison, Andrea Burrell, was also present and recorded the meeting.
Item 1. Approval of the Minutes of the January 21, 2021, Board Meeting
The Board approved the minutes of the January 21, 2021, Board meeting.
Item 2. Public Comment
The Board opened the meeting for public comment and Ms. Burrell reminded everyone that, consistent with the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, items not on the agenda may not be discussed at this time but may be put on a future agenda. (Gov. Code, § 11125.7.)
Eric Gallegos spoke via phone. Mr. Gallegos explained that as a deaf and blind individual, he requires the assistance of support personnel, known as an SSP. SSPs are trained to provide in-person support to deaf/blind people. He requires a SSP to complete certain tasks such as gathering paperwork and certain forms; however, this pandemic situation makes it difficult to arrange for such assistance. It is difficult to complete tasks and meet deadlines on time. Mr. Gallegos is struggling to get the necessary medical care and pursue justice. At the same time, it is unfair that perpetrators are taking advantage of him because of his disability, and he requested acceptance of his appeal. Mr. Gallegos thanked the Board for considering his request.
Margaret Petros appeared via Zoom. Ms. Petros is the Executive Director of Mothers Against Murder, a non-profit organization in the Bay area. Ms. Petros has lengthy experience with the Victim Compensation Board. Mothers Against Murder helps families of murdered victims with care and with the belief that crime victims have a fundamental right to justice. Victim compensation is one of those rights. Ms. Petros expressed her opinion to the Board Members that some Victim Compensation staff and some staff at the local victim witness offices around the state are incredibly careless when making decisions on victim compensation eligibility decisions. Ms. Petros went on to assert that claims are being denied without the mandated due process, especially when the murdered victims are children or very young adults who may lack the ability to make the correct decisions and exercise sound judgment. Ms. Petros further conveyed her concern that the legal team at the headquarters’ office is allowing denials to move forward and participating in further violations of victim’s rights.
Ms. Petros offered comments specific to claim number A20-8065450, included on the Board’s agenda. She stated that there was no hearing given to the family, even though one was requested. It is her belief that applicants have that right. Ms. Petros went on to describe her belief that parties and/or their advocates are entitled to receive a copy of a Proposed Decision before it is considered by the Board. Ms. Petros requested that the Board consider this before making a final decision today. She explained that she is not an attorney; but that she is an experienced victim advocate with common sense, and she knows that Marcy’s law allows victims to be at all public hearings.
Gauri Sanchez appeared via Zoom. Mr. Sanchez is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the Clinical Director for the Stockton Trauma Recovery Center (TRC), one that CalVCB, has funded since 2015. Mr. Sanchez provided public comment because the Stockton TRC received information that their center will not continue to be funded. Mr. Sanchez explained that it is heartbreaking for the community, as they are the only TRC in the Central Valley area that offers free mental health services to victims of crime, especially those who are very vulnerable during the pandemic. He expressed his interest in appealing the recent funding decision and inquired whether there is any additional funding for existing TRCs. He explained that they are not the only TRC, but three other existing TRCs are also recommended to not receive funding. He discussed the impact the pandemic has had on his community and explained that taking away this grant would mean an end to a lot of healing services in the community.
Masha Chernyak appeared via Zoom. Ms. Chernyak explained she is a very concerned Board Member of Fathers and Families of San Joaquin and Stockton. She wanted to let all the CalVCB Board Members know they are in a mental health crisis, an economic crisis, and they are just beginning to recover from a global pandemic that has affected the working poor hardest of all. She expressed her concern that CalVCB was considering not continuing funding to the only Central Valley TRC operated by Fathers and Families of San Joaquin, without a clear explanation and also without an opportunity to appeal. Ms. Chernyak went on to explain the center is one of a kind in the Central Valley and operates in a community that is truly hurting right now. She respectfully requested that CalVCB reconsider the proposed decision to discontinue funding for the Stockton TRC.
Hiram Santisteban appeared via Zoom. Mr. Santisteban is the Co-Executive Director of Fathers and Families in San Joaquin. He expressed his alarm and concern that some existing TRCs might lose funding. Mr. Santisteban went on to explain that his organization has been working with CalVCB since 2015, doing remarkable work. Their numbers indicate that, due to their work, crime has decreased by 40% in Stockton. He explained there is also an unmet need in Fresno for similar services, which is why they submitted a TRC application to expand their program in that community. Before the pandemic, farmers and community members were driving from Fresno to obtain services in Stockton free of charge. He noted that the necessity and need is there and the drastic and dire harm this will cost the community is immeasurable. He stated they have made enormous strides, progress and improvement over the years. Mr. Santisteban asked the Board to reconsider and partner with them. He reiterated that he is shocked and heartbroken that we are in the middle of a pandemic and this is the only center, only avenue in the entire Central Valley that these folks have access to, and it will be non-existent as of July if the TRC is not approved for continued funding.
Mr. Macias appeared via Zoom. Mr. Macias echoed the sentiments that his team in terms of services in the Central Valley. Mr. Macias explained that his organization operates the only TRC in central California. The recommended TRC grants will create a budget that is inequitable across the state and contribute to historic marginalization and oppression of the communities that are served. Mr. Macias expressed his hope that the Board can reconsider and lift these communities they have been working with, because they already know the statistics. He noted that only one in ten seek access to social services and that nine TRCs will be pushed into survival mode until the next funding cycle and that seems wholly unfair and inequitable. Mr. Macias thanked the Board and asked for reconsideration of its decision and requested the TRC be provided with another opportunity to receive funding as they have demonstrated success and commitment to the community.
There were no more public comments. Chair Ravel thanked everyone for speaking before the Board. He stated that the Board appreciates all the concerns and, with respect to the TRC awards, acknowledged that item would be taken up by the Board later in the agenda.
Item 3. Executive Officer Statement
Chief Executive Officer Ms. Gledhill updated the Board on a few items:
Ms. Gledhill started by thanking the Cannabis Control Appeals Panel, which is allowing CalVCB use its boardroom since CalVCB relinquished the space on the first floor. Ms. Gledhill mentioned that the Board will continue to convene virtually until in person meetings are, once again, permissible. Ms. Gledhill noted her appreciation for the partnership with the Cannabis Control Appeals Panel.
Ms. Gledhill thanked the Board members for their support over the past year as CalVCB has coped with the immense challenges of moving all staff to telework and supporting its employees during the pandemic. Ms. Gledhill acknowledged in an email to all staff how she continues to be impressed by staffs’ commitment to the victims of California. CalVCB is committed to carrying out its important mission, to support victims of violent crime, while keeping its employees safe and healthy. Ms. Gledhill also noted that there may be victims who are unable to access CalVCB services during the pandemic and that we are exploring ways of letting them know we are available to assist victims access benefits for any crime activities that has happened over the past year.
Ms. Gledhill explained that she recently concluded meeting with every unit at CalVCB to check in with all CalVCB’s employees to see how they are doing; answer any questions and make sure they are getting the support and resources they need to do their jobs. Ms. Gledhill heard questions and concerns about a variety of topics, but mostly positive reinforcement regarding the direction of the organization and the steps CalVCB is taking to engage employees, foster teamwork and accomplish its goals.
Ms. Gledhill summarized the work the executive team has been doing to develop a new Strategic Plan and a new Employee Recognition Program and reported that CalVCB will be implementing those soon. Ms. Gledhill noted these are part of her ongoing efforts to improve employee engagement, organizational performance and transparency.
Finally, Ms. Gledhill reminded everyone that in April we will mark National Crime Victim’s Rights Week and Denim Day, both opportunities for CalVCB to highlight the work it does to help victims.
Chair Ravel thanked Ms. Gledhill and stated that he is excited to hear about the new strategic plan when that is available.
Item 4. Legislative Update
The Legislative Update was provided by Chief Counsel Kim Gauthier.
Ms. Gauthier reminded the Board the state legislative session is underway. The deadline for introducing bills passed in February, and there are several new pieces of legislation that could, if passed, significantly impact CalVCB.
- Legislation to compensate victims of police violence, a follow-up to the bill that stalled last summer, has been introduced. It is SB 299 by Senator Leyva. The new legislation proposes to compensate any individual who sustains serious bodily injury or is killed by police. CalVCB legislative staff is working on analyzing the bill and will continue working with the bill’s sponsors and providing feedback when requested.
- AB 1007 by Assembly Member Carrillo would compensate survivors of state-sponsored sterilization.
- AB 446 by Senator Glazer would change the standard for determining if compensation should be paid for an erroneous conviction claim.
- SB 586 by Senator Bradford would eliminate many fees that agencies and courts impose and that are used to fund the criminal legal system, including the cost of collecting restitution.
Ms. Gauthier reminded the Board that we are in the early stages of the legislative process and none of these bills have had a hearing. CalVCB will provide additional updates as the bills move through the Legislature.
Item 5. Trauma Recovery Center Grant Recommendation
This presentation was given by Anita Ahuja, manager of the Grant Acquisition and Grant Program section.
Ms. Ahuja presented staff’s recommendation to approve seven Trauma Recovery Center (TRC) grant awards. These awards are funded by the Restitution Fund and the Safe Neighborhood and Schools Fund for a two-year grant cycle beginning July 1, 2021. The TRC Program originally began in the 2013-14 Fiscal Year.
To be selected for a grant award, applicants needed to reach a minimum score of 75 points and must have met very specific qualifications in nine areas that are based on statutory requirements. The awards have strict standards that are laid out in statute. Applicants must meet these minimum qualifications to be eligible for a grant award.
The minimum qualifications cover:
- Outreach and services to crime victims who typically are unable to access traditional services.
- Serving victims of a wide range of crimes.
- Offering evidence-based and evidence-informed mental health services.
- Staff that includes a multidisciplinary team.
- Offering mental health services and case management that are coordinated through a single point of contact for the victim, with support from an integrated multidisciplinary treatment team.
- Delivery of services that include assertive outreach and case management.
- Ensuring that no person is excluded from services solely based on emotional or behavioral issues resulting from trauma, including, but not limited to, substance abuse problems, low initial motivation, or high levels of anxiety.
- Utilizing established, evidence-based, and evidence-informed practices in treatment.
- And, ensuring that no person is excluded from services based on immigration status.
Ms. Ahuja noted it is important that every grant cycle is a new process and applicants must demonstrate their compliance with all statutory requirements, even if an existing organization has a history of providing services as a funded TRC.
Ms. Ahuja acknowledged that three trauma recovery centers who had previously been funded did not qualify for continued funding in this grant cycle. She explained that CalVCB held phone and video conferences with the applicants to review their applications and the scoring criteria. CalVCB will also continue working with those organizations to file CalVCB applications for the victims they serve and will follow up with these organizations to strategize on other potential sources of funding.
Twenty-six applications were received in response to the Notice of Funds Available posted on November 30, 2020, which included a grant template and, after careful evaluation of the applications by the scoring committee, seven Trauma Recovery Centers were recommended for funding. The funding recommendation is for a combined award of $12,868,000. The recommended awards were:
- A Quarter Blue (Orange): $817,864
- Amanecer Community Counseling Service (Los Angeles): $3,852,000
- Olive View (Sylmar): $3,686,677
- Partnership for Trauma Recovery (Berkeley): $1,031,615
- Rady’s Children’s Hospital – San Diego: $1,066,422
- Special Service for Groups / HOPICS (Los Angeles): $1,388,354
- Strength United / The University Corporation (Northridge): $1,025,067
Through this grant cycle, three new TRCs would be established – A Quarter Blue, Amanecer, and Olive View, and funding would continue for four existing TRCs.
Ms. Ahuja asked for the Board’s approval of these proposed grant awards. Chair Ravel asked Ms. Ahuja if all the TRCs that met the minimum scores were granted an award. Ms. Ahuja replied yes.
Member Chivaro inquired about the existing TRCs that are not being proposed for continued funding and questioned why they did not qualify this grant cycle. Ms. Ahuja explained that every grant cycle is a new process and new applications are required for each cycle. In the case of some of the existing TRCs, the grant applications they submitted did not meet minimum qualifications as there was information missing from the grant application. Member Chivaro asked if they were not able to provide that information. Ms. Ahuja indicated it was not in the grant application that was presented to the scoring committee. Member Chivaro asked if the scoring committee reached out to them to get that information. Ms. Ahuja stated that was not part of the scoring committee process as set forth in the Notice of Funds Available. She explained that when a grant comes to the scoring committee, the committee reviews the applications as they are submitted to them and the committee does not request additional or clarifying information. Member Chivaro noted that the Board Members have heard from several groups, including Fresno, who have stated that they are the only providers that provide this type of service, and he expressed his concern that they may not continue to receive funding. Ms. Ahuja responded that they did meet with the Stockton and Fresno team that filed their grant applications to talk about what happened with their applications and where the minimum qualifications were not met, and the scoring committee does not have the authority under the current Notice of Funds Available to change those scores. Those are final scores based on the applications that were presented. Member Chivaro asked if the team could look at the scoring criteria. Ms. Ahuja replied that the process that is in place does not allow for a subsequent review. Mr. Chivaro asked if she was saying that there is no way that they can be considered. Ms. Ahuja replied that once those scoring committee recommendations were made, there is not currently process to go back and re-review the applications.
Member Becton also followed up on the questions asked by Member Chivaro. She expressed her concerns about the potential lack of services, because of the scoring process, and whether based on what happened with the chapter in Fresno and Stockton if there is now a lack of services in that area and how can we possibly compensate for that if that is accurate? Ms. Ahuja replied, in terms of how we compensate for filling in those services, CalVCB would work with the Stockton team to see what CalVCB might be able to do to help provide some of these ongoing services.
Dorit Saberi, from Harbor UCLA Medical Center, The S.A.F.E. (Securing Attachments for Emerging) Harbor TRC asked to address the Board concerning refunding, the process, and the application. Ms. Saberi explained that SAFE was funded in 2019 and has been functioning since July of 2019. They are serving many patients. SAFE is the only level one trauma center in Los Angeles that provides these services for patients, and they have experienced a significant growth in the number and in staff. She noted that their application scored almost ninety, where 75 is the minimum score required. She noted that, after a conversation with CalVCB, their application was not approved due to a minimum requirement regarding not excluding certain populations. She explained that her organization was very thorough in saying how it would q2include the population, but was not explicit that it would not exclude them. She indicated that it would be devastating for her team and the clients they serve to lose TRC funding, especially since Harbor UCLAis the first trauma center if you are heading north from the south border.
Mr. Macias from Stockton Trauma Recovery Center spoke next. Mr. Macias echoed Ms. Saberi’s comments about the technical language, particularly around the idea of serving populations. He explained that he went back and looked at their grant narrative and not only do they serve victims of crime, but they reference undocumented communities, indigenous communities that speak Hmong and native Guatemalan or Aztec languages. He acknowledged that the language may not be explicit, but indicated that the history of the Stockton TRC demonstrates that they provide these services to this community. Mr. Macias apologized by verbalizing that he does not feel like this conversation around how they might exist is sufficient to the thousands of victims of crime who will be left unassisted if they lose this funding. Mr. Macias ended by expressing his hope that the Board can reconsider where they are or look at additional funds that might exist to keep this funding because from Sacramento all the way to Los Angeles, there are no TRCs for historically marginalized communities at this time when they are experiencing the systemic racism and lack of services.
Member Chivaro agreed with Mr. Macias and thanked him for his presentation.
Ms. Sanchez spoke next and echoed what Mr. Macias and Ms. Saberi shared, mainly that the TRCs have been practicing the items that did not meet the minimum criteria in this funding cycle. They have Healing the Healers events for their own staff, to ensure they are not having vicarious trauma, even during this pandemic – they have made sure that they were providing service but also taking care of themselves. They pivoted quickly to providing teletherapy to their community, providing iPads and everything that they can, they look at a removing barriers approach because mental health services are something that is a luxury for their community. To potentially remove that, would be to set them back to where they were. She discussed how recipients of their services are often undocumented people who would not normally access haven services because they are afraid of speaking up to law enforcement, afraid of saying that they have been victimized. She mentioned that most of the community they serve does not have access to physical health care because of barriers to insurance and, therefore, they offer health services and case management to everybody. She further stated the TRC is made up of dynamic, multi-disciplinary staff that has been in practice since 2015 and should have more weight than what was written, even if they did not technically use the terms correctly. Ms. Sanchez ended by explaining that removing this resource would negatively affect all of the Central Valley.
Ms. Chernyak indicated that if they do not receive funding, they will be forced to lay off staff who are offering life critical services to the poorest residents of our state due to technicalities with their application. Ms. Chernyak urged the Board and leaders of our community to look at the process and to amend it, to create a new one, and to fix this situation. She shared that they have traveled the nation sharing the success of the TRC in Stockton and that it is a national model that is being lifted by communities of color, who have been disproportionately locked out of mental health services.
Dr. Santisteban emphasized that his TRC provides services in seven different languages. The TRC is vital to the community and, even though they are in Stockton, they serve clients from Fresno, Stanislaus and other counties that would not otherwise be served because other organizations have closed their doors due to this pandemic. The TRC has been in existence since 2015 and they have the data and reports demonstrating the work that they can do. Dr. Santisteban explained that they are a trusted partner and the best part about this is that they are nationally known because they not only use the best practices model, but also use a model called La Cultura, which means the culture heals, where they understand and internalize what is going on with the individual. Honoring their culture and their ancestry because trauma involves everyone, and it is cyclical. As a result of their work, they have seen a 40% drop in crime in Stockton and now in Fresno, it is going up by 80% according to the most recent report. Dr. Santisteban asked again for CalVCB to lead because the people they serve do not have a voice and the program is the front line for them. He also explained how, with the Covid pandemic, they changed the way they deliver services, and he believes that more time should be invested in understanding their culture, their language, and the struggle and that the grant application process should be revamped.
Ms. Saberi highlighted the multi-generational trauma and the specific impact on the children. She indicated that her TRC is one of the few that serves children and adolescents as well as adults. They have expanded their pediatric population by reaching out to the peds unit and the pediatric ER at Harbor UCLA and are getting a larger and larger number of children seeking services. They are working with many partners to offer these important services.
Chair Ravel thanked all of those who spoke for their comments and testimony. He acknowledged the passion that all who offered comments have for serving their communities and the important role they all play in their communities. Chair Ravel suggested that the Board not take a vote on the TRC grant awards and that the Board have further discussion at a future board meeting on this item. Member Chivaro seconded that suggestion. Ms. Gledhill thanked Chair Ravel and noted that CalVCB will look at the available options for awarding and administering the TRC grants.
Item 6. PC 4900 Claim No. 21-ECO-05, Jeremy Puckett
This presentation was given by Chief Counsel, Kim Gauthier. Ms. Gauthier gave a brief summary of the Penal Code section 4900 claim filed by Jeremy Puckett.
On February 16, 2021, Jeremy Puckett applied for compensation as an erroneously convicted person pursuant to Penal Code section 4900. The application was based upon Mr. Puckett’s almost nineteen-year imprisonment for his 2002 convictions for the robbery and murder of Anthony Galati.
Mr. Puckett’s convictions were vacated on habeas in 2020, based upon the prosecutor’s failure to disclose exculpatory evidence and defense counsel’s ineffective assistance. The district attorney subsequently dismissed the charges. On January 15, 2021, the superior court found Mr. Puckett to be factually innocent of both convictions pursuant to Penal Code section 1485.55. The court noted the absence of any physical evidence implicating Mr. Puckett, the lack of credibility of the sole witness against Puckett, who had since recanted and identified a different suspect, as well as Mr. Puckett’s credible alibi defense.
Ms. Gauthier noted that the Proposed Decision recommends that the Legislature appropriate $968,800 as payment to Mr. Puckett, representing $140 for each of the 6,920 days that he was wrongfully imprisoned for these erroneous convictions.
Counsel for Mr. Puckett, Jordan Lamothe, addressed the Board and thanked them and staff for consideration of Mr. Puckett’s application for compensation. Mr. Lamothe noted that the application follows the Court’s Board’s grant of Mr. Puckett’s habeas petition and order finding him factually innocent of the crimes for which he had been incarcerated, a result that would not have been possible without the invaluable assistance of the Northern California Innocence Project. Mr. Lamothe stated he had reviewed the Board’s proposed decision and agreed with its recitation of the facts, its recitation of the law, and the proposed compensation amount. He urged the Board to grant the application, and offered to answer any questions.
Mr. Barton Bowers from the Attorney General’s appeared via telephone and indicated that he had also reviewed the proposed decision and had no corrections or comments to make.
Mr. Ravel added that all the cases that come before the CalVCB are very difficult cases, but these are particularly difficult with somebody who has been wrongfully incarcerated. The compensation only goes so far, and he thanked Mr. Puckett for appearing before the Board.
The Board adopted the Proposed Decision..
Pursuant to Government Code section 11126(c)(3), the Board adjourned into Closed Session with the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Counsel at 10:50 a.m., to deliberate on proposed decision numbers 1-93 of the Victim Compensation Program.
The Board reconvened in Open Session pursuant to Government Code section 11126(c)(3) at 10:55 a.m.
The Board adopted the hearing officers’ recommendations for proposed decision numbers 1-93 of the Victim Compensation Program.
The Board meeting adjourned at 10:57 a.m.
Next Board Meeting
The next Board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 20, 2021.