California Victim Compensation Board
Open Meeting Minutes
September 23, 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, September 23, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. Also present via Zoom was Member Diana Becton, District Attorney, and Member Shawn Silva, Deputy State Controller and Interim 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. Board Liaison, Michelle Greer, was also present and recorded the meeting.
Item 1. Approval of the Minutes of the July 15, 2021, Board Meeting
The Board approved the minutes of the July 15, 2021, Board meeting.
Item 2. Public Comment
The Board opened the meeting for public comment and Ms. Greer 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.)
There were no public comments.
Item 3. Executive Officer Statement
Executive Officer Gledhill updated the Board on several items:
Executive Officer Gledhill described her experience earlier in the week of speaking at the virtual 2021 National Joint Training Conference for Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Assistance and Compensation Administrators.
Ms. Gledhill noted that this is an important annual conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime and hosted by the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators and the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards.
She also participated in a panel discussion focused on how different states have approached changing eligibility requirements, such as allowing other documentation than a police report to verify claims.
There is a lot of interest in this topic nationally, especially after changes in VOCA passed this summer that allow exceptions to the cooperation requirement. The new VOCA language is very similar to the state statute CalVCB has followed for several years.
Ms. Gledhill reported that the session reminded her of how important our work is and that many around the country look at CalVCB as a national leader in victim compensation.
The next topic Ms. Gledhill discussed was the Fathers and Families of San Joaquin Trauma Recovery Center in Stockton, which closed its doors on September 3. She reminded the Board that Fathers and Families was one of 12 TRCs to win two-year grant awards from CalVCB starting on July 1, but then announced it would have to shut down.
She further noted that, once the final invoice is reconciled for Fathers and Families, CalVCB will then know how much of the grant money they were allocated that did not get spent and could potentially be redistributed to other TRCs. She indicated this will be brought to the Board at a future Board meeting with a recommendation for distribution of the remaining funds to existing TRCs.
Ms. Gledhill next discussed the current working conditions in the office and the intention to return to the building to work one day a week starting in September. She indicated that plan has been put on hold until the Governor’s order to test all unvaccinated employees weekly can be fully implemented.
Ms. Gledhill reminded the Board that the recent promotion of Natalie Mack to Chief Deputy Executive Officer left a vacancy on the Executive Team. She reported that the vacancy has been filled by Vincent Walker, who is the new Deputy Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation Program.
Vincent Walker comes to CalVCB from the Employment Development Department, where he spent 16 years in a variety of leadership roles. He provided oversight of various statewide programs and worked on claim management, quality assurance, policy and procedure development, and customer relations. He started with CalVCB in mid-August, and has jumped in and is hard at work on all of CalVCB’s program-related issues.
Executive Officer Gledhill next gave a short presentation about VOCA.
She noted that “VOCA” stands for the federal Victims of Crime Act. Since its original passage by Congress in 1984, VOCA has provided funding for victim compensation programs and victim assistance programs across the country. In California, CalVCB handles VOCA-related compensation and Cal OES handles assistance grants.
CalVCB has traditionally been reimbursed by the federal government for 60 percent of its VOCA-eligible claims.
The way this process works is that CalVCB pays claims, according to state statutes and regulations, and then seeks reimbursement from the federal government through VOCA for VOCA-eligible claims, which are most of the claims CalVCB receives.
The calculation for each state’s VOCA award is based on the state dollars paid out for the federal fiscal year two years prior. Once the award is received, CalVCB has up to three years to spend that money.
For the last three federal fiscal years, CalVCB was awarded between $15 million and $19 million dollars each year in VOCA reimbursements.
On July 22, 2021, President Biden signed H.R. 1652, the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021 and the law went into effect immediately. The act made several important changes to VOCA. The most significant is an increase of the reimbursement rate from 60 percent to 75 percent.
The bill also allows exceptions to cooperation “if a program determines such cooperation may be impacted due to a victim’s age, physical condition, psychological state, cultural or linguistic barriers, or any other health or safety concern that jeopardizes the victim’s wellbeing.”
The new exceptions are nearly identical to those already allowed by CalVCB’s statute.
The federal legislation, which was several years in the making, will help California and other states who have seen steady decreases in VOCA funding. Based on our estimates, it appears these changes will increase CalVCB’s federal reimbursement by $8 to $10 million dollars each year going forward. This will require CalVCB to increase the federal grant allocation amount currently authorized in the state budget. CalVCB has already submitted a request to the Department of Finance to make that adjustment.
Ms. Gledhill reminded the Board that CalVCB currently receives a General Fund backfill and noted that will likely continue in the future. This increase in federal money may mean in the future that CalVCB will need fewer dollars from the General Fund, however, it will take a few years to understand the impact of this increased reimbursement.
Item 4. Legislative Update
The Legislative update was provided by Deputy Executive Officer of the Policy, Outreach and Grants Division, Andrew Lamar.
Mr. LaMar started by noting the summary of the bills provided in the Board Meeting binder represented the status of the bills as they stood at the end of the 2021 Legislative Session. Mr. LaMar reminded the Board that the Governor has until October 10, 2021, to sign or veto any bill that comes across his desk.
The Board also received an update on SB 299 by Assemblyman Leyva, which would compensate victims of police violence, was moved to the inactive file at the request of the author. It is now a two-year bill and will be eligible to be acted on again in 2022.
Mr. LaMar stated that the bill concerning forced sterilization was turned into a budget trailer bill, which is almost identical to AB 1077, now titled AB 137. The bill was signed by the Governor in July, establishing the Forced Sterilization Compensation Program. Victims will be able to apply for a two-year period beginning January 1, 2022.
The budget bill funding this program provided two million dollars for outreach and related costs for administering the program.
In the final days of session, Mr. LaMar stated, an additional $300,000 for outreach was added to another budget bill, SB 170, which passed and has been sent to the Governor. This bill directs CalVCB to use the money to contract with a local Los Angeles community-based organization, the Alliances for a Better Community, for study and additional outreach to eligible claimants for the Forced Sterilization Compensation Program. If the Governor signs the legislation CalVCB will work to incorporate this partnership into its implementation efforts.
Mr. LaMar reported SB 446, which would change the process for consideration of some erroneously conviction claims was passed by the legislature and is now on the Governor’s desk.
Since the last Board Meeting, both of this year’s erroneous conviction claims bills have been signed by the Governor. AB 1593 by Assembly Member Gonzalez contains a 5.7-million-dollar appropriation to pay the five erroneous conviction claims approved by CalVCB. Those claimants have received their payments.
Finally, Mr. LaMar stated that SB 631 by Senator Portantino, contains nearly 2 million dollars to pay one additional claim. It was signed last week by the Governor, and CalVCB is working with the Department of Finance and the State Controller’s Office to process that payment.
Item 5. Proposed 2022 Board Meeting Dates
Executive Officer Gledhill asked the Board for their approval of the proposed 2022 CalVCB Board Meeting dates, continuing the meeting schedule of convening every other month for Board meetings.
The Board approved the proposed 2022 CalVCB Board Meeting dates as follows:
- Thursday, January 20, 2022
- Thursday, March 17, 2022
- Thursday, May 19, 2022
- Thursday, July 21, 2022
- Thursday, September 15, 2022
- Thursday, November 17, 2022
Item 6. PC 4900 Claim No. 16-ECO-01, George Souliotes
This presentation was given by Chief Counsel, Kim Gauthier. Ms. Gauthier gave a brief summary of the Penal Code section 4900 claim filed by George Souliotes.
On April 8, 2015, George Souliotes submitted an application for compensation as an erroneously convicted person pursuant to Penal Code section 4900. The application is based upon Mr. Souliotes 2000 convictions for arson and murder in the first degree, which were overturned pursuant to federal habeas proceedings. According to the Proposed Decision, Mr. Souliotes has shown by a preponderance of evidence that he is not guilty of the crimes of arson or murder, as well as the lesser offense of involuntary manslaughter to which he pled following the habeas proceeding. The Proposed Decision recommends compensation in the amount of $841,820, representing $140 for each day of the 6,013 days that he was wrongfully imprisoned.
Mr. Souliotes was represented by Caitlin Weisberg of Mcclane, Bednarski & Litt. The Attorney General was represented by Deputy Attorney General Barton Bowers. Ms. Weisberg appeared via Zoom. Mr. Bowers appeared via teleconference.
Ms. Weisberg noted that the proposed decision does a great job of summarizing all of the facts related to this case. Ms. Weisberg also wanted to thank Staff Attorney Michelle Philips for her work on this matter and her thorough review of the matter and she, along with Mr. Souliotes, urged the Board to approve the proposed decision. Ms. Weisberg also thanked Deputy Attorney General Barton Bowers for his support of this claim. She then gave a history of the events in this case, which was also summarized in the proposed decision.
Mr. Ravel thanked counsel for appearing before the Board.
Mr. Souliotes also appeared before the Board via Zoom. He thanked the Board for its consideration and indicated he is happy to start fixing his life.
Mr. Ravel thanked Mr. Souliotes for appearing before the Board.
Mr. Barton Bowers from the Attorney General’s office urged the Board to adopt the proposed decision.
Mr. Ravel thanked Mr. Bowers 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 10:20 a.m., to deliberate on proposed decision numbers 1-86 of the Victim Compensation Program.
The Board reconvened in Open Session pursuant to Government Code section 11126(c)(3) at 10:25 a.m.
The Board adopted the hearing officers’ recommendations for proposed decision numbers 1-86 of the Victim Compensation Program.
The Board meeting adjourned at 10:30 a.m.
Next Board Meeting
The next Board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, November 18, 2021.