June 2, 1995
The Honorable Rodney S. Melville
Presiding Judge of the Superior Court
312 East Cook Street
Santa Maria, CA 93454
RE: District Attorney's Response to the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury Interim Final Report on the Management of County Government
Dear Judge Melville:
I have read and reviewed the 30-page report filed by the Grand Jury "The Management of County Government. While it is not altogether clear from the contents of the report itself which Recommendations actually apply to the District Attorney's Office, I was Provided a cover sheet from the Grand Jury indicating that they expected me to respond to Recommendations #3a, #3b and #7c.
Pursuant to this directive the following is my response as reguired by Penal Code section 933c.
This Recommendation is superfluous. The District Attorney's Office has a Mission Statement and for years has utilized written goals and objectives, as well as strategic Planning as an integral part of its management process,
This Recommendation is also superfluous as in the case of 3a above, this office has for many years, implemented and used management and measurement Procedures to accomplish our goals and objectives. Below I shall detail just a few of the more notable products of this process. Many of the objectives developed in our "5 Year Vision" plan for the department have already been accomplished and will also be discussed below.
The Grand Jury's Recommendations 3a and 3b were predicated upon the presumption that the District Attorney's Office had neither a "Mission Statement" nor formalized goals and objectives within the office. No action is retired by this Department in response to these recommendations since the statement is wrong. The Grand Jury was told during my rather brief appearance that this Department has both. I was never asked to provide either the Mission Statement or goals and objectives to the Grand Jury. Certainly, if I had been, I would have. The Annual Report mentioned was provided as a resource to guickly educate and inform them of the size of this department's budget, revenue sources, divisions and various units within the department. It provides a good overview of our department and does reflect, as I explained to them, my commitment to account to the public for the office's operations and expenditure of public funds in an open and ongoing basis. Obviously, to the extent that those results reflect the tangible evidence that the department's goals and objectives were being achieved, it is a very useful management tool. It is, therefore, somewhatpuzzling why these recommendations were made.
MISSION STATEMENT/GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
In light of Grand Jury comments I don't feel it is adequate to simply say Recommendations 3a and 3b are inapplicable and predicated upon insufficient, erroneous or incomplete information. For this reason, I will utilize this opportunity to provide a more accurate and complete glimpse of the Department's management successes which are or were directly related to our "goals and objectives" setting process.
Long before the TQM craze swept through some departments in this county, the District Attorney's Office has been using these techniques and other well recognized management techniques to improve and evaluate the department's various operational units and its relationships with the many other agencies we frequently deal with. The results of this process over the years has created many improvements, innovations and cost saving programs in this office and the criminal justice system as a whole, such as:
1. Creation of NSF Check Program at no cost for the taxpayers. This unit provides an effective, no cost alternative to the problem of thousands of check cases that could not be handled by law enforcement, this office and the local court system.
2. Creation of all-volunteer Consumer Mediation Unit, again at no cost to the taxpayers, to assist both merchants and consumers in cases where mediation could again reduce court workloads and provide meaningful assistance without the expense of attorney intervention.
3. The authorization of law enforcement to file infractions and some selected misdemeanors directly with the Municipal Court. This reduced staff time in three agencies and streamlined paperwork.
4. Development of a multi-faceted welfare fraud unit that expanded its focus beyond the traditional prosecutorial approach to include piloting one of the state's first Early Detection/Fraud Prevention Units, implementation of an aggressive civil reimbursement program where agreements to reimburse are converted into judgements for collection purposes and a utilization of "Disqualified Consent Agreements" to insure fraudulent applicants are disqualified from future aid applications.
5. Created aggressive DUI impound and forfeiture programs that have directly assisted in the nearly 30~ reductions in DUIs in just two years in the Santa Barbara Area and 46~ countywide. The department's 5 year goal of reducing DUI's by 15% has already been exceeded.
6. To achieve our felony case load to attorney ratio, a new program was implemented to cull the less serious felony cases that traditionally result in either the waiver of a preliminary, early settlement or plea in Superior Court from existing attorney caseloads who handle the more serious and violent crimes so they can focus more time and preparation on these high priority cases.
7. Vertical prosecution units for gangs, drugs and domestic violence cases
have long been an important component in the implementation of departmental goals and objectives related to clients, law enforcement and office priorities.
8. No where is the results of the TQM type process more evident than in the creation of our discovery process. For years, prior to its creation in the mid 80's, discovery was a constant problem for law enforcement, court and defense attorneys. Now, a formal, standardized process exists. The timeliness of the flow of information has been accelerated and the process streamlined. Accountability and access have been improved, not to mention cost recovery process in non-indigent cases.
These are simply a few of the more obvious changes produced by our goals and objectives setting process. This same process has accounted for a whole series of fiscal policies, procedures and processes related to our fiscal goals and objectives and was mirrored early on in our approach to office automation, which was updated and further assessed in the "5 Year Vision" plan.
As one can see, even this cursory overview illustrates that Grand Jury Recommendations 3a and 3b have been fully implemented and actively used in this department for years. Our long-standing process on goals and objective setting have produced tangible results, reflecting an ongoing process, active staff involvement at every level and a thoughtful, planned management approach.
STRATEGIC PLANNING STRATEGIES
In October of 1992, 16 members of the District Attorney's Office convened for the purpose of developing a long-range strategic plan. This planning session was specifically tasked to develop a strategic plan for the Criminal Operations within the District Attorney's Office and was aided by a professional facilitator.
The first objective of the planning committee was to articulate a working "Mission Statement" for the Office. The following Mission Statement was the product of considerable reflection and discussion among the various members of the staff and in a succinct, but accurate way defines what the District Attorney's Office is to do, for whom, where and why.
Santn Barbara County District Attorney's Office
TO REVIEW, INVESTIGATE, DETER, AND PROSECUTE ALL CRIMINAL AND CIVIL VIOLATIONS IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE RIGHTS AND INSURE THE SAFETY OF THE CITIZENS OF CALIFORNIA WITHIN THE COUTY OF SANTA BARBARA.
This Mission Statement does not answer the question of how the mission was to be carried out. Answering the "how" question was the primarily purpose of the strategic plan and the development of the goals and objectives for the office.
The second result of this process was the development of a "5 Year Vision" for the office, with an accompanying analysis of the opportunities and obstacles that currently existed which would impact those goals and objectives. This required those staff members involved in the planning process to be willing to state honestly and accurately their analysis of both the "current situation" and the "environmental obstacles" to be obtained in that vision. It also required the participants to dream ambitiously about the future of our organization in light of the opportunitieg that exist for growth and the overall organizational effectiveness. "Ownership" by all participants in the final plan was thereby insured, since each of the plan's elements are crystallized from the input of each individual.
The final principal involved in this process was that any plan, no matter how brilliantly conceived, is at best only a tool for moving ahead. From the moment the strategic plan was completed, it is flawed if not implemented. New information and changes in our operational environment require that our planning process is both dynamic and responsive to change. Systems for individual accountability and feedback therefore were built into the implementation of the plan developed.
The "5 Year Vision" plan for the office was divided into six general areas. (See attachment #2). Thereafter, working groups were created throughout the office. Six individual working groups were created to facilitate the implementation of the "Visions" objectives. Each of these groups in turn provided lengthy reports with detailed suggestions and goals directly related to the implementation of the strategic plan. To date, many of those specific recommendations have been implemented within the District Attorney's Office and on a longer term basis, many are in the process of being implemented. The bottom line is, contrary to the impression created by the Grand Jury's Report, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office has for years had an internal process for creating goals and objectives and has recently created a long-term, strategic vision plan for the office.
SOME EXPLANATIONS ABOUT PROSECUTOR'S ETHICAL
RESTRAINT ON GOALS AND OBJECTIVES SETTING
A few words of caution about setting of goals and objectives for any prosecutor's office. The District Attorney's Office, unlike some offices referenced in the report, is not a business. We are not out to corner a certain percentage of the market or produce a certain product or a number of widgets within a certain time frame or at a certain cost. As our Mission Statement appropriately sets forth, we have 100% of the market on solved crimes in this county. Protection of rights and insuring public safety is our focus.
The prosecutor's office has several external ethical restraints on goals and objectives setting that don't occur in some businesses or other departments. Specifically, it would be unethical, irresponsible and highly inappropriate to set specific numerical goals associated with some of the most traditional aspects of our Mission Statement. For instance, filings] It would be inappropriate to set as a goal a specific quota on filed cases. The number of both misdemeanors and felonies are dependent upon the number of cases that are forwarded to this office by law enforcement. We deal with solved crimes. It would be inappropriate for us to set a goal of filing so many misdemeanors or so many felonies during any particular fiscal year as a goal or an objective of the office. Each case must be evaluated on its merits. It would be unethical for us to elevate or reduce certain cases simply to meet some artificial statistical goal or objective in that area. Instead, our goal is the more general one, providing public safety and to process those cases in a timely, efficient and fair way that is consistent with justice and public safety.
Likewise, it would be inappropriate to establish statistical quotas on case disposition or state prison commitment as an office goal and objective. Each case is unique. Whether a sentence or a disposition is appropriate depends upon the type of crime involved, the individual's record, and the applicable sentencing ranges. Any attempt to force cases into dispositions or individuals into commitments to state prison to fit an artificial statistical goal or objective would be highly unethical and inappropriate.
On the other hand, it is easy to develop, and we have developed, goals and objectives with regard to filings, dispositions, and state prison commitments that are directly related to our mission. For instance, when Proposition 8's no plea bargaining limitations passed, we created specific rules and disposition policies relative to implementing the legislature's intent with regard to Proposition S; the same was done in the recently enacted 3-strikes legislation. Throughout our policies and procedures manual we have created disposition standards in the more serious or generic types of cases to ensure that our goals and objectives relative to the disposition of cases in this county are as uniform as possible, consistent with the individual nature of each and every case and yet promotes and accomplishes our mission.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GOALS AND OBJECTIVES SETTING
AND MANAGEMENT LEADERSHIP
Obviously how our overall Mission Statement is achieved and implemented on an annual basis will depend directly upon the resources that are made available to us by the County Board of Supervisors and by the impacts of our caseloads, changes in legislation and other outside factors that are oftentimes beyond our control.
I have also been a part of county government long enough to know that when you put things in writing, it does not necessarily ensure success. It takes direction and leadership from the top to ensure staff and other departments understand the "Mission Statement" and "Goals and Objectives" of your department. I know of no better way to ensure the delivery and acceptance of any department's "Mission Statement" and its "Goals and Objectives" than by an active, hands-on management technique. My management staff and I work hard at involving our staff at every level and constantly evaluate our systems, our operations and the allocation of our resources and finances to achieve our goals and objectives. Given the chaotic and often uncertain financial conditions that have existed over the last five years in this county, this has not been an easy task. This department's ability to operate efficiently and effectively could not have occurred without that type of active management style.
Grand Jurv Recommendation #7c
This recommendation can be divided into two parts. Part one deals with selfadministered management audit programs. I believe that the information set forth cove adequately demonstrates that the District Attorney's Office has for many years had an ongoing self-administered audit program in place.
With regard to the second part of the recommendation dealing with the request for outside audit reviews every five years, as a matter of principle, I have no opposition with this recommendation. I do not believe that either the County Administrator or the Auditor-Controller's Office is the appropriate agency to conduct those audits. Any meaningful audit needs to be done by a consultant who is familiar with all of the complexities of the criminal justice system and the interdependence of the many agencies and many disciplines that are involved in that system.
As a practical matter, given the county's continued financial problems and my general awareness that these types of audits, if done correctly and thoroughly, can be quite expensive, I question the wisdom of conducting such audits on a routine basis unless there is a demonstrated need for them to be done. I make this comment not so much as it pertains to the District Attorney's Office, but in connection with Recommendations #7a and #7b. Considering the expensive nature that the implementation of Recommendations #7a, #7b, and #7c could require by the County Board of Supervisors, I am not sure that there shouldn't be some screening process or a precursor showing that there is a need for the expenditure of such large sums of money when it appears that any Particular department or departments are operating efficiently and effectively on an ongoing basis.
Very truly yours,
THOMAS W. SNEDDON, JR.
CC: Kent Taylor, Administrative Officer
Tim Staffel, Chair, Board of Supervisors
Naomi Schwartz, First District Supervisor
Jeanne Graffy, Second District Supervisor
Bill Wallace, Third District Supervisor
Tom Urbanske, Fifth District Supervisor