Do you know what the U.S. Department of Justice hates probably more than anything else? When they give someone a very specific and direct command to fix a serious problem – only to be completely ignored.
According to this Humboldt County Grand Jury Report (which is wonderfully titled “AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT: HUMBOLDT COUNTY LEADERSHIP AND A TRAIL OF BROKEN PROMISES”), that’s precisely what the County of Humboldt and our County Supervisors have done with regards to a settlement with the U.S. DOJ over our complete failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Grand Jury Report details a settlement from 2008, in which the County of Humboldt “…agreed it would complete, in a timely manner, ADA projects that the DOJ deemed necessary to successfully meet the needs of the County’s disabled community.”
Wanna know what the next line in that report is? “Humboldt County is not in compliance with that 2008 Settlement Agreement.” (Their emphasis, not THC’s.)
Basically, the County got slapped down hard by the DOJ for the woefully inadequate services provided to Humboldt residents with disabilities. The Humboldt County Grand Jury, as of this moment in time, found that “…no evidence that the County has responded to any of the suggestions or recommendations of this report.”
What was the County required to do? It’s a long list – but one that should absolutely have been addressed considering the County is exposing themselves, and by extension the tax payers, to ridiculously harsh legal and financial penalties by failing to comply.
The very first command from the DOJ was this: “Identify the County’s ADA Coordinator.” Guess how well the County did with this very basic requirement? From the report:
“The Caltrans Review did find one item that Humboldt County had been completed, the designation of an ADA Coordinator. The Director of the Human Resources Department serves in this position. However, when various elected county officials and advocates for the disabled community were questioned as to who held this position, they had difficulty naming who it might be. The Caltrans Review also indicates that a significant number of county employees could not tell them the name of the ADA Coordinator.”
Oh wow! So Humboldt actually did designate an ADA coordinator – the stupid elected officials just couldn’t freakin’ name who it was. Nor could County employees. Or advocates for the disabled – you know, the people who regularly work to improve the conditions for that significant percentage of the Humboldt population. (The Grand Jury report notes that 21% of Humboldt residents qualify as disabled – higher than the national average.)
In case you were wondering, the ADA coordinator for Humboldt is the Human Resources Director, or Daniel J Fulks. Also in case you were wondering, here’s how much he makes:
Wow, that’s a lot of cheddar! Good news is that Fulks isn’t just a one trick pony – not only is he good at bending over during salary negotiations, he’s also really good at completely f***ing over the disabled! Woo hoo!
Here’s a summary of the Grand Jury’s findings on the County’s complete ADA failure:
And that’s just scraping the top of the heap – this outrageous rabbit hole goes much, much deeper than that. THC can point to almost any sentence in the report that gets us spitting mad, and not just because the County has failed a needy and at-risk population in Humboldt.
The potential financial and legal impact of failing to comply with the DOJ settlement are staggering; if the DOJ decided to crack down on the County, all of our previous financial issues with CALPERS, roads, mental health services, you name it, will look like a drop in the bucket.
From the Grand Jury: “If the DOJ finds state and local governments have not complied with the settlement agreements, large monetary penalties can be levied. In addition to the costs of compliance, non-compliant entities can also be held responsible for plaintiff’s attorney fees that may approach or even exceed one million dollars. This holds true not only if the plaintiff wins, but also if they settle the case.”
This has already happened in a few cases, notably in Sacramento and LA. In both cases, the cities spent millions upon millions of dollars, replete with 30-year monitoring programs, in order to come into compliance and pay off the fees of opposing attorneys. (We hope Jason Singleton doesn’t catch wind of this!)
Sacramento, for example, has to spend 20% of its annual transportation budget over the next 30 years to fix shit. Think about how bad our roads are already – think our continually shrinking transportation budget could handle that kind of a hit?
Meanwhile, the City of L.A. is “obligated to spend $1.4 billion over the next 30 years on sidewalk repairs and other pedestrian improvements. In addition, the City will pay the plaintiffs $6 million to monitor compliance over this period and pay plaintiffs’ attorney fees and costs of $15 million.”
Can our Supervisors not wrap their heads around how royally and totally f***ed we’d be if the DOJ decides to check in for a progress report? It might be a little different if the County were attempting in any small way to comply with the settlement. There would be potential to work with the DOJ and at least be able to point to something they’ve done.
But no! The County hasn’t done a damn thing! How stupid can they be? While they’re screwing around, and the Supervisors are giving themselves flippin’ raises (!), the disabled in Humboldt are being swept under the rug – just like the DOJ settlement demands were.
The Grand Jury report states that out of 208 similar settlement agreements with the DOJ, 204 of them had been completed as of 2014. Meaning we’re one of those 4 that haven’t done jack shit. That’s lower than low.
Other highlights from the Grand Jury report? Let’s see…
“The Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury investigation was made difficult in that no single document could be found within Humboldt County government listing the DOJ mandated projects which have been completed and those that have not.”
“While the costs of making some public facilities ADA compliant may be substantial, there are many issues the County has repeatedly ignored that do not involve large financial burdens.For example, both the 2008 Settlement Agreement and the Caltrans Review emphasized the importance of informing the public, particularly persons with disabilities, of their rights under the ADA, posting information how to contact the County ADA Coordinator, and providing information to the public regarding what the grievance process entails. These items would be of minimal cost to the County but represent basic principles of justice found in our Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution.” (THC’s emphasis this time.”
A complete list of the Grand Jury’s findings follows, and while you’re reading them, ponder this: Our Supervisors are 100% aware of the ramifications of not complying the DOJ settlement. Yet they knowingly do nothing. They have expressly ignored the rights and needs of Humboldt’s disabled. So, do you think that deserved a raise? Beyond that, do you think they actually deserve their jobs at all? THC hopes, based on the tone of this post and the findings of the Grand Jury, that you know our thoughts on the matter.
We’ll be back with more on this, don’t you worry. Here are the findings from the Grand Jury:
“F1. Humboldt County is not in compliance with the 2008 Settlement Agreement between the United States of America and Humboldt County, California under The Americans with Disabilities Act, DJ 204-11-275.
F2. In 2013 Caltrans conducted a formal review of Humboldt County’s program compliance with the ADA. In the nine assessments listed of the Review, Caltrans found only one to be compliant. The Caltrans Review also disclosed that the County was entirely unresponsive in providing the required update status reports.
F3. The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors is ultimately responsible for making sure that the County of Humboldt is ADA compliant.
F4. The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, the Humboldt County Human Resources Department and the Humboldt County Public Works Department have no formal system in place through which to solicit and receive input from persons with disabilities and ADA advocacy groups regarding ADA compliance.
F5. The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors has not established a Self–Evaluation survey of current services nor developed a system for its periodic review and update, as required by the 2008 Settlement Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the 2013 California Department of Transportation ADA Compliance Review.
F6. The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors has not established a Transition Plan, as required by the 2008 Settlement Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the 2013 California Department of Transportation ADA Compliance Review.
F7. While Humboldt County does have an ADA Coordinator, the existence of and contact information regarding that position are not shared among County Departments, not posted within County buildings, inaccurately described and not easily accessible on the County website.
F8. Neither the Humboldt County Human Resources Department, the Humboldt County Public Works Department nor the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors currently demonstrate the ability to coordinate and oversee the keeping of ADA compliance records, timely ADA communications, or the development of the ADA guidelines necessary to bring Humboldt County into compliance with the 2008 U.S. Department of Justice Settlement Agreement.
F9. There are no budgetary plans submitted or approved by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors that cover the cost of bringing Humboldt County into ADA compliance.
F10. The Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury could find no evidence of a coordinated training program within the County of Humboldt for the purpose of instructing County personnel on how to assist members of the disabled community as well as the community as a whole.”