Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, Dec. 29, 2023 @ 3:06 p.m.

Del Norte Supervisors Renew Contract With Shasta To House Juvenile Offenders Despite Language Concerns From Former County Counsel

Image courtesy of the Del Norte County Probation Department

Supervisors renewed an agreement with Shasta County to house juvenile offenders from Del Norte over their now-former county counsel’s concerns about the lack of joint powers language in the contract.

Chief Probation Officer Lonnie Reyman brought the matter to the Board at a special meeting Friday, submitting a timeline of his attempts to work with former county counsel Joel Campbell-Blair.

Though Del Norte’s contract with Humboldt County to serve as its primary juvenile detention facility does include joint powers language, Reyman said he felt similar language in the agreement with Shasta was unnecessary. He said he was able to work with Assistant County Counsel Jacqueline Roberts to come up with a compromise that’s in line with the state’s Welfare and Institutions Code.

“Why was it argued that we needed joint powers in this? I think because it makes everybody feel more comfortable,” Reyman told the Wild Rivers Outpost. “[This] is not a legal opinion, I think because it makes everybody feel more comfortable rather than being what’s really required or, practically speaking, used in the rest of the state.”

In his staff report, the chief probation officer accused Campbell-Blair of a lack of engagement that led to an obstruction of a “needed and necessary contract.”

The Board voted 3-1-1 in favor of the renewed agreement with Shasta County minutes after accepting Campbell-Blair’s resignation and appointing Roberts as interim county counsel.

District 2 Supervisor Valerie Starkey dissented. District 3 Supervisor Chris Howard was absent.

The Board’s decision comes about three months after it eliminated the juvenile hall division from Del Norte County Probation in September. The county declared the detention facility unoccupied nearly a year after Reyman in October 2022 recommended closing the facility, stating he wasn’t able to meet state staffing requirements.

On Friday, Reyman said juvenile offenders from Del Norte had been housed in Shasta County when the local facility began operating as a special purpose juvenile hall at the beginning of 2023. However, Humboldt County became the primary custodial institution after it entered into a contract with Del Norte in late January or early February.

Shasta County continues to serve as a “redundant location” when Humboldt has to decline to house a youth due to capacity issues, Reyman said. Under Welfare and Institutions Code 872, youth can be detained in another county when a juvenile hall “becomes unfit or unsafe for the detention of minors,” which, Reyman said, would be the case if Humboldt County declined a booking.

Del Norte’s contract with Shasta was set to expire on Dec. 21.

According to the chief probation officer, during the process of closing Del Norte’s juvenile detention facility, he has had several discussions with Campbell-Blair about his concerns regarding how contracts for housing youth are structured.

“Fundamental to his concerns, as best as I can represent it, is that it is his opinion that any custody contract is required to include and operate under joint powers language,” Reyman writes in his staff report. “My experience and conversations with numerous other chiefs and counties indicate that this is a unique interpretation of the requirements for counties to contract for juvenile detention.”

Though that joint powers language was written into the contract Del Norte has with Humboldt County, Reyman said it’s not a common practice in most counties. Even those that have never had a juvenile detention facility and have had to contract for those services never had that language written into those agreements, he said.

Yuba, Sutter and Colusa, which operate a regional juvenile hall, also have joint powers language written into their contracts, Reyman said.

“The language we did come up with for our contract with Humboldt came from an old Lake-Mendocino County agreement that isn’t in effect,” he told supervisors. “I didn’t explore why that doesn’t continue to occur. Lake County is currently contracting with Tehama County and are not housing their youth in Mendocino if I recall correctly.”

Reyman said he discussed changing Del Norte’s contract with Shasta with that county’s chief probation officer. He noted that Shasta County’s juvenile hall was built with funding from the state’s Local Youthful Offender Rehabilitative Facility Construction Funding Program, or SB 81, and any changes must be approved by the California State Public Works Board and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“The Shasta County Probation Department has faced numerous challenges and delays in implementing any changes, additions or modifications to and regarding the facility,” Reyman wrote in his staff report. “The chief is not interested in adding another layer of complication by attempting to amend their existing custody contract which has already been approved as to form by both of the state agencies involved.”

Roberts’ compromise came in November. According to Reyman, the now-interim county counsel indicated that she didn’t have a problem with renewing the Shasta contract with the stipulation that a local court standing order would designate Humboldt County as Del Norte’s primary detention facility with Shasta being used in an overflow capacity.

On Friday, Reyman said Del Norte’s presiding judge had indicated in the past that he would be amenable to providing a standing order that would allow a juvenile offender to be transferred to Shasta County without needing a specific order for an individual  youth. They would be detained for no more than three business days before they were due back in Del Norte County court, Reyman said.

“That meets the needs we have for a redundant detention facility and it meets the requirement of the code,” he told supervisors. “It was only after we submitted this [to the Board] twice for approval and was pulled without any more discussion with me that we’ve hit this point.”

Starkey, who had raised concerns about closing Del Norte’s juvenile hall, said she was concerned because “we got county counsel saying this isn’t the way we should be doing it.” She asked Reyman if he received input from attorneys representing other counties — the chief probation said he had not — and indicated she was worried about potential legal liability Del Norte could face.

Her colleague, District 1 Supervisor Darrin Short raised concerns about Reyman’s interaction with Campbell-Blair.

“I’m concerned that when we are supposed to depend on county counsel to keep us out of hot water and this is what he did, he was ignored and almost demonized because of it,” Short said.

Paul Dillard, who sits on the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission, questioned the following statement in Reyman’s report: “although custody contracts before you may not be a ‘State of California standard agreement’ under that specific definition it is an agreement between and continues to be approved by two separate state agencies…”

Dillard asked what the California Standard Agreement was and what Del Norte County is overlooking.

“I have concerns about that part and I feel obligated to bring that to your attention,” he told supervisors. “To me that could be a huge liability… I can’t help that Shasta doesn’t want to do the work, but your county counsel has brought it forward and risk management has brought it forward. Something’s wrong here and it don’t smell good.”

District 5 Supervisor Dean Wilson said the absence of joint powers language in the Shasta contract wasn’t giving him heartburn. According to him, no one is reinventing the wheel.

“This is something that’s been tried and true and has not been a bone of contention for many counties that are in similar or like circumstances where juvenile halls didn’t exist,” he said. “This is nothing new.”


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