By Steven Tavares.
Some Alameda County community-based organizations are calling for Chief Probation Officer La Donna Harris to be replaced now.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors is in the process of finding a permanent chief probation officer to replace Harris, who is still on the job while a replacement is found.
Earlier this month during a meeting of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, some representatives of community-based organizations asked the board to appoint an interim probation chief while it continues its search for a permanent replacement.
“I think, in our opinion, things are really deteriorating to the point that not a lot of work is being done,” said Darius Young, representing Oakland’s Ella Baker Center, during a Mar. 8 board meeting.
Harris has come under criticism over the past six months or more for a number of questionable personnel decisions and morale over the same period is reportedly low.
Young and others said the process of seeking out qualified candidates and the hiring of a new chief could take months and the current state of the department which oversees more than 11,000 juvenile and adult probationers needs change at the top immediately.
“It’s our consensus that we should move for an interim until we can find someone permanent,” said Young. The CBO also sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors conveying the same sentiment.
In addition, a fraction of the funding allocated to probation in the fiscal year 2014-15 budget has been applied to employment contracts, they said.
Harris’s tenure as probation chief was numbered by the end of last year after she faced strong resistance from labor groups for filling some management positions with employees who did not possess requisite experience for the jobs.
A memo from Harris to her department in early January indicated her contract would not be renewed and the county was actively beginning the process of finding her successor. However, it appears little has been done on the county’s end.
Two months after Harris’s memo, on Mar. 11, the county’s human resources director met with all units within the probation department to ascertain specific qualities they desired in the next chief.
When the Board of Supervisors meet next Tuesday, Mar. 29, sources say more pressure will likely be applied on the county supervisors to opt for an interim probation chief more sooner than later. Harris has served as chief probation officer since 2012.