BOISE -- Ada County has decided to keep doing business with a private contractor for misdemeanor probation services, despite controversy and allegations the owner is overcharging, perhaps keeping people on probation too long.
I just can't see us going out tomorrow morning and providing service. I mean, what kind of a situation would we be in then? Ada County Commission Chairman Rick Yzaguirre said.
Earlier this month, three named plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against Nancy Cladis, the owner of Ada County Misdemeanor Probation Services. After holding off their decision for a week (tabling the vote partially because of the lawsuit), county commissioners voted Tuesday 2-to-1 in favor of keeping their current contract with Cladis.
Yzaguirre says yes, there are allegations, but so far, that's all they are. Without proof or a court decision he says it's fair and practical to keep the current contract with Cladis.
Until she's proven guilty, I'm interested in working with her, Yzaguirre said. In my mind, we couldn't just not renew the contract, step up tomorrow morning and start providing that level of service, so we needed a transition period.
The renewed contract will stand through September 30, 2012, then Yzaguirre says the county is taking it over, supervising misdemeanor probationers through a new department.
Separate budget, separate department, similar operation, only it will be managed by county employees, Yzaguirre said.
Citing many complaints, Sharon Ullman is the only commissioner who voted against the renewal.
I've been getting such a high volume of phone calls and email messages, I've been unable to keep up, Ullman said.
She wants an investigation and the contract in county hands as soon as possible. She called it irresponsible to sign the contract for another year without the allegations being investigated by the county.
I truly believe that we as a county, our taxpayers, and the probationers themselves would be better off unsupervised for whatever time frame it takes us to gear up and be ready to run than to operate with somebody that we know is doing it wrong, Ullman said.
Meantime, commissioners are putting county employees into Cladis' office next week. Ullman and Yzaquirre both say that move is partially as oversight, partially as transition to the county taking over the service.
If anything is uncovered in our preparations, when we have our employees overseeing this operation, then certainly we can take action at that point in time, Ullman said.
If allegations were found to be true, commissioners say their contract does allow them to immediately get out of their arrangement with Cladis and her company.
Cladis' attorney, David Leroy, says she will file a response to the lawsuit soon. He explains she will deny any wrongdoing and explain she followed Idaho law in charging extra fees for services like drug testing. Also, Leroy says she does not profit from those additional fees, all money goes to testing companies.