Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Fiona Ma’s Statement on Counties Misuse and Abuse of Domestic Violence Fees
SACRAMENTO –As Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Domestic Violence, one of the issues that I have had to face every year, is the lack of funds and cuts to domestic violence shelters in California. In many cases, the access to services such as counseling, safe visitation centers, emergency housing and food can be the difference between life and death.
This is why I am shocked and outraged at the findings of the audit released today by the California State Auditor, which outlines the fact that some cities and counties like Santa Clara County turned a blind eye to our most vulnerable.
I requested this audit in 2011 after hearing complaints from domestic violence shelters throughout the state that collection of fees from payments made by individuals convicted of crimes of domestic violence, were not being received. These fees are usually one of many stipulations of their probation. The audit confirmed that these fees were not being adequately collected and were not being sent to their local shelters. For example, in 2009-2011 Santa Clara collected and sat on over $715,000.
It is very disheartening to find that in the four counties that were examined, based on the review of 135 domestic violence cases for a four-year period, nearly 68% of the initial assessments were not collected. Collections in Los Angeles County averaged 57% of the amount assessed, while collections in San Diego County averaged only 12%.
The overarching sentiment underlying the audit is that some counties have shortchanged their local shelters by failing to disburse funds. For example, Sacramento County maintained an excessive level of reserve funding in its special fund when compared to disbursements, while Santa Clara County did not comply with state law when distributing its funds.
As a result, I am demanding a hearing to discuss the next steps necessary to assist California shelters in receiving the funding that is owed.
I will continue to work to ensure that California’s domestic violence programs receive the funding they were promised. Even in this downturn economy, the State as well as local governments are entrusted with providing a safety net for those in need. Our priorities need to be clear; victims who turn to shelters in fear for their lives and the lives of their children should not have to worry about shelters closing their doors because counties were not doing their job.