According to a publication from Institute of Justice March 2010, California provides better protections to property owners when it comes to asset forfeiture laws compared to other states. But recently, the California District Attorneys Association’s CEO, Gregory Totten, revealed that substantial amounts of these funds had allegedly been misused. The new CEO’s priority is to restore trust and fidelity in the Association’s financial management through transparency.
The accusations of misuse came after former members of the California District Attorneys Association borrowed $2.8 with the purpose of “providing a statewide program of education and training for prosecutors and law enforcement officers in ethics and the proper use of laws permitting the seizure and forfeiture of assets under this chapter.” About $1.25 million of this cash was instead added to the group’s general fund, reports say.
Totten also said that the association received $406,984 for high-tech training, but a survey of these accounts revealed that that amount was inappropriately moved into the general fund as well. These inappropriate exchanges allegedly occurred over a five-year period and are just now coming to light.
Totten and the Board were reportedly disappointed by these findings, but they aim to resolve and restore the fund by calling on the organization to create a new, independent auditing committee to monitor its finances. Acting Chief Assistant Attorney General Edward Ochoa reported that the practice of “borrowing” restricted funds for use elsewhere would be difficult to stymie, but that the state would defer directing settlement proceeds to the California District Attorneys Association until the investigation has been resolved and settled.
The announcement and investigation have led to a fair amount of public outcry. Letters were sent to call for an immediate request to investigate by the following environmental groups as well:
- California Coastkeeper Alliance
- California League of Conservation Voters
- Community Water Center
- Clean Water Action
- Environmental Working Group
- Coalition for Clean Air
- Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability
- NextGen California
- Sierra Club California
Civil rights groups such as ACLU California Action, Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), Californians For Safety and Justice, etc. have also called for further oversight of the CDAA and its operations.
Clearly, it is not easy to create transparency in an organization or workplace. But transparency is key to a positive working culture and a solid relationship among the employees, clients, and members of the community. Without transparency, stakeholders will feel doubtful, funds can be improperly spent, and the organization might collapse.
The California District Attorneys Association learned this the hard way. Fortunately, with the priority of restoring trust and fidelity in their organization, the CDAA shows that they are in their way to solidifying their team. CEO Totten’s actions may encourage his board to also practice openness and avoid such situations in the future. This is especially important when funds acquired via a controversial legal process like asset forfeiture are involved.
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