Community members push back on DA Office’s proposal for PIO

March 17, 2022 /

Community members expressed concern at Tuesday’s Kern County Board of Supervisors meeting regarding the District Attorney’s request for Board approval for a coordinator of administrative and legislative analysis position.

Kern County residents said they disagree with the proposed salary of $130,479 for the position.

“My concern as a community member and also as a tax payer to the county is why does the DA’s office need $130,000 for a coordinator of administrative and legislative analysis, which my understanding from talking to people in this office is this individual is someone who actually works for her on her campaign,” said a community member to the board members. “So the county would actually be paying somebody to help her work on her campaign. I don’t’ appreciate nor do my neighbors that our tax dollars are to be used on paying her campaign.”

The position is essentially a public information officer for Kern County’s District Attorney’s Office. According to the proposal, the responsibilities of the Coordinator position include assisting with increasing public awareness and “good will,” promoting and spreading awareness of department initiatives and goals by developing content for social media platforms, acting as a liaison between departments and community groups, organizing community outreach events, and analyzing the effects and impacts of new criminal justice legislation.

Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer responded to the concerns by saying many County departments have Public Information Officers to help raise awareness of the offices’ efforts.

“Social media has grown to a great extent, and we when I became District Attorney, we needed a public information officer,” Zimmer said to the Board. “We had no budget for one, so I had to have one of our district attorneys, who is doing many jobs as a layer, do the job of a PIO.”

Zimmer explained the person who takes on the position will monitor California legislation and its impacts on the County. The person would also provide analysis on how to “prepare” for legislation.

“There are laws coming at us nearly every session that quiet honestly are soft on crime. We have to prepare for what is coming out way,” Zimmer said. “And we also need to be able to tell our story to the public about cases we file, convictions we get and have interaction with the press.”

Zimmer noted the DA’s office was having an attorney conduct the work of a PIO before they hired extra help for the job. The department currently uses an extra-help employee in this position, the proposal said. The department said in the proposal it believes converting the extra help position to a permanent position would provide a more “permanent solution to handle each of these areas.”

“We thought we would give it a try with an extra help employee, and it worked very well,” Zimmer said. “And we would like to make it a permanent position.

However, not all community members agree with the proposal.

“Our tax dollars should not be spent on someone’s campaign,” said Ucedrah Osby. “This should have been an item that was budgeted at the time the county budget was being considered.”

County staff and Supervisor Leticia Perez called to pull the item off the consent agenda to further facilitate a discussion.