Personnel issues plague S. Tahoe’s juvenile hall


By Kathryn Reed

The $6.3 million Juvenile Treatment Center in South Lake Tahoe has been rife with problems since it opened in 2004.

Since September girls aren’t taken there. They must go to the facility in Placerville because there aren’t enough female employees to care for them. This isn’t the first time the girls have had to be transported to the West Slope.

And when they go, it means pulling a South Lake Tahoe police officer or El Dorado County sheriff’s deputy off the streets in the basin. That in turn means fewer cops on the street, and more expenses in terms of mileage and potential overtime.

The Juvenile Treatment Center in South Lake Tahoe opened in 2004. Photo/LRS Architects

While the 26,500-square-foot facility has room to house 40 kids, it never has. Thirty-four is the most it has housed, according to Greg Sly, chief probation officer. (The El Dorado County Probation Department runs the JTC.)

According to Don Ashton, principal analyst with the Chief Administrative Office, this month the high mark was 17 juveniles, and 15 in both November and October.

Because the number of delinquents has never hit the maximum capacity, the probation department currently has a budget as though 30 would be the maximum number of kids housed at the center.

“A lot of times we’ve reduced the number to 20 beds and no one knows about it,” Sly said. “Occasionally it’s a problem for a parent of a minor if they’ve been moved to Placerville.”

The reduction in available beds has to do with staffing. With the 30-bed scenario, the Tahoe juvenile hall should have 20 line staff members, plus supervisors. Right now there are five vacancies at the line level – or 25 percent fewer workers than there should be.

Sly told Lake Tahoe News this is not a new problem, but one that has been going on since the center opened eight years ago. He attributes it to wages, people not wanting to live in the snow and/or not wanting to make the commute.

In a letter dated Sept. 27 Sly outlines his concerns to the Board of Supervisors in 36 pages. Much of what was included were historical issues with the facility, but he still presented a case for the need to hire more people to make the Tahoe JTC function at the level it was designed for.

That letter was part of the Oct. 16 Board of Supervisors packet. However, Sly was not able to present his findings and beliefs to the elected officials in person because one day after the letter was dated – Sept. 28 – he was placed on administrative leave.

El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Suzanne Kingsbury signed an order putting Sly on indefinite leave. That order was rescinded Dec. 12.

He was paid while he was on leave, but how much has not been released to Lake Tahoe News.

And why he is back on the job or was ever forced out on leave has not been made public. Kingsbury oversees the probation department. However, it is not possible to leave a message at the courthouse until Jan. 7 when employees return to work.

In September, Kingsbury deferred comment to Chief Administrative Officer Terri Daly. She is the top person in El Dorado County. Daly has yet to return any call or email of Lake Tahoe News’.

But Sly got what he wanted. Supervisors agreed to hire more personnel. It’s possible they could be hired by the end of January. Even so, they still must undergo several weeks of training.

Daly-Sly issues

Daly has been on the job since December 2010. She had worked as the county’s assistant chief administrative officer for five months before the promotion. She was the CAO in Amador County before working for El Dorado County.

Sly has been with the county since 1990, having been head of the department since July 2005. He was instrumental in getting the JTC funded and built.

Sly won’t talk to Lake Tahoe News about why he was put on leave or why he was allowed back. Nor would he say anything about the investigation that is going on regarding whether Daly acted in retaliation against him. He did say he has retained an attorney.

Bobbi Bennett, the county’s Human Resources manager, on Dec. 28 told Lake Tahoe News she would respond to a Public Records Request Act within the statutory 10 days.

Lake Tahoe News wants to know what the county paid Sly to not work for more 2½ months, why an outside law firm is handling the alleged retaliation investigation, and how much that firm has been paid. Answers to those questions are public information.

However, with the leave issue falling under “personnel”, it may never be known why the CAO asked the judge to remove Sly from his job in the form of an administrative leave.

Karl Knobelauch, the acting Human Resources director, is supervising the retaliation investigation. He did not respond to emails about the subject.

Knobelauch and Daly are friends and know each other from when they worked for Amador County. Knobelauch was the undersheriff until retiring in 2006.




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Comments (12)
  1. tahoeadvocate says - Posted: December 29, 2012

    Our employees should stop the intrique and spending our money on lawsuits.They should do their job to find the female staff so girls can also be housed at this adequately sized facility. These girls shouldn’t have to be housed 60 miles from their homes.

  2. tahoeadvocate says - Posted: December 29, 2012

    Keep investigating this for us Kae.

  3. Bob says - Posted: December 29, 2012

    All government agencies need to become alot more transparent to the public which pays their wages, builds their buildings, ect. Then we wouldn’t need to read this B.S. The public should demand it. We have a right to know what is going on with our tax dollars – period.

  4. Dogula says - Posted: December 29, 2012

    I’m with Bob! How can these public service employees keep this stuff a secret? This information should be readily available to the people who pay their salaries, the taxpayers. There is WAY too much secrecy in this city, from the top down.

  5. copper says - Posted: December 29, 2012

    One of the big reasons that Suzanne fought the Placerville crowd to get that juvenile facility built at Tahoe was because the Probation Department refused to do their job and transport juveniles to P’ville, forcing the PD and SO to take officers off the street to do prisoner transport.

    Yet, years later, the fight continues. Get ’em, Suzanne; you’re one of the few county employees actually working for the interests of the Lake. Advocates of the County of Placerville taking over the City need to take close notice.

  6. Lou pierini says - Posted: December 29, 2012

    Paid leave, not in the private sector. Why does the public sector receive this added perk? Waiting for an answer?

  7. Steve says - Posted: December 29, 2012

    In hindsight, it likely would have been less costly, and more efficient, to simply check the juvenile miscreants into Harrah’s. Or Horizon. One guard at the elevator on one floor. Pool and room service included.

  8. Louis says - Posted: December 29, 2012

    1. Human resources issues are almost always confidential. Even for public employees, they have privacy rights, to violate them only invites a lawsuit.

    2. The employees have no pull to hire new people. Their supervisor / boss asked for the first raises in years, and for more female staff and was suspended a few hours later. That shut everyone up.

    3. Govt staff that are suspended are almost always given pay, that way they can’t sue for triple damages for loss of earnings. Kinda hard to prove damages if you’re still being paid while HR figures out what to do. Remember this is regardless if they did something wrong or not, they are govt employees and its hard to fire them. It takes a lot more process and procedure to do so.

    4. Note the juvenile treatment center is county run, not city. County gets funded for this particular facility from the state. Anyone notice that the state has been raiding any fund they can for other junk projects. Yet still mandates certain staffing levels and treatment that costs money.

    5. You can’t lock the kids up on a floor and leave them be. Some are in for murder, some just did something wrong and are given a chance to actually rehabilitate (not like the definition used in adult prisons) and give them a second chance in their adult life. This is not adult prison, if they get hurt they are wards of the state and the state is responsible for their welfare and has increased liability and duty to care as a result. Thus the JTC has to do a lot more to supervise and take care of the kids than at an adult facility.

    Personally I think everything I’ve said above is junk. But that’s the way society / laws have been crafted. Want it to change? Good luck getting politicians to toughen treatment of kids whom are innocent until proven guilty. Good luck getting politicians to make it easier to fire public UNION members whom support their campaigns.

    If you’re an average citizen and want to change things? Here’s what you can do. When you are selected for jury duty, refuse to award money for junk lawsuits. Convict obvious scum.

    Cops have it tough. Both in and out of prison. Sucks to be hated because of your job. Your job is not your identity. /rant

  9. tahoeadvocate says - Posted: December 29, 2012

    Louis, If you live in SLT, please file to become a candidate for the open City Council seat.

  10. copper says - Posted: December 29, 2012

    Geez, Louis, I was with you until you dumped at the end.

    Juvenile issues are not all identical – many of them come from their family life; others simply await growing up. The law separates juveniles from adults, and rightly so. Criticizing the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” would be outrageous if it were applied to adults; to disagree with it for children is simply despicable.

    Public employee associations have, traditionally, protected the professionalism of the employees from the whims of the politicians. Only recently did the light-weights of conservative politics start referring to these associations as unions. Public employee associations protect the public at least as much as they protect the employees – without them, there is no professionalism, only the control of political posturing.

    In the City of South Lake Tahoe the folks most stable and looking out for public interest of all the various players in this circus have been the public employee associations. As the city crumbles, these also may be crumbling unless the citizens start paying attention to whom their friends are. And learn to support the folks who support them.

  11. tahoeadvocate says - Posted: December 29, 2012

    copper….I wish you had been at the Dec. 8th City Council meeting to hear the 4 city employees who spoke with regards to paid parking. All 4 of them introduced themselves as city employees and representatives of their “union”. They were arguing in favor of paid parking which is against all public opinion polls. Seems to me their “union” wasn’t looking out for the public interest but rather their own.

  12. Louis says - Posted: December 30, 2012

    Sorry Cooper, you read it backward. My quote: “Good luck getting politicians to toughen treatment of kids whom are innocent until proven guilty” No where in there did I criticize the concept at all. The point is you are going to have a hard time persuading any politician to come down hard on a child whom may be innocent. How you read that to mean we should treat kids worse is beyond me. But to be clear for you, my statement was meant that perhaps it is time change laws as they apply to incarcerated youth.

    Here’s food for thought for you, it is my understanding that in adult prisons if an inmate kills themselves … who cares, just a little paperwork. But a kid does it at the JTC? Expect a lawsuit against the city, county, state, the employees. Remember lawyers philosophy is to sue everyone and go where the money is. While it may make sense to limit those laws in cases of juveniles, good luck trying to pass that politically. No where in my intent said we should abuse children, throw out civil liberties. But it may make sense to ease liability laws.

    Don’t want to ease liability laws? How about do something that might actually make sense? The article states that to have 30 beds you need 20 people on staff, not including supervisors. Do we really need that high of a mandated guard to inmate ratio? Again you’d need to pass laws to change the mandate. Good luck.

    Further cooper if you’d read back I noted that juvenile issues are way different for each child. But lets face it, Tahoe has a growing gang problem, double the national average for assault and rape if I heard correctly (please feel free to correct me if I am in error). If a child is committing serious crimes we can’t as a society afford to have them in the public. But yes of course there are probably plenty of kids in there who did some minor infringement and will most likely turn their lives around. But until then they are still mixed in with other children who may have assaulted someone, attempted murder, or committed murder. I would invite you to use your imagination as a child life in there.

    Additionally read my statement again, heck of a lot of good the union / employee association did for Greg Sly, the chief. He tried to improve things and was suspended for his efforts a few hours later. Remember prison guards can’t strike, thus no claws in negotiations. What more could an employee of “the line” do that the boss couldn’t do?

    Oh here’s another point, it takes months (as in 6 ish) to hire a new guard between background checks and training. Not too much thus could be done in the short term. Oh and what happens when you get 100 people apply and none qualify? Not much you can do.

    Now Cooper now that you’ve readily criticized me and misrepresented my points. How about you offer some points for improvement?

    TA thank you for your support but I do not live in the city.