If you’re a high-ranking government official, is it better to get out in front of negative news, or do you run the risk of turning a one-day mea culpa into a multi-day news affair?
San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris seemed to be testing those waters today: With a deadline looming for the city to show a skeptical Department of Justice that Harris’ office deserved to keep millions in grant money it received for ostensibly taking on federal prosecutions, Harris issued a press release (.doc) calling on the rest of the city to institute grant-oversight protocols.
Earlier this year, a DOJ audit revealed that San Francisco had overbilled the government by $5.4 million under a grant program aimed at tackling federally referred drug-trafficking cases. According to the audit, the DA’s office never kept a list of the relevant prosecutions and couldn’t justify the charges. The city overnighted a $2.7 million check to the DOJ as a partial refund and gave itself a July 31 deadline to either justify its claim on the rest of the money or pay it back.
Tomorrow could bring the embarrassing news that the DA’s office never prosecuted any relevant cases. Whether Harris softened the blow by announcing that her own office would also institute new grant guidelines remains to be seen.
Asked when the new protocols would go into effect, spokeswoman Erica Derryck declined to comment and referred Legal Pad to the press release.
Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said, “The district attorney recognizes there are some important lessons to learn from this. I think she should be applauded for offering leadership to apply those lessons for the benefit of all city departments.”
— Evan Hill