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San Francisco Chronicle

Feds want $5.4 million back from S.F.

Jaxon Van Derbeken, Chronicle Staff Writer

The U.S. Department of Justice wants San Francisco to repay $5.4 million in grant money earmarked to help fight the war on drugs in states bordering Mexico because federal auditors found the city was not eligible for the funding.

San Francisco had sought the grant under the Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative, which compensates law enforcement agencies in California and other border states for the costs of handling prosecutions in lieu of federal authorities.
As of March of last year, the city claimed it had handled more than 2,241 such cases, but a federal audit released this week found that none of the cases had been referred by federal officials to District Attorney Kamala Harris' office as required under the program.

The audit found that the cases the city cited in its application should have been "disallowed" as "unsubstantiated" under the government's grant criteria.
City officials contacted Thursday were unable to explain the circumstances surrounding San Francisco's application for the grant or how it spent the funds.
A spokeswoman for Harris' office, Erica Derryck, said, "We're aware of the national audit report and are in the process of looking at the questioned costs for San Francisco outlined in the report."

Harris' office would not make the top prosecutor available on Thursday for an interview about the audit, and Derryck declined to answer questions about the report findings or the 2,241 cases in the city's application for federal funds.
Mayor Gavin Newsom's office, in a statement provided by spokesman Nathan Ballard, also acknowledged that city officials know about the report and are working "cooperatively with the Department of Justice to resolve any issues the audit raises."

Evan Peterson, U.S. Justice Department spokesman, said Thursday that the federal government wants its $5.4 million back.

"While we will seek to have excess funds under the Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative returned, we have not yet determined by what means that process will be carried out," he said in a statement.

Federal authorities said the grant program, created in 2000, awarded border states a total of $30 million in the past fiscal year. In addition to going to the San Francisco district attorney's office, funds from the program also helped defray the costs of jailing and defending criminal suspects in the city whose cases the city listed in its application as federally generated.

As a sanctuary city, San Francisco is committed to not assisting federal authorities in immigration-related cases. While some border-related crime might involve illegal immigrants, border law enforcement agencies have long been able to bill federal authorities for many other crimes not related to illegal border crossings.

Cynthia Schnedar, spokeswoman for the auditing arm of the Department of Justice, the Office of Inspector General, would not comment on whether San Francisco's case has been referred to another arm of the Justice Department for possible civil or criminal action.

The audit, conducted in November, recommended improvements to the tracking of federal grant money and changes are being implemented, Schnedar said. Among the changes expected is a requirement that local governments provide detailed documentation in their applications for border grants.

The potential loss of the grant money comes as Harris' office and other city law enforcement agencies have been asked by the mayor's office to reduce their budgets as part of across-the-board cuts.

Josh Eaton, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello, said the office does track how many referrals it makes to local agencies, who then seek money under the grant program. Eaton said other federal agencies also can make local referrals.

Officials with the local federal law enforcement agencies, including immigration, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, did not have information on how many individuals they refer for state prosecution.

The district attorney's $40 million budget for the current fiscal year cites a projected boost in revenue of $800,000 as a result of an "increase in funds based on current year receipts" from the Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative.

Audit of S.F.
Online: Read the Justice Department's report on the Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative Reimbursement Program at:

E-mail Jaxon Van Derbeken at
This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

© 2008 Hearst Communications Inc.

The Rule of Law:

The doctrine that no individual is above the law
and that everyone must answer to it.

"Justice is defined by the application of the law without
distinction to all similarly situated"
, Tony Dolz





Tags: Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco, Sanctuary City, Immigration, Amnesty, Sanctuary City for Immigration Law Violators, Illegal Aliens, Undocumented Immigrants, Gay Marriage, Same Sex Marriage, Heather Fong, San Francisco Chief of Police, Alex Tourk, Jennifer Siebel, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Villaraigosa

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