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Sonoma County victims’ aid office director loses job

By PAUL PAYNE

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The head of Sonoma County’s new Family Justice Center on Thursday said she has been fired less than a year after she was appointed.

Laura Colgate (PD FILE, 2011)

Laura Colgate said she was dismissed without notice on May 31 by District Attorney Jill Ravitch over what Colgate described as a “personality conflict” with the county’s top law enforcement officer.

Colgate said Ravitch walked into her Mendocino Avenue office, told her to go and she was “out of there in minutes.” She would not elaborate on the source of any dispute with Ravitch.

“I feel like I need to take the high road,” said Colgate, who was a volunteer and project manager of the facility before being appointed in August. “This is probably the hardest thing that ever happened to me.”

Ravitch wouldn’t say why Colgate left. She said her position was temporary and was focused on launching the center last year.

“She did a good job getting the doors open,” Ravitch said.

Sources suggested Ravitch was unhappy with Colgate’s fundraising efforts and wanted someone who could drum up long-term financial support. The nonprofit center is supported largely by donations and grants.

“We’re looking for someone to aggressively fundraise,” said county Supervisor Shirlee Zane, a supporter of the center. “Laura did a fabulous job as interim and project manager.”

But Colgate said she raised $630,000 during her tenure from individuals, government sources and non-monetary contributions. She described the amount as “huge” for the first year of a new nonprofit.

Colgate said the problem was one of style differences.

“We had a personality conflict or a communication conflict,” said Colgate, whose other work includes serving as president of the Valley of the Moon Children’s Foundation board of directors.

Former prosecutor Kim Clement, the center’s volunteer coordinator, called Colgate “a gem.”

“I watched Laura Colgate take the Family Justice Center from studs and an empty building to a highly functional asset to this community,” Clement said.

Ravitch also touted Colgate in an August press release announcing her appointment. She said Colgate was a volunteer during the development of the center under the former district attorney, Stephen Passalacqua, and was project manager for 18 months before the center opened.

Colgate was chosen after a screening by the center’s executive committee, Ravitch said.

“We look forward to her tenure as executive director and her stewardship of this critical public-private venture designed to enhance our ability to better serve victims,” Ravitch said in the press release.

Colgate, 52, was paid about $64,000 in 2011, county records show.

Still, the county began seeking her replacement this week. The temporary position pays up to $80,000 a year, according to a job announcement.

Ravitch and Zane said they hope to find enough money to make the position permanent someday. Like Colgate, the person chose for the slot has no civil service protection and can be fired by Ravitch without cause.

Until Ravitch names a replacement, prosecutor Christine Cook — Ravitch’s second-in-command — is acting as executive director.

The Family Justice Center is a clearing house for government and nonprofit services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse and other crimes. It was created by the district attorney, who has the power to hire and fire the executive director.





12 Responses to “Sonoma County victims’ aid office director loses job”

  1. Mike says:

    I love all the comments .. it’s the same people complaining about inept government(which sometimes is true)but when improvements need to be made everyone is suspicious. Let the leaders lead !

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  2. Hierynomous BAH! says:

    Former prosecutor Kim Clement and a bunch of others were ALSO fired by Ms. Ravitch, who will presumably vote for Mitt “I like firing people” Romney.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. Moore Tooit? says:

    Whether or not the agency is needed doesn’t seem to be the issue here. Ravitch has the right to hire and fire for her departments, even if they are non-profits. I wonder if there is more to this, such as qualifications, background, previous dealings with the public, prior activities, etc. that were not suited to the position, not relevant to the job, or could have reflected badly on the agency if they were inconsistent with the mission of the DAs office. As stated in the article, Collgate came by this job as a volunteer project manager. That is VERY different from being a social worker. Was her background in social work? It wasn’t, it was in a business setting but not in management, she was also a mortgage broker during the go-go times pre-2008. One thing I’ve learned from working with non-profits is that you must have an Executive Director with a strong background in the line of work the NP is focused on, hiring a business person to do social work, animal welfare, charity outreach, etc. is a recipe for disaster – they are focused on finances and not on the mission. You have a board of directors to assist with the finances, your ED must be the face of the organization in the community to be successful. This all didn’t surprise me, what surprised me was the original appointment

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  4. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Ruben-you forgot that Passalacqua hired many after he lost the election to Ravitch. I would call that sabotage. I don’t blame Ravitch. She wants people she can trust and are competent. She is doing a good job.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

  5. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Isn’t this the second time this has happened? Are the county supervisores really serious about contracting this position out? Someone has to spend time with the victims helping them with their issues. Someone with compassion and training.

    This is one job the county really needs to preserve. Someone who can sit with the victims and hold their hands so they know they aren’t being forgotten in the process. It’s the right thing.

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  6. bill says:

    why is it necessary for Social Services to farm out these chores?

    We pay more than enough taxes for public safety and most of it is eaten up by that arm of our local government.

    Ravitch should put her people in there from her budget.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

  7. Ruben says:

    Ravitch should be investigated by the grand jury. Unchecked power corrupts. She has fired or demoted many of her top managers to make room for her political friends. Many in the office are afraid of their own shadows and she has created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in the DA’s office. She has Zane backing her every move which also means more unchecked power. It’s a shame. That office used to be good at what they did. Not any more…..

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 7

  8. Johnathon says:

    The PD should publish a headcount of the number of victims served and what it costs to run the Family Justice Center.

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  9. Robert Muller says:

    Um, the Family Justice Center apparently IS under the jurisdiction of the District Attorney’s office . . .

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  10. bear says:

    This was nothing more or less than a hit job by 3 members of the BOS against one employee. All you have to do is offend the wrong ego(s).

    Jill Ravitch was just the pawn in this game. Doesn’t improve my opinion of her.

    As for whether the position or the office is needed, I guarantee you that cops, DA’s and Social Services (all being cut back) do not have the time to hold the hands of traumatized victims of crime. Hell, they’re keeping the position and raising the annual salary by $16K!

    Assuming YOU were ever a traumatized victim of crime, you might value these services.

    The key point here is that the BOS are acting like they rule the world – again.
    Literally the “thumbs up or thumbs down” of the Roman Coliseum.

    Good luck on finding a replacement. Watch and see what happens with management contracts.

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  11. skeptical says:

    I trust it will only be a matter of time before the grand jury takes a good hard look at the FJC — the very definition of a boondoggle. Simply, a massive waste of public funds. This “public-private venture” is largely being bankrolled by the taxpayers. Another example of irresponsible fiscal management by the BOS.

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  12. Thomas Brooks says:

    Another example of an office that needs to be abolished. We pay police, the D.A.’s office and social services to deal with the issues this office is suppose to handle.

    Another government duplication of services.

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 10

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