Grand Jury Investigates Sacramento County for Allocating $100M in COVID Aid to Sheriff’s Payroll

Written by Bobbie Wylie

A grand jury investigation that began in March 2021 as the result of a citizen complaint has found that Sacramento County “abandoned responsibility for COVID spending” and “undermined public confidence in government” when, in 2020, county leadership allocated $181 million in federal COVID-19 aid to the county Sheriff’s Office.

The report, released Wednesday, focused on how Sacramento county spent early COVID-19 relief funding distributed by the Trump administration through a March 2020 law called the CARES Act. The investigation by a Sacramento County grand jury found “the County of Sacramento conducted no outreach, and made no CARES Act funding plan to support countywide COVID-19 relief activities.”

In August 2020, a staff report showed Nav Gill, the then chief executive of Sacramento County, had allocated more than $104 million of $181 million in CARES Act funding to the Sheriff’s Office’s payroll. US Treasury guidance for the federal funds stated local governments could use the money to cover public safety and health workers “whose services are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency.” However, the grand jury found that “these CARES Act funded ‘public safety’ employees simply continued performing the same duties as they had prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The grand jury called this allocation of federal funds “inconsistent with the widely publicized intent that CARES Act funds be directed to meet the community’s challenges triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.” This controversy put pressure on Gill, who resigned from his position as county CEO in February 2021.

The grand jury has requested formal responses to the report from the Board of Supervisors and the sheriff within 60 days. The grand jury has also recommended that the Board of Supervisors, county executive and Sheriff’s Office adopt more transparent and specific budget allocation policies for special funding.

Photo Cred: Paul Kitakagi Jr./ Sacramento Bee