The Feb. 9 San Benito County Board of Supervisors meeting was a pedestrian affair for the most part as the five elected officials ticked off agenda items one-by-one or en masse without discussion. It was a normal, not particularly exciting forum — that is, until District Attorney Candice Hooper stepped up to the podium.
Hooper didn’t even have to ask for what she wanted. The board was ready to give her funding up to $25,000 to keep a convicted killer in prison.
All she had to say was, “Do you have any questions for me?”
This was followed by laughter from the board members who were enthusiastic to comment and ultimately unanimously approve the request of up to $25,000 in installments as authorized by the county administrative officer as necessary for the purpose of preparing victim and witness interviews, statements and findings in representing the people of California and the county in opposing any consideration for parole of Gustavo Marlow.
Marlow was convicted of two homicides and rape in the 1980s, and was sentenced to 66 years to life in prison, yet is now eligible for possible parole because of a new law, Senate Bill 260, which makes parole possible to juvenile offenders. Marlow, was 17 and a junior at San Benito High School, when he committed the murders.
Keith Snow, a seemingly omnipresent pundit at most city council and supervisors' meetings, reined in the mood somewhat when he scolded board members about what he perceived as an inappropriate response by repeating several times during his allotted three-minute comments, “This isn’t funny.” Afterward, Supervisor Margie Barrios apologized to Snow for what might best be described as a lack of decorum on the board's part.
In any case, Supervisor Jamie De La Cruz summed up the effort, saying, “I’m 100 percent behind it. I think the whole board agrees with me. We support you. Go get him! Just bring us an accountability of dollars spent, that’s all I ask.”
Supervisor Jerry Muenzer asked if Hooper needed a letter from the board. She responded that it would be nice to have the board’s support in writing. Supervisor Robert Rivas immediately recommended that the board put the request on the agenda for the next meeting.
“What I am asking for is a copy just in case the prison board loses it,” Hooper said.
Muenzer indicated that since she would be writing the letter for the board that wouldn’t be a problem, which brought another round of laughter.
“In fact, Mr. Chair,” De La Cruz said to Rivas, who is chairman of Board of Supervisors, “let’s send a request to the city council so they can join us too, and have them write a letter.”
“And to give you some idea,” Hooper added, “tomorrow we’re going to the prison to go through their records. Tuesday, I’m meeting with one of the victim’s families in the valley, so we’re moving along on it. Plus, it’s amazing how many other counties are supporting us in giving us materials and answering questions that we have. Everybody is united on this.”
Supervisor Anthony Botelho asked if the board had to wait until the next scheduled meeting in order to have the letter agendized or if by board consent authorize the chair to sign such a letter. Matthew Granger, county counsel, said the board could do so. Hooper indicated, however, that there was no hurry.
“We have time,” she said. “Everything is supposed to be in 10 days before the hearing, which is April 7. I want to do it a minimum of two weeks, if not three weeks, in advance, just to be safe.”
“Giving it more board time is fine to inform the public of the ‘vitalness’ of being involved in this that would keep that monster behind bars,” Muenzer added.
Rivas agreed with Hooper that there was time and recommended it be put on the agenda for the next meeting.
De La Cruz said he wanted to make a plea to the public who might be watching the meeting on CMAP (Community Media Access Partnership), “Please write a letter and send it to Candice’s office. Call the office and they’ll take care of everything with the logistics of how to write a letter. We need a lot of members of the public to come and support Candice in this one mission.”
Barrios echoed De La Cruz’s sentiments and added, “I know I will be writing a letter, having lived here during that time and being in fear for myself and my daughters. It was a very frightening time and I don’t want us to be back in that kind of atmosphere. It was something I hope San Benito County will never have to experience again. Write the letters and send them to the district attorney and send that message loud and strong that we want to keep him incarcerated.”
Marty Richman, who often addresses associated concerns of the topic at hand, said, “Something like this often becomes a mandated expense although the state doesn’t come down and say, ‘you gotta go there.’ The truth of the matter is, you gotta go there!”
He explained his rationale, stating that even though the state has not allocated funding for the purpose of citizens mounting opposition to the release of convicted felons, unfunded mandates end up being something "you just have to do.”
“And if no one else will pay for it, it becomes an unfunded mandate by default," Richman said. "In a lot of respects, this is a civil case and we can afford to do it. If we had a lot of cases it could be a burden, but we would do it anyway, but it would wind up hurting some other program. Along with the regular unfunded mandates that we see all the time, we have this implied unfunded mandate. I, of course, support it, but I do hope we talk the state about making the money available.”
Barrios commented that the state has helped with court cases, pointing out specifically that it assisted with the kidnapping and finding of Jaycee Dugard.
“I know at this time we will probably approve and move forward,” she said. “If it’s a lot more expensive, we might want to consider asking for funds or help from the state because it may not end here. And to Mr. Snow, we meant no disrespect and our apologies to the public and we may have been misunderstood.”
In other, more routine matters, the board also approved the following consent agenda resolutions:
- A contract with Democracy Live, Inc. for online sample ballots and voter information pamphlet access through LiveBallot and Democracy Live for the 2016 elections.
- Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Hazel Hawkins Hospital and to authorize the Board Chair to sign the MOU.
- Hiring a staff analyst in Child Welfare.
- Close a portion of Flynn Road property during the 2016 Hollister Airshow, as well as authorize the Resource Management Director or his designee to sign the request for the airshow and the use of the county logo on airshow advertising.
- Resource Management Agency can solicit for bid for on transport tractor and trailer, and authorize Chair to sign.
- Out-of-state travel for sheriff to attend marijuana training conference for law enforcement.