The California Attorney General’s Office has indicated it will not pursue criminal charges following an investigation into the handling of estates overseen by the county’s Public Administrator’s Office that began in August of 2017.
The Public Administrator’s Office, which came under the umbrella of the Humboldt Sheriff’s Office following a merger with the coroner’s office in 2015, manages the assets of individuals who die without a will or someone to oversee their holdings.
Their property — ranging from cars and houses to collectables and furniture — is sold by the office with the proceeds going to any heirs. If there are none, the money is sent to the state.
According to a news release from the district attorney's office, an unsigned letter sent to Humboldt County officials in June of 2017 raised questions about purchases involving current and former employees of either the sheriff’s office, the coroner’s office or the public administrator’s office. The next month the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office asked the state to step in. (Read more here
The district attorney’s office received a letter from the state’s Attorney General’s Office on Nov. 23 stating the investigation was closed after an “exhaustive review” and cited “significant steps” by the sheriff’s office to “increase controls and accountability.”
"We recognize the errors that were made in the past handling of Public Administrator cases and have taken the following actions to ensure that the Public Administrator division of our organization adheres to the California Probate Code and the Government Code," a sheriff's office release state, listing changes made to operations.
Those changes include, "a weekly review of all open Public Administrator cases to ensure accuracy" and updates to the "Public Administrator policy and procedures manual."
"The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is committed to carrying out our responsibilities to the community ethically and with accountability," the sheriff's office release states. "We are constantly striving for progress and continue to review our policies and procedures as we work toward our mission to protect an serve our community and earn the public’s trust through compassion and accountability."
Read the full HCSO release here
Letter from the State AG's Office
Read the release from the District Attorney’s Office below:
On November 23, 2020, the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office received a letter (attached) from the State Attorney General (AG), indicating the AG will not pursue charges following their investigation into the prior conduct of the former Humboldt County Coroner-Public Administrator’s Office.
The need for an investigation arose in June 2017, when Humboldt County officials received an unsigned letter questioning the way the Coroner-Public Administrator had disposed of property belonging to deceased persons. In July 2017, the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office requested assistance from the FBI, with the idea that the FBI’s experience with public corruption cases and available resources might lead to an effective and timely investigation.
Also in July 2017, the Humboldt County District Attorney requested the State AG take the case due to possible perception of a conflict of interest. The FBI declined to be involved, but the State AG agreed in August 2017 to assume the investigation and any subsequent prosecution.