General Crime

Former anti-poverty agency director convicted of misusing public funds and preparing false documents

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The former head of an Alameda County anti-poverty agency was convicted today of three felony counts of misusing public funds and preparing false documents. However, jurors acquitted Nanette Dillard, the former executive director of the county’s Associated Community Action Program, of three other felony counts. Jurors also convicted Paul Daniels, the program’s grants manager and Dillard’s husband, of two felony counts but acquitted him of two other counts. The jurors, who began deliberating on Feb. 25, delivered some of their verdicts on Monday and the rest today. Superior Court Judge Allan Hymer allowed Dillard and Daniels to remain free on bail but they could face state prison terms when he sentences them on April 18. However, Alameda County District Attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick declined to say whether her office will seek prison terms for them.

The Associated Community Action Program, known as ACAP, was founded in 1974 as a successor to a previous organization that had been started in the 1960s as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” Its purpose was to help low-income people and parolees with job training, housing and education. But Alameda County officials dissolved the program in 2011 shortly after Dillard and Daniels were suspected of misusing funds. Prosecutor Greg Dolge told jurors in his closing argument that he believes that power, not the pursuit of personal wealth, is what drove Dillard and Daniels to misuse funds and that they used funds to help ACAP stay afloat after it ran into financial trouble. Dolge alleged that Dillard in particular enjoyed the perks of her position, which included frequent meetings with local elected officials and expensive dinners and massages.

But defense attorneys for Dillard and Daniels said they didn’t do anything wrong and alleged that Alameda County officials made them scapegoats after problems were discovered with the program’s finances. Jurors today acquitted Dillard and Daniels of conspiring to overstate the agency’s fiscal holdings in order to get more than $200,000 from a federal Assets for Independence grant. But they convicted both former county officials of grand theft by false pretenses for improperly using other federal funds of misusing public funds by sending false and inaccurate letters to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. On Monday, jurors acquitted Dillard of misusing public money for personal profit for allegedly using agency workers to work on her house, billing the county for expensive dinners and getting a massage at the Claremont Hotel, Club and Spa in Berkeley.

Jurors also acquitted Daniels of misusing public funds. However, jurors on Monday convicted Dillard of a count of preparing false documentary evidence for creating an agenda after-the-fact that said the massage was part of a meeting to improve employee morale. After the trial ended today, Dillard’s attorney, Thomas Mesereau, said, “I’m very disappointed with the verdict because I believe she was innocent of any wrongdoing. We think the jury got it wrong and we will appeal.” Karen McConville, one of two attorneys who represent Daniels, said, “We’re devastated and shocked because Paul Daniels is not a felon.” McConville said she and co-counsel Brendan Hickey also will file an appeal.

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