Two former leaders of an Alameda County anti-poverty agency were sentenced today to probation instead of state prison for their felony convictions for grand theft by false pretenses and public officer crime.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Allan Hymer said he decided not to send Nanette Dillard, the former executive director of the county’s Associated Community Action Program, and Paul Daniels, her husband, who was its grants manager, to prison because he doesn’t believe that obtained any personal financial gain by their actions.
Hymer placed Dillard and Daniels on five years’ probation and ordered them to pay $308,000 restitution for improperly using county funds.
Dillard and Daniels were both convicted of grand theft and public officer crime and Dillard was also convicted of one count of preparing false documentary evidence.
The Associated Community Action Program, also known as ACAP, was founded in 1974 and existed for 37 years before Alameda County officials decided to dissolve it in 2011 after Dillard and Daniels were suspected of misusing funds.
The program was a successor to a previous organization that had been started in the 1960s as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” and its purpose was to help low-income people and parolees with job training, housing and education.
Prosecutor Greg Dolge told jurors in his closing argument in the case 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.
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.
In their verdict in March, jurors 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.
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 convicted Dillard of a count of preparing false documentary evidence for creating an agenda after the fact, which said that the massage was part of a meeting to improve employee morale.
Dillard’s attorney, Thomas Mesereau, said today that he’s “grateful” that Hymer didn’t impose any prison time but he said he still plans to appeal her convictions because he doesn’t think she did anything wrong.
Mesereau said he believes the lengthy trial of Dillard and Daniels “revealed flaws in all levels of government” because he believes Alameda County officials did a poor job of overseeing the program and federal officials failed to provide clear guidelines about how to account for the grant money.
Daniels’ attorney, Karen McConville, said, “I’m glad that Mr. Daniels won’t see the inside of a jail cell” but she also plans to file an appeal.
The defense attorneys for Dillard and Daniels said the two former county officials will do their best to pay the restitution fine but currently their resources are drained because they haven’t worked since they lost their jobs and they’ve been busy fighting the charges against them.
Hymer said he would shorten the probation term for Dillard and Daniels to three years if they’re able to pay the restitution fine in that time period.
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