Yolo County probation chief faces turnaround challenge

Published: Sunday, Jun. 16, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2013 - 9:22 am

Yolo County's new probation chief faces the challenge of turning around a troubled department targeted by a grand jury ethics probe after the previous chief resigned last year.

Brent D. Cardall, San Benito County's chief probation officer, will take over the post July 1, Yolo County officials announced last week. He has a statewide reputation as an innovative leader who involves the community in working with probationers.

"I want to showcase the things we've done in San Benito," Cardall said. "I'm only 49, so I have a lot of energy to do a lot of good things in Yolo County."

"He's a uniquely great fit for Yolo," said Yolo County Administrator Patrick Blacklock, who actively recruited Cardall to head the probation department, adding Yolo leaders wanted someone with a statewide reputation as chief probation officer.

A native Utahan, Cardall is a 27-year law enforcement veteran, moving from corrections to probation and ultimately becoming director of Utah's Inmate Placement Program, overseeing 22 county jails and 1,500 inmates. He also has a master's degree in human resource management.

Cardall took the San Benito job in 2008 and quickly made an impact, developing a one-stop reporting center for probationers and a literacy program with the county's courts and library.

Known as "Booked in a Different Way," the reading program for first-time drug offenders and their children is geared toward reducing repeat offenses while boosting the reading skills of at-risk children.

Both programs won honors from the California State Association of Counties.

Cardall "had a strong record of success in San Benito County with innovative, collaborative programs that really work. All of them have a strong collaborative partnership element to them," association spokesman David Liebler said Tuesday. "I'm confident he'll bring that same innovation to Yolo."

The appointment comes a year after Marjorie Rist resigned as Yolo chief probation officer in June 2012.

Months later, a grand jury's report accused Rist of concealing an improper relationship with the CEO of the Utah firm that provided the department its software.

The panel said Rist oversaw $325,000 in county contracts with Utah-based software firm Allvest Information Services Inc. and improperly created incentives for Yolo probation employees to receive Allvest training, among a host of other allegations.

The grand jury's probe led to county audits of the department's payroll and procurements.

"It was all hands on deck," said Yolo County spokeswoman Beth Gabor. "We take grand jury reports very seriously. Everyone wants to fix any issues and make Probation a well-running machine."

Soon came revisions to department policies and procedures, a new process to address employees' concerns and a newly drawn county code of ethics expected to be completed this summer.

The next step will be changing the culture of the probation agency.

Blacklock said the probation department has "moved forward in a positive way" in the past year under interim chief Marlon Yarber. But he added that employees were "ready for strong, stable, long-term leadership."

Cardall said his first goal is to meet with department staffers.

"I'm here to serve them," Cardall said. "They're the ones doing the work."

Call The Bee's Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.

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