Calif. board may lack resources for parole probe
SAN DIEGO — A state board examining why the accused killer of a teenager wasn't returned to prison for parole violations before the slaying occurred has no formal budget and minimal staff, a member said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered the Sex Offender Management Board on March 12 to review the case of John Albert Gardner III, who spent time in prison for molesting a 13-year-old girl and committed seven parole violations in 2007 and 2008 that could have put him back behind bars.
Gardner has pleaded not guilty to murdering 17-year-old Chelsea King of Poway who disappeared on Feb. 25.
The 17-seat board was unable to get a quorum for a meeting this month, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Monday.
Its lack of resources makes it uncertain when it will complete its review involving Gardner, even though Vice Chairman Tom Tobin has told the governor the work should be completed by May 1.
"We have the expertise, but not the resources, staff, power and ability to devote the energy to do something like this in a very rapid way," said Tobin, a San Francisco psychologist.
The volunteer board is comprised of experts, including psychologists, judges and probation officers. It was formed to devise a comprehensive state plan to manage sex offenders and was supposed to disband earlier this year, but the state Legislature instead made it permanent.
The board has operated without a formal budget since July and has only one staffer, who works part-time.
Schwarzenegger told the board to review why Gardner was not classified as a high-risk sex offender when he was released from prison in 2005 and whether his parole restrictions and violations were properly handled.
"The goal here is to look at this case and learn from this case," said Rachel Arrezola, a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger. "The governor is not saying that this is the panacea for all things. He encourages and welcomes the Legislature and others to review the case as well."
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the state Office of the Inspector General are planning their own investigations.
Two members of the Sex Offender Management Board are appointees of the state corrections department — the agency that oversaw Gardner's parole.
Those members won't recuse themselves from the review, corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said.
The department will cooperate fully with the board's review, she said.
Information from: The San Diego Union-Tribune, http://www.signonsandiego.com