Department Operations Updates: May 6, 2021
This post includes a summary of recent Dallas County department operations updates relevant, specifically, to members of the Dallas County Commissioners Court. Many of these updates pertain to key objectives outlined in the county’s Q1 Objectives and Key Results (OKR) Quarterly Update Report.
Criminal Justice Department
Director: Charlene Randolph
Our department is using information obtained via a jail-population-management survey and a specialty-court survey distributed in the fall of 2020 to relevant stakeholders to improve the quality of the information shared at our meetings and to troubleshoot unexpected challenges.
- Our jail-population-management survey was designed to enable us to better understand our stakeholders’ opinions of the format of our department’s monthly jail-population meetings in addition to their opinions regarding the usefulness and format of the data presented in our jail-population packets. We gained a variety of takeaways from the survey results including the following: information included in the jail-population packets is helpful; some stakeholders prefer to view data in the jail-population packets in the form of a graph vs. a chart or numerical list; stakeholders believe the new presentation format of the monthly jail-population meetings implemented by Jail Population Coordinator LaShonda Jefferson is extremely helpful and that the new format allowed them to focus on key trends in the data; some departments use the data contained in the jail-population packet to assist with the completion of their internal reports.
- Our specialty-court survey was designed to gain a more comprehensive understanding of how Dallas County’s specialty courts operate and perform. Survey results showed us how we can create more outreach and general-assistance opportunities for our specialty courts. Support that was identified by survey respondents as most beneficial for the success of the specialty courts includes funding for treatment, help accessing transportation, housing and mentoring resources as well as training, additional support for the expansion of Habilitation, Empowerment and Accountability Therapy (H.E.A.T.) programming, more drug-treatment and housing options, in-jail medication administration and monitoring, drug testing, the continued financial support of training and incentives and more. Dallas County’s Fund 530 Subcommittee, which helps manage resources for all Dallas County-certified specialty courts, participated in our department’s review of the results of both surveys. Together, we strategized to address concerns mentioned in the survey responses. For example, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dallas County Community Supervision and Corrections Department (CSCD) was no longer allowed to administer Urine Analysis testing for safety reasons; so, we developed an alternative process that allowed specialty courts to maintain their access to various forms of drug testing and monitoring.
Our Frequent Utilizer System Enhancement (FUSE) Program, a housing-navigation project, is successfully discharging from jail and supporting eligible homeless citizens.
This program, launched in July 2020, is funded by Dallas County, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and the Office of the Texas Governor. The goal of this program is to leverage our two housing navigators’ expertise to identify and assess homeless individuals in jail to determine if they are eligible to be discharged, sent to shelters and then supported so that they may eventually qualify for long-term, permanent housing. Our housing navigators serve as a liaison between these individuals and the judiciary. To date, we have discharged 150 homeless individuals from the Dallas County Jail and connected them to the FUSE Program. For context, this accounts for approximately 11% of the homeless population in the jail.
We are on track to launch our Opioid Response Grant Program in June 2021 in partnership with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, and we are in the process of onboarding three individuals to execute the program’s mission.
The goal of this grant program is to screen individuals entering Dallas County’s jail to determine the presence of opioid or substance abuse. If the assessment shows that the individual struggles with opioid or substance abuse, trained experts will determine which diversion program(s) are most appropriate for the individual. These diversion programs provide individuals with appropriate treatment and then help the individuals transition back to living in and contributing positively to their respective communities. By the end of May 2021, a program manager and three clinical assessors will be fully onboarded and ready to execute the program’s mission.
Our department is facilitating stakeholder meetings on behalf of Dallas County’s Local Advisory Committee to ensure Dallas County reports 90% of its case dispositions to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) by August 1, 2021 and therefore remains eligible to receive funds from the Office of the Texas Governor in 2022.
To ensure that Dallas County remains compliant with Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) Electronic Disposition Reporting, representatives from our department meet with stakeholders from the District Attorney’s Office, the Information Technology Department, county and district clerks, county and district courts, county administration, the Juvenile Department, the Sherriff’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office on a bi-weekly basis to strategize and ensure we are on track to accomplish our goal of 90% case-disposition reporting to DPS.
We are conducting cost-benefit analyses of our behavioral-health and criminal-justice initiatives to develop holistic understandings of these programs and ensure best practices are implemented.
In September 2020, we began working with department staff to measure and analyze the costs and benefits of our department’s behavioral-health and criminal-justice initiatives. We created two subcommittees within our department, each responsible for addressing objectives and key results (OKRs) such as developing a list of jail-diversion efforts within the department, identifying the costs of and impacts on the jail population associated with each initiative monitored by our department, developing a process for documenting the impact from jail-diversion efforts, documenting and tracking stakeholder-engagement meetings and initiatives, developing a list of behavioral-health initiatives in the county’s criminal justice system, tracking state mandates and jail-diversion efforts that affect Dallas County’s criminal justice behavioral-health initiatives, tracking the percent of Dallas County’s known compliance with state mandates on behavioral health, tracking the costs of behavioral health in Dallas County and developing a process for documenting impact on behavioral-health compliance and the cost to Dallas County’s criminal justice system. Every employee in the department participates in one or more of these subcommittees, which meet once a month to discuss openly our department’s key initiatives related to behavioral health and jail planning. Because of these meetings, we are hoping to provide the Commissioners Court and county administration with better information to assist with Dallas County’s fiscal-management-monitoring processes, in the criminal justice context.
Our department is excited to welcome four new employees to our team.
- Yordanos Melake, CSP Manager (hired in November 2020)
- Durga Mothiki, Data Analyst (hired in January 2021)
- Maria Herrera, Frequent Utilizer System Enhancement (FUSE) Program Housing Navigator (hired in March 2021)
- Crystal Garland, Program Manager for our Opioid Response Grant Program (hired in April 2021)
Two of our department’s team members were recognized recently for their outstanding work ethic and contributions to Dallas County.
- Sylvia Araiza received the “Mary Covington Outstanding Specialty Court Team Member Award” from the Texas Association of Specialty Courts (TASC) in April 2020. This award is presented to employees who demonstrate passion for the specialty-court team, client and recovery. Sylvia was recognized by the association again on April 21, 2021 at the TASC conference in Galveston, Texas.
- LaShonda Jefferson was recognized by the Dallas County Commissioners Court and Dallas County Administration as one of Dallas County’s employees of the year in January 2021. This award recognizes employees who have gone above and beyond their job descriptions.
Our department recognizes Diversion and Expedited Rehabilitation and Treatment (DIVERT) Court Field Surveillance Operator Mark Faust for his unmatched commitment to the service and support of the DIVERT Court’s clients. We are proud to have him on our team.
In 1998, our current District Attorney, Judge John Creuzot, then a sitting criminal district-court judge, established Dallas County’s first-ever specialty court for drug offenses, the DIVERT Court. After serving as a probation officer for over 13 years, Mark started working for Dallas County’s DIVERT Court in 1999 when it was one of only four drug courts in Texas. His guidance helped to create a vision that brought success to the court and provided a framework for other drug courts in Dallas to follow.
Criminal Justice Department Director Charlene Randolph says, “Mark is an invaluable asset to the DIVERT Court team because he appropriately advocates, admonishes and advises. He will proudly tell you his story of being sober for 30-plus years, and he knows just about every recovery group in Dallas County (and those in surrounding counties). Often, Mark provides a voice for our clients struggling with addiction. His compassion and unflagging desire to help others is evident in his daily work. The DIVERT Court team can rely on him to be ‘in the know’ regarding clients’ needs and lives. He helps to connect the dots in the maze of recovery, and clients of the DIVERT Court consistently benefit from his resourcefulness.” For more, read the Dallas County Messenger’s conversation with Mark.
Forensic Sciences (Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences (SWIFS))
Director: Jeffrey J. Barnard, M.D., Director and Chief Medical Examiner
Our reorganized and expanded Forensic Biology Unit has been meeting or exceeding all performance measures established when the Commissioners Court authorized the allocation of additional staff resources to address our critical backlog of untested sexual-assault kits at the beginning of FY2019.
The initial allocation of staff resources (seven new Forensic Biology positions) was effective October 1, 2018, and a second phase (which included another seven positions) was approved for FY2020. Because of funding constraints and COVID-19, the planned third phase for FY2021 (which includes a final set of seven positions) was placed on hold. Nevertheless, with the additional resources allocated beginning in FY2019, our department has accomplished the following:
- Hired and trained seven new scientific staff.
- Developed and implemented a streamlined workflow plan for the processing of sexual-assault kits.
- Implemented a DNA-screening method that tests for the presence of male DNA on an evidence item, which provides a faster turnaround time and quantitative results that allow for the prioritization of evidence to be tested and reduces the number of items needing DNA analysis. This new screening method saves analysts time and focuses testing efforts, which provides cost savings for law enforcement. Analysis costs on a representative case were reduced by 39% compared to the older screening method.
- Maintained an average 47-day turnaround time for newly-collected sexual-assault kits, which meets the statutory requirements, outlined in House Bill (HB) 8. HB 8, known as the Lavinia Masters Act, passed into law on September 1, 2019 and requires crime labs to test newly-collected sexual-assault kits within 90 days of receipt.
- Eliminated our testing backlog for current sexual-assault kit submissions (this includes all kits submitted after September 1, 2019).
- Reduced the number of sexual-assault kits in the laboratory’s backlog (this includes all kits submitted prior to September 1, 2019) by 43%, which benefits crime victims by producing information in a timely manner for law enforcement and prosecution, provides an opportunity for crime-victim engagement in the investigation process and enables sexual-assault cases to reach a judicial conclusion.
Our Forensic Biology Unit’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) supports the justice system by improving the timeliness and outcomes of criminal investigations by providing crucial information to “connect” or associate cases and/or individuals with a particular crime or a series of crimes.
- Since our implementation of the new sexual-assault kit process in September 2019:
- Our laboratory has obtained 357 CODIS “hits,” which occur when a DNA profile entered into CODIS by our laboratory matches an existing profile in CODIS. These hits provide significant contributions to criminal investigations.
- We have realized a 60% increase in the number of DNA profiles entered into CODIS each month. On average, the lab is now entering 50 profiles into the CODIS database every month.
- Comparing the success of current procedures to historical data, we are currently experiencing a 127% increase in the number of CODIS hits recognized each month.
- In the last two months, CODIS hits recognized by the laboratory have informed local law enforcement of the previously-unknown existence of two serial rapists. Using associated incident information, law enforcement was able to identify and arrest both suspects.
Our Drug Analysis Laboratory successfully implemented the first phase of a new tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) quantitative-analysis service.
- Statutory changes legalizing hemp have required the development of new forensic testing capabilities. The changes resulted in the need for a quantitative analysis of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to differentiate between hemp and marihuana. Technology new to our laboratory was also needed to implement the testing, so a new liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry/ultraviolet (LC-MS/UV) instrument, a powerful tool for the detection and quantitation of controlled substances, was validated and placed into service less than one year following the Commissioners Court’s resource allocation.
- The Drug Analysis Laboratory developed, validated and implemented identification and quantitation of THC in plant-material evidence during FY2020. The development of testing for vape cartridges and edibles is pending additional guidance from the state legislature.
- Using its new technology and analytical method, the Drug Analysis Laboratory completed 235 cases comprising 1,146 analyses, representing an average of five analyses per case, in the span of nine months, which enabled the laboratory to establish a quantitative method that differentiates hemp from marihuana. Without the new equipment and test method, the laboratory did not have the ability to scientifically determine whether an evidence specimen was hemp or marihuana in accordance with the new law. Our case backlog is currently around 1,100 cases, and we anticipate eliminating this backlog by April 2024 if submissions remain unchanged.
Our Drug Analysis Laboratory continues to meet established turnaround times for high-priority “in-custody” drug cases.
- Our Drug Analysis Laboratory expedites drug testing for incarcerated defendants’ due to the high number of jail-population drug cases pending forensic analysis.
- Working in cooperation with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement agencies, the laboratory identifies priority cases, processing most within three working days, and maintains an average turnaround time of approximately seven days.
The Office of the Medical Examiner (OME) continues to meet a critical accreditation standard for turnaround time, despite significant caseload increases during FY2020 and FY2021.
The accrediting body for the OME, the National Association of Medical Examiners, requires that 90% of autopsy reports be completed within 90 days of finishing the autopsy. The OME continues to meet this requirement despite its increase in caseloads. For example, when comparing the office’s 2020 and 2019 caseloads, deaths reported to the OME increased by 15% in 2020 (15,908 cases), deaths certified by the OME increased by 14% in 2020 (4,599 cases) and autopsies performed for out-of-county justices of the peace were up nearly 8% in 2020 (1,625 cases). Additionally, comparing year-to-date 2021 to 2020, death investigations were 38% greater in January 2021, up 22% from February 2020, and remained 5% higher in March 2021.
Our department is collaborating with Dallas County’s Health and Human Services Department on a federal grant designed to investigate respiratory-virus morbidity in medical examiner cases.
Our department, in collaboration with the Dallas County Health and Human Services Department, was awarded funding in April 2021 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists to identify unexplained respiratory deaths occurring outside the healthcare setting. This grant award will provide for enhanced capacity to identify COVID-19 deaths as well as other causes of unexplained respiratory deaths in adults and children. The grant funds, in part, medical-examiner supplies and laboratory testing for respiratory viruses (including COVID-19), bacterial infections of the lungs and/or blood and other cultures as appropriate.
Our department’s FY2021 key project in the Criminal Investigation Laboratory is proceeding on schedule and is approximately 50% complete.
We have completed this project’s method research, extraction and instrumental-method development. Also, new-method validation for the development of a new liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method to detect and quantitate antidepressants and antipsychotics in medical-examiner cases is 95% complete. When implemented, the new testing capability will provide the Dallas County Medical Examiner with important new information to assist in the evaluation of the role played of a specific level of antidepressant and/or antipsychotic medication in a death.
Director: Duane Steele
Our department provides supervision for individuals released on bond to ensure court appearance and successful compliance with conditions of bond. Pretrial Services consists of a variety of units and programs with important missions.
- Our General Pretrial Release Unit provides a low-cost county bond to individuals who have been charged with an eligible Class A or Class B misdemeanor or an eligible felony. This provides individuals with an alternative to remaining in jail while awaiting the disposition of their cases.
- Our Smart Justice Unit provides a personal bond to individuals with mental-health indicators and ensures court appearance, connects individuals with mental-health services/treatment, identifies potential housing and ensures overall compliance with conditions of release.
- Our Alcohol Monitoring Unit supervises individuals released on bond with a statutory or court-ordered requirement to have an alcohol-monitoring device as a condition of release.
- Our Electronic Monitoring Unit provides high-level GPS monitoring for individuals with pending misdemeanor and felony offenses who have had electronic-monitoring devices placed on them as a condition of bond.
- Our Intake Assessment Unit conducts interviews for completion of a financial affidavit for indigent screening and a pretrial-risk assessment used to provide a neutral analysis of whether an arrested person is likely to appear in court and not get rearrested if released before trial.
- Our Supervision Units provide effective supervision of individuals on low-cost county bond.
- Our Alternative Sentencing Program offers individuals with county-jail sentences the opportunity to serve their time on house arrest.
Our Supervision Units implemented safety measures to continue their operations of essential functions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Staff located in the Frank Crowley Courts Building (FCCB) started telecommuting beginning the first week of April 2020.
- Staggered work schedules were implemented to reduce the number of employees in the office at the same time.
- Only duty officers were required to report to the FCCB beginning in April 2020 to facilitate inmate interviews, electronic-monitoring hookups, releases and alcohol-monitoring orientations. This measure ensured the safety of our staff.
- Face-to-face reporting by defendants to the Pretrial Services Office was suspended and defendants reported in only via phone. Only defendants with equipment or compliance issues reported to the Pretrial Services Office.
Our department continues to collaborate with a variety of stakeholders including the Public Defender’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the Criminal Justice Department and other agencies on a number of initiatives intended to encourage jail diversion and improve public safety.
Relevant initiatives in place include the Second Chance Community Improvement Program (SCCIP), Conditional Dismissals and the Frequent Utilizer System Enhancement (FUSE) Program. The goal of these initiatives is to use existing resources for the treatment and supervision of individuals participating in the programs.
Our department successfully implemented a new risk-management tool in January 2020.
In January 2020, our Intake Assessment Unit began using the Public Safety Assessment (PSA) risk-assessment tool. This tool provides information that is race and gender neutral that helps to guide pretrial decisions in an attempt to increase safety, reduce costs to taxpayers and enhance the fairness in the criminal justice system. In addition to the risk assessment, the Intake Assessment Unit administers on a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week basis a financial affidavit to all defendants booked in the Dallas County Jail and prior to magistration. The newly-adopted risk-assessment tool will be one of many factors judges can use to make bond decisions.
Our department was disappointed to see exceptional Alcohol Monitoring Technician Maria Herrera leave in March 2021 but wishes her the best of luck in her new role as a FUSE Program Housing Navigator.
Maria joined our department in January 2014 as a Clerk III. She was later promoted to the role of alcohol monitoring technician, where she worked with our Alcohol Monitoring Unit. In March 2021, she was promoted to housing navigator for the FUSE Program under the Criminal Justice Department. She was a tremendous asset to our team, and we wish her the best of luck.
Public Defender’s Office
Director: Lynn Pride Richardson
Our department has implemented business-process-improvement strategies to ensure effective management and application of our resources.
- We are conducting monthly, office-wide trainings for all employees, which includes continuing legal education trainings and orientation for new employees.
- We developed orientation materials to improve our employee-onboarding process and training materials for employees who desire promotion and advancement within our office.
- We implemented meaningful performance reviews for all staff to facilitate the optimum performance of all employees.
- We are monitoring employees’ workloads to track effectiveness and efficiency.
- We are collecting and analyzing data pertaining to caseloads, staffing levels and services to assess and ensure effective management and application of resources.
- We are developing and maintaining relationships with stakeholders and community partners by meeting with them on an ongoing basis, primarily monthly or quarterly.
Our department’s implementation of a new public-defense case-management system is on track to be completed by the end of 2021.
The evaluation and scoring processes for the solicitation are complete, and we have selected an appropriate vendor. The Purchasing Department is in the process of reviewing our preferred vendor’s contract.
Our department’s administrative and executive teams continue to meet regularly with county leaders, community partners and other court stakeholders.
Some of the many stakeholders we meet with regularly include: the University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law, Southern Methodist University, Dallas County’s administration, the City of Dallas’s South Dallas Drug Court, the North Texas Behavioral Health Authority (NTBHA), the Behavioral Health Leadership Team (BHLT), the Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB), Dallas County’s Criminal Justice Department, Dallas County’s District Attorney’s Office, Dallas County’s criminal courts, Dallas County’s Sheriff’s Office, Unlocking DOORS, TORI (Potter’s House), the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA), Gideon’s Promise, the National Association for Public Defense, churches and community-based organizations.
Our office is engaging funders through transparent communication.
We submit quarterly reports to current funders detailing our operations. We also submit proposals to existing funders on a quarterly basis. We expect that these proposals will result in the continuation of our programs.
Our office welcomed attorney Huma Yasin to our team on March 1, 2021.
On March 1, 2021, we hired Huma Yasin to replace Jiacheng Yu as the Misdemeanor Attorney II Floater assigned to Dallas County Criminal Courts 1, 2, 3 and 4. Vickie Rice, Specialty Programs Chief, was reclassified from an Attorney VI to an Attorney VII.
Our office continued to work diligently to provide effective legal representation to all clients during the pandemic while the courts were partially closed.
Chief Public Defender Lynn Pride Richardson was recognized by D Magazine in August 2020 as a community hero during the COVID-19 pandemic.
D Magazine wrote, “The attorneys in the Dallas County Public Defender’s Office, led by Richardson, have been risking their health and safety representing indigent clients housed in the Dallas County Jail. They have made it their priority to attempt to obtain the release of low-level, nonviolent offenders to protect them from unnecessary exposure to the coronavirus, which is now prevalent in the Dallas County jail system. Richardson and the members of her office have also partnered with criminal justice advocacy groups and bail funds to get inmates who cannot afford to post even minimal bonds released from jail.”
Our office looks forward to hosting events in May and June to prepare for the reopening of Dallas County’s courts.
Members of our office will participate in events such as continuing legal education, training and the development of the office’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative. These events are intended in furtherance of our mission to provide effective client-centered representation to all of our clients and to address inequities in the criminal justice system.
We congratulate Chief of the Special Programs Division Vickie Rice for facilitating an outstanding criminal-justice outcome for a combative, legally-blind client with a mental illness.
The client was charged with assault of a police officer, and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office recommended a prison sentence. A number of boarding homes had evicted the client due to her aggressive behavior and refusal to cooperate with those in charge, and she was difficult and combative while housed in the Dallas County Jail. Vickie developed a relationship with the client and was able to convince her to become more cooperative with jail and court personnel. The client was accepted into a mental-health-diversion program in which, upon completion, her criminal case would be dismissed. Vickie was also able to transition the client into stable housing, where she is doing extremely well and is scheduled to complete successfully her diversion program.
Our office recognizes the exceptional work of Investigator Jimmy Spurger whose outstanding efforts resulted in the dismissal of a capital-murder case indictment.
Investigator Jimmy Spurger’s investigation of the capital-murder case against client Brian Bennett resulted in the dismissal of the indictment. Brian was indicted for the March 25, 2017 shooting death of music producer Delvin Montgomery. The indictment emanated from: (1) Brian’s identification as a person who pawned at least two items stolen from the music studio, and (2) ballistics testing that linked the spent- shell casings at the scene of that offense to a separate shooting incident where an ex-girlfriend alleged that Brian shot her in the heat of an argument in September 2016. Jimmy conducted numerous interviews of individuals linked by a complex maze of relationships and learned the following:
(1) The ex-girlfriend lied about Brian’s participation in the 2016 shooting,
(2) She filed an affidavit of non-prosecution,
(3) She testified before a grand jury where she lied,
(4) That another one of the ex-girlfriend’s boyfriends had taken the gun from her home and used it in the March 25, 2017 crime and
(5) That Brian used his identification while pawning the items as a favor to someone and without knowing anything about the source of the items.
Due to Jimmy’s efforts, the State of Texas first agreed to a Personal Recognizance (PR) Bond before ultimately dismissing the indictment. For more, read the Dallas County Messenger’s conversation with Jimmy.
Director: Michael Frosch
Our department continues to implement contracts to support the increased safety protocols established during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In collaboration with key stakeholders, we created:
- Specifications for, solicited proposals for and evaluated and negotiated emergency contracts for a COVID-19 call center to provide clear messaging for citizens,
- A COVID-19 vaccine-management solution to assist with citizen registration and required tracking to meet state guidelines,
- A COVID-19 vaccination-turnkey provider to ensure efficient vaccination for the community,
- And numerous solicitations for purchasing required personal protective equipment to ensure the continuity of Dallas County’s operations.
Our department is working with other public agencies to gain information to ensure the most effective goods and services are purchased.
- During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we collaborated with other agencies to find thermal-imaging cameras to detect persons experiencing a fever. These cameras were especially beneficial in essential buildings with high-volume traffic. The cameras provided a proactive approach to identifying people with COVID-19 symptoms that could be intercepted prior to them entering a building and potentially exposing others to the virus.
- We engage other public agencies’ procurement staff to collaborate on sources for critical items and on vendor performance.
- We establish interlocal agreements with other agencies to gain efficiencies by utilizing each other’s contracts when beneficial.
Our department is creating vendor-training opportunities to promote competition and create a more transparent public-procurement process.
- We created customized training videos for the public on how to utilize the online-procurement platform, which will increase vendor knowledge and participation in the bidding process.
- Recently, we conducted two virtual seminars intended to increase vendors’ knowledge and discuss upcoming procurement projects.
- On March 25, 2021, we hosted a virtual seminar titled “What’s on the Horizon – Public Works Major Capital Improvement Projects” in collaboration with the Dallas/Fort Worth Minority Supplier Development Council (DFW MSDC). Over 250 individuals attended.
- On March 30, 2021, we hosted a virtual seminar titled “How to Do Business with Dallas County” in collaboration with the North Central Texas Regional Certification Agency. Over 135 individuals participated.
- Two additional vendor-outreach events took place in April and May 2021.
- On April 20-21, 2021, the Purchasing and Small Business Enterprise Departments hosted a virtual outreach session in collaboration with the Women’s Business Council Southwest. The educational event was titled “Connections to Contracts.”
- On May 5, 2021, the Purchasing and Small Business Enterprise Departments hosted a virtual outreach session in collaboration with the DFW MSDC. The vendor training was titled “Building the future. Restoring the past.”
Our department is aligning our public-procurement operations with industry best practices to promote competition, increase transparency and maximize our purchasing power.
- In June 2019, we created an intranet page to provide critical information to our client departments.
- In June 2019, we implemented a requirement for Dallas County to host a pre-solicitation meeting for all formal solicitations, which allows potential vendors to meet the staff, network with other vendors and ask questions on the project prior to submitting a response.
- In March 2020, we implemented a virtual-bid opening process rather than an in-person reading process to promote transparency and increase the ease with which others may conduct business with Dallas County.
- On April 27, 2020, we launched an electronic-purchasing platform, which allows our vendors to register, receive notices of projects and submit responses electronically. At this time, we also began including all informal (< $50,000) and formal (> $50,000) notices online for increased transparency and competition.
Our department is creating valuable professional-development and training opportunities for our buyers and client and service departments.
- In the spirit of continuous improvement, our department’s management developed in October 2019 training sessions for purchasing procurement staff based on purchasing best practices and public-procurement statute compliance. The trainings are held weekly in a social-distance setting and are attended by buyers of all levels. At the trainings, buyers share their experiences, challenges and opportunities for improvements with one another, thereby fostering collaboration.
- We are working to establish a “road-show” training program, which will begin in October 2021. During this program, our staff will provide beneficial training to client departments. Departmental training will include the basics of purchasing, the lifecycle of different purchasing methods, procurement planning and specification development.
- Beginning in October 2021, we plan to collaborate with other service departments to provide training in areas such as prompt payments, vendor performance and contract management for county departments.
Our department is developing innovative solutions to improve efficiencies for our clients.
- We are affecting and improving our clients’ service levels by deploying innovative solutions, such as establishing contracts that meet the needs of our client departments, identifying goods and services that are in high demand and used frequently and establishing multi-year term contracts for such needs. Our goal is to establish more multi-year term contracts to reduce the time our clients have to wait to procure their goods and services.
- Our team is uploading our term contracts onto cloud-infrastructure and database platform Oracle’s financial system to automate contract availability. By August 2021, our clients will have the ability to search for and make their own encumbrances (purchases) through the contract platform. The system will generate unique department purchase orders and the purchase orders will be approved through the department’s workflow process without the Purchasing Department’s intervention. Departments using this system will be able to purchase their goods and services through a shopping-cart experience, which is familiar to most users. This solution will reduce a number of requisitions, which will allow our department to focus on increasing competition, reducing the costs of goods and services by aggregation and purchasing strategically.
Our Fixed Asset Division is facilitating the effective disposition of county assets and assisting county departments as they work to discard of items throughout the fiscal year.
- On a monthly basis, our Fixed Asset Division requests from county departments a list of inventory of all items of which they would like to dispose to ensure accurate documentation and execution. Our department completed disposition forms prior to scheduling the disposal of these items, which is necessary to ensure transparency to the Commissioner’s Court.
- In October 2020, our Fixed Asset Division enhanced its auction-scheduling and documentation process to increase the public’s awareness of the condition of equipment up for bid.
Our department prioritizes the review of all new contract requests through a strategic and competitive purchasing lens to ensure all are structured to promote increased efficiencies and to maximize the use of taxpayers’ dollars.
- In October 2019, we amended our contract terms to allow for aggregation, which provides better pricing for the client departments, and ultimately, the citizens we serve.
- In October 2019, we initiated additional management reviews of all formal solicitations to ensure the method of procurement, contract term and other critical factors are considered for each solicitation.
Our department is excited to welcome new Clerk II Olivia Thompson and congratulates three employees on their recent promotions: Sandra Baker, Senior Secretary; Brandon Fitzgerald, Contract Specialist; and Laura Ortiz, Contract Specialist.
Our department is committed to acting in accordance with best practices to provide value-added professional services to meet departmental goals while promoting an open and fair competitive process.
Small Business Enterprise (SBE)
Director: Daniel R. Garza, CTCM
Our department is leveraging diversity-management software B2Gnow to allow us to efficiently track our annual percentage of spending committed to small businesses.
We transitioned from using database server Oracle to using B2Gnow in April 2018, and since, we have created reporting modules for formal solicitation spending. These modules capture our prime-contract award spending and corresponding certified and non-certified Small Business Enterprise (SBE) subcontractors, which is vital data that informs our operations and future disparity studies.
Our department continues to host outreach activities to educate the public on how to conduct business with Dallas County and training programs to help small businesses.
- We hosted two training sessions in March 2021. One focused solely on the Public Works Department’s forecasted project outreach and the other focused on how to conduct business with Dallas County.
- Since 2019, we have hosted nine educational events to help to grow small businesses. Following one event, a participant thanked us and said, “This is great information and will help us partner with Dallas County in the future.”
The Purchasing and Information Technology Departments are in the process of submitting a Commissioners Court agenda item for an Electronic Resources Planning (ERP) upgrade within Dallas County’s existing mainframe, Oracle, which will consist of several modules that may connect to our department’s workflow.
On April 20, 2021, the Commissioners Court formally agreed in the form of a resolution to designate May 3-9, 2021 as National Small Business Week (NSBW).
NSBW occurs the first week of May in the United States. During this week, the Small Business Administration (SBA) hosts an annual celebration of small businesses. Our department added this topic for consideration to the Commissioners Court’s April 20, 2021 Meeting Agenda. We are pleased that the Commissioners Court approved of a resolution acknowledging the county’s support of and participation in this celebration to demonstrate the county’s support for small businesses.
Our department enjoyed presenting at a town hall hosted by the Honorable Commissioner J.J. Koch on April 22, 2021.
During this town hall event, SBE Department Director Daniel Garza shared information regarding our commitment to the Small Business Enterprise (SBE) Program and our B2Gnow diversity system that provides further transparency. Additionally, attendees learned about opportunities to conduct business with Dallas County.
Our department was excited to welcome a new compliance officer and a new outreach officer in April 2021.
- These employees were hired in early April and are in the process of being onboarded.
- Our new compliance officer will review prime-contract awards to confirm all listed subcontractors are being paid and will ensure all contract-award and subcontractor data is captured in our B2Gnow system to create statistical and quantitative reports. This data collection is imperative for future disparity studies.
- Our new outreach officer will establish strong relationships with internal and external partners and build Small Business Enterprise (SBE) capacity and awareness to maximize SBE participation in Dallas County’s competitive solicitation process. The outreach officer will also collaborate with chambers, organizations and agencies to include other public-sector agencies and set up training events. These initiatives will expand the pool of SBE vendors capable of conducting business with Dallas County.
Our department partnered with other county departments such as the Facilities Management Department to conduct a forum titled “How to do Business with Dallas County” on May 5, 2021 to share with members of the public information on how to conduct business with Dallas County.
SBE Department Director Daniel Garza is celebrating three years and six months working for Dallas County this May.
Daniel joined Dallas County in 2015 as the director of Dallas County’s Purchasing Department. However, in July 2015, he left Dallas County to care for a sick parent in San Antonio, Texas. There, he accepted a position working at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. In December 2020, Daniel returned to Dallas County, this time, as the director of Dallas County’s SBE Department. In this role, he’s enjoyed applying his years of experience working actively on behalf of small, minority and women-owned businesses by implementing policies and procedures that increase their participation and development. You can learn more about Daniel’s professional experience, including his time serving as the purchasing agent for Bexar County, San Antonio and, even, working for the San Antonio Spurs during two of their championship years, by watching this Latino American Who’s Who video.
Director: Stanley “Vic” Victrum
Our Office continues to sustain and enhance our service delivery to the Dallas County Veterans Community.
- As part of our Office’s COVID-19 pandemic response, we acquired and implemented the VetPro application to facilitate remote case development for the Dallas County Veterans Community.
- To facilitate in-office appointments with Veterans from the east side of Dallas County, we set up and staffed a satellite Office at the Garland, Texas Road & Bridge Office in October 2019.
- To facilitate in-office appointments with Veterans from the south side of Dallas County, we set up and staffed a satellite Office at the new South Dallas Government Center in February 2021. The story of the people who brought this new government center to life was published in The Who’s Who in Building & Construction Magazine in fall 2020. Read The People’s Buildings: Dallas County and Source and S&P, a Joint Venture partner on transformative project in South Dallas.
- To facilitate in-office appointments with Veterans from the north side of Dallas County, we are currently reviewing with the Dallas County Administrator’s Office a proposal to set up and staff a satellite Office at the new North Dallas Government Center.
Our Office continues to network with like-minded coalitions to facilitate Veterans’ access to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and State of Texas benefits, which they have earned and to which they are entitled.
- We participated in monthly meetings with the Greater Dallas Veterans Council to discuss and plan various Veteran-outreach opportunities and to receive and discuss updates from the VA North Texas Health Care System’s leadership.
- We participated in meetings with the DeSoto, Texas Veterans Committee to discuss and plan various Veteran-outreach opportunities.
- We attended recurring meetings hosted by the Metro Dallas Homelessness Alliance (MDHA) with the goal of ending Veterans’ homelessness in the metro-Dallas area.
- We continue to conduct a variety of VA benefit-awareness campaigns for the Dallas County Veterans Community in order to ensure, to the degree possible, that local Veterans and their dependents are aware of their VA and state benefits and to assist them as appropriate with applying for and obtaining those benefits.
Our Office applauds our staff for serving in prominent leadership roles in state and national Veteran service organizations, testifying on behalf of Veteran service associations before the Texas Legislature and providing exceptional service to the local Dallas County Veterans Community, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Melissa Castillo, a Dallas County Assistant Veterans Service Officer, also serves as Vice President of the Veteran County Service Officer Association of Texas (VCSOAT). She is also a Texas Delegate to the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers (NACVSO). In March 2021, she successfully responded to the VCSOAT’s request that she testify before members of the Texas Legislature regarding proposed House Bill (HB) 1736, HB 2115 and HB 2040. In the fall of 2020, Melissa provided exceptional service to a Veteran’s spouse who resides in Dallas County Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia’s District (#4). Largely due to Melissa’s guidance, the VA accepted the Veteran spouse’s surviving-spouse-benefits application and granted her a lump-sum payment of $340,879 with monthly benefits of $1,672. In December 2020, Lieutenant Colonel Mastrandrea, Jr., USAF (Ret.) wrote to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins a glowing letter of recognition and endorsement regarding Melissa’s exceptional service. In his letter, he asserted, “Melissa is a sterling ambassador for the Veterans Services, Dallas County and represents you well. She is not only the consummate professional, but imbibes the true qualities of service before self, and putting people first. I retired in 2007, ran the aviation division for the State of Florida, was the head of a billion dollar program for BAE systems, [and] was the Program Manager for L3 communications, as the head of DEA aviation operations worldwide. I am currently with the FAA. I mention these only because, I have managed organizations where I had 220 direct reports, and rarely have I come across someone of Melissa’s caliber.”
- James Henderson serves as Dallas County’s Lead Assistant Veterans Service Officer and as the President of the Northeast Chapter of the VCSOAT. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, James identified, acquired (utilizing a portion of Dallas County’s COVID-19 funding) and implemented a VetPro application for our Office, which enabled our staff to transition to serving our Veteran clients via a virtual platform. This kept our staff members safe and ensured our clients continued to receive critical and timely benefit-claims assistance. On March 10, 2021, James was recognized by Director of Veteran Services Stanley “Vic” Victrum during a virtual ceremony and presented a Certificate of Excellence Award for his tremendous efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Lavette Domineck is a Dallas County Assistant Veterans Service Officer who serves as the Vice President of the Northeast Chapter of the VCSOAT. Lavette played an instrumental role in securing 10 Veterans’ receipt of 100% military service-connected disability ratings. This award represents a dollar amount of over $3,100 of monthly tax-free income for the impacted Veterans. It also includes 100% eligibility for education benefits for any dependent of the Veterans and a 100% exemption from state/county property taxes for the noted Veterans who are homeowners. In October 2019, Lavette successfully opened the first Dallas County Veteran Services Satellite Office at Dallas County’s District 1 Road & Bridge Office in Garland, Texas. This made it more convenient for Veterans in east Dallas County to meet with her to develop their VA benefit claims for submission. Working from this Office, Lavette can more readily provide services to Veterans who are being seen at the new Garland VA Medical Center, which is the new hub for the Dallas VA Medical Center at which female Veterans are offered expanded health-care options. For more, read the Dallas County Messenger’s conversation with Lavette.
- Director of Veteran Services Stanley “Vic” Victrum was invited by the President/CEO of the DFW Veterans Chamber of Commerce to attend and participate in the Veterans Chamber’s weekly meetings based on a member engagement during one of the meetings of the Greater Dallas Veterans Council.
Our Office is creating opportunities for eligible County Veterans Service Officers (CVSO) to pursue accreditation opportunities such as the “Certified Veterans Advocate” designation offered by the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers.
Our Office’s Assistant County Veterans Service Officers completed the virtual-class portion of the Certified Veterans Advocate designation and are currently awaiting the opportunity to attend the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers’ conference, where they will complete the requirements necessary for the award of the certification.
Our Office is making progress towards developing a formal County Veterans Services Officers (CVSO) Employee Recognition Program, which will also leverage the Commissioners Court’s Employee of the Month/Year Program.
- We completed, approved of and disseminated the final draft of the program guidelines for the CVSO Team members on February 3, 2021.
- The first person recognized using these program guidelines was Lead Assistant Veterans Service Officer James Henderson, who, on February 8, 2021, was approved for and subsequently presented on March 10, 2021 a Certificate of Excellence Award at a virtual ceremony attended by County Administrator Darryl Martin and Assistant County Administrator Gordon Hikel.
Our Office honored Veteran “firsts” during Black History Month in February 2021 and during Women’s History Month in March 2021.
- During Black History Month, our Office posted daily tributes on the Dallas County Veteran Services Facebook page to African-American Veteran “firsts” who are great examples of courage, perseverance and devotion to duty for all Veterans, regardless of race.
- During Women’s History Month, our Office posted daily tributes on the Dallas County Veteran Services Facebook page to female Veteran “firsts” who are great examples of courage, perseverance and devotion to duty for all Veterans, regardless of sex.
We are working to ensure all staff members have access to professional- and technical-development classes and expect to include attending these classes as part of our staff’s FY2021 professional-development goals.
- Our Office’s Director and Lead Assistant Veterans Service Officer completed the “Turning Unconscious Bias into Conscious Thought” class and are awaiting openings in future classes for the non-supervisory County Veterans Services Officers (CVSO) staff to attend.
- CVSO Team members are completing the expected Veteran benefits training via the Texas Veterans Commission’s (TVC’s) online learning-management system and via TVC-hosted virtual webinars.
- Our Office’s Director completed virtually the Dallas County Human Resources Department’s training class “Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team” on February 10, 2021.
- Our Office’s Director attended virtually the Dallas County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s course presented by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) titled “Cybersecurity Risk Awareness for Officials and Senior Management” on March 25, 2021.
- Our Office’s Director and Senior Secretary attended virtually the Dallas County Budget and Evaluation Department’s training class “OpenGov – Budget System Training” in March 2021 as part of the county-wide preparation for the FY2022 budget-development process.
Our Office is reviewing opportunities to add additional Veteran Services Satellite Offices to accommodate more Veterans in Dallas County.
Our Office toured the new North Dallas Government Center (NDGC) in February 2021 with members of Dallas County’s Operations Team. After, our Office presented a proposal and corresponding cost estimate to the Dallas County Administrator’s Office to add a Veteran Services Satellite Office to this new government center. In March 2021, the Administrator’s Office provided guidance regarding ways to minimize anticipated costs. As a result, our Office reduced our proposed cost estimate by more than 60% by leveraging the already-approved construction planned for the fourth floor of the new NDGC. Our Office reviewed this proposal and the revised cost estimates with the County Administrator’s Office and the County Operations Office on April 22, 2021 and received the County Administrator’s Office’s approval to present the proposal to the Commissioners Court during the Commissioner’s Court’s May 4, 2021 meeting. During the May 4 meeting, the Commissioners Court unanimously approved of this project and made positive comments about our proposal. We look forward to proceeding with our plan to create a new Veteran Services Satellite Office in the NDGC.
Our Office is working to create a central triage-tracking system to transform the current tracking process by Q4 of FY2021.
- Dallas County’s Information Technology (IT) Department provided a virtual demonstration of the prototype system on March 23, 2021 to our Office’s Director and Lead Assistant Veterans Service Officer. This prototype is intended to meet the requirements previously provided by the County Veterans Service Officers (CVSO). The prototype system shows great potential for meeting these business requirements and the IT Department, with the CVSOs’ concurrence, is proceeding with the next steps of development using the Agile development model.
- The IT Department is proposing to leverage or expand the on-hand Ivanti iHEAT application to accommodate the CVSOs’ stated business requirements.