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A meeting in Alameda County between the presiding judge and the temporary head of the probation department has eased tensions about who should lead that agency. On Tuesday, Alameda County Presiding Judge Harry Sheppard and interim probation chief Wayne Tucker discussed Tucker’s resignation from the sheriff’s department and issues facing the probation department. Tucker has supplied proof that he’s no longer the sheriff’s employee and will tell the court if he makes major policy changes, Sheppard said. “On its face” the resignation resolves many of the judges’ conflict-of-interest concerns, Sheppard said. “There was a specific fear that he was going to reorganize the department or make huge budgetary changes,” the PJ said. “Those fears have been set aside.” For a month, judges and county leaders have been locked in a rare public battle over probation leadership. In December, supervisors appointed Sheriff Charles Plummer to replace retiring probation chief Sylvia Johnson. Sheppard, the juvenile court’s presiding judge, Brenda Harbin-Forte, and attorneys raised concerns that the decision created conflicts of interest. They argued that a 1996 state appellate court decision says a probation chief can’t run the jails, which is one of the sheriff’s duties. The probation department runs juvenile hall, and state law limits how much access the sheriff has to juvenile records. Eventually, Plummer bowed out, saying there was a small risk that he could lose his elected post in a successful legal challenge to the appointment. Instead, Tucker, Plummer’s assistant sheriff, agreed to take the post, and Plummer was made an adviser. That didn’t reassure Harbin-Forte, who said the rights of children and families were at risk. The judge said she was concerned that juvenile hall would be run like a jail, and issued an order that briefly banned the sheriff and his deputies from running the hall. In response, County Counsel Richard Winnie filed a challenge accusing Harbin-Forte of bias. At the hearing for the judge’s order, Harbin-Forte said Winnie was a no - show. In an e-mail to The Recorder Winnie said he made a “special appearance” at 1:30 p.m., the scheduled time of the hearing, and wasn’t required to stay for the proceeding. Ultimately, the judge struck down Winnie’s challenge, but changed her order to allow Tucker to run the hall. In the past, Winnie has argued that with proper rules, conflicts of interest could be avoided. When supervisors appointed Tucker in closed session this month they also voted to “adopt protocols, as needed, to ensure that the departments operate in a manner that is separate and � in compliance with the Alameda County Charter and state law.” On Thursday, Winnie was uncommunicative. “I am not going to discuss that with you,” he said when asked what the rules would be. Then, when asked whether he would appeal Harbin-Forte’s new order, Winnie repeated, “I am not going to discuss that with you.” His answer when asked whether or not he was relieved that the controversy seemed to be headed toward resolution was “no comment.” Plummer said he’s pleased that things have died down. “I was beginning to think that the judges were more concerned about their turf,” he said, and added that although he isn’t overseeing the probation department, he’s ready to act as an adviser. “I think everyone is at peace now,” Plummer said. Sheppard, while praising Tucker’s knowledge of the probation department and budget issues, said he still has some concerns. Measure C, approved in November, took away the court’s supervisory role over the probation department, but the PJ wants to give county leaders periodic reports on the agency’s performance. Judges rely on the probation department’s reports, and the agency plays a critical role in dependency cases and programs like the drug court, he said. “We are the primary customers of the probation department,” Sheppard added. Meanwhile, the county has selected Sacramento’s Shannon Executive Search to find a permanent probation head. The company is interviewing “stake holders” ranging from the district attorney to the county’s Juvenile Justice/Delinquency Prevention Commission for input on the new hire. Later, a panel that includes Harbin-Forte and Superior Court Judge Richard Iglehart will help vet the finalists. “It feels very good today as opposed to the last few weeks,” said Gail Steele, president of the board of supervisors.

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