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San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris can find some validation in a new audit of her office, which backs repeated assertions that disorganized files and sorry technology were hampering productivity when she entered office. But Controller Ed Harrington’s review, released earlier this month, didn’t confirm the DA’s contention that her office is understaffed compared to some other county prosecutors’ offices. “We were unable to conclude that the office is understaffed as the district attorney � suggests,” he wrote. The audit is meant to reflect conditions when Harris came into office in January, according to Peg Stevenson, director of the controller’s city projects division. Harris requested it, Stevenson said, “for her own edification” and to determine what areas to tackle first after taking over from former DA Terence Hallinan. “The DA is working to maximize staff and resources,” spokeswoman Debbie Mesloh said in an e-mail Friday. “The audit points out some of the areas that need improvement, and we are already addressing these things.” The audit notes that “the district attorney and her staff have undertaken corrective action in numerous areas,” but suggested further action. The controller found the DA’s financial operations generally well administered, but concluded that attorneys don’t get enough administrative support and that many employees perform duties outside their job descriptions. As a result, some staff members are under-trained for their duties, while others may not be paid enough for the work they do. The audit also paints workplace conditions as less than ideal. Employees reported that locating records is difficult, and paralegals spend much of their time storing things and moving boxes, the audit says. Cramped office conditions also hurt morale. “At the time of our review, there were boxes of files in every room, including hallways, bathroom and unused staff cubicles,” it says. “Two refrigerators, one nonworking, were in the women’s bathroom.” Since the review began, the audit notes, a team of paralegals has begun indexing misdemeanor files, and the hallways have mostly been cleared. And, “refrigerators are no longer in the bathroom.” The controller also found computer technology in the DA’s office “in disarray,” saying the office needs more — and better skilled — technology staff. And only recently have most staff members received access to e-mail. Many prosecutors reported spending a lot of time on tasks that could be performed by secretaries and paralegals, and paralegals do too much administrative work, the audit says. “We heard members of all divisions say that they are understaffed and that their workload is inordinately high,” the audit says. In March, Harris told the mayor in a budget proposal that her office didn’t have enough attorneys and investigators “to be, at a minimum, a functional public law office.” The controller’s preliminary findings made it clear, she wrote then, that San Francisco had far fewer attorneys for felonies than Santa Clara County, though the counties had a comparable number of felony cases. The final audit concludes that the felony caseload in Santa Clara is one attorney for every 62 cases. While San Francisco’s ratio is much higher — 110 cases per felony attorney — the numbers are on par with Alameda County, where felony prosecutors get about 106 cases a year. But Harrington wrote that the study hadn’t gone far enough for him to be able to recommend either increasing or decreasing staff. In a written response to the audit, Harris said the office would fill five vacant lawyer positions this fiscal year and that she hopes to add more lawyers in the future.

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