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County supervisors are scrutinizing the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office’s $12.7 million juvenile dependency court contract, saying its cost may be too high during difficult economic times. Supervisor James Beall Jr. has asked the county executive’s office to complete a fiscal analysis of the dependency program � including performance measurements � and report its findings back to the public safety and justice committee on May 10. But Beall has already raised the possibility of selecting an alternative, cheaper vendor than the DA’s office. If county supervisors ultimately reject the DA’s contract and sign with a different vendor, there could be layoffs in the DA’s 11-attorney dependency unit, according to George Doorley, the office’s administrative services manager. “There are no vacancies for these people,” Doorley said Monday. The court opened up the bidding process in January. Presiding Judge Alden Danner said he received a bid from a private law firm but wouldn’t disclose which one, citing confidentiality of the bidding process. The cost of the three-year dependency contract is shared with the court, which is slated to pay about $8.7 million. The county’s contribution is estimated at roughly $3.9 million over the next three years. The DA provides legal services for abused and neglected children in the proceedings, while the County Counsel represents the Department of Social Services. The DA’s dependency unit is staffed mostly by level-four attorneys, whose salaries are some of the highest in the office. Beall, who chairs the Board of Supervisors this year, said the county has seen $680 million in cuts over the past five years and faces another $120 million shortfall in the coming fiscal year. All county departments have been asked to make cuts, Beall added. “I didn’t want to make a big stink about it, I just think it should be looked into,” Beall said. “I haven’t made any conclusions. I want to have an effective dependency program.” The court has already approved the DA’s contract, but the Board of Supervisors must also sign off before it becomes final. Danner said he was “taken by surprise” when Beall asked that the contract be removed from the consent calendar at last week’s public safety and justice committee meeting. “This has been in place for as long as I can remember,” Danner said Monday. “We would have to scramble to get somebody else” if the board rejects the DA contract. Judge Leonard Edwards, who currently oversees Santa Clara’s dependency court, said the approval process is “really out of our hands.” “The court is somewhat of an observer,” Edwards said. “After we see what happens, we will have to respond.” Edwards said he is hopeful that the DA contract will be approved, adding that the dependency court deputies are “outstanding lawyers.” Danner agreed, saying the court’s approval of the dependency contract “was more than just [about] the price. It was about experience.” Doorley, meanwhile, said he isn’t surprised the county is asking for a fiscal analysis of the dependency program. Beall also expressed financial concerns with the contract three years ago. “The more people look at this, the more they will see it fits very squarely into the policy � of the Board of Supervisors,” Doorley said. The current contract expires June 30.

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