Supes want to review Jarvis contract

The Board of Supervisors agreed last week to reconsider officially appointing Chico City Councilwoman Coleen Jarvis to a public defender position, despite the fact that she’s been working in that capacity for almost two months and such appointments ordinarily are routine.

The Public Defender Consortium (a loosely knit group of 16 local private attorneys who are paid by the county to accept indigent clients) nominated Jarvis for the post. It’s usually a quick and easy appointment and in fact is posted on the supervisors’ consent agenda, along with any other “non-controversial” items that are generally approved without discussion.

But it didn’t work that way with the Jarvis appointment. Two political gadflies who attend many supervisors’ meetings objected to the cost of her contract, about $121,000 a year, pointing out that it’s far more than what the county pays its prosecutors.

John Gillander and Mike Kelley, both vocal conservative politicos, were successful in asking the board to remove Jarvis’ appointment from the agenda and discuss it at length at a future meeting.

Two supervisors, Kim Yama-guchi and Curt Josiassen, said they were “shocked” at the cost of the public defender’s contracts and seemed ready to review the entire public defender system in Butte County.

However, Jarvis said she felt singled out by the board’s current conservative majority and pointed out that the $121,000 contract isn’t for only her salary. It has to pay for an office, a clerical staff, office supplies and investigators, too.

“This is pay for an entire office,” she said. “It isn’t like I pocket all this money.”

It’s impossible to ignore the political implications at work here. Besides being on the Chico City Council, Jarvis is a longtime, very visible progressive activist and community leader.

Jarvis also noted that she’s been working for the Public Defender Consortium and accepting indigent clients, mainly children whose parents are being accused of abuse, since October and has received only two weeks’ worth of pay since then.

"I was hoping that this would solve the problem and I would be able to get a paycheck, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen," she said.