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L.A. County may be close to choosing new probation chief

January 21, 2010 |  1:17 pm

Donald H. Blevins, probation chief in Alameda County, has emerged as the leading candidate to head Los Angeles County’s beleaguered Probation Department, according to two people familiar with the selection process.

Sources said William T Fujioka, the county's chief executive, was recommending Blevins and had eliminated the other finalists: Jerry Powers, chief of probation in Stanislaus County, and Bernie Warner, leader of the Juvenile Justice Division of the California Department of Corrections.

Fujioka would not publicly name Blevins as his candidate of choice but said he had presented someone for the job.

"We are scheduling one-on-one meetings with each county supervisor because of the [crucial nature] of this position,” he said.

If Blevins’ interviews go well, the board will vote in closed session on his appointment. That would end a lengthy process to replace outgoing chief Robert Taylor, who announced in May that he wished to retire

Blevins has led Alameda County’s department since 2003, and L.A. County supervisors were said to be impressed with his turnaround of the department and his handling of tight budgets there. Before his Alameda experience, Blevins was probation director of San Diego County, where he worked since 1976. 

In Los Angeles County, he would face the biggest challenge of his career. The department’s 6,200 staffers oversee 60,000 adult probationers and 20,000 youths, including about 3,600 in county-run detention halls and camps. The juvenile operation has been the subject of U.S. Justice Department oversight for misuse of force, and county supervisors have criticized persistent management lapses.

"It is not a secret that the Probation Department is in shambles," L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told The Times last week. "The department needs to be overhauled from top to bottom."

-- Garrett Therolf at the L.A. County Hall of Administration