The concept of a one-stop shop for abuse victims for all of Stanislaus County, which could open in a few months, nearly withered Tuesday in the heat of a philosophical argument between county supervisors.
None debated the need for a uniform response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child and elder abuse. But they disagreed on the rationale behind charging a fee that some say has nothing to do with such a service.
The money would come from a $2 surcharge for copies of birth and marriage certificates and death records. It would go to a nonprofit organization being created by at least 10 law enforcement agencies and private partners throughout the county.
The Family Justice Center would seek help from a state legislator for permission to charge the extra fee, as has been done in places such as Berkeley and Alameda, Sonoma and Solano counties.
Supervisors Jim DeMartini and Dick Monteith objected, seeing no correlation between a higher fee for vital records and handing the extra money to a nonprofit group having little to do with such documents.
"I always felt you should never charge a fee that is higher than what the service (costs)," DeMartini said. "This is even worse — charging more and giving it to somebody else for an unassociated service."
Monteith agreed, saying, "I don't think it's a pure connection."
County Clerk-Recorder Lee Lundrigan said the County Recorder Association of California strongly opposes fees for unrelated purposes, and she does, too.
Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley and Supervisor Bill O'Brien insisted there is a correlation. O'Brien likened it to a surcharge on property documents benefiting real estate fraud prosecution.
"I ask that you think about victims of violent crime and help us to serve them in a much more efficient manner," Shipley said.
Supervisor Vito Chiesa initially asked to table the item because leaders were given no business plan and he had no basis for assuming the Family Justice Center would ever get off the ground.
Shipley said it should open in three or four months, and Supervisor Jeff Grover said he is comfortable with projections he has studied, persuading Chiesa to cast the swing vote in favor.
"Whether we want to admit it or not, domestic violence exists in this county," O'Brien said.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2390.