Nevada Division of Parole and Probation Chief Steps Down

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - State Parole and Probation Chief John
Gonska, whose agency was harshly criticized in a recent legislative
audit, resigned Monday.

In a resignation e-mail to staffers, Gonska said it's "time to pass the baton" and "a fresh set of eyes or someone with a new perspective" would be best for the parole-probation division that he has run since 2004.

Prior to hiring on with Nevada, Gonska served 20 years with the U.S. Probation Office, including 17 years in that agency's Nevada district.

Spokemen for Gov. Jim Gibbons and for Gonska's immediate boss, state Department of Public Safety Director Jerry Hafen who was named to his post in mid-February, said there was no pressure on Gonska to quit as a result of the audit.

When the legislative audit came out about three weeks ago, Gonska said the numerous problems cited in the report were accurate and pledged to correct them as quickly as possible.

Auditors said an audit performed in 1999 found similar problems with the agency and that public safety is at risk when parolees aren't properly supervised by parole and probation officers.

The audit criticized the agency for not getting required DNA samples from parolees and not properly monitoring sex offenders. Auditors studied 30 cases in which judges ordered DNA testing, and found that in 11 cases no DNA was taken and in 13 cases the DNA was taken but results weren't entered into an inventory system that could be used by police.

Gonska also acknowledged, under questioning from lawmakers, that
most of problems cited in the audit wouldn't exist if he could fill the 50 vacancies in his agency.

Gibbons imposed a hiring freeze on the division and other state agencies in the fall in response to a projected state revenue shortfall. Analysts now say that shortfall could soar to nearly $800 million by mid-2009.

Among other deficiencies, the audit found that the agency failed 31 percent of the time to meet a requirement that officers meet twice a month with high-risk offenders. The audit determined the agency also failed to keep track of many parolees who have disappeared and failed to place 165 sex offenders into required tier levels.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)