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Rebecca Campbell is ready to be Kings County's CAO

HANFORD — When Rebecca Campbell found out she would be Kings County’s new county administrative officer, she said it felt “surreal” and took a little while to soak in.

“It was very exciting,” Campbell said. “I’m grateful that I had the privilege to work for Larry [Spikes], and I feel like I’ve learned so much from him.”

Campbell will take over as CAO at the beginning of the New Year after Spikes retired from the position this month after 24 years.

“I think she’s going to do great,” Spikes said. “She knows the stuff she needs to know about budgeting and relationships that she’s developed, and that I’ve hopefully helped her develop with all of my connections around the state.”

When Campbell officially takes over as CAO on Jan. 1, she will be only the fourth CAO in Kings County history and will oversee an annual budget of $330 million and a staff of 1,550 people. She said there is fairly new leadership in the county departments, and she wants to make sure everyone works together on the issues and stays in the right direction.

“I’m up for the challenge,” Campbell said. “I’m going to work as hard as I can to stay on and to do good for Kings County.”

Campbell grew up in Maine and joined the U.S. Navy after high school, where she served for about 10 years as an electronics technician. She said she was stationed at various locations, mainly on the East Coast and overseas in places like Italy and Iceland.

Campbell earned her bachelor’s degree in information systems management from the University of Maryland University College while in the Navy. Later, she earned her master’s degree in business administration.

After her time in the Navy, Campbell said she ended up in Kings County due to extended family in the state and said she naturally gravitated toward looking for a government job.

Campbell said she got her foot in the door by working as an office assistant for the Kings County public works department starting in 2005. From there, she became a fiscal analyst in the information technology department and later began working in the administration office on things like grant writing.

She had been a management analyst and deputy county administrative officer before eventually becoming the assistant CAO about two years ago. As assistant CAO, she was responsible for day-to-day operations of the administrative office, including long-range planning and implementing policies of the board of supervisors.

Campbell was instrumental in the county directly receiving $74 million in federal and state grants  for various county public safety and health care-related programs. She said she’s looking forward to seeing the results of the programs as CAO.

Campbell said she wanted residents of Kings County to know that she’s going to work hard and do the best she can to move the county forward and make sure there is growth, all while tackling the challenges coming from the state and federal levels.

“I look forward to working with leadership, staff and the community to make decisions on how the county will look 10 to 20 years from now,” Campbell said.

Cities sue Defense Department over gun-check system failures

NEW YORK — Three large U.S. cities filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Department of Defense, arguing that many service members who are disqualified from gun ownership weren't reported to the national background check system.

New York City, San Francisco and Philadelphia said in court papers that the military's broken system for relaying such information helped spur the massacre of 26 people inside a Texas church last month.

"This failure on behalf of the Department of Defense has led to the loss of innocent lives by putting guns in the hands of criminals and those who wish to cause immeasurable harm," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "New York City is joining Philadelphia and San Francisco to stand up to the Department of Defense and demand they comply with the law and repair their drastically flawed system."

Local law enforcement officials rely on the FBI's database to conduct background checks on gun permit applications and to monitor purchases. It must be up-to-date in order to prevent people from wrongly getting guns, the cities' attorneys wrote.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, seeks an injunction and judicial oversight to ensure ongoing compliance with the Defense Department's obligation to submit records.

Military officials previously acknowledged problems with their reporting.

A Pentagon spokesman on Tuesday said he couldn't comment specifically on the lawsuit.

"The department continues to work with the services as they review and refine their policies and procedures to ensure qualifying criminal history information is submitted to the FBI," said Tom Crosson, a Pentagon spokesman.

The Defense Department's failure to report "significant numbers" of disqualifying records to the FBI's national background check system allowed former U.S. Air Force member Devin P. Kelley to buy a rifle and shoot 26 people to death Nov. 5 in a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church, the lawsuit said. Kelley had been convicted of assaulting family members in a 2012 court martial and should not have been allowed to purchase a gun.

Air Force leaders already acknowledged that the service failed to alert the FBI to Kelley's criminal history and that they discovered "several dozen" other such reporting omissions. They said that while policies and procedures requiring reporting were in place, training and compliance measures were lacking.

And Army leaders have said their service also has similar gaps.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon's watchdog agency found a "troubling" number of failures this year by the military services to alert the FBI to criminal history information. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a far-ranging review of the FBI database.

Philadelphia, in particular, has been plagued by gun violence and "relies on this reporting when making the crucial decision whether a license-to-carry applicant should be permitted to carry a firearm," said Mayor Jim Kenney, who is a Democrat like the mayors of New York and San Francisco. "We're joining in this suit because reporting these records is absolutely critical to those decisions. The background check system only works if it contains the proper records."

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement that the Department of Defense's failure to accurately report criminal convictions puts Americans at risk.

"We cannot accept the level of gun violence in our country as 'just the way it is,'" he said.

The lawsuit names the armed forces individually, as well as the Department of Defense, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and several other officials.

According to the lawsuit, the U.S. Air Force failed to submit records in about 14 percent of cases, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps failed to submit records in 36 percent of cases, and the U.S. Army didn't submit records in about 41 percent of cases.

The Air Force said it has already made changes designed to prevent such failures in the future. For example, it is now requiring that leaders up the chain of command verify that criminal history reporting requirements have been met in every case. And, additional training on these procedures is being conducted.

Police search for suspects who fled scene of deadly hit-and-run

HANFORD — Hanford Police said they are searching for two suspects who fled the scene of a fatal car crash that happened on Christmas night.

On Monday at around 8:45 p.m., Hanford Police officials said officers and fire crews were called out to the intersection of 11th and Hume avenues regarding a two-vehicle collision with serious injuries.

During the investigation, police said they determined a white Chevrolet Malibu occupied by five people was traveling north on 11th Avenue. As the Malibu entered the intersection, a gray GMC Yukon was traveling east on Hume Avenue and entered the intersection at what police said appeared to be a high rate of speed.

Officers said the Yukon collided with the left side of the Chevy Malibu. The driver of the Malibu, identified as 32-year-old Raymond Romero Jr., died on scene, police said.

The four other occupants of the Malibu were transported to various hospitals for their injuries, which were determined to be life-threatening.

After officers arrived, they said they learned one male driver and one male passenger of the Yukon ran away from the scene after the crash. Police said the identities and location of the suspects have not been determined.

If anyone has information on the identities of the two men who left the scene of the crash, they are asked to contact the Hanford Police Department at 585-2540.

Corcoran woman dies after car crashes into power pole

VISALIA — A 19-year-old Corcoran woman died after the car she was riding in crashed into a powerline pole in Tulare County this weekend, according to California Highway Patrol officials.

Just before noon on Saturday, officers from the CHP Visalia area office said they were called out to the area of Avenue 280 east of Road 52 for a reported traffic collision.

During the course of the investigation, officers said they determined 18-year-old Daniel Valencia of Hanford was driving a blue Nissan Sentra westbound on Avenue 280, east of Road 52, in the unincorporated area of Tulare County with the Corcoran woman, who was not wearing a seatbelt, as a passenger.  

For reasons that are still being investigated, officials said Valencia made an unsafe turning movement to the left and drove off the roadway. Valencia continued driving the Nissan on the gravel shoulder and crashed into the powerline pole located on the south side of the road, officers said.

Authorities said the woman died as a result of the impact. Her name has not yet been released pending notification of family.

CHP officials said alcohol or drugs are not believed to be a factor in this collision.