Working with kids
The San Mateo Sheriff's Activities League pairs deputies with kids throughout hte county in an effort to build rapport. Photo courtesy SAL

The executive director of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Activities League resigned this month after being placed on administrative leave in February. Barbara Bonilla was placed on administrative leave after a bookkeeper noticed irregularities in financial records related to the group’s account, according to San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lt. Stephanie Josephson.

There is an active investigation underway by the California Attorney General Office to determine if there is any criminal activity, she said. Since being placed on administrative leave on Feb. 10, Bonilla has resigned and is no longer affiliated with the Activities League, county sources say. It is not clear whether she is the focus of the Attorney General’s investigation.

The Activities League is a nonprofit organization started in 1997 when former Sheriff and current county Supervisor Don Horsley aimed to start a program to strengthen the relationships between youth, communities and law enforcement. The program started serving 1,000 kids a year in the North Fair Oaks area near Redwood City. It’s since expanded to 12 locations, including the Coastside, and serves more than 11,000 youth per year countywide, according to SAL’s website.

The SAL is active on the Coastside, sponsoring reading groups, academic tutoring, women’s empowerment groups and gentlemen mentoring groups among other activities.

The Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Bureau recently honored one of the deputies who run the programming for SAL in Half Moon Bay as “Role Model of the Year.”

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe is among 15 people on the group’s board of directors. He said that he is aware the Attorney General’s investigation but did not comment further. He recused himself from participating in any investigation because of his affiliation with the Activities League.

Horsley said he was only aware that Bonilla was on administrative leave. He said she did a remarkable job serving as executive director.

“I think the SAL program run by the Sheriff’s Office is one of the best groups for young people in the county,” he said.

Bonilla is a member of the Redwood City Rotary Club and also served as Sheriff Carlos Bolanos campaign manager in 2018. Bolanos said he has known Bonilla for years and considered her a friend. He added that he expected the Attorney General to complete its report within three weeks and that it would inform prosecutors on whether charges would be filed in the case.

Calls to the Attorney General were not immediately returned.

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