KP and VS board merger and elections

Jalayne Robinson, LMSW

TDCAA Victim Services Director

In 2016, TDCAA’s Long-Range Planning Committee met to set the course for the association over the next five years. One goal was to merge the Key Personnel and Victim Services boards into a single board that had adequate representation from both key personnel and victim assistance coordinators (VACs).
    At November’s KP-VAC Seminar in Houston, members approved (by a vote) the merger, and elections were also held for the East Area (Regions 5 and 6) and South Central Area (Regions 4 and 8). Congratulations to Jessica Saldana (Region 4—KP) of the Nueces County DA’s Office and Sherry Magness (Region 6—VAC) of the Smith County Criminal District Attorney’s Office! They were elected to serve on the new Key Personnel-Victim Services (KP-VS) Board beginning January 1, 2018.
    Two additional representatives (one KP and one VAC representative) will be chosen each year by the president of the TDCAA Board of Directors and the chair of the KP–VS board. These appointments will mean that four board members will be elected and four will be appointed.
    The KP-VS Board prepares and develops training programs for TDCAA seminars. Area representatives serve as a point of contact for their regions. To be eligible for board service, each candidate must have the permission of the elected prosecutor, attend the elections at the KP-VAC Seminar or be appointed, and pay membership dues. If you are interested in training and want to give input on speakers and topics at TDCAA conferences for KP and VACs, please consider running for the board. If you have any questions, please e-mail me at [email protected]

KP-VAC Seminar
The Westin Oaks Galleria in Houston was the venue for a fabulous and dynamic seminar for key personnel and VACs from all across Texas in November 2017. More than 160 members gathered for training geared toward those who work in prosecutor offices. Many thanks to our informative speakers! We appreciate your time and valuable assistance.
    Mark your calendar for next year’s 2018 Key Personnel-Victim Assistance Coordinator Seminar to be held November 7–9, 2018, at the Inn of the Hills in Kerrville.

Suzanne McDaniel Award winner
Melissa Carter, a VAC in the Brazos County District Attorney’s Office, was honored with TDCAA’s Suzanne McDaniel Award for her work on behalf of crime victims at November’s KP-VAC Seminar. Melissa is instrumental in hosting her county’s Every Victim Every Time annual conference. The two-day conference teaches law enforcement officers, prosecutors, medical staff, teachers, social services agencies, mental health professionals, and others valuable information about victim issues related to the criminal justice system. (For more information about Brazos County’s Every Victim Every Time annual conference, see
    The Suzanne McDaniel Award is given each year to a person employed by a county attorney, district attorney, or criminal district attorney’s office and whose job duties involve working directly with victims, and who has demonstrated impeccable service to TDCAA, victim services, and prosecution.
    This year’s winner, Melissa Carter, exemplifies the qualities that were so evident in Suzanne McDaniel herself: advocacy, empathy, and a constant recognition of the rights of crime victims. Congratulations, Melissa!

Oscar Sherrell Award Winner
Kristie Ponzio, office manager of the Kendall County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, was awarded the Oscar Sherrell award for her work on the KP board and for establishing a brand-new prosecutor office in Boerne. The Oscar Sherrell award is given each year to a key personnel member of TDCAA who provides exemplary service to the association and in the field of prosecution.
    Kristie served on the KP board, including as vice chair, in 2015–2016, before she left the Brazos County DA’s Office and moved to Boerne to help newly appointed Criminal District Attorney Nicole Bishop start her office. In 2017, Kristie also worked on a TDCAA subcommittee that helped plan the merger of the KP and VS boards.
    We are so grateful for her help with TDCAA projects, and we know Nicole and Katherine are grateful for Kristie’s hard work and direction on setting up the office. Congratulations, Kristie!

PVAC application deadline
Professional Victim Assistance Coordinator (PVAC) recognition is a voluntary program designed to recognize professionalism in prosecutor-based victim assistance and acknowledge a minimum level of training in the field. Applicants must provide victim assistance through a prosecutor’s office and be a member of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association to be eligible. Other requirements include:
•    either three years’ experience providing direct victim services for a prosecutor’s office or five years’ experience in the victim services field, one of which must be providing prosecutor-based victim assistance.
•    45 hours of training in victim services (which is equivalent to the number of hours in the National Victim Assistance Academy program created by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime). This training must be recognized for CLE, TCOLE, social work, or licensed professional counselor educational credits. It must include at least one workshop on the following topics:
    * prosecutor victim assistance coordinator duties under Chapter 56 of the Code of Criminal Procedure;
    * the rules and application process for Crime Victims’ Compensation;
    * the impact of crime on victims and survivors; and
    * crisis intervention and support counseling.
    (An applicant with 10 years’ experience in direct victim services [five of which must be in a prosecutor’s office] may sign an affidavit stating that the training requirement has been met in lieu of providing copies of training receipts.)
•    five professional references from individuals not related to the applicant. One must be from the elected prosecutor in the jurisdiction where the applicant has been employed, and at least one of the letters must be from someone in a local victim services agency who has worked with the applicant for one year or longer. The remaining three letters can be from other victim services agencies, victims, law enforcement representatives, prosecutors, or other criminal justice professionals who have knowledge of the applicant’s skills and abilities in the field of victim services.
    The deadline for applications is January 31; detailed requirements can be found in the Victim Services tab of

2017 PVAC recipient
Karen Bertoni, a VAC in the Gregg County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, was honored with a PVAC certificate in November. Karen has worked for the DA’s Office for eight years. Congratulations, Karen!

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week
Each April, communities throughout the country observe National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW) by hosting events promoting victims’ rights and honoring crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf. NCVRW will be observed April 8–14, 2018, with a theme of “Expand the Circle: Reach All Victims.” Check out the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) website at for additional information.
    If your community hosts an event, we at The Texas Prosecutor journal would love to publish photos and information about it. Please email me at [email protected] with information and photos of your event.

In-office visits
We at TDCAA realize the majority of VACs are the only people in their office responsible for developing victim services programs and compiling information to send to crime victims as required by Chapter 56 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. We realize VACs may not have anyone locally to turn to for advice and at times could use assistance or moral support. I offer just that sort of help, especially for new VACs.
    This winter, my travels have taken me to Maverick, Freestone, Kendall, and Bosque Counties to assist VACs with in-office consultations. Thanks to each office for allowing TDCAA to support your victim services programs! I thoroughly enjoy my job and realize how nice it is to have someone to turn to when victim services-related questions surface.
    If you are a new VAC and would like to schedule an in-office, one-one-one visit, please e-mail me at [email protected] I am available for inquiries, support, consultations, or group presentations.