Reflections On Report 1213 "Financial Transparency with Meaning"

Report 1213, “Financial Transparency with Meaning” was of interest to me because it attempts to discuss financial transparency with regard to city finances for all the cities of Contra Costa County.   City finances are a complex and broad subject to try and address in a grand jury report, and I looked to see what I could glean from the responses to the findings and recommendations.


Contra Costa Times Article: Contra Costa County Grand Jury Finds Disparities In School Solar Projects

The Grand Jury Report that triggered this news article is available here. An excerpt of the full article (available here) follows:

School districts throughout Contra Costa County have turned to solar energy to reduce utility costs and generate revenues through credits or rebates.
But in a recently released report, the Contra Costa County grand jury found a wide disparity in how districts approached projects, estimated costs and savings, planned for future expenses, monitored production and reported the costs and savings to the public.


Grand Jury Report: Assessing Fiscal Risk

The Grand Jury has issued a report (available here) suggesting ways to reduce fiscal risk in the County's governmental bodies.

Contra Costa County (“County”), its cities, school districts and  other special districts (collectively “County Organizations”) have an obligation to establish and maintain a proper system of  fiscal controls (“Internal Controls”), including financial and physical oversight, in order to safeguard the public assets.  Any financial loss or additional expenditure as a result of lack of oversight is never acceptable.


Grand Jury Report: Contra Costa Detention Facilities

The Contra Costa Grand Jury has issued a report (available here) on the County's adult and juvenile detention  facilities.

The Contra Costa Civil Grand Jury is required by California Penal Code 919(b) to conduct inspections of detention facilities in Contra Costa County (County).  In addition, California Penal Code Section 925 allows the Grand Jury to investigate the operations of the County’s juvenile holding and detention facilities, and the Probation Department.  The 2012-2013 Contra Costa Civil Grand Jury  inspected, received thorough tours of the facilities, and interviewed staff at the adult detention facilities in Martinez, West County and Marsh Creek and both juvenile facilities --  John A. Davis Juvenile Hall (Juvenile Hall) and Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Center (Boys’ Ranch).

The Grand Jury found the Contra Costa County detention facilities, both adult and juvenile, to be well-managed and well-maintained by staff who conducted themselves professionally and courteously.  There were, however, a number of issues of sufficient concern to warrant comment and recommendations for correction.


Grand Jury Report: Solar Energy Projects In School Districts

The Contra Costa Grand Jury has issued a report (available here) suggesting ways that school districts can achieve their goals for current and future solar energy projects.

Alternative and renewable energy is being promoted as a way to conserve resources and protect the environment. The State of California and the federal government are promoting the use of solar energy by providing rebates and incentives for those who install solar energy systems. Certain school districts in Contra Costa County have been installing solar energy systems as a way to produce clean energy for their power needs, save money for the district and provide educational opportunities about renewable energy for their students. The Grand Jury evaluated solar energy systems in Martinez Unified School District, Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Pittsburg Unified School District, San Ramon Valley Unified School District and Contra Costa Community College District.


Grand Jury Report: Encouraging Citizens To Apply For Grand Jury Service

The Grand Jury has issued a report (available here) suggesting ways to increase Grand Jury applicants from historically under represented areas of Contra Costa County:

The Contra Costa County Grand Jury is not a part of County government, nor is it a part of any city or special district governing body. The Grand Jury is a part of the State of California’s court system.  The Grand Jury has no oversight responsibility related to any activity or function carried out by the Court. Specifically, the Grand Jury cannot write reports and make recommendations related to how the Court chooses to administer any aspect of the Grand Jury process. That process includes activities related to (a) recruiting potential jurors, (b) evaluating applications received from potential jurors, (c) interviewing applicants, and (d) the final selection of jurors for service.


Grand Jury Report: Contra Costa County Healthcare

The Grand Jury has issued a report (available here) encouraging Contra Costa County to pursue partnerships with the private sector to meet the surging demand for healthcare.  

This report concerns the County entering into partnerships with other healthcare providers in the County as a means of meeting the surge in healthcare demand from the Affordable Care Act.  Final implementation of the Affordable Care Act begins January 1, 2014.  This presents both a challenge and an opportunity to develop a comprehensive plan for an integrated healthcare delivery system in Contra Costa County.  With federal healthcare reform, many more county residents will become eligible for insurance, including Medi-Cal.  It is estimated that over 40,000 will remain uninsured.  The increase in demand will further strain a county system that currently lacks the capacity to adequately serve the vulnerable population in our county.


Grand Jury Report: EMS and Fire Services

The Contra Costa Grand Jury has issued a report (available here) urging all stakeholders to collaborate to solve our County's issues with emergency medical and fire services:

Confronted with an unwillingness on the part of citizens to vote for ballot initiatives to increase funding to support current fire protection and emergency response service models, the Board of Supervisors of Contra Costa County has taken an important step in identifying new, alternative delivery models that potentially hold the promise, if implemented, for greatly improved efficiency and better alignment with budgetary constraints.


Grand Jury Report: Getting To Clean Water In Contra Costa County

The Contra Costa Grand Jury has issued a report (available here) that questions the direction, effectiveness, and financial impact of the County's Clean Water Program, especially considering the failure of Prop 218, the 2012 Clean Water Initiative:  

The Contra Costa Clean Water Program (CCCWP) is characterized by an inability among the stakeholder organizations to reach agreement regarding exactly what they are trying to accomplish, in what manner, in what period of time, and the consequences of failing to do so. Stakeholders include CCCWP management and Permittees, empowered regulatory bodies, and interested activist community groups. They have different opinions and perspectives of what is important, what should or should not be prioritized, what is urgent, what quantifiable indicators should be used to gauge progress and compliance and what is the real exposure for non-compliance. The result is a stream of public communication and comment that is, at best, contradictory and, at worst, misleading. As a starting point, there needs to be constructive dialogue between each of the Permittees and the appropriate regulatory authorities.


Grand Jury Report: Healthcare Insurance Waivers

The Grand Jury has issued a report (available here) recommending that the County save money by allowing employees to opt out of healthcare coverage:

Contra Costa County (County) offers a number of healthcare insurance plans to its employees. Permanent employees regularly scheduled to work twenty or more hours per week are required to participate in one of the plans which the County offers. Both the employee and the County pay a portion of the premium cost for the plan chosen by the employee. In those cases where an employee has access to alternative healthcare, the County and the employee would both financially benefit by allowing the employee to waive, or opt-out of, County-provided healthcare coverage. Currently, the County does not offer such waivers to its employees.


Contra Costa Times Editorial Supports Grand Jury Report On LAFCO

In an editorial published in today's paper, the Contra Costa Times supports the Grand Jury's Report on LAFCO (available here).   The editorial follows:

In 1963, California's projected explosive growth caused the Legislature to create Local Agency Formation Commissions in each county to help coordinate the coming tsunami of both people and governments while protecting agriculture and open space. 

Then, 21 years later, the Legislature wisely added the authority to dissolve or consolidate local governmental districts that had grown outdated or obsolete. Six years after that, lawmakers added the performing of "Municipal Service Reports," a move often portrayed as making LAFCOs the local government watchdog.

But, according to a recently released grand jury report, Contra Costa's LAFCO in the past has more resembled a sleepy hound curled up on the couch than a watchdog.


Grand Jury Issues Report: LAFCO Should Be More Assertive

An extract of the report, available here, follows:

Local Agency Formation Commissions (LAFCOs) have been in existence since 1963 when the California Legislature created them.  Originally designed to coordinate the timely development of local government agencies and their services while protecting agricultural and open-space resources, their duties were expanded in 1994 to encompass the authority to initiate proposals that include the dissolution or consolidation of special districts or the merging of existing subsidiary districts. In 2000, the responsibility to perform Municipal Services Reviews (MSRs) focused on municipal services was added.  Portrayed by some as the “watchdog” of local governmental agencies, LAFCOs have broad authority which includes developing and determining Spheres of Influence (SOIs), and examining governance, fiscal accountability and sustainability, operational efficiency and effectiveness, and service delivery.


Grand Jury Issues Report: Cities Should Consider Outsourcing

An excerpt of the report, available here, follows:

Difficult economic conditions present significant constraints on revenue available for city operations at a time when there continues to be a strong need for services in many communities. Continuation of traditional methods for balancing revenue available for the cost of those services required may no longer be acceptable. City officials should begin to challenge the operational status quo and explore any and all alternative approaches, such as outsourcing, that present opportunities for reducing costs without jeopardizing the quality and scope of services provided. 


Time for Mt. Diablo school board to fire its top leaders

According to the Contra Costa Times:   

Mt. Diablo school district trustees should replace their ethically challenged top leaders, Superintendent Steve Lawrence and General Counsel Greg Rolen.

For three years now, Lawrence has led the district down a reckless financial path, politicizing his job and alienating the community. Meanwhile, Rolen erected a wall of secrecy, denying public access to basic records, including those regarding his own compensation.

Lawrence and Rolen must go. 

Read more here.


Responses to 2012 Grand Jury Reports Available

The governing boards and elected officials that were addressed in 2012's Grand Jury reports must respond to findings (conclusions) and recommendations.  Those responses  have been summarized in 2013's Grand Jury Compliance Report, available here.


Contra Costa pension board lowers fund's investment income projections

Following a statewide trend, the Contra Costa County Employees Retirement Association on Wednesday lowered its expectations on how much the $5 billion pension fund will earn from its holdings such as stocks, bonds and real estate.

The trustees reduced the pension fund's annual assumed rate of return by one half a percentage point from 7.75 percent to 7.25 percent.

As a result, it and Orange County now have the lowest rates in the state among the 19 counties with independent retirement systems.

Read more here.


Contra Costa dumps plan for call center, 214 new jobs

Unable to reach a deal with its labor unions, Contra Costa County has abandoned plans to operate a new state health insurance exchange call center, a move that will cost 214 new county jobs.

Read details here.


Contra Costa seeks pension board candidates

Contra Costa residents with a business, pension fund investment or banking background are being sought for an at-large seat on the Contra Costa County Employees' Retirement Association board of trustees.

 The filing deadline is 5 p.m. April 5.

Read the full article, and details of how to apply, here. 


Leadership crisis mounts at Contra Costa fire district

This  Contra Costa Times editorial says:

Contra Costa supervisors, who serve as directors of the county's largest fire district, seem to be running out of patience with Chief Daryl Louder. The frustration led to a public dressing down Tuesday the likes of which we haven't seen in decades.

We can only wonder what took so long. It was justified.


Next Contra Costa registrar of voters will be former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg

The board of supervisors unanimously chose Canciamilla over the retiring incumbent's brother and Pleasant Hill Councilman Jack Weir late Tuesday after public interviews with both men.

Details here. 


County Administrator May Stay

According to this article, David Twa may stay as County Administrator:  

Speaking of County Administrator David Twa, it looks like he will be sticking around.


Applicants for Grand Jury Sought

Application Deadline is Friday, April 12, 2013 

The Contra Costa County Superior Court is accepting applications for Civil Grand Jury Service for the fiscal year 2013-2014 term.


Grand Jury FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)

How do I apply?  
  • Fill out the application here.   Mail it to the address on the bottom of the form.   

 What happens next?
  • Applications are screened.
  • Those selected will be scheduled for an interview with a Superior Court Judge.
  • The Judges will recommend 30 individuals to serve on the Grand Jury, selecting citizens from each supervisorial district.

CGJA Calendar