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.

The Contra Costa County LAFCO is composed of two members of city councils, two county supervisors, two special district members chosen by their constituencies, and one public member chosen by the other members (see Gov. Code, section 56325).  Members are appointed for four-year terms and can be reappointed.  Commission members exercise independent judgment on behalf of the interests of residents, property owners, and the public as a whole.  Any member appointed on behalf of local governments represents the interests of the public as a whole and not solely the interests of the appointing authority.  In other words, commission members are expected to look beyond their particular constituency, focusing on the general public good within the County.

Based on a review of relevant authorizing legislation, existing LAFCO policies and procedures, Grand Jury reports and responses, and LAFCO actions taken, the Contra Costa County Civil Grand Jury recommends that the Contra Costa County LAFCO adopt a more assertive position utilizing its “watchdog” responsibilities.  Further, the Grand Jury recommends that LAFCO develop policies and procedures permissible under the mandate given to it, to hold local agencies accountable in the multiple areas noted and not only take appropriate action to rectify discrepancies identified but to do so in a much more expeditious fashion than has been the case in the past.

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