Grand Jury Foreman Notifies Supervisors of Mountain Democrat's Inaccuracies [Part one]
A public document received by the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors on July 7, 2014 from the Grand Jury Foreman, Neil Cunningham.
Date: July 7, 2014
El Dorado County 2014 Charter Review Committee do Jim Mitrisin, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors 330 Fair Lane, building "A" Placerville, CA 95667
Re: Charter change is warranted
The recent Grand Jury report recommending changes to the El Dorado County Charter has obviously stirred controversy, which was not unexpected. It was encouraging and commendable to see the Board of Supervisors take a positive and objective approach toward a potential charter change thru their op-ed in last week's newspaper. However, in light of the recent spate of editorials in the Mountain Democrat combined with obviously slanted testimony before your committee two weeks ago, I felt you should at least receive some logical (and accurate) input concerning the Grand Jury's recommended charter changes.
For a number of reasons, not the least of which is improved efficiency and enhanced interdepartmental cooperation, the report recommended that the county adopt charter changes to retain only the elected positions that are state mandated. It is certainly understandable that some individuals currently holding elected positions not mandated by the state constitution would be adverse to any charter change. It is even more understandable that the local newspaper would so vehemently attack the Grand Jury report since the editor has a personal interest and an extremely straightforward well-known bias toward the status quo. One can only hope that each of you recognized the statements given by elected officials at your June 25, 2014 meeting were read from written documents, were all very similar in content and wording, and similar to the editorial appearing in the Mountain Democrat that morning.
Strangely, it is slightly understandable that those individuals characterize the Grand Jury report as being only opinion and lacking evidence; It serves their argument to do so. It is unthinkable that any of them actually believe that, and somewhat bizarre that they expect others, including you, to believe it as well.
The Grand Jury does not express opinions, they present findings based on testimony and evidence. There was more than enough testimony and evidence to support the Grand Jury's conclusions. But all testimony and evidence is confidential and it is the Grand Jury's responsibility to keep it that way. It's incomprehensible that any county elected official does not know the law governing Grand Jury proceedings. California Penal Code §929 provides "... the name of any person, or facts that lead to the identity of any person who provided information to the grand jury, shall not be released." Further, 86 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 101 (2003) prohibits grand jury witnesses from disclosing anything learned during their appearance including testimony given. Those preclude providing that ethereal evidence construed as lacking. They are intended to ensure the anonymity of witnesses and encourage open and honest testimony. Interestingly, these laws apply equally to everyone appearing before a Grand Jury, including media editors and county elected or appointed officials. That which has been referred to as only opinion is, in reality, a thorough and carefully conducted investigation culminating in well thought out and realistic findings and recommendations. It should be recognized and considered by the Charter Review Committee and Board of Supervisors in that regard.
Ironically, two recent editorials in the Mountain Democrat about the Report are published under the banner OPINION and contain no evidence. However, they do include large scale unfounded speculations offered as fact constantly repeated to emphasize the appearance of fact.
Contrary to some opinions stated at your last meeting and in the Mountain Democrat, the Grand Jury did not recommend charter changes that would reduce the authority of the Board of Supervisors, quite the contrary. Any management efficiency expert and proven management practice dictates that when staff is allowed to bypass their immediate supervisor or manager to achieve personal objectives, efficiency and teamwork are often lost. The Grand Jury found that to be the case, uncovering significant management interaction and decision making between individual members of the Board of Supervisors and department heads or staff that report to the CAO. This poor management practice is effectively encouraged by the charter language. The Grand Jury's charter recommendations are simply to clarify the chain of command to ensure that all county entities from the Board of Supervisors to the CAO to department heads and staff understand the importance of maintaining that chain of command for maximum efficiency and control.
California Penal Code § 928 empowers the Grand Jury to investigate the needs of all county offices, "...including the abolition or creation of offices..." and "...the method or system of performing the duties of, the several offices." It is clear from the Grand Jury report that in their review of the current El Dorado County financial management structure, as well as issues surrounding the lack of inter-departmental cooperation, personnel conflicts and the overall climate that adversely affects efficiency, a change is needed. Obviously, the Grand Jury had reason to believe that there would be improved efficiency and employee moral as well as a significant savings of taxpayer money by changing the elected positions to appointed, especially the two top finance officers; Auditor-Controller & Treasurer-Tax Collector.
Although the charter change report focused on the situation in El Dorado County the Grand Jury did inquire into the status and recent actions of other California counties. Time constraints did not allow using that data in any report. However, it is public record and not confidential. A number of counties have combined the functions of Auditor/Controller & Treasures/Tax Collector under a single Director of Finance in recent years. They report improved efficiencies, better service, increased cross-training and promotion opportunities for staff. Combining the jobs of the two top finance officers under a single Chief Financial Officer or Director of Finance can produce significant savings of taxpayer money. The Charter Review Committee should research information from other counties that have made the change.
The Grand Jury found that the current structure has resulted in some significant inter-departmental conflicts and employee moral issues due to the total independence of elected officials...