Saturday, December 26, 2009

Green-Energy Agency's Response to Critical Marin County Grand Jury Report: Screw You Guys, We're Goin' Home.

By Peter Jamison in Business, Environment, Government, Politics, Science and Tech
Thu., Dec. 24 2009 @ 12:24PM
Marin County's civil grand jury caused an uproar in the ranks of Bay Area eco-activists earlier this month when it released a scathing report on a proposed overhaul of the county's energy policy. The grand jury's panning of Marin Clean Energy, a plan to provide many areas of the county with government-purchased green electricity, caused no end of harrumphing among public-power advocates in Marin and San Francisco, where city officials are moving ahead with a similar plan called CleanPowerSF.

Storm clouds gather

​For those who don't make a habit of following local eco-politics, both Marin Clean Energy and CleanPowerSF are so-called community choice aggregation (CCA) programs. The programs allow government bodies to automatically enroll their citizens -- without prior consent, though they may later opt out, perhaps at a fee -- as customers of a new power provider selected by government officials. The basic point is to break the monopoly of existing utilities -- in our own case, PG&E -- in favor of providers willing to deliver cheaper or cleaner energy.

The Marin civil grand jury found a lot to criticize in this venture, despite its noble intentions. Among the jury's findings were that the mass enrollment of county citizens in the program violated basic principles of consumer protection and government transparency; that the creation of a new government bureaucracy to administer a massive experiment in power procurement is wrongheaded at a time when basic municipal services are shrinking because of anemic local budgets; and that the program's goal of developing local sources of renewable power was unrealistic in a county where draconian regulations on development cause some people to struggle for years to build a three-bedroom house.

This week we had a chance to review the Marin Energy Authority's official, written response to the grand jury's criticism. It looks like MEA officials could have saved themselves a lot of time and paper by simply lifting their thumbs to their noses.

The MEA rejected more than half of the grand jury's findings and refused to implement a single one of its recommendations. Some of its arguments -- including the point that the grand jury relied in its assessment on an outdated business plan -- are well taken. Others are spurious. For example: "The Marin Energy Authority (MEA) is a new government agency, but is not a 'new level of government.'"

To many, all this probably sounds boring and obscure. But the goings-on in Marin are being closely watched by public-power ideologues and their allies in San Francisco government, who see CCA as a backdoor means to their holy grail: booting PG&E off the San Francisco peninsula once and for all. (These activists also assert that PG&E's role in the production of the grand jury report is suspicious, noting that the company apparently obtained a copy of the report before it was released to the public.)

As it happens, the Marin civil grand jury is only the latest in a string of impartial critics to voice serious doubts about CCA, including the San Francisco controller's office and a number of independent-minded economists and energy experts. It also bears noting that the doubts about Marin are a particularly significant bellwether for the future of CCA in San Francisco, since our neighbors to the north are undertaking their program in far more promising conditions.

Marin is a fabulously rich county with a ratepayer base consisting for the most part of individual homeowners. That means the risk of a CCA foundering because of a few major corporate or industrial customers pulling out -- a distinct possibility in San Francisco -- is minimized.

Simply put: If it can't work there, it probably can't work here.

Three Hughson (Stanislaus County) councilmen accused of wrongdoing

Posted: 12/24/2009 12:40:15 PM PST
Updated: 12/24/2009 12:40:16 PM PST

HUGHSON, Calif.—A grand jury is calling for the resignation or removal of three councilmen in the San Joaquin Valley city of Hughson accused of violating state law.

The Stanislaus County jury's report, published Tuesday, doesn't name the councilmen. But the Modesto Bee reports that it includes details about their previous experience indicating they are Thom Crowder, Doug Humphreys and Ben Manley.

It says the three men discussed city business through e-mails in violation of a state open meetings law. It also accuses Crowder of ethics violations, and says they tried to orchestrate the firing of three city administrators since June.

Crowder denies the accusations and says he won't resign. Humphreys and Manley could not be reached for comment.

The grand jury's recommendations are not legally binding.

Monterey County sheriff's deputies focus of excessive force claims

Grand jury asked to investigate incidents in Castroville
BY SUNITA VIJAYAN • • December 26, 2009

The North Monterey County Chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens wants the grand jury to investigate its claims of excessive force being used by Sheriff's deputies.

The request to the grand jury was made this week before a press conference scheduled for today to discuss LULAC's complaints against the deputies and members of the county joint gang task.

The press conference is set for 11 a.m. today at the Castroville Library Plaza, 11160 Speegle St. A LULAC official said the group also would provide details of a complaint filed against the Sheriff's Office with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The excessive-force allegations are contained in a Nov. 20 formal complaint filed at the Sheriff's Office on behalf of three Castroville residents. LULAC accuses the county joint gang task force and deputies of using excessive force, child endangerment and elder abuse during Operation Disrupt in June.

In a Dec. 19 letter to county grand jury foreman Darlene Billstron, LULAC says: "It could have been tragic for the 80-year-old lady who was awaken at 3:45 a.m. by three men dressed in black."

The letter, sent by LULAC criminal justice representative Crescencio Padilla, continues:

"They were pointing the weapons at her and her son. They were handcuffed together and were taken to the living room. She saw her son, Pablo Gutierrez, on the floor. One officer had his foot over his face and two others were pointing their weapons at him. Pablo kept saying, `What do you want?' The officer kept telling him to shut up."

Sheriff's Cmdr. Mike Richards said the signed complaint forms of the three residents mentioned in the complaint have been received. Few details were available because the case is ongoing, Richards said.

"We investigate every allegation efficiently, thoroughly and competently," he said.

Under the law, the Sheriff's Office has up to a year to investigate such complaints.

The Monterey County Superior Court said it is entirely "up to the discretion" of the civil grand jury to decide whether to look into the complaints.

The formal complaints come more than two years after residents gathered at a pair of community meetings to talk about alleged racial profiling by sheriff's deputies and five months after LULAC held a joint press conference with the law enforcement agency urging witness cooperation following a series of gang-motivated shootings.

Padilla said today's news conference stems from the frustration created by the inaction of the Sheriff's Office since the joint news conference in June.

"We were trying to cooperate and then what happened?" said Padilla. "When we started cooperating [along] with the community, they started harassing the community. How do they expect the community to help when [the residents] are harassed?"

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Marin county grand jury power report didn't deserve such a rude reception

By Brad Breithaupt
Posted: 12/15/2009 06:07:12 PM PST

I HAVE READ dozens of reports by Marin's civil grand juries. While I don't always agree with their findings and recommendations - or the issues they decide to tackle - I have seen very few that I ever would characterize as a "hit piece."

That's what Supervisor Charles McGlashan, whose longstanding political project was dissected in the grand jury's latest report, called the 23-page summation on Marin's controversial green power plan.

In fact, he blasted the report, calling it "a blatant hit piece."

No one would expect McGlashan, one of the power plan's primary architects, to agree with the report, but the document doesn't deserve his harsh dismissal.

But that's the way politics are played today. If you don't agree with someone, you don't debate them - you discredit their integrity. You don't disagree with them - you attack their credibility.

As Marin draws closer to deciding whether to get into the power business, the report deserves better. Launching Marin Clean Energy is a big move in uncertain times.

The grand jury, 19 civic-minded residents who spend a year investigating local issues, recommends officials "pull the plug" on the plan, concluding that it is potentially too expensive and risky for our local government.

The grand jury's report concludes that local politicians could do more to reduce Marin's carbon footprint by working with, rather than against, PG&E to bolster its clean-energy portfolio for local ratepayers.

The report was released as cities and the county are deciding whether to continue their participation in launching the clean power plan - which includes automatically signing up local businesses and residents as ratepayers for Marin-procured electricity rather than PG&E's.

The grand jury's timing was both right and responsible.

There's no law that says the panel's recommendations must be followed, but they shouldn't be ignored or dismissed.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Select Wright Library supporters approach Ventura County Grand Jury

Although many misconceptions were clarified about the facility’s funding, those advocating reopening the historic library want jurors to investigate claims

By Paul Sisolak 12/10/2009

After a sit-in last week failed to reverse the impending closure of Ventura’s struggling H.P. Wright Library, a devoted group of residents are now taking their cause to the Grand Jury.

Claiming, among other allegations, that city officials shut down the beloved library though they had enough funds to keep it open, at least a dozen complaints have already been submitted to the Ventura County Grand Jury, according to Maili Halme Brocke.

Brocke, a Ventura resident, is leading the campaign and wants the Grand Jury to head an investigation into Ventura City Hall. Brocke says several people involved with crafting the city’s budget deliberately withheld information proving that there was enough surplus money to keep the library open for business. The Wright was closed on Nov. 30.

“There’s a whole lot of wrongdoing because of a web of lies,” Brocke says.

In her own jury filing, Brocke lists no less than nine issues she hopes jurors will examine. Among them, she charges that city staff falsified public documents, omitted key information from budget talks, and violated the public meetings

Brown Act so that it would appear there wasn’t the funding necessary to keep the library open.

Most notable in her argument is the discovery of numbers Brocke maintains she found in the hidden cells of an Excel spreadsheet downloaded from the City of Ventura’s Web site. Those statistics, she said, revealed that the city has about $683,436 in surplus money for the Wright Library; only $650,000, according to Brocke in a letter to the editor last month, is needed to run the building.

According to Jackie Griffin, the county’s libraries director, as of this month, it costs about $280,000 to operate Wright Library, including a total of eight full- and part-time employees.

Brocke’s biggest point of contention is that the available surplus funds are gained from a wealth of property taxes collected from the eastern end of Ventura, where the library is located near Ventura College. That money — more than $1.2 million in tax gains — was available for use, yet city officials, she says, asserted throughout the current fiscal year that funding for the Wright, the smallest of Ventura’s libraries, had run out.

Brocke names five people that she’d like the Grand Jury to investigate, including Griffin and newly appointed Ventura Mayor Bill Fulton.

She says Fulton, who represents Ventura on the county’s Library Services Commission, was in the wrong for being one of several City Council members to ask residents to vote for Measure A, even though revenues from the proposed half-percent sales tax measure could not legally be devoted to saving the library.

It was hoped that the ballot measure alone, which failed at the polls last month, would draw in an estimated $500,000 annually alone for the library, a last-ditch effort at saving the building financially.

However, that portion of Brocke’s claim conflicts with Measure A, which was endorsed by the Reporter, as the measure was presented as a general tax, which means that the initiative could not promise to pay for specific things, only suggest.

“It’s not illegal,” Fulton said this week. “It was up to the voters if they believed us or not. We made it pretty clear why we made the measure to be four years long: to coincide with the (four-year) terms of the council members.”

According to Griffin, 85 percent of Ventura’s libraries’ funding comes from property taxes; this past year, that amounted to $2 million divided across all of Ventura and its libraries, including Wright, based on priorities like hours of operation. Property tax monies raised in the area near Wright, for example, are not devoted strictly to that library.

“You can argue that Wright better serves East Ventura and the majority (of property taxes) should be given to Wright, but there is no separate service area,” Fulton said.

Fulton had most recently defended Griffin against other allegations by Brocke, in a letter published last week in the Reporter. Griffin said the closure of the Wright was inevitable; the library, she said, had been in trouble for a long time.

“It’s really the truth,” she says. “Fifteen years the library has been rescued in one way or another. It’s just a terrible economic time that we couldn’t save it one way or another. This is an economic situation that is just untenable.”

Griffin continued, “I think it’s really wonderful people care so much for their libraries. I’d rather have them be upset about it than not care. There’s also a need to personalize things — that there’s some person or entity causing this thing — rather than realize the Wright Library has been in trouble since 1993.”

State financial support for libraries in California has diminished greatly. According to Berta Steele, vice president of the Friends of the San Buenaventura Library group, in 2001 the Ventura County library system received more than $1 million in state funding. Compare that to 2009, when it received a fraction of the money at just $149,000.

During the Measure A campaign, the Friends embarked on a final fundraising campaign led by Steele to save the Wright, raising $120,000.

“We were able to keep the library open through November,” she said. “That was five months we bought.”

The Friends’ efforts to save the Wright also meant that other funds, for new book purchases and the like for Ventura’s two other libraries — E.P. Foster and Avenue — were diverted.

“We neglected all of the Ventura libraries in our efforts to keep Wright open,” said Friends President Will Thompson.
When Measure A went to ballots last month, some members of the Friends of the Library did not vote for it, he said.
Although the Wright Library is closed, the building and its books inside won’t be going anywhere. Fulton said the city, which owns the building, will continue to hold a lease on the property, owned by Ventura College, until 2015. During that time, the library could be used for storage of equipment and books.

Thompson hopes that within the next five years a special, more specific parcel tax could be implemented to help reopen the Wright. A $15 tax imposed on owners of 34,000 parcels in the city of Ventura, he said, could raise more than $500,000.

According to Mayor Fulton, in 1995 city officials placed a special parcel tax to benefit libraries on ballots. The tax, estimated to raise $1 million a year at $35 a parcel, needed a two-thirds vote. It failed with Ventura voters, receiving only 53 percent.

Steele said she is happy that Brocke’s campaign so zealously supports the future of libraries in Ventura. But the Friends of the Library, she noted, does not agree with the Grand Jury appeal, and takes no stance in the matter.

“I wish them the best. I certainly would like to see the library open,” Steele said. “I, however, don’t agree with the tactics and the smear campaign or blaming the messenger. I don’t agree with insinuations without factual backup. I don’t agree with attacks on people who are trying their darnedest to keep things working, with a diminishing amount of money. We tried, we did our best.”

It was unknown by deadline if the Grand Jury would be taking Brocke’s requests into consideration. Robert Denton, an assistant district attorney for Ventura County, explained that it’s rarely divulged what grand jurors are investigating until after their results are released publicly.

Brocke told the Reporter in an e-mail from last month that two people — one, a parent from Ojai — asked her to help organize the effort to save the Wright. She’s since set up an e-mail account,, where people interested in the Wright campaign can write for information.

“I personally don’t even use Wright. I use Oxnard and Camarillo (libraries),” she said. “It’s odd that I’m the crusader behind Wright when I don’t even use it. It’s just that I don’t like people being misled and want to know the truth of what’s happening.”

Plumas Supervisors respond to Grand Jury Report

Joshua Sebold
Staff Writer

The Board of Supervisors approved a response to the 2008–09 Grand Jury report drafted by County Counsel James Reichle at a Tuesday, Dec. 2, meeting.

The response addressed basic board functions, the county jail, the courthouse annex, the alcohol and drug department closure, and litigation involving the county.

Board procedures

The response began by addressing the section of the report that dealt with the basic operations of the board.

The Grand Jury’s first recommendation was for contact information for each supervisor to be printed in the newspaper and for the board to hold quarterly townhall meetings to increase public accessibility to the board.

The board agreed to request the newspaper publish its contact information in the same area it provides information about contacting legislative representatives. (At press time, Feather Publishing had not yet received such a request.)

On the issue of townhalls, the response indicated they were best attended when there was an issue “of great public interest.”

Because of that, the board indicated “it is best to allow each supervisor to determine when to call such meetings in his or her district.”

The Grand Jury reported, “We found not all supervisors were familiar with the heads of the departments under their supervision.”

The response argued the supervisors “are familiar with heads of departments directly through appearances at board meetings, performance evaluations and, indirectly, through the county administrative officer.”

Finally, the grand jury recommended the board hold quarterly meetings with all department heads to discuss personnel issues, department needs, budget requirements and similar topics.

The response disagreed completely with the suggestion.

“The Brown Act prohibits public discussion of personnel issues and would require individual closed sessions with each department head.

“Any public meeting of all department heads might be legally possible in a workshop setting, but this would prevent any action on the board’s part and would inhibit the candor required for good information exchange.”

The jail

The board’s response acknowledged some of the supervisors hadn’t toured the jail in recent years and agreed with the Grand Jury recommendation that they make visits “to stay informed on current conditions.”

As in previous years, the Grand Jury argued the jail was in very poor condition and unsafe for officers and inmates; it also observed the jail and exercise yard are next to the public road into the transfer facility.

The supervisors responded, “The Plumas County jail is regularly inspected by the State Department of Corrections to assure compliance with all state regulations designed to insure inmate, community and officer safety.”

“Only jails that meet these standards are allowed to operate.

“The board has sought and will continue to aggressively seek funding for an improved or new jail but can make no commitment as to when improvements could be funded.”

The board did agree with the Grand Jury’s recommendation to have the Corrections Planning Committee meet to address issues raised by the Grand Jury report within the next three months.

Courthouse Annex

The grand jury recommended the supervisors pursue retrofitting, making the existing building usable or selling it in the future when faced with situations like the courthouse annex replacement.

The board responded it did analyze retrofitting and found it not feasible.

It added it wasn’t possible to sell an older building that housed county employees before constructing a new one without adding the cost of temporary quarters.

The response also said “the board has no immediate plans for additional construction and feels that the comments in this recommendation are well taken.”

The Grand Jury also recommended the board attempt to restructure mortgage payments on the annex so they wouldn’t be due at the time of the year when the county has the lowest cash flow in the general fund.

The response indicated the county made serious efforts to restructure the payments but couldn’t accomplish that feat in the current economic climate.

The Grand Jury report went on to suggest the board consult experts on geothermal heating to repair the annex’s system.

The board responded engineers had designed a practical fix for certain parts of the building that had experienced problems and it was expected to be fully functional before winter.

Finally, addressing empty space in the building, the Grand Jury recommended the county advertise for other tenants, move other county departments into the building or allow the community to use it.

The response said the annex was designed to provide office space for governmental agencies and wasn’t suited to other uses.

It added the county was negotiating with other agencies to rent space, that there were many confidential files stored in the building, making it a poor choice for public use.

As far as moving other departments, the board argued the idea “does not appear practical as it would be unlikely to produce more rentable space and there are no likely candidates.”

Alcohol and Drug closure

The only finding from the Grand Jury on this topic was that the board should have been clearer in explaining the reasons for closing the department.

The BOS responded “because of pending litigation and claims by or on behalf of former Alcohol and Drug employees that involve the closing of the department, on advice of County Counsel and in part in reliance on the supervisors’ deliberative privilege, the board will make no comment on these findings and recommendations.”


The Grand Jury argued the departments it reviewed didn’t have policies or procedures and each county department should have them.

The board responded that many departments did have them and the county was hoping to provide complete county policies and procedures online sometime in the future.

The Grand Jury also found many of the job descriptions it reviewed were from the mid- to late-90s and suggested “accurate and timely job descriptions should be immediately developed for every level of county employee.”

The board retorted, “The county does not have the resources to rewrite all of its job descriptions and there is no need to do so since a job description sets the nature of the job, and the precise employee responsibilities are assigned by the department head within those limits.”

“If there are job descriptions that no longer accurately reflect the nature of an employee’s work these will be considered on a case-by-case basis.”

Finally, the Grand Jury recommended the county provide risk management training to all county employees.

The board responded the county recently joined a new insurance fund that has “a strong safety and loss prevention program.”

“The board will utilize these resources to improve safe and effective department operations.”

Law and Justice

The Grand Jury report included a small section on law enforcement that addressed several issues, but most notably commented the sheriff’s department was understaffed and the emergency communication system was inadequate.

The section requested the Board of Supervisors respond to those concerns as well.

The supervisors’ response document did not address that section.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Victorville councilman calls for audit amid Grand Jury probe

Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/08/2009 06:50:37 PM PST
Updated: 12/08/2009 07:02:05 PM PST

VICTORVILLE - City Councilman Ryan McEachron has called for a forensic audit of all city contracts, payroll and accounting records amid an ongoing Grand Jury investigation into the city's business practices.

Since being elected to the City Council last November, McEachron said he's been troubled by a barrage of complaints from citizens alleging the city is corrupt and engaged in an incestuous relationship with energy magnate William Buck Johns, president of Newport Beach-based Inland Energy, Inc.

Johns has been instrumental in the entitlement and development of the Victorville 1 (VV1) power plant at the Southern California Logistics Airport and several other power plant projects in the High Desert.

"There's been a lot of concern with respect to the relationship the city has with (William) Buck Johns and his company Inland Energy," said McEachron, who called for the audit at the Dec. 1 Council meeting. "But I think the bigger and overarching issue that caused me to request this audit is all the various contracts that we entered into without council approval and changes to policy."

He said his request will be agendized and go before the City Council in January for a vote.

In April, the Grand Jury interviewed a half dozen elected and appointed city officials, inquiring about the city's financial situation and at least three verbal or handshake agreements former City Manager Jon B. Roberts made with contractors.

"They did a lot of handshaking," said Burrel Woodring, who served as foreman for the 2008-2009 Grand Jury.

Roberts, who is now the city manager in Steamboat Springs, Co., couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

When last year's Grand Jury disbanded in June, a special Grand Jury panel was formed to pick up the investigation where the previous Grand Jury left off.

"It looks like they're making a major project out of it," Woodring said. "We considered it something that should be followed through."

Among the contracts Roberts helped negotiate was the VV1 contract with Johns' Inland Energy.

Miguel Gonzalez, spokesman for Inland Energy, believes McEachron isn't so much concerned over the city's relationship with Johns as he is the city's business practices.

He said McEachron is highly supportive of the city's joint effort with Inland Energy on its EB-5 program, aimed at securing millions of dollars from foreign investors in Asia for development projects in the city, including a Dr. Pepper Snapple bottling plant. In exchange, investors receive green cards and a five-percent return on their investment over a five-year period.

Gonzalez said Johns has been neither interviewed nor subpoenaed by the Grand Jury.

"I can tell you unequivocally that Mr. Johns has not been contacted, and neither has he been subpoenaed by any Grand Jury," Gonzalez said.

In the last month, Grand Jury members interviewed all five City Council members, Economic Development Director Keith Metzler and City Attorney Andre de Bortnowsky, said Yvonne Hester, city spokeswoman.

They were all directed not to disclose publicly anything discussed in the interviews, Hester said.

There have been no further inquiries since.

"There's been no subpoenas, and there have been no requests for follow-up appointments," she said.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Marin grand jury calls 'clean energy' plan too risky

Richard Halstead
Posted: 12/07/2009 05:55:25 PM PST
Updated: 12/07/2009 10:37:00 PM PST

In a new report unambiguously titled "Pull the Plug," the Marin County Civil Grand Jury on Monday recommended the Marin Energy Authority abandon its effort to reduce greenhouse gases by competing with Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

While acknowledging that "protecting the environment is in everyone's best interest," the grand jury wrote, "In these economically challenged and difficult times, we question the decision to put the county into the business of operating commercial power generation facilities, a function not usually associated with the government of a small county."

If the Marin Clean Energy initiative fails, the county of Marin will not recover the $540,000 it provided to the organization as seed money, the report said.

The Marin Energy Authority board of directors convened in a special meeting Monday to review its initial response to the report.

"In my opinion, this report is a blatant hit piece against Marin Clean Energy," said Marin County Supervisor Charles McGlashan, chairman of the authority's board.

Board member Lew Tremaine, a member of the Fairfax Town Council, said the "Pull the Plug" title "sets a really unobjective tone to the report right out of the gate."

The authority, which consists of the county of Marin and all of Marin's cities with the exception of Novato, Corte Madera and Larkspur, believes it can do considerably better than PG&E. The investor-owned utility has said it will fail to meet the state-mandated goal of getting 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010.

The authority's Marin Clean Energy program would initially purchase electricity from a wholesaler and resell it to Marin customers. Soon, however, the authority hopes to develop its own renewable energy sources. It could sign a contract with a wholesaler by Feb. 4.

Authority managers say the contract will be executed only if the wholesale provider can guarantee Marin customers that at least 25 percent of their electricity will come from renewable sources while at least matching PG&E prices. Customers who are willing to pay a premium would also have the option of assuring that 100 percent of their electricity comes from renewable sources.

The grand jury asserts that the clean energy plan presents too many risks to both ratepayers and taxpayers who live in the jurisdictions that make up the authority. Once the authority signs a contract with a wholesaler, Marin residents who live in a jurisdiction belonging to the authority will automatically become customers of the authority, unless they choose to opt out.

"Marin Clean Energy could present unforeseen legal and financial risks to the participating cities, the county of Marin, and the citizens as taxpayers," the report stated.

The grand jury noted that in October the Marin County Board of Supervisors discussed the possibility that the county might be asked to guarantee a $2 million loan to ensure that Marin Clean Energy had sufficient start-up capital. During that meeting, two supervisors said they thought other members of the authority should also shoulder some of the financial responsibility. The report said that the Marin Clean Energy business plan calls for borrowing $6.4 million to provide working capital during its initial year.

McGlashan, however, said talk of any jurisdiction needing to co-sign for a loan is premature.

"We don't know if a bank is going to require that. We don't know if we're going to borrow it from a bank. We don't know where we're going to get that start-up capital or even if we can find it, thanks to PG&E's litigious behavior," McGlashan said.

McGlashan said the rest of the working capital needed during the first year could be borrowed using ratepayer revenue as collateral.

The grand jury noted that the authority's decision not to submit the Marin Clean Energy plan to a vote of the public "runs contrary to transparent governance and consumer protection standards." The criticism echoes a ballot initiative by PG&E to require local governments to obtain the approval of two-thirds of the voters in affected jurisdictions before using public funds, borrowing or issuing bonds to mount efforts such as Marin Clean Energy.

The grand jury said key questions affecting ratepayers remain. The authority has said it plans to notify ratepayers four times before automatically switching them from PG&E. The grand jury wanted to know how ratepayers would be contacted and asked how much ratepayers would have to pay in penalties if they decided to opt out after the initial 120-day decision period.

McGlashan said penalties, if necessary, would be nominal. If natural gas prices remain constant or rise, ratepayers switched to Marin Clean Energy would likely see their energy costs decline, he said.

McGlashan said Marin Clean Energy would actually reduce financial risk to Marin taxpayers because it would result in a 17 percent reduction in overall county greenhouse gas emissions, approximately two-thirds of the reduction that state law requires by 2020. McGlashan has estimated the savings in government penalties for the county and Marin municipalities could amount to $262 million.

Kern County Grand jury praises Tehachapi city staff

By: Kern County Grand Jury


The Cities and Joint Powers Committee (Committee), of the 2009-2010 Kern County Grand Jury visited the City of Tehachapi (City) on October 5, 2009, to inquire into the operations and management of the City. The Committee also inquired into federal compliance of the City with respect to the legal eligibility of employees to work in the United States as per form I-9. The visit was for the purpose of conducting an investigation pursuant to California Penal Code §925a.


The City’s office is located at 115 South Robinson Street Tehachapi, CA 93561. The Committee met in a conference room with the City Manager (Manager) and several members of the staff.


The City covers approximately 9.6 square miles. The City was incorporated in 1909 and is located in the Tehachapi Mountains approximately 45 miles east-southeast of Bakersfield. The area is known for the Tehachapi loop, Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm and proximity to Edwards Air Force Base. A maximum security prison, the California Correctional Institution (CCI), also known as the Tehachapi State Prison is in the area.

Tehachapi is known as “The Land of Four Seasons” and is an excellent environment for gliding. The origin of the name Tehachapi is in dispute. Possibilities include Native American words expressing sweetwater and acorns, the land of four seasons and windy place.


1. The population of the City is approximately 13,000. The number includes approximately 5,000 inmates in CCI.
2. The budget for the City is between three and four million with twenty percent in reserve.

3. The City is compliant with ethics training for all elected City Officials.

4. The City hired one new employee last year but lost three employees to attrition. The City remains compliant with the federal I-9 forms.

5. The City has the ability to perform in-house grant writing.

6. The City’s disaster plan was last updated in January 2008

7. The City has seven water wells, six are in use and one is on standby. The City has an above ground 2.5 million gallon water storage capacity.

8. There is one high school, one junior high school, one elementary school and a continuation school (outside City limits). There are two vacant junior high schools.

9. Two years ago the City dissolved the city fire department and contracted with the Kern County Fire Department. The City is very satisfied with the decision, stating the response time is three minutes to a call.

10. The City stated “there was no new home building in the last eight months because of the recent economy.” Three businesses have expanded and one is in planning stages. One new hotel has recently opened and the City is a member of I.C.S.C. (International Council of Shopping Centers).


The Committee was impressed by the professionalism and dedication shown by the Manager and Staff during the Committee’s visit.


The City of Tehachapi should post a copy of this report where it would be available for public review.

Note: Present and past Kern County Grand Jury Final Reports and Responses can be accessed on the Kern County Grand Jury website:

Persons wishing to receive an email notification of newly released reports may sign up at, click on: Sign up for early releases.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Supervisors move to protect public resources from abuse

Published: Thursday, December 3, 2009 6:49 PM CST
Keeping a promise made to the Grand Jury and the public, the Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance prohibiting public officials from using county resources, including the influence of their positions, for personal gain.

Various state laws and county ordinances and policies address this issue. However, in its final report released in July, the 2008-2009 San Bernardino County Grand Jury recommended that the Board of Supervisors amend the County Code of Ethics to prohibit public officials from using their public offices or positions for personal gain.

The Board took that recommendation one step further Tuesday, cementing that clause not only in the Code of Ethics but giving it the force of an ordinance. This gives the Board the legal basis it would need to take action against violators.

“The Board of Supervisors once again has made it clear that it won’t tolerate any abuse of power or misuse of the public’s resources,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Gary Ovitt.

The ordinance will become part of a larger ordinance passed by the Board in 2002 to clarify the instances in which the Board could exercise its authority under the County Charter to remove an elected official from office.

Santa Cruz Grand Jury says county could save taxpayers a little cash

By Kurtis Alexander
Posted: 12/05/2009 01:30:27 AM PST

County leaders could be doing more to save a little taxpayer money here and there, grand jurors said Friday.

The grand jury, an all-volunteer watchdog panel that released recommendations earlier this year on ways to improve local government, published the responses to its report this week. At a press conference Friday morning, members said county government was among the agencies that didn't seem to embrace their suggestions.

"I feel like they're just putting us on, to tell you the truth," said juror Richard Perez.

In responding to grand jury suggestions on how to save money, the county commonly cites limited finances as a reason it can't execute the recommended actions, an explanation many jurors didn't accept.

"If you spend a little money, you save a lot of money," said juror Mary Bergthold.

The June grand jury report, among other things, recommended county leaders consolidate storage space and dispose of old records to trim its rental expenses as well as take advantage of state-issued credit cards to cut down local administrative costs.

The county Board of Supervisors, in its response, says it does not have the money to evaluate its storage facility, nor does it expect it can realize savings there. The board also says using the state's CAL-card may have advantages but any additional savings that result could be undermined by fraud and waste.

An additional grand jury recommendation that Scotts Valley schools do more to address teen alcohol and drug abuse has already been met with the assignment of a police officer on the high school campus.

A grand jury recommendation that Pajaro Valley schools do a better job evaluating retirement incentives is playing into renewed school board discussion of retirement policies.

Jurors said Friday that education leaders in both Scotts Valley and Watsonville could do more to address their concerns, but said at least they're listening.

"The grand jury report did exactly what we wanted," said jury forewoman Lorna Horton, referring to the report on Scotts Valley teen drinking. "It drew attention to the issue."

To view the grand jury report, visit

Santa Cruz Grand jury: County’s response to annual report found lacking

Posted: Saturday, Dec 5th, 2009

SANTA CRUZ — Santa Cruz County’s civil grand jury expressed some frustration with the overall lack of response from the county in the Final 2008-09 Report with Responses as the group released the document Friday.

The grand jury examined how the county spends its money, how it stores its stuff and how it may be overlooking the operations of special districts, rather than overseeing them as the law requires.

During a press conference on the steps of the Santa Cruz County Courthouse, jury foreman Clyde Vaughn said the county’s general response was that it lacked the staff and money to look at the issues. While Vaughn, a United methodist Minister, was very guarded in his criticism, others on the jury were less so.

“I feel that they are just putting us on, to tell the truth,” jury member Dick Perez said. “Because they know we will be gone in a few weeks.”

The grand jury found fault with the county’s main method of expenditure: purchase orders. According to the jury, the county’s average cost per order, $184, is double or triple the industry standard. In addition, the county’s computer system is too old to figure out where the problem is. Instead of using purchase orders, the grand jury wants the county to use CAL-Card, which works like a credit card, but has no interest or card fees unless payment is late.