Saturday, July 2, 2011

(Amador County) Grand Jury releases report

By Matthew Hedger

The Amador County Grand Jury has released its report for 2010-11, outlining its investigations in eight separate areas this year, including four correctional facilities, two county government departments, the Amador County Unified School District and the administration of the city of Ione.
In the report, presented to the board of supervisors during the start of their regular meeting Tuesday, jury foreperson John Pretto gave a brief statement and was thanked by the supervisors for his service.
The first chapter of this year’s report dealt with complaints received from Ione residents alleging mismanagement of city finances.
The Grand Jury said it found several areas of fault with recordkeeping procedures, and complained that the body was told certain requested financial documents did not exist, prompting a comment in the report indicating a “city administration committee of the Amador Grand Jury is to remain on for another year to continue its investigation.”
Bank reconciliation procedures were specifically found faulty, with the Grand Jury finding they have not been properly prepared as required by city ordinance. It also found fault with a council action in 2008 adopting a general plan assuming a growth rate of 6 percent per year.
“Many actions of the city council and city manager have been based upon the general plan’s growth rate,” stated the report, which went on to recommend that the city should immediately stop using those growth rates and instead use actual growth rates in the financial decision-making process.
This year’s Grand Jury also took a look at the operations of the Health and Social Services Department, which has undergone a major staff reorganization during the past year.
Their report outlined a sharp increase in what it called a “Food Stamp entitlement program,” with $195,560 issued as of September 2008, growing to $411,336 outlayed as of February 2011.
The report also noted the astronomically high cost of the Health and Human Services building in Sutter Creek, built to suit by state mandate and with an accompanying 20-year lease that began in December 2007.
The building is leased by Amador County, and pulled $1.436 million out of county coffers in 2010, with approximately $564,000 coming from the Social Services rent budget, and $573,000 coming from the Health Services rent budget.
The report lists a continuing caseload of 3,035 residents, with approximately 500 new requests for service received monthly.
A main recommendation outlined in the report encourages Amador County officials to “explore the possibility of revising the terms of the current building lease.”
The report said the remainder of the lease payment is derived from other services located in the building, and is tied to the consumer price index.
In their inspection of the Amador County Detention Facility, grand jurors found an average 11-percent increase in staff and 117-percent increase in jail population in the period between fiscal years 1998-99 and 2009-10.
Recommendations here call for county leaders to petition state leaders to fully reimburse the full amount of inmate booking fees, and to continue to pursue funding to construct a new jail facility.
The Grand Jury also uncovered that medical needs for inmates at Mule Creek State Prison include “estrogen shots for transsexual inmates.”
The report goes on to say that state budget issues continue to complicate an already overcrowded inmate population at MCSP, with educational and vocational programs largely extinct under the Prison Industry Authority program.
Grand jurors also toured the Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp, and found that the professional courtesy and relationships fostered between staff and the youths placed there has enabled the state of California to benefit “significantly from PGYCC’s low-cost, high-quality firefighting resources.”
In contrast, during a visit to the Preston Youth Correctional Facility, due to be shuttered today, jurors indicated major repairs would need to be performed to keep the facility open and viable.
The Amador County Unified School District was examined by Grand Jury members who focused on the current and potential needs of county schools in tough economic times.
Their report noted decreased staffing and school year days within the six elementary, two junior high, and three high school campuses within the county.
Minimal custodial services, inadequate counseling opportunities, and the lack of a peer-counseling program were among the highlights of the report. The report also noted that, although most classrooms are crowded, with several campuses having unused classrooms, class sizes remain in compliance with state standards.
In other areas under the microscope, the Grand Jury looked into the handling of absentee ballots by the registrar of voters office and found the operation of the polls and counting of ballots, including absentee ballots, was done in the proper manner.
A full copy of the Amador County Grand Jury report was scheduled to be placed on the county’s website today. Or you can download it here, courtesy of the Ledger Dispatch:

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