Saturday, November 24, 2012

(Alameda Co) Alameda County to beef up contract evaluations after criticism by a civil grand jury

By Angela Woodall Oakland Tribune -

Heeding civil grand jury criticism, Alameda County plans to tighten up the way departments evaluate and oversee contracts held by hundreds of private companies and nonprofits.

That would mean regular evaluations of 251 community-based groups that received $520 million in the 2012-13 budget for services that range from substance abuse rehab programs to AIDS prevention education.

In addition, the General Services Agency, which oversees large-dollar contracts, will begin developing a system to measure and track performance by vendors, such as food concessionaire Aramark and Corizon Health Inc., which provide services to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and North County Jail in Oakland.

Alameda County supervisors in June awarded a $32 million contract extension to Corizon based on a two-page letter from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, which administers the jails.

The GSA will begin working with staff to make sure evaluation information makes it into letters to the board recommending contract renewals under new guidelines proposed in response to the 2011-12 Alameda County civil grand jury report released in June. The 19-member panel is made up of nominees selected each year to act as an independent review board. The recommendations are not binding, but they require a formal response, which the county provided Tuesday during the regular Board of Supervisors meeting.

The grand jury also recommended increasing scrutiny of nonprofits when their contracts are up for renewal. In addition, jurors found fault with agencies such as Social Services and Health Care Services for weak oversight of nonprofit groups.

The county agreed to help the agencies develop a process for evaluating the community-based organizations based on their performance, including specific measures.

Underperforming organizations will receive training, as well as financial incentives if they are eligible. Staff will commit to more extensive on-site visits by staff as personnel levels permit. "The bottom line is you have to have results," Supervisor Keith Carson said.

The county, he said, has been aware of the problem for some time and began trying to improve criteria. Five years ago, organizations were put on notice that they would face stricter scrutiny. The county provided the carrot to the stick by offering training.

"It wasn't enough," Carson said. The training needed to be individualized based on the organization's needs and should have included follow-ups.

The county agreed with jurors' recommendation that the Measure A oversight committee evaluate how efficiently approximately $100 million in Measure A taxpayer dollars are being spent by the Alameda County Medical Center and other health-related programs.

Measure A tax dollars represent a "significant commitment of public funds," as Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi noted in the response letter. Measure A money, however, cannot be used to ensure organizations receiving the tax dollars are producing outcomes, Muranishi added.

The county also accepted the recommendation for stricter oversight of Joint Powers Authorities, but fell short of committing to any specific changes. Jurors were responding to the financial meltdown involving the Associated Community Action Program, a nonprofit created under a JPA.

The county committed to developing an inventory of all JPA agreements within six months and determining the appropriate role for county agencies and the auditor-controller.

Jurors also singled out the county's Camp Sweeney juvenile probation facility, which the jury wrote "remains outdated and in need of complete replacement."

In addition, they recommended consolidating the Oakland and Alameda County Sheriff's Office crime labs because of an "unacceptable backlog of forensic testing requests," particularly in Oakland.

Supervisors are looking at issues with Camp Sweeney and the crime lab and are open to exploring regional models and partnerships, spokeswoman Laura Lloyd-Jenkins said

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

(Plumas County) Board votes to send grand jury to training

Debra Moore
Staff Writer

Though the Plumas County Board of Supervisors balked last month when the grand jury requested a $3,000 transfer for out-of-county travel, the board ultimately approved the expenditure during its Nov. 6 meeting.

About $1,600 will be used to send nine members to a report-writing workshop in Sacramento.

Dennis Doyle, the grand jury’s foreman, told the supervisors that last year only two grand jury members attended the workshop, and it put too much work on those individuals to write the report.

Doyle said the money would be used to pay for workshop costs and hotels, but that the jury members would pay for their own meals and travel costs.

Supervisor Lori Simpson asked Doyle if those conducting the workshops “talked about tone,” alluding to some of the comments included in the 2011-12 grand jury report, which chided the supervisors for being “oblivious” among other findings.

“Yes, absolutely,” Doyle said, adding that the jury likes “to look at it as a report card from the teacher.”

That analogy appeared to irk Supervisor Jon Kennedy who said that a report card “is usually based on facts.”

Friday, November 9, 2012

(Ventura Co) Grand jury declines to investigate Simi Valley redevelopment grant

By Mike Harris, Ventura County Star -

The Ventura County grand jury has declined to investigate a 2010 Simi Valley Community Development Agency grant, which a local tea party leader says might have been improperly authorized.

Grand jury officials wrote in a Nov. 1 letter to Doug Crosse, executive director of the Simi Valley/Moorpark Tea Party, that their investigating committee rejected his request for a probe "because some of your allegations may be criminal in nature" and beyond the jury's civil jurisdiction.

Grand jury foreman Jay Whitney on Thursday characterized the letter as essentially a form letter, saying it should not be interpreted as meaning that the jury made any findings as to possible criminal violations with the grant.

"That would be erroneous," Whitney said, adding that the grand jury did not refer the matter to the District Attorney's Office for a possible criminal investigation.

Crosse asked the grand jury to look into the $70,000 redevelopment grant awarded in 2010 to used-car dealer Kelly Kolarek, arguing the grant violated program guidelines. Assistant City Manager Frank Catania said it did not.

City Council members Steve Sojka and Glen Becerra approved the grant while serving on a redevelopment committee.

Crosse also questioned Kolarek's monetary contribution to Sojka's council campaign this year, suggesting the possibility of a "quid pro quo" arrangement. Sojka has denied it, saying Kolarek didn't contribute to his failed mayoral run in 2010, when the grant was authorized.

Crosse said Thursday he is considering referring the matter to the district attorney.

"I believe there is overwhelming, compelling evidence of questionable process," he said.

Sojka and Becerra have dismissed Crosse's grand jury request as "bad politics" — a failed attempt to undermine Sojka's campaign for City Council. Sojka won re-election to a fourth full term Tuesday, finishing first among seven candidates for two seats. Challenger Keith Mashburn, who was endorsed by Crosse and the tea party, also was elected.

Mashburn has said he had nothing to do with Crosse's grand jury request, which Crosse denies was politically motivated.

Crosse made the request Oct. 10, a month before the election and about two years after the grant was approved.

Sojka and Becerra have said they welcome any investigation and that the grant was properly authorized. Becerra said Thursday that if the grand jury thought "there was something criminal going on," it would have referred the matter to the district attorney.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

(Monterey Co) County grand jury praises elections department in report

BY: Aaron Crutchfield, King City Rustler -

The Monterey County civil grand jury has said that the county’s elections department is doing a good job of protecting elections’ integrity.

“The allegation that voter fraud is ‘rampant’ is unfounded,” the grand jury said in a report released in October. “California already has a law in place that requires voters to produce [identification] when they register to vote. The present procedures of setting up multiple checkpoints in voter registration and validation of voters’ identity that is conducted by [Monterey County Elections Department] appears more than adequate to safeguard voter fraud.”

But the grand jury also said that the procedures in place to make every vote count are costly and time-consuming, and that the elections department needs a better-designed, more user-friendly ballot, a more reliable tabulating machine, a better voter-education campaign and a larger building.

The report states that despite the elections department’s efforts, 6.6 percent of eligible voters didn’t update their information and therefore may become disenfranchised. Further, 13.7 percent of ballots cast by voters in the June primary election, which is 7,138 out of 52,087, were damaged or unreadable by the department’s scanners, requiring employees to manually duplicate those ballots so the votes could be counted, a very time-consuming process. Most of the ballots had to be redone because voters didn’t follow voting instructions.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tech-tangled San Francisco needs to call IT, report indicates

By: Joshua Sabatini, SF Examiner Staff Writer -

San Francisco is a center of tech innovation, but The City’s own technology wastes taxpayer money and hampers governmental operations, according to numerous reports. The question now is whether any of those studies will lead to improvements.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors considered the latest such report — a civil grand jury report titled Déjà Vu All Over Again: San Francisco’s City Technology Needs a Culture Shock. But judging by the contrasting responses to the report from the board and Mayor Ed Lee, there is a lack of agreement regarding The City’s tech situation and the path toward improvement.

Lee has quarreled with many of the report’s findings, among them the conclusion that The City wastes money and duplicates efforts by allowing a department-by-department approach to similar tech functions.

Meanwhile, the board agreed with more of the report’s findings, including that, “There is a scarcity of consolidated citywide data in the technology arena, separate from departmental budgets.”

“Everyone agrees on what we should do, and then projects take four, six, 15 years, millions of dollars over budget to get done,” Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, the most vocal critic of The City’s technology failings, said during a recent committee hearing. “I’m frankly a little frustrated and tired of that.”

The civil grand jury report recommended a number of changes for The City’s IT chain-of-command, including having departmental chief information officers report not just to their respective department’s bosses but also to a main citywide chief intelligence officer. Lee said he would not implement this change, but the Board of Supervisors has requested an evaluation of the proposal by Feb. 2.

The civil grand jury report puts the onus of turning around San Francisco’s tech mess on the mayor, saying it would take leadership from The City’s CEO to change the IT culture. The report urged Lee to “provide consistent, passionate, and aggressive leadership in the field of citywide technology, fostering progress, and garnering agreement among departments toward a more cooperative and cohesive culture.”

Lee said this recommendation has already been implemented.

Not so, according to Chiu. “I’d like to state that I hope that that will be implemented over the next six months,” he said last week.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


By Miriam Raftery, East County Magazine -

Three people, including two members of the Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD) board, have confirmed that a Grand Jury is investigating why money from Prop H and Prop U was not used to fund a new high school in Alpine as mandated by the bond language.

El Cajon Councilman Bill Wells chaired the Prop H Citizens Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC) and according to numerous witnesses, played a lead role in killing plans to build the district’s 12th high school in Alpine.

“The bottom line is that CBOC, under Wells et al, was doing exactly what Jim Kelly wanted them to do –nothing. The Oversight Committee provided zero oversight. That is one of the reasons the Prop H funds were so mismanaged,” charges Sal Casamassima, who served on the Bond Advisory Committee (BAC) formed to examine the CBOC’s review of Prop H funds.

Wells could not be reached comments as of press deadline. Both Wells and Kelly have contended in recent staetments that they now oppose building the Alpine high school due to questions over costs, demographics and failing to meet an enrollment trigger.

Casamassino says he became involved back in 2007, shortly before the BAC was created. He contends that the late Superintendent Terry Ryan, along with two others (Kiesling and Patterson) were “running Prop H out of their offices and signing off on change orders willy nilly. There was no project manager and without any meaningful oversight by CBOC, Prop H costs got out of control.” To solve cost overrun problems, he said, Ryan helped hatch a “ scheme to kill the Alpine high school. It was simply an easy way to control the hemorrhaging.”

The board majority, Priscilla Schreiber, Larry Urdahl and Dick Hoy, reacted in February 2007 by forming the BAC, over objections of then-board President Jim Kelly and Ryan. A BAC report recommended major reforms to the CBOC including hiring a project manager. “That’s when the real Hatfield and McCoy fight got underway, with the Alpine school becoming the pawn in the middle of the fight,” Casamassino recalled.

Later a second bond measure, Prop U, was approved by voters. But despite two bond measures both listing Alpine High School as the top priority, bond funds were later expended on projects not even listed in the bond measures, such as a new performing arts center at Helix, as well as projects perceived as luxuries such as a new swimming pool at Granite Hills.

Bill Weaver, a candidate for the GUHSD board and former chairman of the Alpine High School committee, has similar recollections of Wells’ role.

“Bill Wells was involved in the 12th high school debacle in the beginning as the Prop H CBOC initial chairman,” he told ECM in an e-mail. Wells was appointed by Kelly as chair of the CBOC in 2005.

“Wells did everything he could to support then Superintendent Terry Ryan’s claim that the $274 million Prop H was out of money and that the GUHSD wouldn’t be building a 12th high school as the bond stipulated after all,” Weaver said, noting that a Powerpoint made to the board emphasized why the district couldn’t build the promised 12th high school. He recalled a CBOC meeting in 2006 at which members discussed “how to let the word out of not building this bond project, without getting into trouble.”

He accused Wells of trying to “circumvent the 12th high school project” and making the high school a “sacrificial lamb.”

After Ryan retired for medical reasons (he later passed away of a brain tumor) the district hired Bob Collins as the new Superintendent. Collins was more supportive of a high school and even flew a contingent of architects and committee members—including Weaver—to Seattle to tour a model “small learning community” high school.

But Collins soon retired as well. “Kelly won that battle,” Weaver recalled. Subsequently Kelly stacked the CBOC with his appointees and the GUHSD hired Scott Patterson and Bob Kiesling as an in-house project management team, according to Weaver.

“It was the BAC (June 2007) report that busted open the “ridiculous” in-house project management quest,” said Weaver, noting that the team had no major project management experience “and were found to have wasted millions by the BAC Finance Committee report.” View the report:

The report concluded that the Board must “restore public confidence and trust through effective oversight and management.” While acknowledging that construction costs had rise substantially, the report further blasted arguments that the high school was too expensive to build. “At first blush the “can’t afford” myth seems plausible but falls like a house of cards when you look at the underlying facts,” state the report, which concluded that the Board needed to live up to its promises to voters and build the 12th high school.

The District subsequently scrapped the team and instead hired Gafcon-Harris. But the problems continued even after passage of Prop U. “The real problem is not money or bond capacity, but that by building and expanding in both scale and scope on so many projects like at the Granite Hills High School swim facilities (never envisioned so BIG) and the multi-purpose facilities all becoming full blown Performing Arts Centers, for example,” Weaver notes.

Charlene Ayers, a conservative blogger who runs the Ranter’s Roost discussion forum online in East County, has also blasted the CBOC and particularly Wells leadership. She also blasts Helix Water District member Chuck Muse.

“Chuck Muse and Bill Wells (both Kelly cronies) served on the Prop H CBOC from its start,” she told ECM in an e-mail. “Neither was in support of the 12th high school…Wells went out of his way to submarine it.”

As documentation of her claims, she provided notes that she took in meetings of the CBOC in 2007 and 2008.

Ayers described a July 25, 2007 CBOC meeting as a “gunfight at the not-so-okay corral”. James Perkins from the BAC told CBOC members that the BAC was going to recommended that all available funds be listed and dedicated to Prop H projects, and that there should be NO non-Prop H projects funded. He further recommended that the CBOC resolve deferred maintenance issues.

“Wells really wasn’t interested in that,” Ayers wrote at the time. She added that Wells proceeded to “take the high school out of the equation. He said that there is not enough money to do all the things on the list.”

Ayers said that Wells touted a district study that cited declining enrollment in feeder schools, but that Wells had arrived late at a prior board meeting at which “the District’s guy explained how primitive the District’s methodology is compared to SANDAG’s” which reached a different conclusion on enrollment. A new consultant then proposed that the CBOC prioritize projects and make a plan to complete the highest priority items.

“Wells says that sure is a lot of work. He’s not sure they could accomplish it in a year,” Ayers observed. She added that Wells rejected the “paradigm shift (can do attitude) regarding the new high school. He says that he is ready to move forward in a direction (without the high school) and that this group has no intention of moving forward toward (high school”, she concluded, adding that the meeting amounted to “a massacre.”

The June 2007 final report issued by the BAC confirmed Ayers’ recollection on the differences in the demographers’ findings and moreover concluded that “Second, we need to understand that demographic trends may also reflect and be a consequences of the lack of a 12th high school and the poor condition of our other schools.”

At an August 29, 2007 CBOC meeting, Ayers herself raised objections and noted that the BAC recommendations were to get all of the Prop H projects done. She also noted that Wells was ineligible to serve on the CBOC, since he did not have a student enrolled in the district at the time, yet was serving per Prop H language as the member with a student currently enrolled. But the CBOC declined to take action to replace Wells.

Ayers used particularly descriptive terms to describe a revised BAC matrix sent to CBOC members via email. “Kelly held it up with two fingers like it was a dead rat,” she recalled. “Wells said that it just looked like a rehash of the original recs and matrix, so the CBOCers were going to focus on the original recs and matrix when they gave them a thrashing, er examination.”

Kelly then claimed the new BAC matrix was “conjured up at a secret meeting attended by only two board members,” Ayers wrote, but added, “Schreiber rebutted Kelly. She said that all the Board members were invited to this meeting It was not secret at all.’

Ayers objected to the CBOC having no member with a pro-Alpine high school point of view, an allegation members denied. “Wells must be a real dense person,” she concluded. “He said that he certainly did not know that serving on the CBOC was going to be so much work,” though he added that he was committed to finishing the job.

The conservative blogger criticized the CBOC appointments as “vanity and/or political appointments,” then called it a “bad joke for the taxpayers.”

On April 30, 2008,Superintendent Collins spoke passionately in support of keeping promises to voters, particularly regarding the Alpine High School. But Ayers recalled, Collins was facing members of the CBOC who displayed “open hostility to completing all the projects in Prop H, especially their antipathy to the new high school in Alpine.”

Despite subsequent passage of Prop U, which also mandated construction of the Alpine High School as a top priority, the project remains sidetracked, though other non-essential projects have been built. Superintendent Ralf Swensen, unlike his predecessor, has sought to delay construction of the 12th high school.

The Board's handling of the Alpine High School twice approved by voters has drawn the ire of community leaders including Supervisor Dianne Jacob. "No less than the public trust is at stake," Jacob told the GUHSD board in February 2011. "I'm here to gently remind you that a promise is a promise."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

(Orange Co) Superior Court seeking grand jury applicants

by courtesy - Orange County Breeze

The following information was released by Orange County Superior Court.

Orange County residents who want to make a difference in their community are encouraged to submit an application to serve on the 2013/14 Orange County Grand Jury, announced Assistant Presiding Judge Glenda Sanders, Chair of Grand Jury Recruitment/Selection Committee. The one-year term begins July 1, 2013.

The 19 members of the Grand Jury are empowered to perform civil oversight of local government by reviewing and evaluating county and city agencies, schools, and special districts within Orange County. They attend tours and briefings to increase their knowledge of the workings of county agencies to help them assess potential problems. The Grand Jury also considers evidence for possible indictment of individuals in felony cases.

At least 18 years old

United States citizen

Resident of Orange County for at least one year

Sufficiently fluent in written and spoken English

In possession of sound judgment, good character, and a sense of fairness

Each qualifying applicant is interviewed by a panel of two Superior Court judges and is subject to a background investigation by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Final selection of the Grand Jury panel from the top 30 applicants is accomplished by a random drawing, as required by law. Grand Jurors receive $50 per day (up to $250 per week) and reimbursement for mileage.

Applications and more information are available online at, by calling 714-834-6747, or in person at the Jury Commissioner’s Office, 700 Civic Center Drive West, Santa Ana. Grand Jury Final Reports may be viewed online at

The application deadline is January 18, 2013.