Friday, July 4, 2014
(Los Angeles County) Grand Jury says one-third of LA cities failed to adopt better management
July 4, 2014
89.3 KPCC (blog)
By Sharon McNary
Some city officials are disputing a new Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury report that 29 of the county's 88 cities failed to implement financial controls it recommended they adopt a year ago. The report, out this week, is intended to help cities avoid the management deficiencies that got Bell city officials into criminal trouble.
It caught several city managers by surprise. Bellflower City Manager Jeff Stewart said he responded to the grand jury's criticisms a year ago with a letter showing it had complied with recommendations.
"I remember when that came out, we took it pretty seriously," Stewart said.
He and Bell Gardens City Manager Philip Wagner disputed the Grand Jury's conclusion that their cities failed to form a committee to oversee its outside auditor. Both said a committee was not needed because their city council and management teams handle that oversight.
"Why would the civil grand jury be involved in how we operate?" Wagner said.
Why indeed? Call it the Bell hangover, a lingering mistrust of local city governments following the 2011 exposure of deep-rooted civic corruption in Bell, a small city in southeastern Los Angeles.
Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo, his assistant city manager and several council members were convicted of felony corruption charges after it was discovered they were receiving outsized salaries. Rizzo ran the city with an iron hand and little transparency. The overpayments were a closely held secret until exposed by reporters of the Los Angeles Times.
Last year, inspired by Bell's problems, the civil grand jury conducted a systematic study of the risk factors among the county's 88 cities. It ranked cities from best to worst in order of the soundness of their internal controls on money and management practices. Top scores went to Long Beach, Culver City and Glendale. The lowest-scoring cities were West Covina, San Fernando, Industry and Cudahy.
The Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury is a band of 23 county residents selected, after some screening and interviews, in a random draw by the Superior Court presiding judge to investigate county departments and other local governments.