Monday, April 4, 2016
[Tulare County] Lindsay council to follow grand jury recommendations
Interim Lindsay City Manager William “Bill” Zigler said he is confident council members will follow the recommendations the Tulare County Grand Jury issued about Brown Act laws and deciding on combing high-level positions.
“I don’t see any issues [on them following them],” he said.
In a report, the Tulare County Grand Jury recommended Lindsay council members familiarize themselves with open meeting laws and procedures for conducting municipal business. Also, the grand jury recommended Lindsay council be more deliberate when considering combining key managerial positions.
The recommendations stem from an investigation kicked off when complaints were received last year. The investigation included interviews with those who made the complaints and additional witnesses with information about the instances.
Zigler said council members will have a formal response within the requested timeframe.
“They have 90 days,” he said. “They just got them on March 18.”
On the report, the grand jury found as facts:
• After the resignation of the city manager in November 2010, the then-police chief was appointed to the position, combining the two administrative spots.
• The Tulare County District Attorney’s Office headed an investigation of open meeting violations by Lindsay City Council.
• On at least two occasions, no more than two council members met in unofficial meetings at private meetings to discuss employee union matter. There was no quorum on any known instances, the grand jury said.
• There were complaints and allegations of city officials’ misconduct, including collusion, cronyism, nepotism and harassment.
• The city reached high-cost employment severance settlements with several employees over termination, more than $400,000.
• Lindsay council imposed employee furloughs, claiming financial constraints.
In reporting the investigation’s findings, the grand jury said the combination of the two positions created a problem. Additional findings also addressed the city’s financial troubles stemming from the employees’ settlements and reported a lack of evidence for violations of the Brown Act.
In the same reports, the findings were:
• The combination of the city manager and police chief positions critically weakened the checks-and-balances with regards to personnel issues. This eliminated the division of authority to more than one person and position.
• A number of costly employee settlements resulted from the aforementioned combination of these two positions.
• Some city officials were involved in discussions over union issues at private residences and outside parameters of established procedures.
• The cost of the employee settlements contributed to the city’s poor financial condition and the necessity to impose employee furloughs.
Zigler said Lindsay council did what other small Tulare County cities, Farmersville and Exeter, have done.
“It’s not a big problem,” he said.
There were employee settlements with former City Manager Rich Wilkinson and police Lt. Brian Clower, Zigler said. There were also employees who retired and received payment for their benefits.
March 29, 2016
By Luis Hernandez