Friday, August 12, 2016

Sutter [County] supervisors disagree with grand jury on pension findings

Sutter County supervisors earlier this week disagreed with grand jury findings on enhanced pensions and questioned why an issue from 12 years ago is being brought up now.
"It is unclear to us why the grand jury thinks this issue has any relevance today," the board responded about 2004 pension enhancements.
Interim County Administrative Officer Curtis Coad said the issue was the most significant item.
"The fact that we may disagree with some of the work in no way diminishes what they've done," Coad said during the meeting. "It's an important job they do … I think it makes the county and other agencies they look at, better."
The grand jury alleged the board in 2004 failed to explain the financial impact of enhancing pensions, and that the agenda item, at the time, had been improperly placed on the agenda. The report said that by doing so, the county "did not allow for full transparency and very possibly curtailed or discouraged full public participation."
According to the grand jury report, as a result of the increase in pension benefits, Sutter County's unfunded pension liability increased from a surplus of almost $29 million in 2004 to a debt of over $110 million in 2014.
Pat Miller, president of the Sutter County Taxpayers Association, encouraged the board to look for ways to save money and put that toward the unfunded liability fund.
She cited the "unnecessary" wellness clinic the board approved July 2015 for county employees that came from savings made from switching health care insurance administrators. She said that $1 million savings could have been better used for the unfunded liability debt.
In other grand jury matters:
• Chevron Solar Energy Savings Project: The grand jury cited seven findings; the board disagreed with four. The findings alleged that being called "rent payments" instead of "project funds" would remove it from the auditor/controller's jurisdiction. The board disagreed and said it will still be monitored by the auditor/controller. Other findings cited extensive delays, alternate sites and incomplete research. The board disagreed and said the delays provided a chance to "ensure the best placement of the array," generating savings for general fund departments.
• Greater Public Transparency: The grand jury's call for civic openness in negotiations was met with disagreement by the board. The board's response said that, like most counties, cities, school districts and special districts, the board confidentially negotiates contracts with various entities.
"When the negotiation is completed, any proposed contract or agreement is placed on the agenda for a Board of Supervisors public meeting," the board responded.
• 2014-15 replies: The board also responded to allegations that it did not respond in time to the 2014-15 grand jury findings. The board agreed that the responses should have been filed on Sept. 23, 2015, and were not filed until Sept. 29.
The responses to the four grand jury reports, filed on May 23, are titled: Board of Supervisors Response to 2014-2015 Sutter County Grand Jury Final Report; Chevron Solar Energy Savings Project; Pension Enhancements; and A Need for Greater Public Transparency. Those findings, recommendations and responses can be read in full here, under Item 25: Responses to the remaining five grand jury findings will take place at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Aug. 23.
August 10, 2016
Rachel Rosenbaum

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