Friday, June 30, 2017

[Alameda County] Grand Jury Wants Transparency On County Supervisors’ Donations

The Alameda County Grand Jury is calling on supervisors to have more transparency and controls when it comes to the money that they transfer from their discretionary funds to non-profits in their district.
In the current practice, supervisors donate from their discretionary funds to non-profits that they want to help. The discretionary funds are savings from money supervisors did not spend on hiring more staff and other business expenses each year. The money goes into the Fiscal Management Rewards Program (FMRP). The reward for saving money is discretionary spending. All county departments have FMRP funds.
However, the Grand Jury in its June 1 report wants to see supervisors go out for bids on any donation amount over $3,000. It is something that the county’s Manual of Accounting Policies and Procedures (MAPP) requires of every county department. The Grand Jury sees this as better accountability with potentially better results for money spent. In effect, the change would open up bidding for other non-profits to submit proposals.
The report also suggests there should be signed contracts for any amount over $25,000, as spelled out in the MAPP. The report cites the board itself, in a 2003 vote, as saying that FMRP spending should be subject to the same procedures as other county spending.
Supervisors don’t spend all their FMRP savings in one year. The carryover totals $9.7 million in the latest report, or more than $1 million than they receive for a whole year of fresh FMRP funds. In fiscal 2016-17, they received $8.6 million.
Among individual supervisors, Nate Miley, who represents the 4th District, which includes Pleasanton, East Oakland, Castro Valley, and unincorporated urban areas near Hayward, was the lowest in carryover with $283,000 left in that fund in 2016-17.
First District Supervisor Scott Haggerty was second lowest at $796,000. Highest on the carryover list was 5th District Supervisor Keith Carson at $3.4 million. Third District Supervisor Wilma Chan had $2.8 million carried over, and 2nd District Supervisor Richard Valle $2.4 million.
Miley told a reporter that he has a low carryover because he spends as much as he can, instead of letting it linger in reserve. He has given money to violence prevention projects in East Oakland and in the Cherryland and Ashland unincorporated areas.
Records from the Grand Jury show that Miley, who lives in Oakland, donated a total of $206,000 to the Urban Strategies Council between October 2014 and May 2015. The council works on violence prevention in East Oakland.
Miley donated $98,000 to Hill Communications between October 2014 and December 2015. The firm conducts public relations. Miley said he has used it to help gain recognition and facilitate meetings in the unincorporated Ashland-Cherryland area for another violence prevention program.
Miley’s interest in violence prevention was motivated by a county effort started a decade ago to deal with such problems, including domestic violence, elder abuse, and youth violence.
Miley has also given money to Pleasanton area projects, including $50,000 to the capital campaign of AXIS Health Center, and a donation to Tri-Valley Senior Support.
“We do get a lot of requests, a significant number. We look on how to support them with their goals, mission and agenda,” said Miley.
Haggerty did not respond to a request for a response in time for The Independent’s deadline. Haggerty lives in Dublin, and represents Dublin, Livermore, Fremont and Newark.
Grand Jury records for roughly a two-year period in 2014 and 2015 show that the biggest benefactor of Haggerty’s donations was the Las Positas 4-H Camp at $50,000. Other significant donations added up to $31,000 to the Livermore school district, $25,000 each to the Taylor Family Foundation and the Dublin Gael Boosters Club, $20,000 to the Livermore Rodeo Foundation, and $10.000 to the Fremont Symphony Orchestra.
Supervisors have not reviewed the Grand Jury report yet as a body. They have two to three months to reply.
Miley said he probably would like to see the board cap the carryover amounts, but he would not want the board to have any monies we are able to keep in reserve go out to county departments. "We are the heads of this $3 billion corporation. We are responsible enough to disburse those funds,” stated Miley.
June 29, 2017
Livermore Independent
By Ron McNicoll

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