Thursday, June 29, 2017
Mendocino County grand jury declares Code Enforcement Division lagging, in need of direction
The Mendocino County grand jury has determined the county’s Code Enforcement Division in the Planning and Building Services Department is lagging behind in addressing complaints and is not at all proactive, according to a report released on Friday.
The Code Enforcement Division “does not initiate investigations, but as a policy matter primarily responds to complaints,” the report states.
The report mentions a backlog of unresolved complaints stretching back more than one year, due to inadequate staffing and lack of direction from management.
The division apparently does not maintain a record of complaints, online or hard copy, but employees claimed complaints had been reduced from more than 2,000 to about 300 during that one-year period.
Since there is no record, the grand jury pointed out a number of concerns, like not knowing if a complaint has been addressed, if duplicate complaints have been filed or statistics collected for a performance assessment, let alone the matter of transparency. The reason that complaints are not stored in a public database is to keep the names of those who complain confidential, according to employees.
In responding to complaints, the report states Code Enforcement Division officers have “considerable discretion” as to whether to issue a fine, giving the impression that handing out fines is an “arbitrary” process.
The jury also discovered a number of potential code enforcement violations that could pose a health risk to visitors or employees in the County Administration Building and satellite buildings, mentioning mold and water damage.
According to the report, the Board of Supervisors back in November 2015 told the division to apply county ordinances to buildings maintained by the county, yet it apparently did not follow through.
“To date, it is obvious that the condition of the buildings have not significantly improved,” according to the report, and employees admitted the condition of the buildings is “poor.”
Statistics in a February report given by the Planning and Building Services Department to the Board of Supervisors on the status of departmental activity did not “balance,” according to the report.
The jury reported there is a lack of communication between the Planning and Building Services Department’s divisions. It also pointed out the high turnover rate in the department and three positions that remain vacant.
The jury said it is clear that the Code Enforcement Division is in need of new procedures and more employees, especially with the approaching caseload brought on by the cannabis ordinance. It also called for the creation of a public online database for complaints, omitting the names of those who submit them.
June 27, 2017
Ukiah Daily Journal
By Ashley Tressel