Saturday, August 5, 2017

Yolo County Grand Jury report covers range of topics

Before launching its investigation, the Yolo County Grand Jury had to narrow its focus from 17 citizen complaints to six and those issues ranged from bicycle safety to county election practices.
The final report was released last month.
The county elections office was put under a microscope as part of a “broad range” of complaints from the public, including misuse of public funds, poor leadership and nepotism on the part of former Assessor/Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters Freddie Oakley, who served from 2005 to 2015.
The Grand Jury report dovetailed with an internal review of the department in 2016, which examined the same 10-year period.
Spearheaded by the County’s Department of Finance, the weeks-long endeavor examined the office’s organizational, financial and administrative procedures and involved combing over a decade’s worth of information. This report ultimately found that staff were not provided necessary training in county policies and “appears to have been misguided on the interpretation on various Election Codes regarding exemptions over expenditures relating to Election Day events.”
During its investigation, the grand jury conducted numerous staff interviews to formulate its own findings. In conclusion, the group found acts of nepotism, favoritism, and management by intimidation, lack of or ineffective training, poor morale, and out of policy accounting practices within the department during that time frame.
Although the grand jury found current Assessor/Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters Jesse Salinas has turned things around, the report still included a slew of recommendations, mostly related to keeping the changes he had implemented in place.
In regards to bicycle safety, the grand jury studied whether adequate consideration is being given to promoting bicycle safety and developing biking-related facilities including bicycle parking, bus compatibility, providing restrooms and air for bicycle tires throughout the county.
Two biking fatalities and an accident, caused by a driver who purposely ran into a bike lane hitting three bicyclists in the Clarksburg area, took place and prompted the grand jury’s concern for a bicycle safety review, the report states.
According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, the number of bicyclists killed or injured in Yolo County hovered close to 90 individuals per year. In 2009, there were 92 incidents; in 2012, there were 100 incidents; and the year 2014 had 86 incidents.
Considering Yolo County’s growing population and “bicycle friendly” communities such as UC Davis within its borders, the grand jury found bicycle safety to be a pressing concern. The report continues to list statistics supporting this, including 22 bicycle-related accidents between 2001 and 2009.
“The incidents involving bicycles were not due to bicycle path designation, road construction, or pathway design, but rather to bicyclist or automobile operator error...” the grand jury found.
Their single recommendation basically involved more communication among agencies, including the Yolo County Transportation Advisory Committee and the Yolo County Transportation District, to discuss issues related to bicycle transportation. The two agencies were asked to hold twice-yearly meetings for this purpose.
Meanwhile, some investigations weren’t in response to any problems or complaints. Rather, the grand jurors were simply checking up on public facilities, such as the Monroe Detention Center and Leinberger Center, under what’s called a “facility inspection.”
“The facility was aged, but orderly, and was in good repair,” the report states of the Monroe Center, a medium/maximum security facility that houses adult inmates.
Monroe also received praise for adhering to recommendations from a 2015-16 Grand Jury Report regarding maintenance of “Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus units,” medical files, and cleanliness of medical facilities. At the time of the more recent visit all exits were accessible and free from obstruction, which was not the case during the 2015-16 tours.
As well, the Leinberger facility, though still operational, is scheduled for demolition as part of the AB 109 $36 million demolition and construction/expansion project. At the time of the inspection, the facility was also found to be operational and in good repair, according to the report.
“The facility is modern, clean, and appears to be in good operating order,” the report states of the Juvenile Detention Facility. “The members did not make any negative observations or findings during the inspection of the facility.”
An expansion project is also underway for the Juvenile Detention Facility on Gibson Road. The building’s main attribute will be an indoor gymnasium, but there will also be several visitation rooms and other amenities paired with curriculum focused on family reunification.
July 28, 2017
Daily Democrat
By Sarah Dowling

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