Saturday, November 4, 2017
[Alameda County] Supervisors Respond to Grand Jury on Donations
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors has replied to the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury’s comments about supervisors’ use of discretionary funds, which they give on a regular basis to non-profit entities.
Supervisors sent the Grand Jury a letter Oct. 24, responding to the Grand Jury’s June 1 report. Civil Grand Jury comments are intended to be helpful to government by suggesting better procedures, or pointing out what jurors consider defects. All of the jurors are lay citizens, and have an advisor from the District Attorney’s office.
The civil Grand Jury does not make any allegations of criminal behavior.
The donations under discussion come from savings that supervisors realize by not hiring staff up to their maximum budget allowance, and on business expenses. The program is called the Fiscal Management Rewards Plan (FMRP). All county departments have these funds as a reward for their in-house cost-cutting actions.
Each supervisor donates the money to a number of non-profits in his or her district, making his/her own judgments about the merits of each recipient.
In the Valley, records from the Grand Jury for approximately a two-year period in 2014 and 2015 show that Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who lives in Dublin, and represents that city, Livermore, and Fremont, gave large donations to some non-profits. He was a benefactor for Las Positas 4-H Camp at $50,000. He gave $31,000 to the Livermore Valley Joint Unified 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.
Supervisor Nate Miley, whose district includes Pleasanton, Castro Valley, unincorporated urban areas near Hayward, and part of Oakland, donated $98,000 to Hill Communications over two years to support violence prevention education. He gave $50,000 to the capital campaign of AXIS Health Center and a donation to Tri-Valley Senior Support.
Supervisors don’t spend all of their FMRP savings in one year. The total for five supervisors for a carryover from a previous year in 2016-17 was $9.7 million.
Haggerty listed $796,000 in carryover money, and Miley showed $283,000 remaining in his 2016-17 fund.
A criticism in the Grand Jury report related to the fact that supervisors have large accumulated amounts that can be donated to non-profits without any competitive process.
Further, there sometimes are no written contracts, and little, if any, oversight about how the non-profits use the donations. This falls short of good governance, says the Grand Jury.
The supervisors reply that the allocation process is not a failure of good governance. The FMRP is used as a grant program, without specifically contracting for services. Often the money is used as bridge funding to continue ongoing work, or fill in gaps, or to be used for special projects.
However, supervisors agree with the Grand Jury in this respect: “The process for awarding funds can benefit from increased accountability measures to ensure the funds are used for appropriate public purposes.”
The Grand Jury also states that the county’s Manual on Accounting Procedures and Policies (MAPP) requires the FMRP dollars to meet the same standards as other county expenditures on donations over $3000.
The board agrees MAPP says that all expenditures must meet the same standards, but the board also comments that a county policy grants exceptions to supervisors concerning procurement policy.
November 2, 2017
By Ron McNicoli