Grand Jury: County Officials Derelict in Responding to Reports

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Orange County’s civil grand jury is calling out top county officials for not following through on promises related to several grand jury recommendations in recent years.

The grand jury, a panel of citizens tasked with investigating local government functions, looked at a recent three-year period of reports – covering fiscal years 2012 through 2014 – and found no evidence that the county officials had followed through on a number of grand jury recommendations that they had either pledged to implement or study further.

“The [grand jury] cannot find any county records indicating follow-up for open report recommendations from this period,” the panel’s latest report states.

Under state law, the Board of Supervisors and county officials they oversee have to respond to grand jury recommendations within 90 days of the report being published. For each response, they have to choose one of four options: the recommendation has been implemented, will be implemented, needs further analysis, or will not be implemented.

Eleven of the responses in question were labeled as “needs further analysis,” a designation that has been left in place for years despite state law only allowing six months of additional analysis, the report states. These include recommendations to establish a commission with specific goals, create a database, start a pilot program, and direct county auditors to “evaluate an entity.”

Grand jurors went on to say that the “needs further analysis” response seems to potentially be a way “to postpone making a final decision in a short timeframe or to avoid a commitment to action they do not really want to make.”

The grand jury said this absence of follow-through does the public a disservice.

“Lack of effective follow-up diminishes the impact of the civil function of the grand jury and also does a disservice to the community when thoughtful report recommendations go unheeded or unresolved,” the grand jury wrote.

(Click here to read the grand jury report.)

Asked about the report, county officials say they plan to bring forward all of the open items since fiscal year 2011 to county supervisors for updates.

Those items will be brought to the board in the “coming months,” though a specific date hasn’t been set, said county spokeswoman Jean Pasco. The process would be spearheaded by county CEO Frank Kim’s office.

Kim’s office has also re-instated a policy of publicly providing formal updates every March on any open items from the prior year’s grand jury recommendations, Pasco said. The first such report in recent years took place in March, covering the 2014-15 open responses.

“In the past, the county executive office had brought a similar report for Board of Supervisors consideration every March but discontinued this practice as a result of direction from a prior grand jury,” states the county staff report for the update this March.

“The county executive office concurs with the 2015-16 grand jury that restoring the regular update to the Board every March will serve to help close out any open items and provide a consolidated status update from the prior year’s grand jury reports.”

Grand jurors trace the problem back to around 2012, when then-CEO Tom Mauk was pushed out in the wake of the Carlos Bustamante sex scandal, prompting turmoil in county leadership and the relatively quick succession of three new CEOs.

“The formal follow-up process seemed to lose its priority” and report recommendations from fiscal years 2012 to 2014 “were not properly tracked to closure,” the panel found.

“Currently there is no effective process in place within the county administration and [county departments that report to the Board of Supervisors] to track these commitments, resulting in diminished impact of the grand jury’s reports and its ability to effect positive change in Orange County,” the report reads.

And when it takes many months – or years – for the county to close out recommendations, county officials have often switched rolls, further complicating follow-up, grand jurors wrote.

There had been an ongoing directive from county supervisors, dating to 1994, that required the county CEO’s office to “track and provide an annual update six months after the initial response submission date” for open recommendations. But that March update practice was apparently “lost” amid leadership shake-ups at the CEO’s office in recent years.

The grand jury urged the county to reinstate that review process and “include all currently open report responses” from county supervisors and the agencies they oversee.

Also recommended was a decision each March to change any open “needs further analysis” responses from the prior fiscal year to a definitive answer on whether they will be implemented.

The county’s official response to the latest report is due by Aug. 1.

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. He can be reached at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

  • “Under state law, the Board of Supervisors and county officials they oversee have to respond to grand jury recommendations within 90 days of the report being published.”

    Or what? That’s the real problem. State law has no remedy or consequence for disobedience. And, I suspect, it was done on purpose. Just another reason the Grand Jury, at leastmin this county, has no real authority or respect. Either get rid of the OCGJ or give them some teeth. I vote for the former.

    • Cynthia Ward

      Thanks Jeff, that was my question: is there no consequence for failure to adhere to the Grand Jury? Guess not. So what’s the point of having one?

    • OCservant_Leader

      The purpose of having citizen oversight of local governments is necessary in a democracy and is intended to hold elected officials accountable. This would provide voters a report card on performance of politicians who make campaign promises to improve services to the public.

      What if the politicians start colluding and they place their political operatives in all key positions such as Registrar of Voters, DA, Sheriff, Treasurer, Auditor & CEO Office, and all Agencies?

      They can now hijack what was a democratic process that used to be controlled by voters and now run it as an organized crime operation using the public treasury to benefit the elite insider political group.

      This powerful “family” is able to operate in complete secrecy without public view thanks to advances in technology. They communicate to the public in prepared PR spin only.

      The “family” operates as an absolute Monarchy. The voters are powerless.

      • Well, that’s what they’re doing now, isn’t it? A watchdog with no teeth is a sheep.

        • OCservant_Leader

          The “teeth” of the watchdog in Orange County has been defanged by the corrupt DA.

          The DA and his Chief of Staff protects the political “family”.

          And they control the votes through their EA running the Registrar of Voters – therefore the voters have no power.

          This is why they don’t even have to respond to the Grand Jury.

          The Grand Jury’s reports are the only written documentation of the cumulative effect of the decades of Graft & Derilitction of Duty by the ruling party and must continue.

          • Jacki Livingston

            And, who do you think runs the GJ?? Some independent entity? Brock Zimmons runs the Grand Jury, and his is an ADA under Toady. The District Attorney doesn’t just present to the GJ, he RUNS IT. This is why they ignore evidence given and sent to them of misconduct by people like Spitzie.

  • Paul Lucas

    I seem to recall that every article I’ve read about the grand jury has a paragraph about the grand jury being ignored by the BoS on this very same issue.

    • True, Paul. The grand jury in this county is a laughing stock. People know that because, a year or two ago, they had trouble finding citizens to fill the position and had to extend the application deadline. Can anyone point out one specific issue the grand jury ever resolved?

      • OCservant_Leader

        Citizens participating in a democratic process are not a laughing stock but rather the real public servants in Orange County who we all collectively owe a deep gratitude for their selfless service.

        • Jacki Livingston

          I call BS, on that one. I testified before the Grand Jury, twice. It is run by an ADA, and he picks and chooses what is given to them. He gave them a lot of the so so evidence I had, but none of the really direct and provable stuff. The experience of testifying is rather strange. This is no courtroom, but just tables and chairs, and they sit there and listen, sometimes ask questions, but nothing like what you see on TV. I was told by Zimmons and the GJ to get more evidence, and when I did provide it, they ignored it. No, this is not some selfless service. This is a kangaroo court.

  • Jacki Livingston

    I charge that the Grand Jury is derelict in dealing with issues going on in the county, involving those who cannot speak up for themselves. They are so busy measuring with rulers against Spitzer and Nelson, they fail in their primary duty of investigating horrific conditions in facilities.

  • octaxpayer

    Is this not the norm for the County BOS and management to reply needs further analysis or study?

    • Paul Lucas

      yup

  • OCservant_Leader

    The entrenched corrupt “Family” has been in power for decades, regardless of the musical chairs (AKA pension spiking) they play for the public.

    It doesn’t matter who gets picked – they are all from the same family, the CEO is included. They are all powerful. They control all aspects of the government. They can cut Million dollar checks to friends with no scrutiny, purchase an abandoned building for 3 Million without a blink, run campaigns with County staff non-stop with no interference and appoint their family members to any job without any accountability.

    They can make anything happen. They CHOSE not to respond to the Grand Jury Reports because they are collectively giving the middle finger to the public. Doing government work takes time away from running their personal scams.

    The grand jury reports assignment is given to the campaign workers, CEO relatives, and high school graduates who are stumped. They are trying to figure out how to tie this into corporate donations or statue building.

    The Orange County BOS and “elected” (choke) and appointed officials are running an organized crime ring, busy with grabbing all the money they can and reinforcing their walls to keep out the public.

    They are laughing all the way to the bank.

    • Jacki Livingston

      You hit the nail RIGHT ON THE HEAD! SSA is overrun with substandard performers who rise to the top because of who they are related to or sleeping with. One family there has eight sisters, and all of them have been promoted to top management jobs. You would never see that happen in private sector. Some of these morons are dumber than a box of rocks, but they still get to the top due to their familial cronyism, and then they surround themselves with adoring followers who do their work for them. Absolute BS, in my opinion. If you challenge one of them, you get the whole group descending on you.

    • LFOldTimer

      All the GOP candidates for Supervisor are vetted by the County GOP Central Committee before even being added to the ballot. So no matter who you vote for you’re going to get the same result. These people are all puppets. Doesn’t anybody understand that? They’ve sold their souls to the devil to get their names on the ballot. So when I tell you to vote for Steve Rocco I’m serious as a heart attack. What other logical choice do you have if you believe the system is corrupt and desperately needs change? Sometimes you have to go to extremes for the dominoes to start to fall.

      • Jacki Livingston

        Absolutely true. When I began to dig, insofar as the nursing home scams, I found that this particular chain of horrors was being represented in court on class action suits by one of the GOP’s biggest mover and shaker. He donated, along with his wife, huge sums to the BoS candidates. Is it any wonder that when I sent evidence of neglect, fraud and abuse against patients to the BoS, they completely ignored it? The DA ignored it, the Sheriff ignored it. Patients were, and are, DYING. But everyone gets worked up over the poor wittle kitties and puppies at the animal shelter, and not one of these yahoos cares at all about the HUMAN BEINGS, who are being assaulted, defrauded, abused and killed, on their watch. I pray to God that they all suffer a stroke or some other horrible affliction and end up at the mercy of these horror mills. That would be justice.

  • Diego Vega

    Let’s put a face on this. Following Mauk’s departure, the CEO was Mike Giancola. Giancola is ethically and morally challenged, and was described by CEO staff as a bobblehead. Current CEO Frank Kim inherited this dereliction of duty and much malfeasance from Giancola. Kudos to Kim for working toward compliance with Grand Jury recommendations.

    • David Zenger

      Almost right, Diego. Following Mauk’s well-oiled departure the CEO was the total non-entity Bob Franz, who was appointed interim CEO by Campbell, Nguyen and Bates as a useful puppet. His first act as CEO was to take a two week vacation to Africa. He was CEO until April 2013 when an even more useful replacement was discovered.

    • Jacki Livingston

      Don’t get too misty eyed for Kim. Instead of blowing off the GJ reports, they will instead get Brock Z to not take the really nasty stuff to the GJ. Nice guy, Brock, and his investigator, but when I provided them irrefutable evidence of Spitzer doing bad, bad, naughties, to avoid being called out on his part in the cases of abuse, they did absolutely NOTHING with it. Nothing…not one ding dang thing. There is more than one way to peel a rotten orange, sir, and they know every trick in the book. You watch, when the GJ gets all nice and sweet, Brock will be promoted up, maybe even DA after TonyDoNada is finally booted.

  • LFOldTimer

    If the county officials refuse to honor their sworn oaths and obey the black lettered laws – then issue warrants for their arrests and toss them into lockup with the other criminals.

    There’s nothing worse than elected officials or their appointees willfully defying the rule of law. What sort of message does that send to the common ordinary citizen?

    When the lawmakers become the lawbreakers society is no longer civilized.

    The fish always rots from the head first.

    • Jacki Livingston

      Sadly, for us all, the Sheriff and DA appear to be either corrupt or blind, and they will never bite the hand that feeds them. This is why you will never see warrants for Mike Ryan, or any other agency director, no matter what they do.