An insert in this week’s edition of the newspaper contains the work product of the 2016-2017 Plumas County Grand Jury. The purpose of the grand jury is to improve local government. We do this by investigating certain parts of the County government and producing reports with findings and recommendations. These reports are then printed and made available to the public.
The complete reports have been printed and distributed to County officials. An electronic version appears on the Plumas County website. It is up to the citizens of Plumas County what they do with the information presented in these reports. It is hoped then that after reading and digesting the facts within, these citizens will use their vote to express discontent or satisfaction with the subjects of the investigations.
This year a few very important facts came to light. The County is sadly in need of a Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). It is the job of the CAO to directly supervise and coordinate all the many branches of government and report directly to Board of Supervisors (BOS). This job has been vacant for five years. Without a CAO, the five-member BOS is supposed to directly supervise the many branches of government.
The BOS has neither the time nor management skills to fulfill this task responsibly. The result is inefficiency and discord among department heads. I refer specifically to the report entitled Probation Department — how is it Functioning.
The second important fact is that the BOS do not act on the grand jury’s recommendations. (See the report titled “The Board of Supervisors Needs to Take Grand Jury Seriously.”) There is a tendency to delay and placate so that the whole process is undermined.
A follow-up committee of the grand jury was formed to see that the recommendations made by the previous grand jury were properly responded to and that recommendations of that grand jury were dealt with in a timely manner.
The BOS’ initial responses were neither satisfactory nor timely. In a letter to the judge of the Superior Court, the BOS claimed that the efforts of the follow-up committee to secure legal responses to the previous jury’s reports were “irregular.”
Also, after months of delay in providing responses to last year’s report, the BOS’ amended responses to 16 different recommendations included the term “it is expected” that the recommendation will be implemented, and that the time frame for implementation be “by the end of the fiscal year 2016-2017.” Use of the term, “it is expected” is not a commitment.
Also, the end of the fiscal year is also the end of the term of this year’s grand jury. See attachment B of the above-mentioned report.
It is obvious that the BOS wanted to delay compliance until the 2016-2017 grand jury disappears and the matter is dropped. Each year since the CAO job went vacant, the BOS keeps the salary for the CAO in the budget. In a report in the Portola Reporter (and other newspapers) dated June 7, Supervisor Thrall said “Then, when we are short that amount of money, it will be given the axe.” This shows that this year, as in past years, the budget is inflated to accommodate a CAO and then the budget item is eliminated when the budget is in danger of being exceeded.
Discussions with previous members of Plumas County grand juries show a general hopelessness that the jury is truly taken seriously. The term “kicking the can down the road” is a familiar cry. The voters of Plumas County need to demand a higher level of compliance. The reports published in this edition of the newspaper should be read carefully by all voters in Plumas County and those voters should use their vote to improve local government.