|Grand Jury's Rec
Report Is Called Embarrassing
April 14, 1999
WEST COUNTY TIMES
GRAND JURY'S REC REPORT IS CALLED EMBARRASSING'
* COUNCILMAN TOM BUTT ASKS RICHMOND STAFF TO RESPOND TO COUNTY GRAND JURY'S ACCUSATIONS OF GROSS MISMANAGEMENT SINCE 1974
Wednesday, April 14, 1999
Caption: Breakout box. Online: You can read the entire grand jury report at www.hotcoco.com. Just enter "grjury," in the quick-word box.
RICHMOND Calling a Contra Costa grand jury report on Richmond's Recreation Department "acutely embarrassing," a city councilman on Tuesday asked staff members for a detailed response to the document within 30 days.
"It's terribly embarrassing that all this stuff was going on, and I didn't know about it," Councilman Tom Butt said of the five-page report accusing the city of gross mismanagement going back to 1974. "To me it's just unbelievable that these kind of things have been going on for 25 years, and nobody has brought it up before."
In a written request to City Manager Isiah Turner on Tuesday, Butt asked for "comprehensive report" addressing each of the grand jury's 14 recommendations and asking for the names of the council members involved.
The report doesn't name names but concludes that oversight of the department was so shoddy that it caused "significant, unidentifiable" financial losses for the city. Grand jury members placed much of the blame on council members, saying they micromanaged hiring and firing in the department.
Turner called the report succinct and said he doesn't disagree with the jurors' conclusions, but added most of its recommendations already are being addressed by the city.
"We are preparing a response to the grand jury on what we've already done to correct the findings in the Recreation Department," Turner said. For example, he said decisions on discounts for rental of the Richmond auditorium and its side rooms have been put in the hands of the Recreation and Parks Commission, instead of department managers or council members. He said that the city since August has been drafting new policies and procedures aimed at tightening financial controls and accountability and improving record keeping and management.
"Rules and regulations are being adhered to and people are being told no when its appropriate to tell them no," Turner said.
The city started changing its policies and procedures citywide at the recommendation of an outside auditor who reviewed the department's financial records and other files.
The grand jury's report suggested a department in chaos, with employees failing to show up for work or leaving early, misusing travel funds, tampering with personnel files, ignoring work assignments and instructions from managers and arranging for special deals for themselves or friends to rent the auditorium. It recommends better accounting methods, including yearly audits of the department, and it calls on the council to stop interfering with day-to-day operations at City Hall.
Councilwoman Donna Power said Butt's request is a legitimate one.
"At least that will give the city staff the ability to respond to some of the criticism in the report."