REVIEW OF RESPONSES TO 1993-1994 GRAND JURY REPORT

Originally Released 12/23/94

INTRODUCTION

The California Penal Code Section 933a requires Civil Grand Juries to investigate governmental agencies within their counties and matters pertaining thereto, report upon these investigations, and issue findings and recommendations. Section 933c of the Penal Code requires "Affected Agencies" to respond to those findings and recommendations within 60 or 90 days.

The 1993-94 Santa Barbara Grand Jury issued sixteen Interim Final Reports as each of its studies was completed. One of these Reports reviewed the adequacy of departmental responses to the 1992-3 Grand Jury Reports, and urged that subsequent juries complete a similar report. The 1994-5 Grand Jury is responding by following this recommendation.

OBJECTIVE

The 1994-5 Grand Jury has examined responses to all reports issued by its immediate predecessor. The goal of this examination was to assess the adequacy of responses to the recommendations made, and assist the Grand Jury in improving the process for writing concise, precise, and workable future reports.

APPROACH

Agency responses to the sixteen 1993-4 Grand Jury Reports were collected, collated, and analyzed in terms of completeness of response. Follow-up information was requested regarding some forthcoming actions as listed by the affected departments.

GRAND JURY GROUND RULES FOR EVALUATING RESPONSES

  1. The 1994-5 Grand Jury considered a response to a recommendation made in the 1993-4 Grand Jury Report adequate if:
II. The Grand Jury considered a response inadequate if: III. The sitting Grand Jury may request additional information from respondents when appropriate, and may make further findings based on this new information (see "UNRESOLVED PROBLEMS AND FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS," in this report.

As research and testimony for a report from a prior Grand Jury is generally unavailable to the sitting jury, all findings and recommendations by the previous jury must be assumed to be "given" and not open to further debate at the time of review.

GENERAL SUMMARY OF RESPONSE EVALUATIONS

The 1994-5 Grand Jury is pleased to report that it has reviewed the "Affected Agency" responses to all 94 recommendations made in 16 Reports published by the 1993-4 Civil Grand Jury and found that, with very few exceptions, each recommendation has been seriously considered. The agencies agreed with most of the recommendations. Responses appeared to be honest and direct. In many cases immediate actions were taken which hopefully will lead to better and more efficient government. The improved quality of the responses may be attributed, in part, to:

POSITIVE ACTIONS TO GRAND JURY RECOMMENDATIONS

The Grand Jury wishes to thank all responding agencies for their sincere interest in helping Santa Barbara County governments operate smoothly, economically, and in the public interest. A few of the outstanding responsesconcern the following issues:

1. Problems with various county contracting procedures for services, construction, purchasing, etc. are being examined by the General Services' Property

Management Department, the County Counsel, and the Public Works Department for development of "approved as to form" contracts and more consistent policy manuals.

2. The excessive use of "Extra Help" is being addressed by the Personnel Department and the Civil Service Commission toward the establishment of "Intermittent Categories" for temporary workers.

3. The Board of Supervisors directed the formation of a "Family Services Council" to include addressing the target population of elderly citizens at risk of abuse and/or neglect. The "core" department is to be the Department of Social Services, which is to work in conjunction with other county groups toward the simplification and centralization of services in accord with recommendations made in the 1993-4 Grand Jury Report on the Abused Elderly.

4. The Board of Supervisors and the Clerk of the Board responded, almost immediately, to the report on "Demystifying" their agenda with televised instructions for the average citizen who wishes to address the board, clarification of their agenda items, and are also preparing a video on the subject of Meeting Protocol and Procedures.

UNRESOLVED PROBLEMS AND FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS

The 1994-5 Grand Jury is aware that continued refinements to the process of making recommendations and responding to them in such away as to benefit the people of this county must be made. Responses citing budgetary inadequacy to implement desirable changes are common, and may be addressed in several ways by the sitting Grand Jury.

1. Closer examination of costs and budgetary restraints by the Grand Jury during its investigations.

2. Specific recommendations regarding how to finance desirable improvements.

3. Clear recommendations to the affected agencies regarding cost accountability, projected costs, benefits, priorities, etc.

As the Grand Jury is legally mandated to examine the County Audit and all Detention Facilities each year, ongoing problems in these fields will be referred to members working in these areas. Unresolved issues raised by a review of the recommendations and responses in other areas may be referred to the sitting Grand Jury for possible further investigation.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The 1994-5 Grand Jury concludes that a review of responses is effective in improving our county government and recommends that this practice be continued by future Grand Juries.

FINDING #1: The responses to the 1993-4 Grand Jury Final Report (including all Interim Final Reports) were generally adequate, often excellent, and substantially improved over responses to prior Grand Jury Reports.

RECOMMENDATION #1: None

FINDING #2: The Grand Jury feels that the process of reviewing and publicizing affected agency responses to Grand Jury Reports is a useful tool in creating better recommendations from the Jury, more complete responses from the affected agencies, and greater potential for improved government.

RECOMMENDATION #2: None

FINDING #3: Not all "Affected Agencies" seemed aware that responses were required to findings and recommendations.

RECOMMENDATION #3: A cover letter to the "Affected Agency" should accompany each Grand Jury Report when delivered at the time of release. This letter will remind the agency that a response will be required to certain findings and recommendations in the report.

AFFECTED AGENCIES: (California Penal Code Section 933c requires that responses to findings and recommendations be made in writing within 60 days by all affected agencies except governing bodies, which are allowed 90 days.)

None. Recommendation #3 is directed at future Santa Barbara County Grand Juries.

Reference

1. Santa Barbara County 1993-1994 Grand Jury Final Report, originally released April 6, 1993, p.2.