August 20, 1998

 

 

Honorable Judge Frank J. Ochoa, Presiding Judge, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Grand Jury Foreperson

1100 Anacapa Street

Santa Barbara, CA 93101

 

Subject: Response to Grand Jury Findings and Recommendations Regarding Air Pollution

Control District

 

Pursuant to California Penal Code Section 933.05, I am pleased to submit the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District’s response to findings 1, 2, 4 & 5 and recommendations 1, 2, 4 and 5 as contained in the Grand Jury’s report for 1997-1998.

 

We wish to thank the Grand Jury for their thorough review of the APCD’s procedures regarding reporting of outside employment and financial interests. We believe implementing their recommendations will result in enhancement of the public’s trust of the employees dedicated to serving them.

 

FINDING 1

 

"The District’s extensive Policies and Procedures Manual tells employees to fill out Form 700, but does not provide any guide lines to District employees regarding incompatible outside employment and economic activities."

 

We agree with this finding. The Air Pollution Control District (APCD) maintains a Conflict of Interest Code that designates those employees required to complete an annual Statement of Economic Interest (Form 700). The Fair Political Practice Commission (FPPC) provides guidance regarding economic interests in its directions on how to complete the Form 700. Further, in July 1997, County Counsel provided APCD staff a detailed presentation on the Fair Political Practices Act and CSR 17. In addition, Rule 17 of the Civil Service Rules (CSR’s) governing District employment provides information, prohibitions, and notification requirements related to incompatible outside employment. Currently, requests for authorization of outside employment are reviewed on a case by case basis by the Air Pollution Control Officer (APCO) and annual updating is now required.

 

 

FINDING 2

 

"Completing the California Political Reform Act Form 700 is complex. The District had not offered guidance to its staff on completing and filing this form."

 

We agree in part with this finding. Completing the California Political Reform Act Form 700 is very complex, although it was designed to be more "user friendly" at last publication. Due to the complexity of filing and the significantly different personal economic interests of each individual employee required to complete Form 700, the District relies on the staff of the FPPC to provide APCD employees guidance in completing Form 700 based on the employees’ personal circumstances. The FPPC has a designated technical assistance division specifically for this purpose. However the APCD has been involved in educating its employees relative to Form 700 requirements. As stated earlier, in July 1997 County Counsel provided APCD staff a detailed presentation on the Fair Political Practices Act and CSR 17.

 

FINDING 4

 

"Rule 17 (Limiting Outside Employment) does not currently regulate many of the outside activities that are reportable under the California Political Reform Act."

 

We agree with this finding. Rule 17 is intentional in its design to deal only with outside employment activities. Those employees designated in the APCD’s Conflict of Interest Code are required to complete and submit Form 700 which requires disclosure of specific economic interests dependent upon the decision making authority of the individual employee.

 

FINDING 5

 

"The position of the District’s Human Resources Manager has a sunset clause."

 

We agree with this finding. The current classification of Human Resources Manager was established in 1996 and is scheduled to sunset after a three-year period of time. The position is currently an upper management position. The intent at the time the position was established was to continue to staff the agency with a human resources manager at a reduced level of responsibility after the initial position expired.

 

RECOMMENDATION 1

 

"The District’s Policies and Procedure Manual should be revised to include clear guidelines regarding incompatible outside employment and economic activities."

 

This recommendation will be implemented within six months. We will add guidelines that provide more detail related to the intent of Rule 17 and Form 700 to the District’s Policies and Procedure Manual regarding incompatible outside employment and economic activities.

 

RECOMMENDATION 2

 

"The District should annually provide guidance to employees regarding financial disclosure requirements of the California Political Reform Act."

 

This recommendation will be implemented within eight months by ensuring that staff has access to information and assistance provided by the Fair Political Practices Commission which governs the disclosure requirements of the California Political Reform Act. This is a separate State Agency that is responsible for issuing the Statement of Economic Interest, Form 700, and for interpreting the law’s provisions that specifically provides technical assistance services for individuals filing statements. APCD employees are not only permitted to contact the FPPC for guidance in completing these forms, but are encouraged to do so. The FPPC has a designated technical assistance division specifically for this purpose. We will attempt to bring a FPPC representative to the APCD to answer employee questions directly. Additionally, we will request that County Counsel repeat its detailed presentation on the Fair Political Practices Act and CSR on an annual basis.

 

The APCD does not propose to assume the responsibility (and liability) of offering specific guidance to employees on case-by-case interpretation of FPPC Form 700.

 

RECOMMENDATION 4

 

"The District should improve its Rule 17 to parallel the reporting practices required under the California Political Reform Act. The improved rule should be accompanied by clear guidelines specifying what constitutes a conflict of interest, and be readily available to all District employees.’

 

We do not intend to implement this recommendation because it would duplicate FPPC requirements. In order to address the intent of this recommendation, which is to ensure that incompatible financial interests (employment or otherwise) are prohibited, we propose to annually review all FPPC Form 700 submissions to identify potential conflicts of interest, implement additional intranet access to APCD policies, procedures, forms, etc. and implement Grand Jury Recommendations 1 and 2. The District is in the process of modifying many of our Civil Service Rules. Rule 17 may be modified during this process.

 

Please note, Rule 17, Form 700 and the APCD’s Conflict of Interest Code are all readily available to District employees. The APCD maintains the majority of its forms, policies, procedures, manuals and information related to APCD employment in a common area that employees can access at their convenience. In addition, we are currently in the process of adding all APCD policies and procedures to the APCD’s Intranet for even easier accessibility. The reporting practices required under the California Political Reform Act are separate and distinct from the provisions of Rule 17 which governs incompatible outside employment. To develop a parallel system would be duplicative of the efforts of other agencies. The practices in place, to report any outside employment and the review of the Form 700, provides a clear understanding of the outside activities that our employees report.

 

RECOMMENDATION 5

 

"Human Resource Manager should be a permanent position in the District."

 

This recommendation is currently scheduled for Board consideration in 1999. It should be noted that, when originally established, the Human Resources Manager position was intended to be a permanent position in this agency. The level at which this classification is currently staffed (as an upper level management position) was approved for a 3-year period. Early in calendar year 1999 the Board will consider the needs of the agency and review the level at which it wishes to continue to staff this position.

 

This response is also enclosed on disk. If you have questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact Doug Allard, Air Pollution Control Officer, at 961-8853.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Russ Hicks

Chairman, Board of Directors

 

Enclosure

 

c: Bill Dillon, County Counsel

Douglas Allard, APCO