ALAMEDA COUNTY | An Alameda County grand jury’s final report faults a general “lack of accountability” from county officials to the public on a range of issues including, the demise of the Associated Community Action Program, which was dissolved last year amid scandal and controversy.
The 148-page report released Monday also faulted government oversight of county contracting procedures, the role of special districts and joint powers authorities in Alameda County, along with the increasing backlog of evidence at county crime labs and outdated conditions at Camp Sweeney in San Leandro.
“This lack of accountability manifested itself at every level from the oversight by various boards (including the Board of Supervisors) to the lack of management oversight at the executive level, and to the management of multi-million dollar contracts,” said the report.
The grand jury which is comprised of 19 county residents met continuously throughout the year investigating over 70 citizen complaints. The grand jury, though, singled out, on two separate occasions, the quick demise of ACAP as the poster child of the county’s antipathy toward oversight. “The most notable example reviewed by this grand jury was the now closed ACAP, which failed to provide effective financial accountability,” they concluded.
Based on a complaint regarding insufficient oversight of the county’s community-based organizations, the grand jury found deficiencies in the programs were not identified until complaints were filed or news emanated from the pages of the newspaper. In a section titled, “ACAP: Case Study in Lax Oversight,” the grand jury singled out the host of local city officials in charge of overseeing ACAP.
“The public information we reviewed suggested that this was another example of lax oversight by the county, [Social Services Agency], and the ACAP board. This is made more egregious because the board was composed of elected officials who should have known better. Their punishment came when their jurisdictions had to pay ACAP’s unpaid bills,” said the report.
Although the report acknowledges ACAP was not a CBO, but formed through a joint powers agreement, it nonetheless singled it out for inefficiencies by the county Social Services Agency and its evaluation of contract performance. Later in the report, the grand jury also criticized the lack of evidence-based evaluations used by the Board of Supervisors to approve a controversial security contract awarded last year.
The grand jury also singled out ACAP in another investigation over the lack of accountability of various county JPAs, including StopWaste.Org and the potential for a merging of the Oro Lomo Sanitary District with the Castro Valley Sanitary District.
“As a result of its investigation, the Grand Jury found that there are many reasons for the public to be concerned not only about duplication of services but, more importantly, about a general lack of accountability in special districts and joint powers authorities–resulting in missed opportunities for cost savings and, sometimes, in serious mismanagement or blatant empire-building,” the report said.
The grand jury also wrote they were “appalled” at the physical deterioration of Camp Wilmot Sweeney in San Leandro. While not a jail, the facility houses delinquent county youths and is run by the Alameda County Sheriffs Department. The grand jury encouraged the Board of Supervisors to find funding sources to improve the camp “as soon as possible” before its infrastructure falls further in disrepair. “The library appeared more like a ransacked storage room, smelling of mold and mildew; and outside one door was a dead mouse,” said the report.
The report also recommended the county consolidate its crime labs to improve the speed of investigations and savings to local cities and county. The report found the Oakland PD’s crime lab seriously backlogged with investigations. At the end of 2011, the grand jury found over 3,500 requests for forensics testing waiting to be investigated by the Oakland PD crime lab. “The public should be concerned about the unacceptable backlog of forensics testing requests that currently exist in Alameda County and, more specifically, within the city of Oakland,” they found. They further reiterated a 2001 grand jury recommendation calling for the county chiefs of police and sheriff devise a plan for consolidation of a single crime lab in Alameda County.
They also reserved judgment for the Alameda County Probation Department for failing to promptly act on a previous grand jury’s recommendation to complete a new procedures manual and the fallout from the void of leadership at the department after its chief probation officer was placed on adminsitrative leave for sexual assault allegations last February and quit last week. “The Grand Jury is extremely disappointed by the disruption of leadership at the Alameda County Probation Department. We encourage the Board of Supervisors to resolve the long-term leadership issue as quickly as possible.”