The Tulare County Grand Jury today released a report entitled “Nightmare in Lindsay,” responding to citizen complaints alleging violations of the Brown Act, which governs open meeting laws.
The grand jury’s press release states:
The Tulare County Grand Jury today released a report in response to citizens’ complaints alleging Open Meeting (Brown Act) violations as well as quid-pro-quo dealings related to the City of Lindsay and its conduct of public business. Although the Grand Jury found that the Brown Act violations were extraordinarily difficult to substantiate, it did find evidence of civil improprieties occurring within Lindsay city government which justified further investigation.
The investigation began with interviews of the complainants after which witnesses familiar with specific aspects of the issues raised were interviewed. The Grand Jury also obtained and reviewed written information from various sources, included but not limited to public media and official city documents. Sworn statements (depositions) and transcripts were also examined.
The Grand Jury Report contained seven (7) “facts” as well as five (5) “findings” and two (2) “recommendations.” Among the facts were: (#1) After the resignation of Lindsay’s city manager in 2010, the then current Police Chief was appointed as the city manager, thus combining the two positions; (#4) “A court document and witness statements alleged there was flagrant misallocation (of public resources) by a city official in directing (city) employees to perform personal services outside the city’s jurisdiction on city time;” (#6) “The City reached high-cost employment severance settlements (in excess of $400,000) with a number of employees over the issue of termination; and, (#7) “The City imposed employee furloughs, claiming financial constraints.”
The Grand Jury’s “findings” corresponding to the aforementioned “facts” included: (1) The Grand Jury determined the combining of the office of city manager and police chief positions critically weakened the checks-and-balances with regards to personnel issues. This eliminated the division of authority to more than one person and position; (2) A number of costly employee settlements resulted from the aforementioned combination of these two positions; (4) Some City Council members were involved in discussions over union issues at private residences and outside the parameters of established procedures; and, (5) The cost of the employee settlements contributed to the city’s poor financial condition and to the necessity to impose employee furloughs.
The report is available to view and download below.