When San Luis Obispo County’s civil grand jury suggested last year that local cities consider putting solar panels on the rooftops of city-owned buildings, Pismo Beach demurred.
“The city feels ... that it is necessary to point out that it is a coastal community and subject to more days of foggy weather than a city further inland,” it wrote the panel in its legally mandated response.
“The fog,” the city continued in a letter signed by then-Mayor Mary Ann Reiss, “impacts the ability of those solar panels to generate energy.”
That response, according to the current grand jury, was “perfunctory and inadequate,” not to mention wrong about the science.
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Why is the current grand jury remarking about earlier reports? Because that is one of its responsibilities under state law.
The close look at reactions to previous years’ grand juries by those it investigated also shines light on whether recommendations are taken seriously, as the law requires, or merely blown off.
The look at previous reports is the first issued by the 2010-11 civil grand jury. If past years are any indication, it will ultimately likely bring forth 12 to 15 reports, most if not all dealing with local government.
Current grand jurors looked at 200 responses to 67 recommendations contained in the 14 final reports of the 2009-10 grand jury.
Two responses, including Pismo Beach’s, “did not fully meet their statutory obligation for a response,” the unsigned report says.
The other example: The Atascadero Unified School District fell short, the grand jury says, in its response to a citizen complaint about the hiring of Atascadero High School Principal E.J. Rossi.
The complainant alleged that Rossi had a “pattern of misappropriation of funds” in Atascadero and at his previous district, San Ardo.
The school board should create a policy that would lead to tighter vetting, the grand jury recommended.
In its response, the school district said it was “unaware that any complaint, civil or criminal, had been filed with any court.”
The current grand jury called that response “technically correct” but “disingenuous.” It said “the allegations cited resulted in restitution of funds” in San Ardo and it would “be reasonable to assume that some unlawful activity had occurred” and apply additional scrutiny.
Not all the investigated responses drew criticism. Some gleaned praise. For example:
Following a grand jury report recommending that cities look into the pros and cons of elected versus appointed city clerks and treasurers, Arroyo Grande placed the question on the ballot.
San Luis Obispo County, through its Human Resources Department, expanded its management training courses.
The remainder of the reports fell under the heading of “adequate.”