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Continuing to ignore the Grand Jury

Big thanks to our intern from the McGeorge School of Law, Jacob Benitez, for this write-up! Read a little more about Jacob at this page.


On June 7 the Board of Supervisors responded to the Grand Jury Report that discussed the mismanagement of over $100 million of COVID-19 emergency funding.


For a quick refresher see our previous post linked here.

To read the original report click here.


The Grand Jury consists of jurors who review and assess the performance of government entities including the County and City. Grand Juries investigate the operations of local government and evaluate the validity of any criminal charges.


Text from the report:



What were the Grand Jury Recommendations and responses?


Recommendation: The County Executive, Board of Supervisors, and OPH (Office of Public Health) should develop and adopt a public health emergency response plan which recognizes, and plans for the immediate requirements of OPH to implement public health orders to best ensure public safety. The Board of Supervisors should finalize and approve the response plan by December 2022.


Response:


The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted, and according to the Board:

There are countywide as well as Department-specific plans in place that meet local, state, and federal requirements

Recommendation: The Board of Supervisors should immediately develop, formally approve and implement a direct and regular reporting process for the Public Health Officer. This process should require at least monthly reporting to the Board during public sessions. Whenever a community-wide public health order has been declared, the Board of Supervisors should augment regular reporting by OPH with detailed reporting on the response to the public health emergency, including recommendations for needed services, programs and funding. These policies and processes should be adopted by the Board of Supervisors no later than June 2022.


Response:


The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted, and according to the Board:

The Board of Supervisors has already established regularly scheduled meetings each month where the Public Health Officer provides reports on the status of the pandemic

Recommendation: Funding for OPH should be immediately reviewed and adequately increased to build and maintain a strong organizational infrastructure with sufficient staffing. Such funding is essential to ensure that OPH maintains the critical capacity to immediately implement all essential and emergency public health services. This funding assessment and increased funding levels should be included in the budget process for the 2022-2023 budget.


Response:


The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted, and according to the Board:

The Department of Health Services already works with all of its divisions – including Public Health – to ensure that its operational needs are identified as part of the County’s budget process

Recommendation: The County should develop and adopt a separate emergency budget allocation and approval process. This process would operate outside the regular fiscal year county budget process in order to expedite emergency funding requests from County departments. Such a process should include program staff training, as well as transparent allocation and expenditure reporting to the Board of Supervisors and County Executive staff. The Board of Supervisors should finalize and approve the emergency budget allocation process by December 2022.


Response:


The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted, and according to the Board:

The County already has standard processes in place for making budget adjustments outside of the annual budget process and routinely recommends budget adjustments to the Board as a result of additional funding or unanticipated needs that occur during the fiscal year

Recommendation: The Board of Supervisors and OPH should immediately begin discussions with the County Sheriff and other County law enforcement entities. These discussions should result in a County ordinance directing local law enforcement to enforce public health emergency orders. The Board of Supervisors should enact this ordinance by December 2022.


Response:


The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted or is not reasonable.

The Board does not have legal authority to direct law enforcement officials to enforce public health emergency orders. It is beyond the Board’s authority to direct independently elected officials to exercise their discretionary powers in any particular manner

Get ready for it, they DID implement one rec.


Recommendation: The Board of Supervisors should develop and adopt its own “Continuity of Operation” plan, with periodic updating as appropriate. The Board of Supervisors should finalize its “Continuity of Operation” plan by December 2022.


Response:


The Recommendation has been implemented.

The Board of Supervisors has a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) and specific annex (2017) in place which had been in effect for two years at the start of the pandemic. Plans are updated within three to five-year timeframes. The base COOP was updated in January 2021 with a portion of departments completing updates to their department annex the same year

What did the Grand Jury reply?


The Board’s responses to the Grand Jury report reflects their continuing refusal to acknowledge or accept responsibility for any deficiencies of leadership, accountability or engagement during a countywide emergency

A link to the Grand Jury report status review can be found here.


The Grand Jury couldn’t have said it any better. By failing to consider any recommendations and ultimately curb all allegations, the BOS demonstrated that a more practical and honest board should exist. Especially in times of need like the one that many endured during the peak of the COVID pandemic.


A second report on the “failure to request updates about the public health department’s COVID-19 response or funding needs at any time between March and mid-August of 2020, and failure to schedule any briefings by the public health officer in that period” was also made - that report is linked here.


The BOS has not made a response to this second report, but is still within its 90-day deadline. Not responding to this second set of findings shows the same type of disinterest the BOS showed by disregarding the initial Grand Jury recommendations.

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