The Grand Jury has interacted with a number of Boards and Commissions (B/C) in Santa Barbara County during the present term. Public agencies, municipalities and other regulatory groups have advisory B/Cs to assist them in development and implementation of public policies. All seven of the county's incorporated cities have B/Cs. The county has more than 70 various B/Cs. These B/Cs often influence large expenditures of taxpayer dollars and assist in making far reaching decisions. Most of these groups require some level of citizen participation and involve some staff time. For the purpose of this report, however, actual costs of B/Cs were not determined.


To review the process by which community boards and commissions function.


The Grand Jury sent a survey letter and questionnaire to the Mayor of each city in the county and to the chairman of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. The Grand Jury interviewed the County Deputy Clerk of the Board and several department heads. The County and all cities produced records in response to the questionnaire. (See Appendix A) Replies, handbooks and other materials sent by the agencies were reviewed and the data summarized by the Grand Jury. Agendas and minutes of some B/Cs were also examined.


The observations are the result of interviews and review of documents, as well as replies to surveys. Survey questions and a brief summary of responses follow:

1. Which boards and commissions are mandated by law, and which are established by the governing body of which you are a member?

Some B/Cs are established by state mandate, others have been formed by local ordinance or by city charter. In all cases, except those mandated by the state or approved by the voters, the local governing body has the authority not only to create, but also to dissolve B/Cs. In some cases, B/Cs are established as a result of political pressure or specific community interest.

The Grand Jury did not find a policy in the cities or the county for disbanding a committee when its function or usefulness is no longer apparent. The County, in 1994, reviewed B/Cs to see if there could be a cost savings in staff time by eliminating any B/Cs. Six B/Cs were eliminated by Board of Supervisors' action on May 24, 1994.

2. How are lists of boards and commissions updated?

Some cities have a written schedule, kept by the City Clerk, of the date of appointment, and duration of the term. Most members serve one to four years. Many terms expire with the term of the appointing council member.

3. List the qualifications to serve on each board of commission.

4. Describe the process for filling vacancies.

The cities have a schedule of membership expiration dates. Vacancies on B/Cs may be advertised in local newspapers and/or posted on community bulletin boards, announced at public meetings and on government access TV. Applications may be obtained from a City Clerk or the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors. In the cities, some appointments are made by the mayor and ratified at a regular Council meeting; others are appointed by the Council as a whole. Some cities, such as Santa Barbara, interview each applicant. Some B/Cs have a requirement that members be sworn in. Some cities provide each new member with a handbook that explains policies and procedures. (See Exhibit 3)

The Grand Jury noted that many vacancies listed in the County Roster had not been filled when a new Supervisor was elected. Supervisors do not seem to have a methodical process for notifying the public when a vacancy occurs on B/Cs. According to the Deputy Clerk of the Board, there is no county-wide handbook to introduce new members of B/Cs to county policies and procedures.

5. To which boards and commissions does the Brown Act apply?
6. How is each member oriented to the Brown Act?

The county did not submit any written policy on how B/C members are educated about the Brown Act, or to which B/Cs the Brown Act applies.

7. What has been accomplished by each board or commission in the past three years?

In Buellton, the Planning commission achievements included "processing of a 10 acre commercial shopping center, ... a 9 acre mini-storage development,(and) a Source Reduction and Recycling Element (to the General Plan).In June 1996, the city received the award of merit from the American Planning Association, Central Coast Section, in recognition of excellence and value for outstanding planning and implementation for a small jurisdiction." (Letter from Mayor of Buellton, dated April 17, 1997)

8. How do these boards and commissions report to your governing body and how often do they report?

9. How do boards and commissions keep financial and activity records, and where are they kept?

10. What community need is filled by each board or commission?


The Grand Jury commends the cities of Lompoc, Santa Barbara, and Santa Maria for their well-organized methods of tracking B/Cs.

FINDING 1: Boards and commissions established by local Resolution or Minute Order may no longer be needed because their original purpose has been accomplished. There is a need for a written policy for disbanding a committee.

Buellton, Carpinteria, Lompoc, Santa Barbara,
Santa Maria, Solvang
Chairman of Board of Supervisors

FINDING 2: The County has no consistent method for up-dating membership on boards and commissions.

County Administrator

FINDING 3: The County does not always list qualifications for membership in its Roster of Boards, Commissions and Standing Committees.

AFFECTED AGENCY: County Administrator

FINDING 4: The County process for filling vacancies on boards and commissions is vague. No clear cut responsibility is indicated, but left to individual Supervisors, and/or departments. The County does not have a handbook to introduce new members of boards and commissions to County policies and procedures.

AFFECTED AGENCY: County Administrator

FINDING 5: The County did not submit any written material on how members of boards and commissions are educated about the Brown Act, or to which boards and commissions the Brown Act applies.

County Administrator

FINDING 6: Reporting to governing bodies via agendas and minutes may not adequately indicate effectiveness of boards and commissions. Annual reports are not consistently required or submitted.

RECOMMENDATION 6: The County and the cities should develop a method for boards and commissions to report their activities to governing bodies and the community.

City Administrators of
Buellton, Carpinteria, Lompoc,
Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Solvang
County Administrator

FINDING 7: An organization chart or matrix would help to clarify the function of each board or commission and its relationship to governmental structure. Such a chart or matrix would also identify redundancy or an unmet need.

AFFECTED AGENCIES: City Administrators of Buellton, Carpinteria, Lompoc