BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS
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.
The County has a "Roster of Boards, Commissions
and Standing Committees" with a page for each B/C listing the members
and length of terms. A separate section describes the duties, membership,
and time and place of meetings. The County Roster is maintained by the
Deputy Clerk of the Board. The County also has a computer program, DataEase,
listing the membership of the B/Cs. These data can be accessed by Supervisors
and their aides. At the county level, many B/Cs require each Supervisor
to appoint a district representative, with membership terms on the B/C
running concurrently with that of the appointing Supervisor. According
to the Deputy, updating the Roster is done by the department that utilizes
a particular B/C. The Grand Jury reviewed the information and it appears
that the Roster is not updated.
3. List the qualifications to serve on each board of commission.
Qualifications vary from city to city and from
one B/C to another. Description of the qualifications included education,
experience, residency, business abilities, may/may not be a government
agency employee, etc. Some descriptions are quite general; others are specific,
depending on the focus of the B/C: architecture, landscape professional,
mobile home resident. (See Exhibit 1) In some cases, members do
not need to be electors. In many instances, there were no descriptions
explaining the work to be done by the B/C.
The Grand Jury noted that the County does not
always list the qualifications in its Roster of Boards and Commissions.
(See Exhibit 2)
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 Ralph M. Brown Act was enacted by the California
legislature in 1953 to ensure that the public's business was conducted
in open meetings. The cities each acknowledged that the Brown Act applies
to all B/Cs. Policies exist that require each new member of a B/C to be
informed of the Brown Act by the City Attorney or the City Administrator.
Each member is given written materials.
(See Exhibit 4)
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?
The county and some cities did not report on accomplishments.
However, in reading the detailed responses from the cities, it is apparent
that multiple activities have taken place. Buellton, Solvang, and Lompoc
listed a variety of achievements.
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)
In Solvang, the Parks and Recreation Commission
planned and developed a playground that is accessible to the physically
challenged in Hans Christian Andersen Park; reorganized the parks and recreation
department and its fee structure; developed the Club Solvang flyer (a publication
about Solvang); and is working on forming a valley wide parks and recreation
district with Santa Barbara County. (Letter from Solvang City Clerk, May
The City of Lompoc recently held a meeting to
review the effectiveness of its committees. As a result of this review,
the city council voted 3-2 to eliminate the Affirmative Action Committee.
(See Exhibit 5)
The last County report of its B/Cs in 1994 was
an effort to review staff costs. In response to the Grand Jury's survey,
the County Administrator sent a report entitled "Review of County
Committees, Task Forces and Boards," completed in May 1994. The report
included the cost and purpose of each committee. At that time the County
listed 92 B/Cs. (Letter from County Administrator dated April 18, 1997)
A follow-up report in August 1994 listed B/Cs with annual costs of $25,000
or more. (See Exhibit 6)
8. How do these boards and commissions report
to your governing body and how often do they report?
Most cities indicated that agendas and minutes
of each meeting of a B/C are sent to the city council members. The governing
body may assign a report to be presented at a specific meeting. Some County
B/Cs make annual reports to the Board of Supervisors which are listed on
the Administrative Agenda (Consent Calendar) and are not routinely discussed.
The Grand Jury noted that effectiveness of B/Cs
may not be ascertainable from agendas and minutes.
In some cases, B/Cs listed in the County Roster
do not appear to have a reporting process and in fact do not appear to
meet on a regular schedule. According to the County Counsel's office, the
Finance Corporation, for example, meets infrequently and does not report
to the Board.
9. How do boards and commissions keep financial and activity records, and where are they kept?
City Clerks keep records of B/Cs at city hall.
In the County, the Clerk of the Board keeps these records. According to
the Deputy Clerk, B/Cs make internal decisions on whether or not to make
an annual report.
10. What community need is filled by each board
Some cities quoted the purpose of each B/C as
the need being filled.
(See Exhibit 7)
The County Roster listed 19 B/Cs for land use,
3 for senior citizens, 2 for animals, and 1 for children; (See Exhibit
The Grand Jury has observed that there were vague
answers to this last question about community need. There was no organization
chart or matrix submitted that indicates the linkage between the work of
the B/C and the city or County functions.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
COMMENDATION: 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.
Governing bodies should review usefulness of boards and commissions on
a periodic basis, and a policy should be established to disband a committee
no longer needed.
AFFECTED AGENCIES: Mayors of 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.
The County should establish, adopt and implement a method for up-dating
membership on boards and commissions.
AFFECTED AGENCIES: County Administrator
FINDING 3: The County does not always list qualifications for membership in its Roster of Boards, Commissions and Standing Committees.
The County should establish, adopt and implement a consistent method of
listing qualifications for membership on each board or commission
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.
The County should establish, adopt and implement a consistent process,
with clear responsibilities, for filling vacancies on boards and commissions.
The County should provide a handbook or other written material to introduce
new members of boards and commissions to county policies and procedures.
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.
The County should develop materials, and perhaps a video, to educate new
members on boards and commissions about the Brown Act.
AFFECTED AGENCY: 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.
AFFECTED AGENCIES: City Administrators of Buellton, Carpinteria, Lompoc,
Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Solvang
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.
Administrators should develop an organization chart or matrix to clarify
the function of each board and commission and to identify the community
need being filled.
AFFECTED AGENCIES: City Administrators of Buellton, Carpinteria, Lompoc