SANTA BARBARA COUNTY GRAND JURY 1997-98

 

FINAL REPORT

 

AIR POLLUTION CONTROL DISTRICT

 

Released June 2, 1998

 

BACKGROUND

 

Air Pollution Control District (APCD) regulates many private businesses and potential sources of air pollution on a case by case basis and provides funds in the form of grants to others. The Grand Jury received inquiries regarding the departures of several employees from the District. These inquiries involved situations varying from personal use of district equipment to conducting a private service business from inside the District office.

 

The Grand Jury interviewed numerous District employees. Evidence provided to this Grand Jury confirmed that until 1997 several employees were involved in unapproved outside employment.

 

This evidence could have been used to dismiss the employees for cause. Instead that same evidence was used by District management to privately confront the employees. The District acted promptly. However, rather than termination, both employees were allowed to quietly resign, with benefits intact. The public was not able to obtain these records.

 

The intent of this Grand Jury report is to review and evaluate some APCD personnel practices that would strengthen the Districtís ability to carry out its mission and provide the public with a better understanding of the District and its employees. The mission statement of the District is:

"Our mission is to protect the people and the environment of Santa Barbara County from the effects of air pollution.

 

We accomplish this mission by implementing state and federal air pollution control laws in order to attain all ambient air quality standards and to minimize public exposure to airborne toxins and nuisance odors.

 

In carrying out this mission, we strive at all times to demonstrate excellence and leadership in the field of air pollution control . Our goal is to provide consistent, high quality, cost effective professional services to the public and the regulated community."

 

 

 

 

Current Regulations

 

Employment at the APCD is regulated by old civil service rules that are patterned after the system used for employees of the County of Santa Barbara.

 

Private use of the Districtís resources is prohibited [Rule 12 of the Air Pollution District Civil Service Code].

 

Outside employment is restricted to activities that have the written pre-approval of the District's management [Rule 17 of the Air Pollution Control District Civil Service Code]. In our interviews with District employees, we did not find any who claimed to have a

clear understanding of Rule 17, Limiting Outside Employment. We also found examples of outside activities that could be considered at least potential conflicts of interests, but do not violate Rule 17.

 

Copies of both rules are included here as Exhibits A and B. Violation of either rule can lead to termination of employment.

 

More that half of the District staff is also required to file periodic public reports of personal economic activities. These reports, which are also required to be filed by all elected officials in the state, must conform to the California Political Reform Act. The reports (Form 700) are filed at the District and at the County Elections Office.

 

Subpoena Process

 

The Grand Jury used the subpoena process to call witnesses and to obtain personnel records and District documents. The Grand Jury found this to be a frustrating and time consuming experience due to the conflicting advice from County Counselís office. Eventually documents were obtained from the District, but many areas were redacted (blacked out). Several witnesses eventually provided the Grand Jury with unredacted documents.

 

FINDINGS

 

  1. The Districtís extensive Policies and Procedures Manual tells employees to fill out Form 700, but does not provide any guide lines to District employees regarding incompatible outside employment and economic activities.
  2.  

  3. Completing the California Political Reform Act Form 700 is complex. The District had not offered guidance to its staff on completing and filing this form.
  4.  

  5. The advice from the County Counselís office regarding the subpoena process was not clear.
  6.  

  7. Rule 17 (Limiting Outside Employment) does not currently regulate many of the outside activities that are reportable under the California Political Reform Act.
  8.  

  9. The position of the Districtís Human Resources Manager has a sunset clause.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

  1. The Districtís Policies and Procedure Manual should be revised to include clear guidelines regarding incompatible outside employment and economic activities.
  2. [Finding 1]

     

  3. The District should annually provide guidance to employees regarding financial disclosure requirements of the California Political Reform Act. [Finding 2]
  4.  

  5. County Counselís office should provide the Grand Jury with clear guidelines on the subpoena process. One person in that office should be named as the Grand Juryís principal contact for consistent advice, and should brief the incoming Grand Jury on the use of subpoenas. [Finding 3]
  6.  

  7. The District should improve its Rule 17 to parallel the reporting practices required under the California Political Reform Act. The improved rule should be accompanied by clear guidelines specifying what constitutes a conflict of interest, and be readily available to all District employees. [Finding 4]
  8.  

  9. Human Resources Manager should be a permanent position in the District.

[Finding 5]

 

AFFECTED AGENCIES (Those required to respond)

 

Air Pollution Control District Board of Directors [Findings 1,2,4,5 Recommendations 1,2,4,5]

 

County Counsel [Finding 3, Recommendation 3]

 

 

Affected Agency

 

We want to advise you that California Penal Code Section 933.05 requires that responses to Grand Jury Findings and Recommendations must be made in writing to the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court and the Grand Jury Foreperson within 90 days (Governing bodies) or 60 days (Department heads) of the issuance of the report

 

Therefore the Grand Jury requires that you respond to each of the Findings and Recommendations that applies to your agency.

 

Please send your response to:

Honorable Judge Frank J. Oachoa

Presiding Judge, Santa Barbara County Superior Court

1100 Anacapa Street

Santa Barbara, CA. 93121

and

Grand Jury Foreperson at the same address.

 

Responses to the Grand Jury should be submitted on a 3 Ĺ inch computer disk (preferably in Word) along with the printed response.

 

EXHIBITS ARE IN THE 1997-98 PUBLISHED FINAL REPORT