A grand jury report says it was a lack of reliable information and lack of project oversight that led to Stockton having to file for bankruptcy. They make many recommendations to the city, including forming new audit and budget systems, and provide finance training for current department staff and council members.
According to the report released Thursday, the San Joaquin County Grand Jury found “evidence of inadequate information presented to the City Council by a former city manager; lack of project oversight; unilateral control and manipulation of projects by a former city manager without City Council knowledge or approval; poor accounting of the various transactions involving the Events Center; lack of reliable information between city staff and the City Council; and, a financial system that is inadequate for the accounting needed.”
The group looked at Stockton’s current financial situation, and also what information the city council knew, or didn’t know, the effectiveness of the City Auditor, the finance department and prevalence of financial training for council members and the mayor.
The grand jury report criticizes Stockton’s Finance Department, stating the department’s software and computer hardware was more than 20 years old. “The inability to manage and extract information makes it difficult to prepare timely financial reports in a format that is easily understood by elected officials and the public.”
They recommend the department prepare a training program for all finance department staff to improve their knowledge and account skills.
The report also chastised the lack of communication between the former city manager and city department heads, and the general council about the financial health of Stockton; specifically alerting the council about which departments of the city were or were not adhering to their budget limits.
In addition, the current grand jury report reconfirms an earlier report in 2006 that the then-city manager failed to provide information about the true cost of the Events Center to council members. This incident, and the increasing costs of building the Events Center, led to a growing mistrust between the city manager position and council members, according to the grand jury.
In conclusion, the grand jury report made it clear the responsibility is on the mayor and city council to know what is going on in their city. “A Mayor and City Council that prefers to not ask questions or demand complete and accurate information from its management, or to remain uneducated about the intricacies of the city’s financial structure and operations can be more easily swayed by staff recommendations that are not in the public’s best interest.”