Civil grand jury releases report calling out Manteca’s ‘dysfunctional administration’

Local News

MANTECA, Calif. (KTXL) — A civil grand jury released a damning report Thursday on the city management of Manteca and called for sweeping changes.

An investigation launched by the San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury looked at the past three years of what the 14-page report says was a “dysfunctional administration” that all started following the election of Mayor Benjamin Cantu in November 2018.

As part of his campaign promises, the report says Cantu decided to terminate certain city leaders he claimed were slowing things down.

Five department heads left in less than a year, starting with the city manager.

In November 2019, the city’s public works director was fired and the police chief, city manager and finance director were placed on administrative leave. Former Mayor Steve DeBrum called the move “alarming.”

“I find it a little bit disconcerting as a citizen and as a past mayor in the community,” he told FOX40 at the time.

By August 2020, Manteca’s first female police chief was ousted after just three years on the job. Jodie Estarziau had been the subject of a monthslong internal investigation after a five-page letter of grievances and complaints were sent to the city anonymously. 

“I have read the final report. The final report basically says that there was no finding of wrongdoing, that there was no cause for any disciplinary action,” former Manteca Police Chief David Bricker said at the time.

Thursday’s report says those who replaced the department heads “lacked the experience, qualifications, and financial acumen necessary for effective management of city operations resulting in inconsistent employment practices, insufficient training and development, and an uninformed reorganization plan that more experienced managers could have avoided.”

According to the grand jury’s report, more than 20 interviews with Manteca city management, staff and city council members revealed a new environment that lacked proper leadership and fostered hostility, “leaving staff overworked and fearful for their jobs.”

The civil grand jury has made six recommendations for the city that include properly training new hires, improving auditing practices and being more transparent about how finances are handled.

Read the civil grand jury’s full report below.

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