TRACY — The public arguments, screams and dysfunction within Tracy’s City Council have been often documented and disruptive.
Now, the San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury is calling out the dissonance in a newly released report.
“There’s some significant animosity amongst individual council members,” said Neal Fornaciari, the grand jury foreman.
Council members FOX40 spoke to said the findings were sobering.
“It’s kind of sad that another entity has to get involved to try to make us do the things that we should have done,” said Tracy Mayor Pro Tempore Nancy Young.
“I think if we could just remember that governance and politics are different and work for the people of our community, we’ll be in a much better place,” said Councilwoman Rhodesia Ransom.
Fornaciari said the toxicity has resulted in the termination of three high-level employees, which comes at a cost to taxpayers.
“Not only cost the city about a half a million dollars but also created a great deal of turmoil,” he told FOX40.
The foreman added they found that some council members had acted unethically.
“There are several examples of council members going directly to staff and telling them what to do, which is inappropriate,” Fornaciari said.
To fix the issues the grand jury recommended three major changes. The first one is to create an ethics policy.
“As far as recommendations regarding the code of ethics, we should have had that done years ago,” Young said.
The second involves council members publicly announcing their dedication to the people they serve.
“Leaving their personal animosities at home and focusing on the public’s work that they’re supposed to be there doing,” Fornaciari said.
The third change would allow the candidate with the most votes to fill in vacated council seats.
“Will reduce the animosity that is generated in the process of appointing someone but more importantly, it lets the people have their voice,” Fornaciari explained.
They’re steps that may move a picture of them smiling and working together closer to reality.
“I feel that it’s good, it’s going to help push us in the direction that we need to go,” Young said.
The city manager sent FOX40 the following statement:
We are committed to conducting the public’s business in an effective and ethical manner. Our City Council and staff understand the importance of civility and working together for the betterment of our community and are actively developing a Code of Conduct and Council protocols for adoption. We appreciate the Grand Jury’s work on this matter and look forward to a full and thorough review of the report, coupled with the exploration of future actions to enhance the City’s governance processes.
Councilman Dan Arriola also released the following statement:
The community has been eagerly awaiting the results of this Civil Grand Jury investigation. Personally, I’m really looking forward to addressing their recommendations. At the end of the day, the findings of the Civil Grand Jury were many of the same reasons why I decided to run for City Council in the first place. I’m proud to have been elected and to be serving our community as an independent voice on Council. And it’s very humbling for the Civil Grand Jury to conclude that my election to Council and the hiring of our new City Manager is a ‘reason for hope’ and ‘optimism’ in Tracy.