The Ventura County Grand Jury rejected charges that campaign contributions improperly influenced members of one community’s city council, but says the council did a poor job of justifying a major decision.
The Grand Jury looked at the Santa Paula City Council following allegations of violations of multiple laws.
The reports says jurors didn’t find evidence open meeting laws had been violated, and also says there was no evidence to support claims campaign contributions influenced council votes.
However, the Grand Jury did have criticism of the council’s handing of a vote awarding a contract for a new wastewater treatment plant. It says the council didn’t adequately justify why it overrode staff, and City Manager’s recommendations, and gave the contract to a bidder whose proposal was 22 million dollars higher. At the time, the council had cited concerns about the stability of bond financing proposed by the low bidder.
The report also calls on the city to amend its conflict of interest laws, to insure full disclosure of campaign contributions to any council member by businesses which have matters coming before the council. The Grand Jury says that two council members didn’t acknowledge receiving campaign money from a refuse company, even though the firm was a seeking a contract with the city.
It also noted in at least one instance, a council member didn’t follow proper guidelines in getting prior approval of a trip related to city business.