The Tracy City Council suffers from hostility between council members and has been unable to agree on an ethics policy that could regulate the behavior of the city’s leading elected officials, according to the latest report by the San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury.
The 2018-19 grand jury report, released Thursday morning, is the result of an investigation that arose from multiple complaints against City Council members, including allegations of conflicts of interest, persistent violations of the council-manager form of government, abuse of power, unexplained executive staff firings and forced resignations, and inability to conduct the public’s business in a professional, respectful manner.
The report lists the grand jury’s findings and makes recommendations of how the council members can improve their conduct and solve problems outlined by the grand jury.
Tracy City Manager Jenny Haruyama, in an email response sent to the Tracy Press Thursday afternoon, said city officials intended to discuss and address the concerns outlined in the grand jury’s report.
“We are committed to conducting the public’s business in an effective and ethical manner,” Haruyama said. “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.”
The 2017-18 grand jury had recommended that the council, by October 2018, adopt an ethics policy or code of conduct for elected officials. The current grand jury noted that the council members have not been able to agree on a policy that would help them work more effectively and respectfully.
The report emphasized tension between council members, and the grand jury states that “the petty bickering between Tracy City Council members during Council meetings has diminished their ability to effectively conduct the public’s business and has undermined the public’s trust in the Council.”
The grand jury described the process to fill vacant council seats after the 2012, 2014 and 2016 elections as “not responsive to the will of the voters,” proposing that it contributed to alliances between council members and ultimately created a 3-to-2 voting bloc based on loyalty to the council members who supported the appointee’s selection.
The report was also critical of a series of executive staff firings and forced resignations, which it said created “an unstable work environment for the City of Tracy staff as department leadership was dismantled.”
Meanwhile, the grand jury reported, individual council members continually overstepped their authority in their interactions with city staff: giving department heads directives that violated city policy, issuing direct requests to staff members to perform tasks contrary to established procedure, and berating department heads and other city employees at public meetings.
The grand jury report included recommendations intended to “help restore public trust by improving the collegiality and effectiveness of the Tracy City Council, while providing additional safeguards for City administrators and staff.”
The City Council has 90 days to send a response to the presiding judge of San Joaquin County Superior Court addressing each finding and recommendation in the Grand Jury report.
The grand jury report noted that one juror was recused from helping with the report after he was appointed to a Tracy advisory commission.