Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
The back-and-forth between the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and county grand jury continues.
The grand jury recently called out the board for its response to its report regarding spending of federal funds earmarked in 2020 for pandemic relief and is “strongly urging” that the Board “carefully reconsider” its recommendations.
The grand jury announced its findings and recommendations to the public in February. The county had 90 days to respond and did so, denying any wrongdoing and calling the expenditures justifiable.
“When required to respond to a Sacramento County grand jury report showing a less than robust record of leadership at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the grand jury found that the board of supervisors has opted to dodge and deflect,” reads a statement dated June 7.
The grand jury issued a new status review, finding that “the board’s responses to the grand jury report reflect the board’s continuing refusal to acknowledge or accept responsibility for any deficiencies of leadership, accountability or engagement at the outset of the 2020 countywide emergency.”
A yearlong investigation uncovered a “pattern of lack of leadership, engagement and oversight” as the basis of its findings and recommendations.
“The grand jury found that in the board’s response, it unfortunately cloaks itself in bureaucratic, misleading, and at times, inaccurate statements,” the statement reads. “The board of supervisors’ position that there is ‘nothing to see here’ reflects the precise leadership and accountability deficiencies outlined in the report. Sacramento County needs and deserves engaged, accountable leadership from supervisors. This became clear during the pandemic.”
The board responded that it “wholly disagreed” with most of the grand jury report, its assessment that the supervisors abandoned responsibility for COVID-19 CARES Act funding, and that it wouldn’t be implementing any of the grand jury’s recommendations.
“The board was actively engaged in the county’s pandemic response,” outgoing board Chair Don Nottoli said.
As first reported by The OBSERVER, the board of supervisors allowed then-County Executive Nav Gill to give $132.86 million of its federal pandemic response funds for payroll for public health and safety employees, with the sheriff’s department receiving 78% ($104.2 million) of that money. The OBSERVER in 2020 obtained documents from a whistleblower that detailed the spending.
The grand jury found that the supervisors “abandoned the [Sacramento County] Public Health Office as COVID-19 emergency engulfed Sacramento” and concluded that the board “made questionable and opaque maneuvers that skirted the intent of the CARES Act, to the benefit of county coffers and with scant regard for the needs of its citizens.”
The grand jury refers to its report as a roadmap for better governance and better service for area residents.
“The grand jury remains concerned that the board’s apparent refusal to acknowledge any deficiencies will leave the county ill-prepared and vulnerable to the next inevitable public emergency,” the grand jury wrote.