FAIRFIELD — The Solano County grand jury on Tuesday issued a report criticizing the Community Action Partnership of Solano Joint Powers Authority, the county and a situation it says has led to a $322,767 deficit in a taxpayers-backed fund.
Along the way, it criticizes a lack of county oversight. It calls for the county to aggressively seek the repayment plus interest from the joint powers authority. It talks about conflicts of interest and no clear structures existing to resolve the deficit issues.
“Resources to serve the economically disadvantaged population are limited and have become more so because of the unconscionable situations described above,” the 19-page grand jury report said in its conclusion.
At best, the report said, the relationship between Solano County and the Community Action Partnership of Solano Joint Powers Authority can be described as dysfunctional.
Joint power authority Executive Director P.J. Davis on Tuesday pondered the question of whether the grand jury report is fair.
“That’s a hard question to answer,” Davis said. “Some things are accurate, some things are not accurate. It’s fair regarding how people attended some meetings and heard some things, but we’ve been living this for four years.”
The joint powers authority got established under a different name in 1999 among the county, Benicia, Dixon, Fairfield, Rio Vista, Suisun City and Vallejo. Its purpose is to develop and carry out strategies, services and systems that help low-income and homeless people become self-sufficient, the grand jury report said.
Much of the report looks at Fund 173. This fund got established in 2001 to assist with delays that come with state and federal grant disbursements. The account would cover expenses that would be later reimbursed to the county by grant awards, the report said. The county Health and Social Services Department oversees grant application submissions by the joint powers authority and forwards invoices to the Auditor-Controller’s Office for processing.
In 2011, the Auditor-Controller’s Office informed Health and Social Services of discrepancies in reimbursements. That led to the county notifying the joint powers authority in 2011 of a $700,000 deficit in Fund 173. Health and Social Services has worked with federal Housing and Urban Development to reduce this to $322,676, the grand jury report said.
Now the grand jury wants the county to “aggressively pursue collection of these taxpayer funds with public notification following collection and/or resolution of the matter.”
“All of this will be responded to by the JPA,” Davis said. “It is under investigation. The JPA is working hand-in-hand with the county to try to get this to a resolution.”
Among the grand jury report’s many recommendations is that the county hire compliance officers and audit staff to ensure this type of extended deficit situation doesn’t reoccur.
The grand jury report said the 1999 joint powers authority agreement designates the Solano County auditor-controller as the treasurer-auditor of the joint powers authority. The Auditor-Controller’s Office failed to provide yearly audited accounts of Fund 173 to Health and Social Services and the joint powers authority, it said.
But Solano County Auditor-Controller Simona Padilla-Scholtens on Tuesday said she has been unable to find any such agreement designating her as auditor for the joint powers authority, though the county does accounting work for the agency. She agreed that the situation is similar to that with special districts, which could use the county for audits or hire a different auditor.
“I was not designated auditor for that fund,” Padilla-Scholtens said.
Also, a lack of record keeping by contractors and subcontractors receiving grant funds contributed to the deficit, the report said.
The grand jury says that it appears the Auditor-Controller’s Office, Davis, the joint powers authority and the county Health and Social Services Department failed to take compliance measures to ensure that invoice expenses included in the grant applications qualified for reimbursement.
“Taxpayer Fund 173 monies were paid to the JPA on faith alone,” the grand jury report said.
The report also said that the joint powers authority in 2009 filed to create the nonprofit, Community Action Partnership of Solano Inc. The nonprofit can file independently for federal money administered by the state. These funds are outside the review of the county Auditor-Controller’s Office, it said.
An agreement between the joint powers authority and the nonprofit designates the nonprofit as the administrator of federal funds received by the joint powers authority, the report said.
Joint powers authority board members serve on the nonprofit board, creating an apparent conflict of interest on many levels, the report said.
For all of its criticisms, the report said the county has the ability to create a dynamic and effective organization to serve the needy.
“Solano County has a moral, ethical, legal and fiduciary responsibility to fulfill these obligations to its citizens,” the report said.
Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.