The Honorable Beth Labson Freeman
Judge of the Superior Court
Hall of Justice
400 County Center, 2nd Floor
Redwood City, CA 94063-1655
Re: Response to Grand Jury Report Regarding Public Works
Dear Judge Freeman:
The City Council and I thank the 2002-2003 Grand Jury for its report filed on December 4, 2002 pertaining to San Bruno’s Public Works Department. We were pleased that the Grand Jury substantiated that there was “no mismanagement” of the City’s water functions. As to the Grand Jury’s specific recommendations, the City appreciates the Grand Jury’s thoughtful response and provides the following information as requested.
Recommendation No. 1
The City Council should improve its oversight of the water system by ensuring that its policies, practices, and communications are consistent with the Water System Master Plan.
Response to Recommendation No. 1
The City disagrees with this recommendation in that it finds the recommendation inconsistent with the Grand Jury’s Finding on this issue.
The City of San Bruno is a general law city with a council-manager form of government. (San Bruno Municipal Code § 2.04.010) The current City Council established the City’s Master Water System Master Plan and provides direct oversight to the City Manager regarding its implementation. The City Manager, as administrative head of the City government, manages the department heads, including the Department of Public Works.
In as much as the Grand Jury specifically found that “the Public Works Department is managing the Water Division consistent with the Council’s direction and the Water System Master Plan,” the City was somewhat confused by this recommendation. (Grand Jury Report at p. 2) However, the Council has as an on-going commitment to maintaining oversight of the water system by ensuring that its policies, practices, and communications are consistent with the Water System Master Plan.
Recommendation No. 2
The City Council should either eliminate the Water Ad Hoc Committee or alter its membership so that it may effectively provide clear direction to the Public Works Director.
Response to Recommendation No. 2
The City disagrees with this recommendation. As indicated above, San Bruno has a council-manager form of government. As the administrative head of the government with responsibility to manage department heads, only the City Manager can provide direction to the Public Works Director.
In fact, the San Bruno Municipal Code specifically prohibits the city council from directing employees. The Code states: “The city council and its members shall deal with the administrative service of the city only through the city manager. Except for the purpose of inquiry, neither the city council nor any of its members shall give orders to any subordinate of the city manager.” (§ 2.12.090)
The Ad Hoc Committees, including the Water Ad Hoc Committee, act as liaison between the City Council and the City Manager on specific projects or issues of interest. While the Grand Jury found that the Water Ad Hoc Committee had limited utility due to “contentious issues” raised by a council member, the City believes that a vigorous debate reflecting divergent views is at the heart of good government.
Recommendation No. 3
The City Manager should annually submit to the City Council a water system budget, which includes well outage contingency funds, consistent with the Water System Master Plan.
Response to Recommendation No. 3
The City agrees in part and disagrees in part. The City’s water system falls within the enterprise budget. The enterprise budget has a contingency reserve that is tapped from time to time to address costs associated with such things as well outages. Moreover, when a well pump or motor ceases to function, sometimes there are existing warranties that the City pursues in order to avoid additional costs. However, the City agrees that this recommendation merits further analysis. The City will consider this recommendation in its upcoming budget review process for fiscal year 2003-2004.
Recommendation No. 4
The Public Works Department should obtain proposals for annual maintenance and repair contracts.
Response to Recommendation No. 4
The City agrees with this recommendation in part. The City’s Master Water Plan includes the concept of annual maintenance and repair. The City will consider this recommendation in its budget review process for the fiscal year 2003-2004.
Again, the City appreciates the time and thoroughness of the Grand Jury’s inquiry.
Very Truly Yours,