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'Derelict and Incompetent': Grand jury reports seek improvements in California City

California City (FILE)
Posted at 4:56 PM, Jun 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-16 20:42:06-04

CALIFORNIA CITY, Calif. (KERO) — On Tuesday the Kern County Grand Jury released their 2021-2022 report on the state of California City. This is the fourth in a series of reports looking into residents' complaints about how the city has been run over the past few years.

The latest grand jury report says that Cal City leadership is in "crisis mode” and the city's financial state is "shocking.” According to the report current city officials have recognized that the "buck must stop with them."

In California City, not one but four Kern County grand jury reports have highlighted alleged issue after alleged issue. The 2021-2022 grand jury report titled "A Time to Come Together 2.0" looks into 46 concerns including accounting regularities, sewer funds, and proposition 218 non-compliance.

After looking into the daily operations of Cal City the grand jury found a lack of stability in leadership. In the past decade Cal City has had a high turnover in department heads. The only permanent filled position is the Cal City fire chief.

To top it off, the city is already paying about $3 million in wrongful termination fees.

And that inconsistency of management has reportedly trickled down. One area is water line replacements. The report described Cal City’s water line replacement program "as derelict and incompetent."

The report says that back in 2002 the Kern County Grand Jury gave the city 10 to 15 years to make such improvements to old and rusted water pipes installed in the 60s. As of this past April, only 10 percent of water lines have been replaced.

Two days after the report on Thursday morning there was a failed water main on 84th Street in Cal City.

According to the grand jury report, city officials say that water blowouts have been one of the slowdowns on these updates. Allegedly, Cal City has an average of three blowouts a week even with public works having 15 workers on call 24/7 for water line maintenance and repair.

General ledger and accounting practices have been another complaint. The report details that the city hasn’t been formally audited since 2019 and in 2020, a CPA firm found the city inaudible, which refers to how efficiently assets are being used.

The report details a ransomware cyber attack on the city in May 2021. It lasted 7 weeks, complicating its problem.

Allegedly, so has the “constant turnover” of the city manager and finance director positions.

The grand jury report outlined nine recommendations for California City, including:

Providing the city manager the tools needed to permanently fill all director positions by this September.

Hosting quarterly open town hall meetings to smooth over lines of communication with the public.

And by this December work with a private agency specializing in human resources and personnel matters to improve how they handle employment and termination.

23ABC visited city hall to speak with city officials about the report but neither the mayor nor the city manager was in. 23ABC also called and emailed but did not hear back.

23ABC also went to the police department as they were allegedly over budget, but were unavailable.

Kern County Grand Jury Report: City of California City