Ethics Breach Seen As Danger, Local MCMAC Is Example
By Patric Hedlund
The Kern County Grand Jury sounded an alarm March 4 saying “alliances are created and favor curried” by a little-known $2.1 million discretionary fund divided among the county supervisors which is not subject to normal budgetary oversight considered proper for spending public tax money.
The report says that Fourth District Supervisor Ray Watson has the largest stash, $792,000, which he spends as he chooses, without reports to the board or the public.
As one example, the Grand Jury noted disbursements to the Family Resource Center in Frazier Park: “The Committee investigated disbursements to the El Tejon Unified School District for fiscal years 2004-2005 ($9,600), 2005-2006 ($9,600), 2006-2007 ($8,000), 2007-2008 ($9,600), 2008-2009 ($9,600) and 2009-2010 ($3,200 to date). The Committee was informed this was for the Family Resource Center to handle social services for the mountain communities.”
When Watson opposed elections for the Mountain Communities Municipal Advisory Council (MCMAC), then appointed Anne Weber (director of the Family Resource Center), conflict of interest questions arose: How can a representative be independent if they know their vote may displease the supervisor who has the power to grant special funding to them?
The grand jury report answers: “Whether real or perceived, alliances are created and favor curried by reason of such disbursements.” They added, “…the existing process is unwise and unhealthy.”
Anne Weber, who has often spoken of the urgent need for more funding for her agency, denied she feels pressure from the supervisor to vote in any particular manner.
A recommendation about the proposed Frazier Park Estates is currently before the MCMAC. Last month, Weber voted they should “make no recommendation,” alarming those concerned there is inadequate groundwater to support another 2,000 people here during drought.
The full grand jury report is available at www.MountainEnterprise.com
This is part of the March 12, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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