Leiba: City money hijinks may hinder public safety

Ned Leiba makes a point during a meeting of the Measure A comittee as Gary Ingraham and Rev. Dwight Williams look on.

Ned Leiba, a CPA and fiscal watchdog, writes:

“When you speak of Measure A, do not forget Measure W.  100% of the tax has been raised and remitted to the City, but the City has not been able to meet its police and fire hiring goals, e.g., 25 added police slots were funded while 45 were promised.  The status of Measure W  should be considered whenever Measure A funding is discussed.

“My second recommendation is to follow up on the Annual Reports of the Measure A Committee.  The Committee fought hard against the strong opposition of staff to issue two independent, critical reports.  The Record has not run one story on either of the annual reports.  The reports called for full audits of Measure A, consistent with the May 2015 motion that was passed by the Measure A Committee.  The reports also called for proper metrics to demonstrate funds are effectively and properly used.

“We suffer from a very serious crime problem in Stockton, and your article talks of several factors relevant to crime trends and the City’s attempts to suppress criminal activity.  I urge the Record to consider that the City’s failure to spend the majority of the $110,000,000 Measure A funds probably is a big factor that limits an effective response to crime.

“We have Measure A financial reports that clearly show (1) the City has not spent a majority of the funds raised on police, and (2) even substantial amounts reflected on the Measure A financial statements as actually spent, were not “actually spent.”  There was an obvious $2.26 million math error on the Measure A financial report filed with government authorities.  Without proper audits, who knows how much sloppiness, misstatements, internal control and compliance reside beneath the surface?  Who knows what benefits in lower crime we would enjoy if funds were efficiently spent?

“The failure to properly utilize Measure A funds and the failure to conduct required audits, points to serious administrative problems with the City that hampers the ability of law enforcement to address our crime problem.”

If I understand Leiba’s objection, the city of Stockton used Measure A money for “mission critical” needs outside the police department during the period when the tax revenue was coming in but budgeted police positions could not be filled. But then if Leiba is right and proper audits of Measure A expenditures have not been done, the city could have spent that money on anything. If the city has not been transparent about those expenditures, that must change.

I take Leiba’s point about Measure W, too. It promised 45 cops but never delivered. Leiba is saying the city may be concealing a pattern of misappropriation and fiscal sloppiness when every dollar put towards public safety should count. Worth looking into in the New Year.

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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