Lindsay Council responds to jury findings
By Sheyanne Romero
lindsay – In light of a recent grand jury report entitled, “Nightmare in Lindsay,” the Lindsay City Council presented their response to accusations brought forth by the citizen-run watchdog agency at its April 12 meeting.
Prior to the meeting, Mayor Ramona Padilla stated that she did not agree with the public’s perception of a divided council. “I don’t feel we have a split council. We function as a democracy with the majority vote.” She went on to say, “Everyone has their own opinion.”
The grand jury released their findings on March 28 citing a number of improprieties committed by the council. The reason for the investigation came after the grand jury received complaints alleging Open Meeting (Brown Act) violations and criminal wrongdoing involving quid-pro-quo dealings by the City of Lindsay. The grand jury found the Brown Act violations were difficult to substantiate. Lacking hard evidence to prove the Brown Act violation, the grand jury elected to inquire further into the public affairs of the City.
“Although the grand jury found that the Brown Act violations were extraordinarily difficult to substantiate, it did find evidence of civil improprieties occurring within Lindsay city government which justified further investigation.”
Through their investigation, members of the Grand Jury confirmed seven facts, among those facts were: (3) “On at least two occasions, no more than two council members met in unofficial meetings at private residences to discuss employee union matters. In no known cases, however, was a quorum present;” (6) “The City reached high-cost employment severance settlements (in excess of $400,000) with a number of employees over the issue of termination; and, (7) “The City imposed employee furloughs, claiming financial constraints.” The number one fact cited by the Grand Jury was the combination of the city manager position and chief of police. The sequential six facts all seemed to be linked to their initial fact.
Although the Jury was unable to find meaningful evidence of a Brown Act violation they did have a number of findings. An excerpt from the report stated, “The Grand Jury determined the combining of the office of the city manager and police chief positions critically weakened the checks-and-balances with regards to personnel issues. This eliminated the division of authority to more than one person and position.”