20190301-bc-oversight (copy)

In this file photo, the first meeting of the Citizens Oversight Committee came to order in the Truxtun Room at the Rabobank Convention Center. Committee members seated are Barry Hibbard, Brian Holt, Kenneth Keller, Wayland Louie, Fredrick Prince, Mitchell Rowland, Beatrice Sanders and Jeremy Tobias.

A Kern County grand jury is saying members of Bakersfield’s sales tax oversight committee should have been chosen through “random drawings” to ensure fairness and transparency in the selection process.

In a report released Wednesday, the grand jury detailed its investigation into the process the Bakersfield City Council went through to choose the nine members of the independent oversight committee.

In several rounds of voting that occurred in February, the council used a unique approach to whittle down the 82 Bakersfield residents that applied for a position on the committee.

During the first round, each council member voted for nine of the applicants. Any of the applicants who received four or more votes were given a position on the committee, and those who did not receive any votes were eliminated.

The rounds continued until all nine positions had been filled.

“The voting process was used in hopes that only the ‘best of the best were selected,’” the report said.

However, at the end of the voting process, seven of the nine committee members had been chosen from a list provided to the city by a coalition of Bakersfield business and public safety groups that included the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, Kern County Taxpayers Association, Bakersfield Association of Realtors, Bakersfield Police Officers Association and the Bakersfield International Association of Firefighters.

Many of the committee members had ties to those organizations, leading many in Bakersfield to believe the voting had been unfair.

“After the Citizens Oversight Committee was selected, public complaints began to surface,” the report said. “The consensus of the complaints is that the selection process was not fair because the Council relied heavily on Coalition recommendations and did not provide transparency.”

A better method, at least according to the grand jury, would be for the council to merely select at random any of the 82 applicants for the committee.

The alternative would likely have leveled the playing field for all those who applied, while potentially ignoring other factors such as an applicant’s level of experience and skill.

Councilman Bob Smith defended the council's voting method, which he proposed.

"There are obviously people who shouldn't be on there," he said, referring to the 82 applicants the council selected from. "And there are people that have better qualifications. Randomly picking out of a hat makes no sense to me."

He said the method used by the council was fair, and was used in other circumstances.

Council members used the voting method because they worried the large number of applicants would make voting on each individual committee seat too cumbersome.

One member of the oversight committee still needs to be added. Pritesh Patel, who was selected by the council in February, resigned from the committee before the first meeting, citing a busy schedule.

The council is set to add the new member in May.

Applications are still being accepted at the City Clerk's office.

Committee members serve three year terms, meaning the council will need to select an entirely new committee in 2022, when the term limits expire.

The grand jury recommended the council stagger the committee members' terms in four-year periods to avoid having all new members every three years.

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

(8) comments

mrdwm1

We the people, were told that if we did not vote in this 15% increase in sales tax, there would be disastrous cuts in public safety. Now we need a committee of other people to decide how to squander these $$$ ?
This sounds like the entire Proposition N was clearly a fraud, and needs to be cancelled.

Vavoom

exactly! we need a group of people to determine where the funding will go? answer: cops, a few cops, more cops, a whole lot a cops. remember this bakersfield?

Vavoom

whose palms will be greased... your friend, my friend. your business friend, city manager friend. we dont need our reps to make this decision... how difficult? what was the tax for( public safety according to the campaign) and is it going there? thats it.

alexkelley

Well, this is some refreshing news to read about a “possible” call for “some” semblance of fairness in voting. We, I refer to ALL bakersfield citizens who watch & understand city politics, are fully aware that in addition to the union-organized cherry picking of these current advisory panel members, there was also the more personalized litmus test conducted by City Manager Alan Tandy who made sure these current members would tow the line & not seek to undermine “City” priorities for use of these new tax monies. Unfortunately, the Kern County Grand Jury too is merely an advisory committee & the city/county will pay about as much attention to it as it ever has, meaning “zilch!”

AmericanMike

Dumb idea. We are a representative democracy. We elect people (our council representatives) who then make decisions for us. If we don't like who they choose then don't re-elect them or throw them out. But "random drawings" is especially a "dumb" idea or maybe better said it a "lazy" one. We should thank those groups for helping suggest qualified, experienced and trusted committee members! I what those kinds of folks on that committee. What more diversification? Then encourage your city council to improve the system.
Heck, the Grand Jury is a fine example of the problem of ransoming selecting decision makers!
Lastly... this is another reason this TAX should have been defeated and our city council should have done their job and reduced government services and/or become more efficient on the taxes we already give them. Start by fixing the out-of-control pension system that is braking the city bank!

RefereeB

How do we repeal the tax so they don’t have to nominate another sham committee of rubber stampers?

ReefRanger

Guess what? The Lions share of that tax IS going into the pension fund, NOT to public safety like it was supposed to. This tax was just another smoke and mirrors ploy to get taxpayers to bail out a failed system managed by people who can't count without using fingers and toes.

REMUDA

Lo and behold . . . lo and behold . . . the 'swamp' continues to 'drain' . . .

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.