Grand Jury notes problems with elected officials

May 2, 2010

By KAREN VELIE

A San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury investigation has concluded that some elected city treasurers locally are unqualified to do their municipal jobs and are lax at performing them.

As a result, the grand jury is recommending that cities appoint – instead of elect — their treasurers.

Only three county cities, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero and Paso Robles, elect their treasurers. If elected, the treasurer must be a voter who resides in the city – but no other qualifications are required by law.

By law, city treasurers are empowered to manage investment portfolios, totaling into the millions of dollars, for their cities.

State law requires that appointed and elected treasurers take responsibility for critical investment decisions while providing reports to the public regarding the city’s financial welfare.

The grand jury found that the treasurers in Atascadero and Arroyo Grande had failed to perform their duties because they lacked the knowledge of the jobs’ requirements.

These treasurers manage combined investment portfolios totaling more than $120 million.

First elected in 2002, the Atascadero treasurer, Joseph Modico Jr., began having problems performing his duties in 2008 and 2009. According to the report, Modico overlooked the requirement that he provide regular reports on the city’s financial situation for almost 18 months.

“We determined that Atascadero has been lax in adhering to state government code requirements and that their elected treasurer shows little interest in the financial oversight responsibilities that are part of his job,” the grand jury said in its report.

“In Arroyo Grande, the treasurer has delegated her job without knowledge of its responsibilities.”

The report concluded that Janet Huwaldt, the Arroyo Grande treasurer, had performed none of the functions of the job because she was asked by city manager Steve Adams to seek election to the post although she was only a city clerk.

Angela Kraetsch, currently Arroyo Grande’s director of finance, actually does the job but she is ineligible to seek election to the post because she lives outside of the city, the report said.

Huwaldt, who agreed to run to be treasurer, is paid $5 per month to do that job.

“That employee ought to be given more than the ‘very minimal training’ she received,” the report said.

In contrast, the grand jury had high praise for Mike Compton, the Paso Robles treasurer, who was described in the report as qualified and attentive to the requirements of his office.

However, the report cautioned that he could be replaced by a treasurer candidate, “whose only qualification is that he or she lives in the city and votes.”

In the past, voters in the three cities have rejected measures to make treasurers appointed, presumably so that voters can have more say in local government.

“But ironically, when these folks are elected but concurrently serve as city employees, it could be difficult for them to function as independent public watchdogs,” the report said.


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11 Comments

  1. bulwark says:

    The Grand Jury reviews the actions of local government. Conclusions are drawn and reports are filed. Depending on the politics of our Board of Sups, thanks are offered to the hard working jurors, reports are released, the board shrugges their shoulders and the reports are thrown in a drawer.

    Where was the Grand Jury when we needed them to fill in the blanks with last year’s Wilcox/Edge drama? The rumor persists among county staff that our Second District Supervisor was somehow a part of the whole affair. No pun intended.

    I would imagine that Karen V. has heard this rumor many times and I assume that it would have appeared here if there was some truth to it.

    Maybe that’s all it is, just a rumor.

    (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
  2. monkscrew says:

    We need to fundamentally change the way our local and county governments are constituted.

    The system is rife with corruption and the ol’ boy network.

    Lets throw all the bums out and start over. Lenthall, Bordonaro, Hedges, the whole lot should be investigated and thrown in jail.

    Unless and until we start doing something about the problem it will only get worse.

    Cheers!

    (14) 24 Total Votes - 19 up - 5 down
    • The Gimlet Eye says:

      Agreed. Government is corrupt all up and down the line as far as the eye can see, and much FARTHER than the eye can see. It’s disgusting. We are witnessing the devolution of our society. Dirty, rotten scoundrels are EVERYWHERE, ripping us off, bossing us around, telling us when to wipe our noses, telling us how to live.

      I say enough! Bring on the Revolution!

      (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
  3. stewie says:

    Doesn’t anyone look into a persons background when they are managing a budget of 120 million dollars?
    Joseph Modica started his career as a janitor for PGE. Later he decided to acquire a financial planning certificate through internet and on line classes.
    In 2004 Joseph Modica was involved in a civil law suit where he was accused of mishandling his mother in laws monies. Case number PR-03-0104
    If people would check the records they would see a lien still applied to his personal residence based on the outcome of that case.

    (6) 18 Total Votes - 12 up - 6 down
    • Dexter says:

      So based on your post stewie, he has the perfect resume for the position of an Atascadero public official. Its no secret that Modica is a big fan of one of the biggest A Town crooks , Smelly O’Malley

      (9) 13 Total Votes - 11 up - 2 down
  4. Cindy says:

    “First elected in 2002, the Atascadero treasurer, Joseph Modico Jr., began having problems performing his duties in 2008 and 2009. According to the report, Modico overlooked the requirement that he provide regular reports on the city’s financial situation for almost 18 months.

    Dexter – Don’t know if I would be pointing fingers at McKinney over the performance of Modico, who is elected. Sounds like Modico lost interest in 2008 but was performing for 6 years prior. This coincides more with the change in City Council. Luna used to keep an eye on the Treasury Reports. I’d say no one picked up the ball when Luna decided that he no longer wanted to serve or put up with the harassment from Jerry Clay, Tom O’Malley and their cronies and so, with no one looking at the reports or asking any questions, Modico just quit providing financial updates!

    “The report concluded that Janet Huwaldt, the Arroyo Grande treasurer, had performed none of the functions of the job because she was asked by city manager Steve Adams to seek election to the post although she was only a city clerk.”

    I would be more concerned about the city manager in Arroyo Grande. This guy knew he was encouraging someone who was incompetent to run for the position! Looks like he was up to pulling the wool over someone’s eyes or a least wanted “total control”, which is something that he should not have. I’d take a very close look at Mr. Steve Adams and his city treasury reports.

    (3) 11 Total Votes - 7 up - 4 down
  5. Dexter says:

    Modica is just another one of the A town good ol boys who are blindly driving the town into the dirt. Instead of double checking the math on the city ledger sheets he is too busy shaking the poms poms for the Wal-mart boys.

    As far as financial oversight and disclosure …. That is something PartyDown McKinney wants nothing of. Keep everything behind closed doors is his motto and that is supported by the dishonnest lackeys on the council.

    (9) 15 Total Votes - 12 up - 3 down
  6. ds_gray says:

    Elected officials not qualified to do their jobs?!?! SHOCKER!!

    @standup – not about legalized marijuana, dude. Talk about a ‘left turn’. See item #1 in comment guidelines under heading ‘Plain English’

    @bobfromsanluis – YES – AGREED – procedure change is in order. Set STANDARDS that must be met to hold the position of Treasurer. We do for Sheriff, don’t we?

    (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
  7. standup says:

    No surprise that Atascadero is in violation of state code. It seems to be a regular occurrence. The medical marijuana ordinance violates patients rights to form collectives per SB420 and as interpreted by the state attorney general. It seems ole “party on Wade” is running this ship into the ground. Lawsuits are forthcoming.

    (3) 11 Total Votes - 7 up - 4 down
  8. bobfromsanluis says:

    Stop the presses! Cal Coast News actually reported something positive, the treasurer of Paso Robles, Mike Compton, as doing a good job! And he is even in the North County! Wow. Nice job Mr. Compton; I hope you continue to get reelected so you can provide your skill and dedication to Paso Robles. I do have to admit though, when I saw the headline for this article, I was really hoping that the Grand Jury had done some investigation into the Assessor’s office; maybe soon? Good job Cal Coast News, and Arroyo Grande, Paso Robles and Atascadero- get on the stick, change your procedure so that you can have competent treasurers in your cities instead of someone winning a popularity contest that might not be qualified for anything.

    (6) 14 Total Votes - 10 up - 4 down
    • Cindy says:

      “I was really hoping that the Grand Jury had done some investigation into the Assessor’s office; maybe soon?”
      I was hoping the same thing.

      I have to laugh at your rant about hearing something positive here because it isn’t often that we hear about somebody doing something good on CCN! I was actually surprised to see what a great job Mr Compton was doing myself, LOL. Not that I would expect that he didn’t do a good job, just that I wouldn’t expect to hear about it here. This is where we find out about all the bad things that the Tribune hides from us. But in all fairness, Karen wouldn’t leave out a thumbs up for a good guy if it’s in line with a story she’s investigating, especially when she is making a comparative analysis. It is sort of humorous though, a good guy or two, how about that!

      (2) 6 Total Votes - 4 up - 2 down

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