Independent Special Districts:
Transparency “Not Found”
See the full report:
With 101 independent special districts (ISDs) within its boundaries, San Joaquin County far exceeds the state average.
The 2020-2021 Grand Jury determined that the workings of these districts are often difficult for the public to access, and, for the most part, “not found”.
… Senate Bill 929 (SB 929), … requires all ISDs to have public websites. Despite SB 929, only 52% of ISDs in San Joaquin County have websites.
There is a great deal of information about ISDs in the county, but it is scattered across a number of agencies and is often not easily accessible.
Status of ISD Websites (2021)
- Many Independent Special Districts do not have websites and those that do are mostly not compliant with current government regulations.
- Financial information about most districts including audits is generally not available except upon request.
- Audits are received regularly by the Auditor-Controller of the County but are not published on a website.
- The County has a professional capable Information Systems Division with many services. These services can be (and already are) shared with outside agencies.
- There is no central online directory where the public can connect to comprehensive information about each Independent Special District in the County. Various County agencies and LAFCO have some of the information, but there is no central place connecting it all.
The overall major recommendation to the County and LAFCO is that they work together to create a website that summarizes the information known by the County and LAFCO and additionally provides a link to the ISD’s website.
Some ISDs have quality websites that are reasonably compliant with government regulations. The key recommendation for the remaining ISDs is to get to that same place.
- The ISDs should explore sharing county Information Systems resources.
- The Information Systems Divisions should work with at least one ISD to create a standard shareable website.
- The Auditor-Controller should require all ISD audits to be submitted electronically and going forward should publish them on its website.
Independent Special Districts
The majority of ISDs have filed the required response and many committed to following the Grand Jury’s recommendations. Many without websites have created or committed to create a website. Some small districts have decided to request an exemption for financial hardship as provided in the law.
LAFCO agreed to all findings and recommendations: “LAFCo intends to work diligently to implement the recommendations provided in the Grand Jury Report”. Key is the commitment to work with the County to create a comprehensive ISD website.
Board of Supervisors
The Board of Supervisors agreed to all findings and recommendations. Included was a commitment that “…the San Joaquin County Information Systems Division, in conjunction with at least one independent special district, create a working, model website that can be maintained and expanded by the independent special district.
The Auditor-Controller agreed to all findings and recommendations: “The ACO will work with the County’s Information Systems Division and LAFCO [to] provide the most recent independent special district audit links to LAFCO for their new independent special district summary webpages.”