CALIFORNIA CITY — The Kern County Grand Jury released their 2021-2022 recommendations for California City, the fourth installment in a series of reports that have been looking into residents’ complaints on how the city has been run in the last few years. 
The latest report released June 15, found Cal City’s leadership is in “crisis mode” and the state of the city’s finances are “shocking”. The report looked into 46 concerns including accounting irregularities and sewer finances. 
The jury looked into Cal City’s daily operations, and found a lack of stability in leadership. California City is known for a high turnover of department heads, with three city managers in the last year, two police chiefs in three years, and no public works director since September 2021.  
In addition, the city is paying out about $3 million in wrongful termination fees. 
It was also reported that Cal City has not been in compliance with Proposition 218, which restricts local government revenue-raising ability, reduces fees, assessments and taxes that individuals and businesses pay, and increases voter approval for local taxes. 
According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, Prop 218 also impacts local garbage collection fees, fire assessment and utility taxes. 
Cal City is responsible for water and sewer, but the jury could not find any formal records of the last eight years. 
Back in 2002, the city council adopted a master water plan to replace water lines, believing the plan should take 10 to 15 years. But, as of spring 2022, only 10 percent of the lines have been replaced. Water breaks are common as well, becoming a monthly occurrence and leaving residents without water for hours. 
The grand jury ultimately recommended the city council fill all direct positions with permanent and qualified individuals, hold quarterly town hall meetings by Sept. 30. The city should also begin working with a private agency that specializes in human resources, and personnel matters to improve how employment and termination is handled, according to the report. 
Mayor Jeanie O’Laughlin said she agrees with all the findings, since the city is operating without several department heads. Though Doug Dunford was recently appointed Cal City’s new city manager, he has been playing catch up, while taking the lead on multiple department projects. 
“I’m not unhappy with the findings,” O’Laughlin said. “I think we should use this report as a guide. It’s true, we only have one department head. So we need to get things done, because it is not a good position for our city to be in.” 
She added, that several issues listed in the grand jury report, have been inherited from previous councils. 
“It’s been hard to hire, and with no department heads our city manager has no one to do the heavy lifting. He’s doing everyone’s job,” O’Laughlin said. 
Dunford is expected to bring professional service agreements for interim city positions, during the council’s next meeting. Dunford took over the city manager position in late May, and says he is still catching up on how the city’s municipal code works.

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