April 26, 2019 – Special districts are local government agencies that provide essential services to residents of the districts, including sewage treatment, water, fire protection, operation of parks, maintaining roads, and cemetery operation. There are 24 independent special districts with Nevada County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) oversight having combined annual operating budgets in excess of $140 million dollars. Their functions vary based on the type of service(s) they perform, but all are governed by state transparency, conflict of interest, and ethics laws. The Nevada County Grand Jury (Jury) surveyed 24 Nevada County special districts. Responses were received from each district and all were reviewed.
The Jury found weaknesses in the areas of transparency and outreach. The Jury found that laws have been passed that provide a means for special districts to address these issues. These laws detail:
the requirement for a website,
the requirement for posting of agendas on the website,
the requirement for contact information on the website,
compliance with Public Records Act requirements using the website, and
the requirement for a Conflict of Interest policy.
In the interest of transparency, the Jury recommends that each website contain additional information that could be of value to the district’s constituents including:
board member list, length in office of each board member, and their titles;
staff directory (if applicable);
archive of agendas and minutes;
past certified financial audits;
current bylaws (or formation act);
map of the district and/or service area; and
board policies and procedures.
This report provides guidance to assist special districts in their efforts to improve transparency.