Nevada County Grand Jury releases report on ethics training | TheUnion.com

Nevada County Grand Jury releases report on ethics training

The Union staff

The Nevada County Grand Jury found a number of the county's special districts are not in compliance with state transparency, conflict of interest, and ethics laws.

The 2018-2019 Nevada County Grand Jury found many district board members are not adequately trained for effective governance.

Just 58 percent of the districts reported that board members have received Brown Act training and only 44 percent reported that staff had received that training. The Brown Act was created to provide public access to meetings and its goal is to ensure that government remains accountable to the public. Only 28 percent of the districts reported Brown Act training in 2017 or 2018.

Participation in ethics training was also examined. Special district board members and senior staff members are required by law to take ethics training courses if the officials could receive compensation or reimbursement of expenses. Sixty-seven percent of the districts reported that the board has received that training, with 61 percent reporting that staff has taken the training. Just 46 percent reported taking the training in 2017 or 2018.

These results created concern that systemic support for transparent government is lacking, the grand jury report said. The resources exist to allow districts to improve these numbers, the report went on to add, noting that ethics training can be taken in person, online or in a self-study course. Brown Act training is provided by the State Attorney General, the League of California Cities and by industry-specific groups.

Each year, the group studies the different government agencies operating within the county and issues reports on their performance or issues of concern.

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The civil entity, selected by the Superior Court, can require some of these agencies to respond to that report within a specified period of time. The grand jury's first report of 2019, "Special Districts' Compliance with Brown Act and Ethics Laws," was released Wednesday.

Special districts are local government agencies that provide services such as sewage treatment, fire protection, operation of parks, maintaining roads and cemetery operation. There are 24 independent special districts under Nevada County Local Agency Formation Commission oversight with combined annual operating budgets in excess of $140 million, according to the report.

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