County chief, grand jury feud tops news

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By ABBY SOUZA

The Tuolumne County Grand Jury called county Administrator C. Brent Wallace sloppy, unprofessional and indifferent.

"Dishonest" and "shameful," Wallace fired back.

The exchange characterized the feud between the county's often controversial administrator and the 19-member, all-volunteer grand jury, which is annually charged with examining local government.

The accusations and the administrator's heated response make Wallace and grand jurors part of The Union Democrat's Top Ten Newsmakers list for 2002.

In their report issued in July, jurors took aim at the way in which Wallace, 55, fired former Tuolumne General Hospital Administrator Michael Marini.

Beyond "sloppy" and "unprofessional," the report labeled Wallace as being both indifferent and "lacking in common courtesy."

Wallace was on vacation when the report came out but responded in kind with a 14-page letter a month later. And incensed grand jurors called for an apology. None came at least not to the jury.

But Wallace did say he was sorry for adding to the Board of Supervisors' workload.

"I regret creating a controversy that the board had to deal with," Wallace, 55, said earlier this month.

Not the first time

This isn't the first report in which a grand jury has taken Wallace to task. The 1999-2000 panel slammed his decisions and management style, condemning them as "preposterous," "reckless" and "inexcusable."

The 2001-02 panel concluded Marini wasn't told the real reasons he was fired in late 2001. This grand jury also believed county code was violated during the dismissal process and Marini was denied more than $90,000 in severance pay.

While agreeing that Marini's firing was justified, the jury reported that the way in which Wallace handled the termination "introduces an element of doubt" to its legitimacy.

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The Union Democrat
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