Calaveras County Grand Jury says $400K squandered on tech

Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat /

The 2013-2014 Calaveras County Grand Jury released its annual report this week, examining issues ranging from money squandered by the county on a computerized record keeping system, to violations of the alcohol-and-drug use policies at the Mokelumne Hill Fire Protection District.

The annually convened citizens' panel, which investigates government operations and citizen complaints, reviewed at least eight agencies, including school districts, county and city government agencies and several "special" districts, like fire districts.

Among the meatier findings:

Jurors criticized Calaveras County for its failed implementation of an electronic-document-storage system - a goal set in 2006.

At the heart of the problem, the county's Technology Services Department bought a document management system, Questys, in 2006 which proved to have security issues and was deemed unusable. After nearly $400,000 was spent, the project was abandoned and no refund was sought from Questys, the report said.

The jurors also found that the county's chief information officer has not received a performance review in 16 years.

The grand jury recommended contracting an outside project manager to implement the electronic-document project and establish a policy of reviewing purchases over $100,000.

"The lesson learned from this is we need to follow up on projects like this," said Merita Callaway, District 3 county supervisor in an interview.

The grand jury also turned its eye to the Mokelumne Hill Fire Protection District in this year's report, finding its staff didn't always follow the district's "zero tolerance" drug and alcohol policy.

The district, also dinged last year, is making efforts to improve but remains a work in progress, the jury found.

Among the findings: The district's standard operating procedures and guidelines are still being updated, and the district's board of directors violated sections of the Brown Act, the state's open meeting law.

The board held a closed session meeting without quorum or an agenda, the report said, and the board accidentally revealed information from a closed session by briefly playing a voice recording.

The jury also found that district did not follow a "zero tolerance" policy when a firefighter responding to a fire was not asked to "stand down" after suspicions of alcohol use were raised, the report said.

The suspicions turned out to be false and "zero tolerance" is not actually a policy for volunteer fire departments, according to responses from the district and fire chief printed in the report.

For the full story, see the July 3, 2014, edition of The Union Democrat.

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