The top administrator for Tuolumne County underscored his interest Tuesday in an independent audit of the county’s Economic Development Authority during a meeting with the county Board of Supervisors.

“I’ve been trying to figure out how to get the most expertise … at the least cost,” Craig Pedro, county administrator, told the board.

Pedro’s comments came the day after he suggested the Sonora City Council join with the Board of Supervisors to ask the California Association for Local Economic Development to conduct a management audit of the Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority.

Pedro said Tuesday he wants to look at the the TCEDA’s best practices, with more specific policies for what can be disclosed.

“There’s a privacy issue there,” Pedro said. “This is a way for addressing the grand jury’s concerns directly.”

The Board of Supervisors took no action on Pedro’s comments, which were made during his time for a verbal report.

Back in June, the Tuolumne County Civil Grand Jury blasted the TCEDA over a lack of transparency and for not following the same procedures and best practices as other taxpayer-funded public agencies.

The grand jury reported the authority’s board had allowed its executive director, Larry Cope, to sign his own expense reports and claim work time while on a month-long trip to England.

Cope responded to a request for his perspective by email, saying, “I am supportive of whatever decision that the County Board of Supervisors and City Council decide to make.”

The grand jury’s 2018 report on management oversight for the TCEDA identified potential problems related to budget control, terms for the chief executive officer’s contract, and board personnel evaluation processes.

“A structural issue of concern relates to balancing the need for public openness with private industry needs for confidentiality,” the grand jury’s 2018 report states. Another concern relates to the structure of the TCEDA as a joint-powers agency with its own rules of governance which, in some cases, do not reflect best practices of either the city or county.

The Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority was created in September 2009, when county and city leaders signed a joint-powers agreement creating the TCEDA. The TCEDA’s adopted a budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year is $460,732.

Cope has been working under contract for TCEDA since its inception with an initial contract dated March 11, 2009.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy

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