Grand jury says split Sutter post
Sutter County should have an elected auditor and an appointed controller because the incumbent is not doing his job effectively, the grand jury said in its report released Thursday.
Auditor-Controller Robert Stark, who was not referred to by name in the report, "is not a cooperative member of Team Sutter," the report said.
Besides Stark's well-publicized refusal to record charges by the Information Technology Department to other departments, he transferred $336,485 from the general fund to the Robbins Water District, "shifting the district's burden to the entire county," the report said.
The grand jury earlier brought a 13-count felony indictment against Stark for misappropriating funds. The case is pending in Sutter County Superior Court.
"Mr. Stark's case is still in review in the courts and based on what happens in the court system we'll look at other options at that time," Supervisor Jim Whiteaker said of the grand jury's suggestion.
Stark said he is unaware of any California counties splitting the auditor and controller jobs and making the controller an appointed position.
"I'm not sure what the value of that would be because the controller ... enables the board to get completely independent information. Otherwise the information they get is filtered," said Stark.
Stark said he and his staff are analyzing the grand jury report.
"We want to cooperate and see what we can do to make the county a little more efficient," he said.
Because of long-standing disputes pitting Stark against the supervisors and County Administrator Larry Combs, board meetings "have become rife with petty bickering and unprofessional behavior," jurors said.
"If that were not enough, the Board of Supervisors has behaved unprofessionally in open sessions. Political rivalries and harsh words bubble to the surface almost every week during board meetings," the report said.
Supervisors "should be able to handle criticism in a more tactful manner," jurors said.
"I don't agree with the grand jury report," Whiteaker said. "We had an isolated incident with one supervisor. He has given a public apology. We all make mistakes. In general, we are there to listen to the public. We do that every week."
During a May board meeting, Supervisor Larry Munger told an audience member to shut up. He later publicly apologized.
Supervisor Larry Montna declined to comment on the grand jury's report.
"I have not had a chance to took at it," he said.
Other supervisors could not be reached.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Rob Young can be reached at 749-4710. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.