The 2021-2022 Colusa County Grand Jury released its yearly report last week, citing the misuse of public funds and multiple code and policy violations by the city of Colusa. 

The report also highlights several investigations the grand jury conducted over the past year, including an inspection of the Colusa County Jail and Tri-County Juvenile Rehabilitation Facility, as well as recommendations for the county moving forward. 

“During our tenure, we were tasked with several unique complaints that presented challenges for our Grand Jury members in realizing the criticality of their role and, in some instances, necessitating the Jurors to step out of their comfort zone to pursue the oversight and tough questions required by a Grand Jury,” said foreperson Marilyn Arcee in her letter to Judge Jeffery A. Thompson. “They performed said duties with determination, ethics and the willingness to listen and hear parties.” 

The Colusa County Grand Jury conducted an investigation of the city of Colusa and the various divisions that were involved in the planning and implementation of several city-sponsored events that took place in the summer of 2021, including the Country in Colusa concert, the Fourth of July Festival, the Taco Festival and the Colusa Duck Days Expo. 

During the investigation, various city and county administration representatives were interviewed to inquire about the permitting and financing of these events as well as the overall policies and procedures of the city. 

“The Grand Jury finds that the city failed to obtain all the required alcoholic beverage and temporary food permits form the relevant agencies to serve such to the public at these events,” according to the report. 

Findings also show that city staff reported in July 2021 that the first event in the series, Country in Colusa, was supposed to be paid for using recreation funds that the city established in spring of 2021 with a starting budget of $25,000 that was pulled from the city’s cannabis funds. 

“However, review of financial records indicate that the expenses for these events were expensed to the Economic Development fund (a subaccount of the general fund) and not the recreation fund,” read the report. “Use of the Economic Development fund to pay for the summer of 2021 events was not publicly discussed or preapproved by City Council.” 

The city also solicited donations totalling $34,000 which were all allocated to economic development in the general fund. It was reported by city officials in November 2021 that an additional $47,000 was to be collected by the end of the year from multiple donors that made handshake deals but no additional funds have been reported by the city to date. 

Financial records indicate that ticket sales fell short of anticipated totals which left a sizable remainder of expenditures to be covered by the general fund, while the city paid expenses to host these events by maxing out credit cards and exceeding budgetary limitations, according to the report. 

“The reported expenditures for all four city-sponsored summer of 2021 events totaled $128,313.78; however, the reported amounts of revenue and expenses are estimated since the financial records are convoluted and not all the expenses, nor the revenues, have been entirely accounted for by city staff,” read the report. “The financial result of the summer of 2021 events was estimated to be a net loss of approximately $67,000 from the city’s general fund; however, a portion of these losses appear to have been recouped using COVID-19 grant monies received by the city.” 

The following is a breakdown of the other investigations done by the Colusa County Grand Jury over the past year: 

Colusa County Jail

The grand jury conducted its annual inspection of the Colusa County Jail on Feb. 22 and it included a tour of the jail’s kitchen and food storage area, recreation area, educational programming rooms, medical office, laundry as well as the staff break room, commissary storeroom and the booking and intake areas. 

The Colusa County Grand Jury found that while the jail is currently functional, the facility is outdated and does not meet current correctional facility standards due to its linear design layout, which poses a safety risk to inmates and staff. 

According to the report, the jail is a single floor facility with an authorized housing capacity of 92 inmates and at the time of the inspection, 61 male inmates were in custody at the facility. 

According to the report, the information for the investigation was sourced from a tour of the jail facility, interviews with jail administrative staff and line personnel, interviews with male and female inmates and reviews of past jail inspections and state inspection reports.

During the interviews with the inmates at the facility, the grand jury stated that it was hard to get employment while incarcerated because jobs were earned with good behavior and there were currently no academic options available due to the vacancy of a jail teacher position and COVID-19 safety protocols. 

“The interviewed inmates have expressed the desire to have academic programs offered to assist them in attaining a General Education Development (GED) test,” read the report. “Additionally, the inmates would like to have behavioral health programs available to them. 

It was also made known that interviewed inmates indicated that the outdoor recreation yard at the facility is too small and there are limited activities available to them. 

Pre-inspection interviews identified that the majority of complaints made by inmates were regarding the food served at the facility as well. 

The status of the new Colusa County Jail, which is planned to have 96 beds, a detention facility layout and will be built directly behind the current facility, is still pending according to the report. 

“The latest cost estimate to build the new jail is approximately $25 million dollars,” read the report. “This is a $5.2 million dollar increase above the original 2015 estimate. The increase is due to project delays and the current market conditions for building supplies.” 

The report stated that the county is waiting on final approval from the state to move forward with the groundbreaking, which is anticipated this summer. 

Tri-County Juvenile Rehabilitation Facility and The Maxine Singer Youth Guidance Center

As the primary sites for youth offenders in the area, members of the Colusa County Grand Jury conducted their yearly inspection of the Tri-County Juvenile Rehabilitation Facility and the Maxine Singer Youth Guidance Center – also known as Camp Singer – on March 31. 

Colusa County utilizes the facilities located in Yuba County because it does not have a juvenile detention center of its own. 

Jury members were given a tour of the facilities and had the opportunity to interview administration, staff and two juvenile inmates. 

“The Grand Jury finds that the facilities are running adequately despite their age and staffing challenges it currently faces,” read the report. 

These facilities house youth between the ages of 14-19 and each has a relative capacity of approximately 60 youths, according to the report. 

“The Juvenile Hall holds youth from Yuba, Sutter and Colusa counties only while Camp Singer holds youth from eight surrounding counties,” read the report. “At the time of our inspection, the Juvenile Hall housed nine males and zero females, with one from Colusa County. At the time of our inspection, Camp Singer housed five males and two females, none of which were from Colusa County.” 

There are currently 18 juvenile correction officers (JCOs) employed at Juvenile Hall and 14 JCOs at Camp Singer, but the report stated that staffing levels tend to fluctuate due to historically high turnover rates and the facility is short several female JCOs. 

Report findings indicated that the juvenile hall housing unit has 45 beds but the linear layout is not compliant with current standards and is considered unsafe for both youth and staff. Camp Singer contains one housing building that consists of two identical open concept dormitory wings that can house 30 beds each. 

The Tri-Counties facility currently has a new $20 million, 45-bed juvenile hall facility under construction directly across the street from the existing facility. This facility, which has been in the works since 2014 and broke ground in 2020, will follow current compliant guidelines and will not follow a linear design. It will also offer two yards for recreation. 

“Construction stopped in July 2021 for various reasons, including supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and Fire Marshall permitting,” read the report. “To date, only the foundation of the new Juvenile Hall has been built. Facility administration anticipates that construction should resume by summer of 2022.” 

 

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