Grand Jury: City actions cost public credibility
by TP staff
Jun 09, 2014 | 5856 views | 4 4 comments | 59 59 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Cessna 172 approaches the Tracy Airport to land in 2005.
A Cessna 172 approaches the Tracy Airport to land in 2005.
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A report from the San Joaquin County Grand Jury, released Monday, concluded that the city staff gave the Tracy City Council wrong information that may have jeopardized federal grants for the Tracy Airport.

The Grand Jury investigation focused on allegations of a secret and illegal business arrangement between the city and Surland Cos. LLC regarding the length of runway 12/30 and a $50,000 payment to the city made by Surland on behalf of the former airport fuel provider, Turlock Air.

The report found that a staff report presented to the council on June 18, which claimed that reducing the length of the runway by five feet would have no effect on future Federal Aviation Administration grants to the city, was inaccurate and incomplete.

In its opinion, the Grand Jury wrote that reducing the runway length would have benefited the Ellis project being developed by Surland, but there was no definitive proof that city staff members deliberately misled the council.

The jury recommended that the City Council instruct the city staff to make a comprehensive review of FAA and state safety zone requirements.

The Grand Jury examined whether there was any secret agreement between the city staff and Surland to reduce the length of runway 12/30 from 4,002 feet to 3,997 feet, which would allow Surland to build more homes at Ellis because of a reduced safety zone for landings and takeoffs at the airport. The jury looked at emails and staff reports from the city and Surland regarding a proposed amendment to the Ellis Specific Plan: Surland would fund airport fuel payments to the city and the city would reduce the runway length.

The Grand Jury found that the City Council did not enter into any written contractual agreement that would benefit Surland and did not approve an amendment that would have benefited the developer. (The city just codified the length of runway 12/30 at 4,001 feet.)

Though “the Grand Jury is not making a determination on the appropriateness of the actions,” it suggested that the council should adopt a policy requiring city staff members to disclose proposed substantial changes to any major developments in the city to avoid the perception of collusion. 

The Grand Jury also recommended that the city adopt a policy governing third-party payments for contractual obligations to the city, after reviewing a $50,000 payment made by Surland to cover money owed to the city by Turlock Air, then the fuel provider at the airport. The report said there was no indication that the payment was illegal or inappropriate, but that a policy could alleviate the appearance of impropriety.

The Grand Jury also issued a recommendation about contractors with the city. The panel found that  the city extended a contract with Turlock Air to provide fuel at the airport for 25 years without checking on the status of Turlock Air’s state license. The jury recommended that the city adopt a policy to review any contractor’s license before renewing or amending its contract with the city.

The Grand Jury also twice noted the existence of limited information — specifically, a lack of meeting minutes or notes from one meeting in the city attorney's office and any meetings between city staff members and Surland representatives — but discovered no evidence to substantiate the complainant’s allegations of secret, illegal deals. The panel did write about an alarming number of actions taken by city staff members that gave cause for concern and jeopardized the city’s credibility with residents.

The public can read the entire report on the Grand Jury’s website.

Grand Jury interviews are secret and complainants’ identities hidden, but the Press is seeking comments from the city and council members who were interviewed by the Grand Jury. Read the full report Friday in the Press.

 Contact Michael Ellis Langley at mlangley@tracypress.com or 830-4231.

More reports:

Council reverses stance on airport runway length

Council moves forward with inquiry of Surland proposal to city

City report on Surland memo finds no wrongdoing


Another view on situation at Tracy Airport

Council breaks off airport fuel contract

 
Comments
(4)
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Sero7
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June 11, 2014
There is no reason to trust the city including the city council. Surland and the city have been sleeping together since way back when. Politics as usual here in the City of Tracy or is it the City of Sneaky!
fortheunderdog
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June 10, 2014
"In its opinion, the Grand Jury wrote that reducing the runway length would have benefited the Ellis project being developed by Surland..."

Does not surprise me at all and it speaks volumes about the credibility of Tracy's city government.

behonestguys
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June 09, 2014
The Grand Jury also noted in its Conclusion portion of its report the following: "The Grand Jury questions whether these were a specific quid pro quo between the City and the developer for political or other considerations, or just a City attitude of knowing what the results would be but "wink-ink" we won't say anything". This speaks volumes and feeds the perception that our City follows a the Golden Rule - he who has the gold Rules. The report can be found at www.stocktoncourt.gov.

me-here
|
June 10, 2014
The panel did write about an alarming number of actions taken by city staff members that gave cause for concern and jeopardized the city’s credibility with residents.

Read more: Tracy Press - Grand Jury City actions cost public credibility


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