[San Joaquin County] Code Enforcement

Lathrop may disagree with grand jury

 

The San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury took issue back in June with the way that the City of Lathrop handles its code enforcement operation.

And Lathrop city staff is now recommending that the council respectfully disagree with the recommendations of the grand jury in writing in response to claims that the city doesn’t have an ethics policy for its elected officials, that the city has taken limited code enforcement action to thwart illegal truck parking, that the city doesn’t have a budgeted position for code enforcement and that the city doesn’t have any appeals process for those who have been cited for code enforcement violations.

According to the staff report prepared for the council in advance of their next business meeting tonight  – taking place at Lathrop City Hall, located at 390 Towne Centre Drive – staff is recommending that the council “respectfully disagree” with each of the four findings, some of which have already been responded to by Lathrop City Attorney Salvador Navarrete.

The city, according to the report, has initiated 3,380 new code enforcement cases in the last six years – with 103 of them being for illegal truck parking. In just the last two years, code enforcement has initiated 1,149 new cases, 20 of which were for illegal truck parking – numbers that the city feels proves that they have already taken steps to address the issues that were pointed out in the grand jury report.

“The City of Lathrop Code Compliance Division exercises all powers vested in the City in response to blight and public safety issues, including illegal parking of commercial vehicles,” reads the suggested response by the council, which then goes on to detail the number of new cases that have been initiated over the last six years. “The City of Lathrop does in fact take consistent code enforcement action on the illegal truck parking of commercial trucks.”

And a big part of that recent code enforcement success is thanks to the City of Lathrop’s former police chief that came back after retirement to help the city clear a backlog of cases.

The City of Lathrop had been utilizing the services of retired Lathrop Police Chief Danelle Hohe on a contract basis through October of 2017. Her expertise with Lathrop’s municipal code and her knowledge of the community had allowed her to clear the significant backlog of complaints. In the first nine months prior to her contract, the city had cleared 392 code enforcement cases while Hohe managed to clear 152 by herself in just over three months’ time – putting her on track to clear more than 500 cases through the end of her contract. Her position, which was approved up to $50,000, was paid for out of the savings from the unfilled code enforcement supervisor position, which was filled on a full-time basis back in March.

The city also feels that it already ensures that elected officials observe all of the necessary state and federal ethics laws, in addition to the city council’s handbook which governs the ethical behavior of council members.

The California Penal Code requires that the council respond to the findings when they’re made public by the grand jury, giving them the option to either agree or disagree wholly or in part with the finding – requiring a detailed written explanation as to which sections the city disagrees with.

The Lathrop City Council typically meets on the second Monday of every month at Lathrop City Hall – located at 390 Towne Centre Drive in Lathrop – at 7 p.m. For additional information, or to obtain a copy of the agenda or the supporting documentation, visit the City of Lathrop’s website at www.ci.lathrop.ca.us.

September 10, 2018

Manteca/Ripon Bulletin

By Jason Campbell

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