2012 17th Annual Goldens
GRAND GOLDEN WATCHDOG AWARD:
County of San Diego: Better Than Extreme Couponing
As a result of cost saving measures over the past decade, the County of San Diego Capital Program will save taxpayers approximately $1.46 billion over the next 30 years. The County began setting aside cash reserves during its years of high revenue growth. The County has been able to pay cash for one time capitol improvement projects rather than financing them with long-term debt. this has lowered the costs of new construction projects from $1.2 billion to $872 million. New construction includes 10 libraries, an animal shelter, a juvenile detention facility, ad adult detention facility, two sheriff’s stations, three assessor buildings, a new medical examiner building, the County Operations Center redevelopment, a 12-acre waterfront park, 20,000 acres of open space/parkland, 20 new sports fields, five new community centers/gymnasiums, and two new teen centers.
REGIONAL WATCHDOG AWARD:
City of San Diego: Reform Roadshow
The City of San Diego and labor unions approved a healthcare reform agreement projected to cut millions from the City’s $1.1 billion unfunded retiree healthcare liabilities. For the first time, employees would be required to contribute part of their paychecks toward their benefit while moving new employees into a defined contribution retiree healthcare plan. In prior years, the City had been underfunding its annual required contribution. The approved agreement is expected to reduce costs enough so the City can not only make its full annual required payments, but also properly fund the benefit for future retirees.
PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP AWARD:
Multiple Agencies: Get Smart
Project 25 is an experimental, collaborative effort by the City of San Diego, The County of San Diego, the United Way, and the local non-profit sector. The program targets individuals among the chronically homeless who require the greatest amount of services. Many cost taxpayers an average of $100,000 each year in emergency medical services alone. Thus far, the program has exceeded expectations by enrolling 35 participants. The program invests in securing housing and stabilizing medical issues for the individuals. Prior to the program, taxpayers spent $4 million in 2010 for the costs associated with arrests, jail time, and emergency medical services by the participants. This new model of providing support has saved an estimated $5 million in its first year of operations.
MEDIA WATCHDOG AWARD WINNERS:
Ashly McGlone, Wendy Fry and the U-T San Diego Watchdog Team
Sweetwater Union High School District Coverage
10News KGTV I-Team Investigations
“I-Team reveals Court spending bill could impact $2B computer system”
GRAND GOLDEN AWARD:
Otay Water District: Game of Thrones
The Otay Water District voted to provide free lifetime health and dental benefits to their managers and unrepresented employees in July 2011, responding to thepublic outcry with “let them eat cake.” One month later, the Board then extended those same benefits to all employees in an August 2011 vote. The District incorrectly claimed these free employee benefits would result in a net savings. Ratepayers have seen their water rates soar more than 40% in recent years and voiced vehement opposition. As a result, the District’s unfunded liability will increase by more than 90%. Otay’s top brass enjoys a noble benefit package including 72 days off per year. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t have time to be bothered with pesky details, and awards no-bid contracts to consultants.
REPEAT OFFENDER AWARD (TIE):
San Diego SAFE Board: Mad Men (and Women)
The SAFE Board received the Regional Golden Fleece award in 2011 for using its fee revenue for questionable expenses. Did it get the hint and start trimming its spending? Hardly. Instead, SAFE’s Board decided to spend more money on marketing campaigns to get buy-in for its projects, at a cost of $214,000 last year. The Board also decided to extend its agreement with the company managing the call box system for the sixth time since 1999 without competitive bids. Legislators were compelled to introduce bills to force the SAFE Board to get its spending under control. At least the board squashed spending money on a $130,000 extension to its “Mad Men” marketing campaign including its own line of cookbooks, Tupperware and a prank vehicle promotion. But it saw fit to start a gas card give-a-way. Don Draper would be proud.
Tri-City Healthcare District: Keeping Up With the Klaims
Two years ago, the Tri-City Healthcare District received our Grand Golden Fleece and was a Repeat Offender Award finalist in 2011. Like a bad reality TV show, they’re back. Tri-City can’t seem to stay out of the courts and is now involved in an ongoing lawsuit seeking to stop the public hospital’s board from keeping one of its members out of closed-session meetings. The suit claims voters are being disenfranchised after the seven-member board began excluding two members from closed-session meetings after passing censures against them. The lawsuit has bounced back and forth between courts and judges without a decision whether the voters are being disenfranchised, the original claim. And, the Board went so far as to give itself powers to boot ELECTED members. It looks like taxpayers will be spending more time and money on lawyers.
REGIONAL FLEECE AWARD:
San Diego Unified School District: Calling Mister Rogers!
The San Diego Unified School District’s Early Childhood Education Program failed to meet filing deadlines under its contract with the Neighborhood House Association. It not only lost $2.7 million in reimbursed expenses as a result, but also cost the program its First 5 funding. In response, the District has spent money hiring three additional full-time employees to monitor the contract while promising it will never happen again. Also in 2011, the District commissioned an unscientific study that determined that projects under the $2.1 billion Prop S Project Stabilization Agreement saved money. The District’s Board expanded the PSA to apply to all bond projects based on its questionable results.
METRO FLEECE AWARD:
City of San Diego: Let’s Not Make a Deal
The City of San Diego attempted to enter into a no-bid exclusive 28-year deal for security services at Qualcomm Stadium in 2006. When the long-term contract and ultimate cost to the taxpayers was revealed, the City finally went out to bid. The City received cost-saving offers from five other companies, but still decided to go with the original contractor. After a protest was filed and upheld because the City failed to follow specified procedures and requirements, the City has finally AGAIN re-bid the contract. Meanwhile taxpayers are still paying for the high-priced original contract.