'It's not over," Grand Jury foreman says


The Kern County Grand Jury gave the City of Taft a severe scolding in a very strongly worded report issued two weeks ago.

Now the city has two months to do something about it.

How the city responds and implements the recommendations made by the grand jury are being watched.

It is being watched very carefully.

“It isn’t over,” said Grand Jury Foreman John Mainland.

Mainland warned that the Grand Jury recommendations have to be taken very seriously – and that there are more issues than just the pay rises being examined.

“There are other issues we are concerned with. We can’t be specific,” he said. “There are a lot of other things on the fire.”

The city has a list of steps to take to correct what the Grand Jury feels are serious problems with the way the city is operating.

City Manager Bob Gorson has not followed city or state codes, ignored the counsel of the city attorney, and the Taft City Council has “failed in its fiduciary responsibilities of overseeing the city manager,” the grand jury found.

It made it clear that it expects the council to change that.

“The City Council should take immediate action to hold the city manger responsible for his conduct as the city manager,” the Grand Jury’s Cities and Joint Powers Committee wrote in the first of eight recommendations.

The Grand jury just reports, Mainland said, but it has the District Attorney and presiding judge of the Kern County Superior Court watching what happens.

The Grand Jury has the power to issue “accusations,” which, if upheld by the court, could result in the removal of council members from office.

Mainland said that would be an extreme remedy and done by the District Attorney.
”The proof is pretty strict,” he said.

The Grand Jury report, which became public on Feb. 9 several days after it was given to the city came down solidly on the side of the city attorney in a controversy over whether or not Gorson had the power to grant pay raises without the consent of the City Council.

It noted that the law firm of Gibson & Gibson told Gorson that the raises violated not only city codes but the state Government Code as well.

The city got a second opinion from attorney Michael Jenkins that supported Gorson.

That opinion was dismissed by the Grand Jury report as based on cases that weren’t relevant.

The Grand Jury found that the council refused to support motions made by Councilman Craig Noble to seek an opinion from the state Attorney General on who was right, then refused to accept a response from Gibson & Gibson to Jenkins’ opinion.

The report ordered the city to have Gibson & Gibson investigate to see if any of the raises given by Gorson constitute a gift of public funds, which is a violation of the law.

Gorson and Mayor Dave Noerr have both said that the fact that two attorneys disagreed on the meaning of city codes shows there was ambiguity in how they can be interpreted.
The council passed a series of changes clarifying the language of the city codes to make it clear that the council must take action on any pay raises.