Report inspires lots of eye rolls

Rarely is a civil grand jury report so simultaneously entertaining and embarrassing.

Translated, the Stanislaus County panel's assessment of the city of Riverbank, released Wednesday, flitted between totally hokey and you've got to be kidding us.

From its findings:

Jury: A newly elected council member (then 19-year-

old Jesse James White) wasn't a registered voter when he filed to run.

Translation: Arnold figured this part out, and he's from Austria. What's your excuse?

Jury: City Manager Rich Holmer knew in December that Mayor Chris Crifasi, re-elected in November, planned to quit in January. But Holmer chose not to tell the populace. The grand jury criticized his communication skills in general.

Translation: Hey, at least you can trust him to keep a secret.

Jury: City staff members have been, at times, intimidated by council members and concerned citizens. "One employee stated that he or she was not expected to think, but to do what he or she was told," the report states. It also says that city policies and procedures aren't in writing, or available to staff and the council. And if they are, they aren't required reading.

Translation: You see, in Riverbank, rules and regs are like lore from ancient cultures, passed down from generation to generation in song. And if the employees are really told to avoid thinking for themselves, why is reading even a prerequisite?

Jury: The city clerk doesn't check out the information provided on election documents.

Translation: You think? See the first item again.

Jury: Vice Mayor Dave White (Jesse James White's grandpa) used his own money to purchase a table at a fund-raiser and indicated he was representing the city at the function.

Translation: Let's see ... the vice mayor misrepresented the City Council by representing the City Council when the rest of the City Council didn't know it was being represented -- or misrepresented.

Jury: There is no uniform method of getting information to the council because one council member doesn't use the Internet, e-mail or any other computer-based programs provided by the city.

Translation: You are a technosaur.

And from its recommendations:

Jury: The council should invalidate the November election and remove the newly elected council member.

Translation: Take a mulligan on the election and dump the now 20-year-old civics buff.

Jury: The city manager needs to communicate better.

Translation: You can start by responding to the grand jury's report.

Jury: The city manager needs to be more visible in his leadership role.

Translation: Next time, tell folks when you know the mayor is going to quit.

Jury: The council should regularly evaluate the city manager and the city manager should evaluate the staff.

Translation: And the voters need to re-evaluate this council.

Jury: The council should reprimand the vice mayor who bought the table with his own money but represented the city at the fund-raiser.

Translation: The council has, in effect, had a couple of vice mayors since November. Reprimand them all to send a message.

Jury: Hire a consultant who is an expert in rapidly changing cities with rapidly changing demographics.

Translation: You are in way over your head.

Jury: Train the council member who can't use e-mail.

Translation: Go green. It's better for the environment.

Jury: Do a better job to "maintain records of the dates of meetings and the subject of said meetings to enhance their recall."

Translation: By botching this, you've enhanced your chances of getting recalled.

Of course, the grand jury can only make recommendations that carry no weight. But the voters certainly do.

They deserve better and have the clout to demand it.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at or 578-2383.

Related stories from Merced Sun-Star