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Mayor Wants ‘Stronger Message’ Sent To Grand Jury

POSTED September 12, 2012 12:01 a.m.

Calling the prepared response by City Attorney Tom Hallinan “soft,” Oakdale City Mayor Pat Paul called for a consent agenda item regarding the city’s response to the Stanislaus County Grand Jury to be pulled and opened for discussion at the Tuesday, Sept. 4 Oakdale City Council meeting.

The city’s response was required from a July 2012 Grand Jury report that disapproved of former Oakdale City Councilman Jason Howard’s Dec. 7, 2010 actions where he removed a confidential file from the city, alleged that he interfered with a city personnel issue in March 2011, and failed to abstain from a July 2011 council resolution where there was a clear conflict of interest by remaining and participating in discussions. The report was also critical of Howard for choosing to remain on the council after perceiving he moved out of the area.

The city’s initial response basically stated that the “Respondent” agreed with each listed finding and agreed to the recommendations enumerated by the Grand Jury.

“I just think it needs to say more,” said Paul about the response, pointing out that she felt the problems identified by the Grand Jury had been corrected even before their investigation.

Paul’s dais mates weren’t as enthusiastic about the issue as Paul.

“I’m fine with it,” said Councilman Tom Dunlop. “Right now it’s water under the bridge.”

Kathy Morgan also said she was fine with the response.

Paul asked Hallinan if the response could be amended to point out that the city took care of the issues prior to the report even coming out or the investigation starting.

Hallinan stated he could make the addition to still be within the 90-day time frame and have it ready for review for the next meeting.

Paul and Howard, who both ran in 2010 challenging the then-administration’s status quo, frequently supported each other in council issues during Howard’s tenure. Paul, who in a 2011 council meeting referred to herself as Howard’s “mentor,” often came to his aid on the dais when the scrutinized issues originally arose.

“I just wonder why they would focus on this in the first place,” Paul continued.

“They enforce government codes,” said Dunlop. “They were looking at the Oakdale City Council.”

Dunlop compared Paul’s comment to questioning a police officer enforcing the law and telling him you didn’t agree with the law.

“For government, who else has jurisdiction?” Dunlop said after the meeting. “The (Civil) Grand Jury does that. They take input from citizens and look into it and decide if it’s right.”

Dunlop also said that the items didn’t exist anymore with Howard’s departure and it was time to move on.

At the end of the meeting outside the chambers, a few members of the audience questioned why Paul did not seek a vote for the revision from other council members and just directed Hallinan to make additions to the response.

“The mayor was inconsistent,” said Dunlop when the matter was pointed out. “That’s right, there was no vote.”

Hallinan said after the meeting that there would be minor changes to the response with the mayor’s request that the problems were identified and corrected, however there would not be a change to the initial response that the city agreed with the Grand Jury’s findings and recommendations.

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