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Checkup on city’s development department

File photo. Community Development Department.

Five months after a consultant released a scathing audit of the city’s Community Development Department, the department is making headway on correcting its practices, according to City Auditor Jorge Oseguera. However, it’s still unclear when or if the city can obtain $2.3 million in developer fees that the department did not collect.

Oseguera presented a report on the department’s overhaul to the City Council on Tuesday. The council accepted Oseguera’s report and did not take any formal action on it.

The October audit, conducted by Sjoberg Evashenk Consulting, Inc., faulted the department for not collecting more than $2.3 million in fees in recent years. The firm also accused city employees of violating state and city laws. The audit examined the department’s work from fiscal years 2007 through 2010.

Oseguera noted in his report that it’s still unknown if the city can collect the $2.3 million.

“According to the attorney’s office, the city is still evaluating whether the city may successfully recoup some or all of the previously noted $2.3 million in uncollected fees,” the report said.

Attempts to contact City Attorney Eileen Teichert on Wednesday afternoon for more information were unsuccessful.

Oseguera, who managed the consultant’s work on the audit, is also responsible for checking to see how the department applies the audit’s 40 recommended changes.

He gave the department positive reviews for its work to change its practices.

The recommendations cover an array of areas, including the department’s operations, policies, permitting practices and fee collection practices.

One of the recommendations, to verify that expired permits are voided, is fully in effect, according to Oseguera’s report. The department has “partly implemented” 35 percent of the changes, according to his report. CDD has begun work on 55 percent of the recommendations, while work on 10 percent of them has not yet begun, the report said.

“Overall, we are pleased to report that the Community Development Department has made substantial progress towards implementing the recommendations given the relatively short time that has transpired since the report’s release in October, 2010,” Oseguera told the City Council.

Oseguera said the department has made a “good start” on the work of applying the recommendations, but noted that he expects a “lengthy period” of time for the department to finish all the work.

The consolidation of Code Enforcement with the CDD, city budget cuts and the need for the CDD to form new policies and procedures are some factors that will lengthen the amount of time to finish the overhaul, according to Oseguera.

Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy praised Oseguera for providing an in-depth update on the department.

“I think this is going to help immensely,” she said.

Oseguera’s report briefly summarizes the department’s work on each of the 40 recommendations. One recommendation the department has “partly implemented” calls for it to create “an organizational culture that places importance on adhering to proper policies and processes while also meeting service level goals.”

The recommendation further says that the department’s leaders should show zero tolerance for violating permitting and fee rules. It calls for a new “tone at the top.”

One of the recommendations not yet applied says the department should examine how revenues were used in the past.

“Conduct a review of past Building Services’ revenues to analyze how the monies were utilized and determine whether the usage was appropriate, complied with regulations, and was in the best interest of CDD and Building Services’ operations,” according to the audit.

The city auditor’s office will assist the CDD on how to carry out that task, according to Oseguera’s report.

Read Oseguera’s report on the Community Development Department here.

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. 

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