Grand jury report yields A and D ratings for city

Steps taken by Laguna Beach officials to improve the quality of public information on employee compensation have been approved by the Orange County Grand Jury.

The grand jury issues reports and recommendations on civil matters throughout the year to Orange County's public agencies. In a report issued June 14, the jury gave Laguna Beach an A the accessibility of employee compensation costs, but gave it a D for what was described as poorly defined information about the city's share of the cost of employee pension benefits, employee contribution rates, overtime costs and total employee compensation on the city website.

City officials notified the Presiding Judge of the Orange County Superior Court, as required by law, of actions taken to improve the content and clarity of the payroll and pension information available to the public on city's website, including putting all the information on a single table report format, as recommended.

"The grand jury has acknowledged that we have complied with three of the four recommendations and we will be complying with the fourth in the future," said City Manager John Pietig.

Overtime and on-call pay will be added to the city's compensation cost report to coincide with the release of compensation information to the state controller, scheduled for Sept. 30.

City staff also responded to a June 15 report and recommendations related to emergency services provided by the Fire Department.

The report stated that fire departments have become primarily responsible for responding to

medical emergencies since the onset of 911 calls, which are funneled into one place. The jury recommended hiring consultants to help evaluate how the city responds, with a deadline of July 31, 2013.

City staff partially disagreed with the finding and will not implement the recommendation.

"We do not feel that this would be a wise expenditure of resources at this time," Pietig said.

The Fire Department has been responding to medical calls long before 2001, according to the city's response. Service levels are evaluated periodically by city staff that may or may not be assisted by consultants.

City staff also declined to implement a recommendation to create a unified Emergency Response Department, separating fire and medical response and privatizing the medical response.

The city responded that staff had previously explored contracting out fire and emergency services and found it provided no substantial savings, based on the city's use of three-member paramedic teams, which require fewer personnel than other agencies' four-member paramedic units, and maximizes the city's emergency service delivery system dollars.

"We feel we have one of the more efficient models in the county, but if somebody comes up with a better one, we would consider it," Pietig said.

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