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Amador County Grand Jury Report rips Kim Kerr

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From page A11 | September 03, 2012 |

Kim Kerr, El Dorado County assistant chief administrative officer, along with the Ione City Council is the subject of a scathing report by the 2012 Amador County Grand Jury. Kerr, former city Manager for Ione and the City Council are identified by title only and not by name throughout the documents.

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The jury made findings that between 2007 and 2011, the city manager and City Council members developed the city’s General Plan based on inaccurate and overly optimistic growth projections. The city subsequently spent more than $2 million for consultants to plan a wastewater treatment plant to serve a projected population surge of over 6 percent per year, the report states.

Kerr is characterized as having “misled” the City Council on issues related to the wastewater consultants, and the council is blamed for not adequately questioning her data, thereby approving work and expenditures that were not properly described nor vetted, according to the report. The jury addresses the issue and concludes that Kerr’s and the City Council’s general plan was “unrealistic” given the city’s “financial infrastructure” and the treatment plant was therefore unnecessary, according to the report.

The city General Plan and the treatment plant are the most concrete issues noted in the report. Other findings relate to processes, record keeping and failure to respond adequately to complaints from the public. And the city manager and City Council “disregarded findings and recommendations from the 2010-2011 Grand Jury Report,” it states.

For example: “The Grand Jury finds that on many occasions the city manager provided insufficient or misleading information, making it difficult or impossible for the City Council to cast intelligent votes.”

And: “The Grand Jury finds that the City Council failed to ask proper questions regarding many of the votes pertaining to consultants, budgets, and previous audits during the fiscal period 2007- 2011.”

The most direct and personal findings state that the “city manager for the fiscal period 2007-2011 did not demonstrate that she possessed the proper qualifications and expertise to perform the duties required for that position.”

“I am puzzled and admittedly a little frustrated that the Amador Grand Jury chose not to interview me during the course of their report,” Kerr wrote. “During my tenure as the city manager of Ione, the city responded to the jury’s numerous and voluminous document requests. During a previous Jury report, I personally delivered five banker boxes to the jury’s hired auditor. On my last day as city manager, all of my e-mails records, documents and files were also secured for jury review. I cannot speculate as to why they did not want any comment or clarification from me personally.”

Kerr responded to the Mountain Democrat’s request for comment following the publication of the Amador County Grand Jury report in mid-July. As noted above, Kerr was not named in the report nor was she subpoenaed or asked to testify before the 2012 jury.

Regarding her overall qualifications for the job, Kerr noted that she had worked for more than 15 years in Humboldt and Solano Counties in various administrative positions, with particular expertise in risk management and insurance-related issues. She also served as ssistant CAO in Humboldt County.

Prior to county government, Kerr’s resume shows that she spent eight years in the U.S. Army, leaving with the rank of staff sergeant, primarily working in military law enforcement and training.

“It seems clear that the jury has questioned my qualifications. The Ione City Council selected me as city manager in July 2007 following an open recruitment process,” Kerr explained. “I was city manager until June 2011 when I took the assistant chief administrative officer position with El Dorado County. During that time I worked with four different councils due to elections or resignations. Under Ione Municipal Code, the city manager is also the finance director, so yes, I did serve in both capacities. Prior to my work in Ione I had held a variety of county management positions over 15 years, following approximately eight years in the U.S. Army.”

In addition to public service experience, Kerr’s application for employment with El Dorado County describes a Master’s degree in Public Administration and a BA in Criminal Justice along with numerous professional and specialty classes.

The pending grand jury report was not a surprise to supervisors when Kerr was being considered for the assistant CAO position.

District 2 Supervisor Ray Nutting weighed in recently noting, “Like anyone I have concerns when information like this comes up. This position was hired by Terri the CAO and I would hope that she did a background (check).”

Ron Briggs, District 4, told the Mountain Democrat that he was aware of it, that CAO “Terri Daly had told us she wanted to bring Kim over from Amador County and she informed us of the grand jury issue. She wanted to make sure we were comfortable with the information. I was aware and had faith in Terri and it has turned out to be a good benefit to the county.”

“As far as I know, we did an adequate background check, and I don’t believe we’ve seen or heard of any problems,” Briggs concluded.

John Knight, chairman of the board, expressed unqualified support not only for Daly’s selection of Kerr, but also for Kerr’s performance in the time she has been with the county.

“I haven’t read that report. I’ve heard about it, and I don’t intend to read it,” Knight said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon. “I’ve been extremely impressed with how she is getting things done, how she conducts herself. She exceeds expectations. In my opinion, the last year-and-a-half have been very good, and that’s good enough for me.”

Knight repeated a notion that Supervisor Jack Sweeney had raised that grand juries can make “findings” that are open to more than one interpretation and more than one conclusion.

Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or cdaley@mtdemocrat.net. Follow @CDaleyMtDemo.

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