This is the Executive Summary, Conclusion, Findings and Recommendations only. For the entire report go to : Grand Jury 2014 -2015 Report
In February of 2014, a Bay Area TV station aired an investigative report regarding questionable travel expenses for the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) Board of Commissioners. While the report focused on what appeared to be clerical errors in reimbursements for one commissioner, the Grand Jury was struck by the significant amount of public funds spent by the board for travel year after year. For instance, between January 2010 and December 2013, a former commissioner spent over $67,000 attending at least a dozen out-of-town conferences. The Grand Jury questioned whether this was of value to Oakland residents. Between 2010 and 2013, the entire board (which is a part-time board) spent over $155,000 on travel. This spending prompted the Grand Jury’s investigation.
The Grand Jury believes that local public governing boards have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that public money is used for the benefit of the public.
Two Oakland Housing Authority commissioners expended a considerable amount of money and time traveling. This appeared to be a direct contradiction to the primary objective of OHA’s mission. The Grand Jury believes this indicates a failure of the board of commissioners to rein-in fellow commissioners who exploit the system.
Limited travel may be necessary for networking or training on the part of the commissioners, however, their specific oversight responsibilities are more heavily weighted to understanding budgets and financial reports, evaluating the operations of the Oakland Housing Authority, and setting and enforcing policy within the framework set by the Federal Government.
The Grand Jury acknowledges that the main travel offender has left the OHA board, and the Grand Jury commends staff for their efforts to now report board travel more transparently. However, the board and not the staff are responsible to self-police such matters.
To avoid actual or perceived misuse of public funds, commissioners must have a firm understanding of and a conviction to enforce their own rules and policies. Ethical considerations must be applied at all times to ensure the public trust.
Public participation and oversight of boards such as OHA is understandably limited. It is therefore incumbent on the board itself and the mayor of Oakland, who appoints the board members, to be mindful that taxpayer funds should be spent judiciously in furthering the mission of the Oakland Housing Authority.
Finding 15-24: Between 2010 and 2013 the Oakland Housing Authority Board of Commissioners’ failure to rein in excessive travel spending by two board members violated the public’s trust in the Oakland Housing Authority’s management of taxpayer funds.
The Oakland Housing Authority Board of Commissioners must set a policy that total travel expenditures be publicly reported quarterly, and copies of these reports be sent to the mayor of Oakland.
The Oakland Housing Authority Board of Commissioners must ensure that training and other materials of value obtained from travel are shared with other commissioners and publicly report on the value of the travel.
The Oakland Housing Authority Board of Commissioners must take advantage of local training and teleconferencing opportunities.