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Grand Jury Report: No Misuse Of Funds
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Investigating a Riverbank citizen's complaint of possible misappropriation of funds by city council, the 2011-12 Stanislaus County civil grand jury report found there was no misappropriation but mixing of funds in an account now gathered for a similar but different purpose. Releasing its report on July 3, the jury added this multi-use of funds does not comply with state law.

The Systems Development Fee Fund 145 (Overpass) frequently mentioned at city council meetings by former councilman Charles Neal, was set up in 1987 to pay for building a railroad overpass between Kentucky Avenue and Talbot Street. Encroaching housing development later caused that plan to be abandoned.

But by 2008, council discussed in general plan talks using these overpass funds to build a railroad underpass on Santa Fe Avenue to allow easier access between the divided parts of the city.

The grand jury decided the money in Fund 145 had not been transferred to the city's general fund or to fund another project. But in 2008-2009 the city started using that account for planning the proposed underpass.

The jury report determined the total building permit revenue collected over Fund 145's life was $397,355. That included about $378,000 in building permits from 1987-1996, approximately $12,700 for the Galaxy Theater commercial permit, and about $6,600 in residential permits from 1998 to 2003.

According to city financial statements, the account incurred no expenses from 2000 to 2008, but between 2008 and 2011 the city reported expenses in that account totaling $141,345 for the Santa Fe underpass project. The current amount in the account as audited for 2010-2011 is $225,462.

The jury report found the city's ordinance on system development fees established in 1967 do not reference and are not in compliance with AB1600 California Code; although asked last January, the city attorney has so far failed to answer council's requests for proper procedures for using or disposing of Fund 145; the downtown specific plan does not tie the plan to the funds established and collected for systems development fee projects.