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Lathrop at odds with grand jury’s report

The Lathrop City Council agreed with the San Joaquin County Grand Jury’s recommendation that an ethics policy might not be such a bad thing.

But after discussing the findings of a report that was critical of the way the city handled code enforcement cases and enforcement, that was about the only thing that the council agreed with the grand jury on – voting unanimously, with Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal absent, to institute an ethics policy while at the same time “respectfully disagreeing” with the rest of the findings, and using language drafted by City Attorney Salvador Navarette outlining why.

While the report was critical of the city’s efforts to thwart illegal truck parking and claimed that the city doesn’t currently have a code enforcement supervisor to handle the cases when they do come in, the city’s response outlines where both of those are not technically correct.

For one, the city has initiated 3,380 new code enforcement cases in the last six years – with 103 of them being for illegal truck parking. In just the last two years, code enforcement has initiated 1,149 new cases, 20 of which were for illegal truck parking – numbers that the city feels proves that they have already taken steps to address the issues that were pointed out in the grand jury report.

And the city’s response to the claim that they don’t enforce illegal truck parking spells out that they’ve always taken steps to enforce those rules.

“The City of Lathrop Code Compliance Division exercises all powers vested in the City in response to blight and public safety issues, including illegal parking of commercial vehicles,” reads the suggested response by the council, which then goes on to detail the number of new cases that have been initiated over the last six years. “The City of Lathrop does in fact take consistent code enforcement action on the illegal truck parking of commercial trucks.”

Not everybody on the council, however, was content with just letting the response do the talking.

Councilman Steve Dresser, who will run for an unexpired term in November, couldn’t help but point out that the grand jury’s comments seemed pointed, especially when the city has taken steps to alleviate the concerns that the report raised.

“After reading the grand jury report, it seems like for some reason they picked us out,” Dresser said. “If I remember right, maybe it was one other city that said that ‘we have a problem and we haven’t been able to resolve it because we’re still recovering from the downturn in the economy from 2007 and 2008 and our budget doesn’t allow us to react and respond in the way and fashion in which you would like.’

“But for some reason because we responded, and have some things in place, they really want to tighten the screws down.”

Dresser said that he agreed with Navarette’s assessments on how the city should respond, but noted that his language would be a little more pointed if he was able to speak freely.

“I agree with the city attorney – we need to tell these guys that we respectfully disagree,” Dresser said. “If we could use other words and get away with it, I would, because I think we’re being singled out.

“I think we have things in place – we are dealing with it. And that’s why they singled us out.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.