Almanac

News - July 23, 2014

Grand jury urges county to dissolve harbor district

by Tiffany Lam

The San Mateo County Harbor District has dealt with multiple issues, from financial problems to accusations of records destruction and excess benefits paid to commissioners. Yet, San Mateo County provides the district with $5 million annually.

A five-member Board of Commissioners governs the district, which operates Pillar Point Harbor at Half Moon Bay and Oyster Point Marina in South San Francisco. The district is funded by property taxes and commercial activities.

In a July 9 report, the San Mateo County civil grand jury calls on the county to dissolve the district and take over its functions.

Until such dissolution occurs, the grand jury recommends the district develop plans for standardized financial reporting, eliminate use of property tax revenue, and form standing ad hoc committees that meet regularly.

The district's problems are multifold — lawsuits charging harassment, lost rent checks, police presence at commission meetings, and criticism from the press and social media on the dysfunction of the district commissioners. This year's grand jury received multiple complaints, including about overcharging of lessees and lack of transparency in financial reporting.

This isn't the first time a grand jury has dealt with harbor district issues. Reports on the district date back to 1963. A 2001-2002 report remarked on the lack of collegiality between district commissioners. In 2006, a review by the Local Agency Formation Commission recommended the district be dissolved.

In its report, the grand jury requests responses from the Local Agency Formation Commission, the Board of Supervisors, the harbor district, and the city of Half Moon Bay.

The civil grand jury is made up of San Mateo County residents, appointed by a judge, who investigate problems and prepare reports recommending action by government agencies in the county. The agencies are required to issue a public response to the report.

Go to sanmateocourt.org/grandjury for more information about grand jury reports.

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