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- Appendix A—Scope and Methodology
- Appendix B—Enforcement Actions Taken by the Commission From 2012 Through 2017
- Appendix C—Commissioners' and Alternates' Responses to Selected Survey Questions
SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY
The Joint Legislative Audit Committee (Audit Committee) directed the California State Auditor to examine the commission’s enforcement activities, funding, operational needs, and structure. Table A lists the objectives that the Audit Committee approved and the methods we used to address them.
|1||Review and evaluate the laws, rules, and regulations significant to the audit objectives.||Reviewed relevant state laws and regulations related to the commission.|
|2||Review the commission’s enforcement program, including its policies and procedures for opening, prioritizing, investigating, and closing alleged violations of the commission’s permits. Determine the frequency and
extent to which enforcement staff work with alleged violators to resolve confirmed violations or refer the violations to the enforcement committee or the Office of the Attorney General for prosecution.
|3||Analyze the role and function of the enforcement committee and assess the enforcement committee’s
process for reviewing staff-recommended enforcement decisions and penalties.
|4||Determine whether the commission has adequate procedures in place to document and track the permits it issues and alleged violations. Identify the number of alleged violations for the most recent five years and identify any unusual trends in the volume and types of alleged violations and the reasons for these trends.||
|5||Review a selection of alleged violations, including those related to violation of unpermitted or unauthorized Bay fill, to determine the following:|
|a. Whether enforcement staff consistently followed laws, regulations, and internal policies and appropriately documented their investigation and penalty assessment. Additionally, determine whether serious violations and minor violations are given proportional penalty assessments.||
|b. The frequency and extent to which the enforcement committee adopts, modifies, or rejects staff recommendations.||Reviewed the enforcement committee’s enforcement decisions for seven enforcement cases in 2016 and 2017. For these cases, the enforcement committee modified the staff recommendation in three cases and adopted it in three cases. The seventh case went to the commissioners, who adopted the staff recommendation.|
|c. To the extent possible, whether the enforcement committee members and the full commission approve enforcement decisions and penalties after a comprehensive and thorough review of the complete record.||
|d. The length of time the enforcement committee and the full commission take to reach their final decisions and the reasonableness of the time frame.|
|e. Whether the commission has adopted and implemented procedures for enforcement hearings before the enforcement committee and before the commissioners that provide for notice, time limits, the admissibility of evidence, and other factors affecting the ability of a respondent to address the proposed enforcement action.||
|f. Whether the hearings comply with open meeting requirements.||Reviewed the commission’s agendas, meeting minutes, and other meeting records to assess compliance with open meeting requirements.|
|g. For permit violations, whether the terms and conditions included in the permits are clear and reasonable and are consistent with the commission’s authority under state law, regulations, and applicable court decisions. To the extent possible, identify best practices and opportunities that may help mitigate potential compliance issues.||
|6||Examine the policies and procedures the commission has established to prevent real or perceived conflicts of interest in the enforcement program.||
|7||Review the commission’s use of the abatement fund to determine whether its use of the fund is consistent with its duty and authority and whether such uses are allowable and consistent with applicable state law.||
|8||Determine whether the commission has adequate resources and staffing levels to meet current and anticipated permit and enforcement workload demands and to address sea-level rise.||
|9||Review and assess the governance structure of the commission and, to the extent possible, compare it to similar organizations to determine whether other structures may lead to a more engaged commission with more effective oversight.||
|10||Review and assess any other issues that are significant to the audit.||
Sources: Analysis of the Audit Committee's audit request number 2018-120, as well as information and documentation identified in the table column titled Method.
Assessment of Data Reliability
As we note in Table A, we did not rely on electronic data that we obtained from the commission and instead created our own database of the commission’s enforcement activities to address certain audit objectives.
ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE COMMISSION FROM 2012 THROUGH 2017
In about 80 percent of the cases it closed from 2012 through 2017, the commission took no enforcement action. Staff closed cases without action for a variety of reasons, including merging the case with others, discovering there was no violation, issuing a permit amendment, or stating that the respondent fixed the violation before staff sent a notice letter. Of the 33 cases the commission closed after initiating enforcement, half were closed after staff levied a fine through the standardized fines process. Figure B shows the percentage of cases closed after the commission began enforcement and the types of enforcement actions taken.
The Commission Took Enforcement Actions in Less Than 20 Percent of the Cases It Closed From 2012 Through 2017
Source: Commission enforcement data.
* Case total does not include cases in the backlog that were opened before 2012.
COMMISSIONERS' AND ALTERNATES' RESPONSES TO SELECTED SURVEY QUESTIONS
We surveyed all 26 commissioners and 22 alternates regarding the enforcement process. We received 22 verified responses—14 from commissioners and eight from alternates.10 In Table C, we present aggregated responses to selected questions. Most of the respondents indicated that they did not have any concerns with commission staff’s processes or performance. Additionally, most respondents indicated that they were satisfied with the rate at which staff have been resolving enforcement cases at the staff level.
|As it pertains to enforcement matters, do you have any concerns with commission staff processes or performance?||32% Yes|
|Are you satisfied with the rate at which commission staff have been resolving enforcement cases at the staff level?||77% Satisfied|
|As it pertains to the enforcement cases that the full commission will hear, what is your level of review for the staff-provided materials?||41% In-depth (substantially all documentation)|
|59% Moderate (i.e., violation report and exhibits)|
|As it pertains to enforcement cases that the full commission has heard, did you generally receive sufficient time to review the related enforcement documentation before the enforcement hearing?||100% Yes|
|Would you like commission staff to provide you with additional guidance or documentation concerning the enforcement process?||32% Yes|
Source: Survey responses from 14 of the 26 commissioners—one position was vacant—and eight of 22 alternates as of December 2018.
10 At the time when we conducted our survey, 26 commissioners served on the commission. Go back to text