Fong: Clean out development department
Sacramento City Councilman Rob Fong said in an interview Thursday that further actions should be taken against city employees, including code division employee Dan Waters, who were involved in the recent scandals at the city’s Community Development Department.
Waters approved 35 building permits in a Natomas flood zone last year. Officials with the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency say that Waters’ action to give the permits to K. Hovnanian Homes broke federal regulations. The City Council agreed earlier this week to pay up to $350,000 to correct its violations and comply with FEMA. The violations related to 38 permits – Waters approved 35 of them, according to city spokeswoman Amy Williams.
Waters, the son of outgoing City Councilman Robbie Waters, is still employed by the city. He is a customer service supervisor at the city’s code division with a base salary of roughly $62,278, according to Williams. Specifically, he works in the neighborhood code compliance section, she said.
In an interview, Fong commented on the FEMA violations and the department’s other major scandal: an audit that says the department failed to collect more than $2.3 million in fees from developers.
“If I were running that department, they wouldn’t be working for the city of Sacramento anymore,” Fong said.
He noted the City Council cannot fire city employees. Under the city’s charter, firing is conducted by the city manager’s office.
Fong said the department’s troubles need further investigation beyond the audit. The audit calculated the fee problems, but it did not name names.
Fong also said he thinks there are other people responsible for the department’s messes in addition to Waters.
“My strong suspicion is there was some other folks involved in the chain of command,” Fong said. “And I think we need to figure out how far that went.”
He declined to name any names himself, saying that the city does not have evidence to show who was responsible and how they were involved in the department’s problems. He said he recently directed city officials and the city attorney’s office to provide a framework for how the City Council can investigate the people who were involved in the incidents at the department.
In response to questions about Waters, city spokeswoman Williams said: “We cannot share details about personnel matters. The City Manager’s Office is aggressively reviewing the audit report with the Community Development Department and Labor Relations, and we are investigating to determine if disciplinary action or further investigation of any employee is warranted.
“All disciplinary action necessary will be taken when appropriate,” she said. “Disciplinary actions are the responsibility of the city manager.”
Williams noted that the city transferred Waters to a different position last year. “Under the previous administration, Dan Waters was reassigned to Code Enforcement last calendar year,” she said. “As part of the consolidation efforts to save money, Code and Community Development Departments merged, and code became a division where he now resides.”
The local media has reported that Waters was temporarily suspended last year.
Meanwhile, Waters’ work at the development department is also being investigated by the state Fair Political Practices Commission, according to reports in The Sacramento Bee.
Vina said at an Oct. 12 City Council meeting that the FPPC had concerns about the city’s development department, although he did not mention Waters’ name.
FPPC Executive Director Roman Porter was unavailable for comment Thursday.
Waters did not return three phone messages left by The Sacramento Press Thursday afternoon.
Photo by Brandon Darnell.
Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.