Getting Out From Under Affinito

by Mark Scaramella, July 13, 2011

Last April Supervisors Kendall Smith and Dan Hamburg said they wanted to delay the consolidation of under-used county offices in Fort Bragg because, Hamburg explained, “the delay has everything to do with the two coastal supervisors and with our request for a little more time to look at the options that exist and trying to make sure those options are the best for our employees and for our programs and for the bottom line of our budget."

"Unfortunately," Hamburg continued, "it’s [the consolidation plan] not ready because the person that we need to deal with has not been in the County and that has slowed us down a little bit. But we need to look at these three facilities and figure out the best way to accommodate County staff, County programs and the County budget. And it’s not that we’re trying to just put it off. Both Supervisor Smith and I agree that there are major cost savings to be had on the coast. But on the other hand, making a decision before we have all the facts is — it’s just foolhardy. So we need a little more time. I think that the final result will be a much better one for waiting just a little bit on the Fourth District. And of course the Fourth District services our Fourth and Fifth districts and that’s why those two things come together and why it was Supervisor Smith and I who asked the CEO just to look a little bit harder at the decision we have to make over there. … There’s just pieces of this that we haven’t seen yet, and until we see them I think it would be kinda strange to make this big move in Fort Bragg and have Kendall and I vote against it. That would not sit very well so, on the other hand, I can understand that the rest of the board doesn’t want us to drag our feet and keep asking for more and more and more. We all have our issues about which we’re, um, ready to move, um, you know, make a cut, and we all have our issues about which we say hold it, wait a minute. In spite of the fact that we don’t think exactly alike we still have to work together and this is one of those issues where I think we’ll be ready to move in a very short time, but we’re not ready to move likely on the 26th unless some things come together very quickly.”

The "person” Hamburg referred to is Dominic Affinito. It's not like Affinito lives at the headwaters of the Rejang River in deepest Borneo, he lives most recently in Lake County. But he still enjoys an annual $316,000 lease agreement with Mendocino County, a deal engineered by Kendell Smith's incompetent predecessor Patti Campbell, for the barn-like Fort Bragg Social Services building. About $50,000 of the $316,000 comes out of the County's beleaguered General Fund. Supervisor Pinches opposed the deal at the time by pointing out the obvious — for this kind of money Mendocino County could build its own Fort Bragg offices.

Affinito, incidentally, "lent" Fort Bragg City council people no payback money in return for which Affinito got free infrastructure for his Glass Beach housing development, physically assaulted councilman-elect Dan Gjerde, got away with a whole extra view-blocking story on his North Cliff Motel,  and was a major beneficiary of the Fort Bragg Fires of 1987. Why Mendocino County is in any kind of deal with this guy remains a mystery.

Supervisor Smith rambled on at even greater length about why the consolidation had to be postponed.

“A couple more months won’t make much difference. It’s working, taking time to make sure we have employees on board. We need to have our community partners on board, we border our community clinic there, literally, physically, we have a shared boundary line, any number of things, with the state budget continuing to change, what will we be looking at programmatically, um, we’re talking about multiple moves, not just moving one group of people from A to B, that you create, um, eh, an entire sort of chain of events when you have three buildings and people might be moving, um, one group following the other, it’s just very important that we have all the options out on the table, every thing analyzed for the short term benefit and the long term benefit and where we’re, where we’re going to end up and make sure that we haven’t, um, we haven’t let any solution sets fall off the cliff, you know, in a mad rush to move ten people here and ten people there so I think it’s about doing it and doing it right and engaging all the partners so we can have, um, the workforce, um, not feeling alienated about the process, making sure that they’re on board, um, we’ve got to inform our community partners, um, there’s a lot when you talk about that, the number of employees that are involved in this and so I want to make sure that it’s done with, uh, with care and concern and with, um, a thoughtful eye towards, uh, maybe some, uh, options that haven’t, uh, been fully that explored and we just need to find out what all the options are and since this discussion has started a couple others that I hadn’t thought of had just emerged so I think that, um, that’s the process the CEO is talking about in giving it another 30 days or more to, to, to figure out, I think that is, is, is what, um, we’re lookin’ at.”

Supervisors Hamburg and Smith also happen to be the two supervisors who voted to lay off six patrol deputies “to defend the fiscal integrity of the County,” then, in early June, when  Indian gaming money came in that allowed the lay-offs to be postponed for two months, Hamburg and Smith still voted to proceed with the layoffs effective June 30.

When it comes to cops, Supervisors Hamburg and Smith see the County’s “fiscal integrity” at risk. When it comes to long-overdue money-saving relocations and consolidations of half-empty County facilities in Fort Bragg we can wait a month or two.

Back in April, the other three supervisors reluctantly agreed that waiting one more month to get started on the Fort Bragg consolidations was OK.

But nothing happened in May. It wasn’t until June 28th that the Kristin McMenomey of General Services, and Health and Human Services Director Stacy Cryer came back to the Board with a consolidation plan.

Turns out the move is quite simple. No problems are anticipated; no big costs are involved; no tough issues need to be resolved, not much time will be needed. If the obstructing duo of Smith and Hamburg had simply left the whole job to staff it would have been done by now and the money would already be saved.

So what kinds of concerns did Supervisors Smith and Hamburg raise ask about after the more than two-month delay?

Smith wanted to know how they were going to handle file storage and how much remodeling would be needed. She also asked about staff morale and “service delivery” — none of which were concerns shared by McMenomey and Cryer, the persons responsible for getting it done.

Hamburg, having joined Smith to screw things up via the costly and totally unnecessary delay, blithely commented, “I’m really glad this is getting done,” said Hamburg. “It’s going to save us some money. I don’t know if I’m totally enthused about what’s happening in Fort Bragg, but, you know, in terms of the cost savings, we really didn’t have a choice. It can be one of the most stressful things that human beings have to do in their lives and I know there’s a lot of stress connected with this but the finances just really require it.”

Excuse me? Stressful?

Moving your place of work across the street?

In Kabul maybe, but not Fort Bragg.

Ms. McMenomey said she’d spoken to “Mr. Affinito” and arranged a month to month rental agreement through Halloween in case there are some unanticipated hiccups in the move.

Ironists will appreciate the bended knee approach to the financial interests of the multi-millionaire "Mr. Affinito" while  the proles get whatever meager help they might expect from social services as those amenities are whacked without so much as a crocodile tear, let alone a reference by name to Ms. Jones, the single mother with three little kids to support.

Bottom line: There was no need to wait more than two months and thousands more to Affinito for his redundant, long paid for, toxic barn on South Franklin, Fort Bragg.

Delaying the Fort Bragg office consolidation does not jeopardize the County’s “fiscal integrity” but delaying the layoffs of six patrol deputies a couple of months does.

 

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