Supes Need To Lead, Not Dodge Responsibility
by Linda Williams, February 17, 2016
As we focus on the lessons revealed from the Kemper Report on the status of the county’s mental health program, one should not lose sight of one observation about the Board of Supervisors. The report criticizes the supervisors for failing to require a better written contract in the beginning.
While this has had tragic results in the mental health program, the supervisors’ failure to hold the executive office accountable is evident in nearly every other aspect of county government.
Since the county switched to the executive model of government in 2005, the supervisors have evolved into rubber stamps and ceded their leadership role to the chief executive office. The Board of Supervisors meetings have become a parody of governing. They are presented with one choice and told if they don’t choose the CEO’s recommendation there will be dire consequences.
The supervisors now seem to believe they are no longer responsible for the state of anything within the county. For budget matters they point at the auditor, for the state of mental health they point at the Health and Human Services director, for contract negotiations they point to the CEO, et cetera.
This process leaves them free to go to various public events, shake hands and nod wisely, all the while leaving the tough decisions in the hands of the CEO. This has allowed them to “have their cake and eat it too.”
Unfortunately the public did not elect the CEO, so she is not accountable to anyone except the board.
The shift from the County Administrator form of government to the County Executive has been a difficult one for the Boards of Supervisors. The county was forced to buy out the contracts of the two CEOs recruited from out of county to fill the position. These expensive squabbles have apparently left the board with no appetite for doing their job.
The board needs to require the executive office to bring them key issues and solicit their input into them—before the decision is made, and not as an afterthought. They need to require the executive office to bring them facts and problems, not whitewashed power point presentations.
This county has serious problems which will continue to worsen unless they are addressed head on. We are not saying the board can fix all problems, but they certainly cannot unless the board at least acknowledges the issues.
It is clear from the Kemper Report the HHSA organization failed to do its job and failed to provide full disclosure.
Many of these issues were brought to light first by whistleblowers within the agency and subsequently by several Grand Juries but the CEO’s office--who prepared the boards’ responses, failed to acknowledge their validity.
The new board Chairman Dan Gjerde seems to be headed in the right direction. We hope the other supervisors support his efforts to bring issues forward early, to discuss and debate them when there is still time to actually make a difference.
It is time for our supervisors to demonstrate leadership as a board, step up to the plate and do their job.
(Courtesy, The Willits News)