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)

7 Responses to Supes Need To Lead, Not Dodge Responsibility

  1. izzy Reply

    February 19, 2016 at 8:40 am

    Yeah. It used to be said that bringing a little gray hair into a process might temper youthful exuberance, but looking at the official photo of our current Supervisors, things seem to be unbalanced in the other direction. And the results speak for themselves, albeit in a frail voice. Stepping up to the plate on a walker just doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. We could use a couple more like Dan Gjerde.

    • Lazarus Reply

      February 22, 2016 at 11:31 am

      In reality it was Tom Woodhouse, in his first month in office approached the CEO, Staff and others concerning the state of Mental Health services in the county.
      Sources say he was greeted with stonewalling and deception. Nevertheless he persevered and here we are…
      As always,

  2. Karin Wandrei, PhD, LCSW Reply

    February 19, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    I was involved in two different capacities from when the first serious discussions of contracting out mental health were being discussed by the county until 2012 a few months before the RFP came out. I ask these questions. Who was responsible for hiring and overseeing Tom Pinizotto now that the county tries to shift as much blame to him as they can? Who had been told by credible sources that he had lied when asked directly by a community leader if he had a connection with Ortner and then not only hired him in 2012 as the assistant director knowing this but when problems became apparent failed to act, at least in a timely fashion, and let him lie to the Board of Supervisors? The Board hired the new mental health director. In doing so they skipped over two chains of command to do so. I think they needed to do this but what does this suggest about their trust level with the two people they skipped over?

    • james marmon Reply

      February 19, 2016 at 11:56 pm

      I am so glad you are watching all this Karin, we’ve all lost our minds haven’t we?


      • james marmon Reply

        February 20, 2016 at 12:05 am

        My guess is Stacy Cryer. I knew something was up when you left the County like you did.

  3. james marmon Reply

    February 20, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    I don’t want to embarrass Karin, but I studied her theory (PIE) at California State University, Sacramento, it is taught in probably every “school of social work” in the world.

    Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency(HHSA) once had her and they let her slip away. Bryan Lowery with no real education took her place as the deputy director. What a deal we made there.

    I also worked for Karin during 1998-1999 at the Youth Project.

    This is one person I really respect.

    Sending out an SOS, we really need her help in getting everything sorted out and back on track. I wonder if she would come back? She’s more than qualified.

  4. james marmon Reply

    February 20, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    County announces appointments in Mental Health, Social Services

    “KARIN WANDREI, recently appointed Assistant HHSA (Health and Human Services Agency) Director and Social Services branch director sent the following terse email last week to a wide circle of friends and associates: “I hereby submit my resignation effective immediately. My leadership skills are not compatible with MCHHSA.”

    “DR. WANDREI came to the County from the Mendocino County Youth Project, where she had been Executive Director for nearly 20 years. Many department insiders were unhappy that the position was filled from outside, but close observers of the agency were hopeful that Wandrei would bring real leadership to a department that was notorious for cronyism and a lack of accountability, not to mention gross incompetence at the leadership level.”

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