Great Moments In Public Deliberation

by Mark Scaramella, March 27, 2010

Mendocino County Board of Supervisors Meeting, March 23, 2010.

Subject: Earthquake insurance for the courthouse. Cost: About $85k for a policy that covers up $50 million, then if the damage is more than that the state pays the rest. Mendocino County owns the land but the state Administrative Office of the Courts owns most of the building now.

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Supervisor John Pinches: If I own a third of a building, I'm responsible for a third of the insurance, not the whole bill.

County Counsel Jeanine Nadel: I don't disagree with you.

Pinches: Why is that?

Nadel: Because the law requires us to maintain the ins… the, um, earthquake insurance if the board, if the building has been declared a certain level, level 5, which it is a level 5.

Pinches: It declares us to have the insurance?

Nadel: Yes.

Pinches: To pay for the insurance?

Nadel: Yes.

Pinches: Why don't we not pay the bill? I mean, if there's, if the courthouse shakes down, we still got the land. Which ultimately, if they build a new courthouse they're going to have the expense of tearing it down anyway!

Nadel: That's correct. But unfortunately, that's the legislation we had to deal with when we transferred the facility.

Pinches: We're just going to lay back and take it?

General Services Director Kristin McMenomey: This legislation was fought very very hard by all the counties for several years and they went through several amendments and this is what we got stuck with.

Pinches: [Long pause.] I'm opposed to spending the money.

McMenomey: For the record, me too. But I don't think we have a choice. [Laughs uproariously!]

Pinches: Why don't we send them a letter and say we don't have the money? Which we don't.

Nadel: I don't recommend that because it is part of an agreement that this board has already authorized.

Pinches: What account are going to write the check out of?

McMenomey: You're going to write, well, it's out of risk management. Insurance. We budgeted for it.

Pinches: Which is a general fund contribution.

McMenomey: Yes, it is. This one will be entirely a general fund contribution.

Pinches: On things like this if we don't start pushing back it's just going to get worse. [Looks around for agreement.] Thank you Supervisor McCowen for bringing this up.

Supervisor John McCowen: Yeah. I wish we had a solution to it.

Pinches: The solution is to not write them a check.

McCowen: Well, we're being told the law requires us to have insurance on the courthouse.

Pinches: Let them come over and arrest us. I mean, it's…

Board Chair Carre Brown: Board members, we need to move forward. By having a good discussion.

Pinches: Are we moving forward by letting the state push us around like this?

Brown: Well. Then. I… I will entertain a motion. Whatever that might be.

Pinches: Well, I'm not going to make the motion to approve it!

[Laughter in the room.]

McCowen: Reluctantly and to move it along I will, I will make a motion to approve the recommended action.

Brown: Is there a second?

(Silence.)

Nadel: I need to remind this board that we had an agreement to transfer that facility and the earthquake portion is in that agreement. As required by law.

Supervisor Kendall Smith: I will. I will second that.

Brown: All those in favor say aye.

(All but Pinches say, Aye.)

Brown: Opposed?

Pinches: Aye!

Brown: Ok, motion passes, and you know who is opposed.

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