How’s The Transition From One Mental Health Privateer To The Next Mental Health Privateer Going?

by Mark Scaramella, April 20, 2016

We first looked at the County’s list of tasks to transition adult mental health services on April 7th. Ten days later and the County’s nebulous three page list of mental health transition tasks shows nothing “completed.”

The only changes from a heavy week of not tasking between April 1 to April 11 are the addition of a date for the start of a recently hired mental health contract manage and the scheduling of some more meetings concerning potential operating agreements with the County Jail and a few medical organizations.

Here's the tasking mid-task:

“RQMC [Redwood Quality Management Company] has spoken with iCarol [sic, a helpline management software vendor] and has a 60-day trial of the system.”

And this: “RQMC has made contact with adult outpatient providers.”

“Made contact”!

Wow! These people are really hustling!

Also note that these transition tasks, such as they are, are being handled by Redwood Quality, not the County’s staff.

In the earlier task list there was a vexing tasky-wasky described as:

“3/29/2016 - Email sent to Mark Montgomery requesting OMG or ICMS send letters notifying clients of the transition.”

Apparently Ortner’s guy, Mr. Montgomery, did nothing so the next big new accomplishment was: “4/11/16 – Email sent to Connie Drago, OMG, requesting date of their draft letter to clients.”

A letter to OMG asking for a date when a letter to clients would be drafted?

This preposterous request was followed by:

“4/11/16 – Draft letter received from Connie Drago, OMG. County requesting changes to the letter.”

Then we’re told that one non-responsive entity had commenced a "dialogue" with another.

On April 5th, there was a meeting. And there were other meetings scheduled.

Scheduling a meeting is a "transition task."

Privateer One is not cooperating with Privateer Two. Privateer One, natch, is collecting thousands of dollars from the County while producing nearly nada in services. Privateer One will collect hundreds of thousands of dollars for doing nothing through June. Meanwhile, Privateer Nothing is not helping transition to Privateer Two.

Then we saw an unfamiliar acronym in one of the Transition Tasks: RCHDC.

While researching what RCHDC stands for (Rural Communities Housing Development Corporation) we saw that their board of directors includes:

“Raymond Hall - Vice Chair: Ray recently retired as the Director of the Mendocino County Planning and Building Services Department; a position he held for more than 20 years. The Planning and Building Services Department is a regulatory agency that provides land use and building construction services. Additionally, the Department is responsible for preparing and implementing the Housing Element of the General Plan for the County. As a result of this experience, Ray is very knowledgeable in areas of State Planning law, Subdivision Map Act, CEQA and Zoning codes. His experience also included significant interaction with local districts, other jurisdictions, and state and federal agencies. Lastly, as a Director of a County Department, he was responsible for budgeting, personnel matters and prioritizing programs.”

Hall obviously wrote his own self-admiring bio. But that’s not how Ukiah Daily Journal Editor KC Meadows saw it at the time of his retirement in 2009:

“County Planning A Joke — Those who were sitting in the June 10, 2009, Board of Supervisors meeting heard from a local man who has been severely abused by the County's Planning department and who has still to get any relief. Chris Stone has been trying since January of 2007 to build a little over 200 homes — some houses, some apartments — on 50 acres at the south end of Ukiah across from the Redwood Health Club. The land is already zoned for exactly this kind of project and the project, by all accounts is well-designed, uses advanced sewer discharge systems, anticipates solar use and carves out a retail space for perhaps a local store. It has the lower, middle and upper income homes all together and from what I can gather is exactly the kind of development local politicians say they need and want. So what does the County Planning department do? It stalls and ignores Mr. Stone, demands unnecessary studies and generally makes the man spend hundreds of thousands of dollars without any sign that his project will move forward. Mr. Stone produced the environmental studies — although the project should really get a negative declaration since it's a zoned use — and based them on not only on what the county's rules currently demand but used more challenging assumptions than the county would have. What does the County Planning department do? It decides to demand new studies based on what it thinks it might have in the Ukiah Valley Area Plan at some future date. And everyone knows the UVAP is far from being ready to adopt. So Mr. Stone very politely — for someone who could and probably should have been raging much sooner — went to the Board of Supervisors and complained. The County Planning department pretended to be on top of the situation, and Supervisors promised Mr. Stone that he would get action from the tippy top, the CEO himself. Mr. Stone tried to schedule meetings with the CEO to no avail. So he went back to the supervisors in July and lo and behold the County administration suddenly scheduled a meeting and acted like they'd never seen him waiting hopefully in their anterooms. How that July 17 meeting went is unknown as of now, but Mr. Stone has another gab session in August. County Planning Director Ray Hall is retiring in days — as far as I'm concerned he should have been retired after the Vichy Springs development debacle in the early 1990s. The County now has an opportunity to recharge its planning department — and not with $177,000 a year consultants and not with anyone who has been working in the department under Hall's ‘leadership.’ The County needs a talented planner who it will allow to be creative, but demand be responsive and who will lead the County into the future. This county's reputation for micromanagement, anti-developer sentiment and political mayhem will make that person difficult to find.”

* * *

A couple of years before Mr. Hall retired we reported on the depositions which accompanied the Legal Services lawsuit against the County for not doing anything whatsoever to meet the General Plan’s modest affordable housing requirements:

From court depositions of planning staffers submitted by Legal Services attorney Lisa Hillegas deposition of Ray Hall’s lead planner Pam Townsend: “[Hall] didn't review code amendments in a timely manner because I'd written code amendments after the 1993 element was adopted and they never got out of his 'in' box even though I asked him a couple of times.”

Hall’s in-box must be the size of Anton Stadium to accommodate all the un-acted upon County business in it. Maybe that’s where Anderson Valley’s “community input” to the General Plan disappeared, but disappear it did.

Townsend said many of her proposed code amendments “never went anywhere.” In fact, Townsend said most of her work “didn't really go anywhere” because of Hall's failure to review it. “Ray wasn't always good with wanting to do a lot of inter division and department coordination,” the diplomatic Townsend said.

Asked why she thought Hall didn't review her work, Townsend explained, “I think it was, I guess, you know, not a high priority… Maybe it was too overwhelming to him…”

Maybe Hall didn’t care because he was unsupervised by the Supervisors for so many years his only priority for all the years he’d occupied the office had been to survive long enough to get his fat pension and get out.

What about the previous Housing Element that promised to rezone 124 acres for high-density/affordable housing? In his deposition, Planning Boss Ray Hall admitted that was not done. Why? “I think there were other workload demands placed upon the department.” (Two guys under Hall were fired for watching pornography on County computers. They probably had to extend their break times for circle jerks in Hall's office.)

Hall prepared a draft Grading Ordinance — natch, Mendo County is the only County in the state without one, hence all these precipitous vineyards — that was so unworkable nobody liked it. That fiasco ate up literal years of Hall’s time. The portly bumbler also had to go to lots and lots of meetings as a senior member of the County’s “Planning Team,” which was supposed to deal with such major planning tasks as the Ukiah Valley Area Plan, the General Plan Update, and various commercial proposals centered in the Ukiah Valley, all of which also went furiously nowhere for years, but went there very slowly, meeting by meeting, year by year.

Unfortunately, Mr. Hall’s participation in all these other blunders didn’t prevent the Planning Team and its expensive outside consultants from losing the community input for the County’s General Plan that had accrued over the years. Maybe the County could hire a backhoe and start excavating Mr. Hall’s heaping in-box. The input is probably in there somewhere.

* * *

AND NOW, fast forward to 2016, and Ray Hall, the guy who did absolutely nothing for affordable housing for decades as the County’s Planning Director, has become Vice Chair of the RCDHC, the local group that’s supposed to be working on affordable housing and which the County’s mental health transition team expects assistance from!

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