UNBELIEVABLY, THE SHERIFF’S LAWSUIT against the County/Board of Supervisors continues into its third month.
Item 9d on next Tuesday’s Board agenda: “Pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(1) - Conference with Legal Counsel - Existing Litigation: One Case - Mendocino County Sheriff Matthew Kendall v. Mendocino County Board of Supervisors - Case No. 21-cv00561.”
“According to the case records, various legal declarations and documents have been submitted recently by Darcie Antle (the CEO’s budget officer), Travis Forrester (the Sheriff’s computer guy), Juanita Dreiling (the Sheriff’s budget person), and Undersheriff Darren Brewster, as well as flash drives full of legal stuff from County Counsel Christian Curtis.
Previously, declarations have been submitted by the Sheriff himself, Christian Curtis, Janelle Rau, and Doug Losak., One of the documents submitted on September 1 was entitled: “Board of Supervisor's Position Regarding the Conflict of Interest Issues and Response Regarding the Budget.”
But we are not going to pay $10 to read it because 1: who cares? and 2. The issue is ongoing so their “position” has obviously not mollified the Sheriff or his lawyers. The next hearing is now set for September 13 and is called “Continued Ex Parte Hearing re: Conflict of interest and appt of atty.”
The Sheriff’s Case Against Mendocino County — which now has withered into a question of exactly what the case is about: the Sheriff’s budget? His request for his own lawyer? His computer system ownership? Hhis responsibility for overruns? The definition of “conflict”? — continues to limp along in Judge Ann Moorman’s court. At the most recent hearing on September 15 Judge Ann Moorman “reviewed case documents” privately, in chambers and nothing has happened on the record since then. Nothing more is scheduled on the case in the next two weeks. Perhaps a ruling is pending.
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Item 4j on the CONSENT Calendar (!) is “Approval of Retroactive Amendment to BOS Agreement No. 21-086 with Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley, PC, Increasing the Total Compensation by [a whopping] $250,000 (!) For a New Total of $300,000 for Legal Services”
And what does the County intend to pay this law firm $250,000 more for?
“Litigation legal services, advisory and representation services … with respect to the lawsuit ‘Ezekial Flatten, et al. v. Bruce Smith, et al.,” (a Mendocino Court case) and “Anne Marie Borges, et al., v. County of Mendocino, et al.” (a federal case).
Despite Supervisor Mulheren’s recent declaration that all agenda items will have a budget note about where the money is coming from, there’s no such note here (or anywhere else on the agenda, for that matter).
It’s interesting that the County is handing off both these cases to expensive outside counsel together as one combined item. We don’t know what the connection between Mr. Flatten’s case is with the Borges case (other than they both involve marijuana). Flatten is suing the County in the outgrowth of the well-publicized shakedown of pot growers on Highway 101 by a couple of Rohnert Park cops. Borges is suing over an allegation that the County singled her and her husband out for a pot raid on the Boonville Road back in 2018 that destroyed their pot garden even though they were nearly legal with the County.
Closed session Item 9b: “Pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.8 - Conference with Real Property Negotiator - Property: APN 002-080-39; Physical Address - 195 Low Gap Road, Ukiah CA 95482. Agency Negotiators: Carmel J. Angelo, Janelle Rau, and Darcie Antle. Under negotiation: Property Acquisition, Price and Terms.”
THE COUNTY never announces why it’s looking for the new buildings it hides in closed session, even though the purpose or reason for wanting a building is hardly a closed session subject, only the property negotiations. The address mentioned is a (former?) church a few blocks from the County admin center on Low Gap Road and is described by its owner as: “We are a local church here in Ukiah. We have a passion to REACH the lost, REFRESH the weary and RESTORE the broken of our community and surrounding communities.”
Mendo has not given a reason for purchasing the (apparently former) Foursquare church (which is still apparently active nearby around the corner on Bush Street in Ukiah.
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And another mystery acquisition: Item 9c: “Pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.8 - Conference with Real Property Negotiator - Property: APN 003-130-46; Physical Address – 1101 So. Dora St., Ukiah CA 95482. Agency Negotiators: Carmel J. Angelo, Janelle Rau, and Darcie Antle. Under negotiation: Property Acquisition, Price and Terms.”
From Re/Max: “Rarely available office building featuring a large welcoming lobby, updated flooring, and spacious 4,128 Square Feet. Property has always been used as a medical office with a waiting area, exam rooms, lab, front and back offices, and multiple bathrooms. Ideal for medical office or professional service. Highly visible corner location with ample onsite parking on a large 0.4 acre lot. (Formerly the NorCal Dermatology Medical Surgical Cosmetic Center.)”
Can Mendo Do Anything?
Short answer: Not much besides spend money.
Over the recent months, Mendocino County, like the rest of the entire country it seems, is funding lots of things they just can’t do. Whenever you hear the word “we” in any political context such as “We have to …” Or “We will…” etc., that’s usually code for “never happen.” When an individual proposes that “we” ought to do something, that means “somebody else, not me.” It also assumes that there’s a “we” who even cares or has some theoretical ability to do the thing that “we” are asked to do.
In Mendo, just off-hand, we know of several projects that “we” (being the Supervisors and/or County staff as “our” representatives) are supposed to be doing or have stated their intent to do.
• Water Hauling To The Coast for drought relief. Last week this project began with two trucks hauling an estimated 10,000 gallons per day. Initially, the Board said they needed to haul 70,000 gallons per day, but then downsized it to 40,000 gallons per day. More haulers are being sought. There have been no reports of whether any of the Ukiah water that has gone to Fort Bragg has been delivered to any retail customers on the Coast.
• Bring at least three Mobile Crisis Response units into existence both inland and on the Coast. One psych tech has been fielded and doing useful but limited work. The other two funded tech positions have been unfilled for more than a year now and nobody has any idea when the two additional recruits will start work. An additional $1 million was approved by the Board last week for some kind Crisis response to help offset the lack of ER beds for mental health cases (due to the covid surge) and the Sheriff’s very short staffed patrol division which recently declared they will no longer respond to non-life threatening mental health calls.
• Provide Monthly Budget Reporting for each department. Supervisor Mulheren said last month that CEO Angelo now expects to start monthly budget reporting around the time her employment contract is up and she retires in the fall of 2022.
• Apply Dust Suppression on County Roads.
(From the June CEO report: “The typical annual ‘Dust Off’ application is made to some most traveled 19 miles of the Counties total 344 miles of gravel roads (5.5%) at a cost of about $100k. The dust off program consists the application of a magnesium chloride (MgCl2) based formula mixed with water and applied by water truck. This year water sources are scarce and additional cost to haul water combined with a deficit in County Road Fund has caused MCDoT to suspend County Road Dust Suppression Program for 2021.” But according to Laytonville Water District manager Jim Shields, he’s got water to sell at regular prices which could be used for the important dust-off project, and the roads will further deteriorate if they are not treated with the MagClor “dust off.”)
• The East Side Potter Valley Road rehab project, started in the last century and still in the planning stages.
• Raise Coyote Dam (talked about for years but never moves forward at all.)
• Install Meters on Ukiah Valley Irrigation Pumps. (Recommended by the Grand Jury years ago, and agreed to by the then-Supervisors, but never pursued.)
• Connect Scout Lake to the Willits water system so that Willits has extra water capacity for itself and neighboring communities. (All but set up by then-Supervisor John Pinches, but dropped when he retired from the Board.)
• Build any significant new housing, “affordable” or not. (The Lovers Lane project has been sitting in permit limbo at the County Planning Department for more than two years now and its status has never come up. This was market-rate housing, not “affordable housing,” and was brought forward by a well-financed Chico based developer. But, like all other such projects, has been on hold for so long that the developer may have given up.)