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Supes Notes: Slouching Towards Clarity

An awkward moment arose at last Tuesday’s Supervisors meeting after the highly bureaucratic agenda Item 5h arose: “Discussion and Possible Action Including Adoption of Resolution Amending the Position Allocation Table as Follows: Sheriff’s Office Budget Unit 2310 - Add 1.0 FTE Network Systems Analyst II (Sponsor: Human Resources)” 

Budget unit 2310 is the Sheriff’s department. But the “sponsor” was Human Resources.

The agenda item’s background info couldn’t have been more intentionally opaque. 

“Previous Board/Board Committee Actions: On June 22, 2021, the Board of Supervisors adopted the Master Position Allocation Table for the FY 2021-2022 Budget, Resolution Number 21-090. On August 31, 2021, the Board of Supervisors directed Human Resources to work with the Sheriff's Office and bring back a recommendation at a subsequent meeting. The Human Resources Department is charged, as part of the overall maintenance of the classification and compensation plan, to evaluate current classifications, create new classifications (including appropriate salary levels), reclassify positions, examine requests for salary grade adjustments, analyze allocations, and make recommendations for additions, modifications, and corrections.”

After that useless bit of info, they muddled on: 

“On August 31, 2021 discussion ensued over the November 2019 request by Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) to reclassify (add/delete) vacant Public Safety Dispatcher to a Network Systems Analyst II, in Budget Unit 2310.”

Wait a minute. This started in November of 2019? Why now then?

“This request was the result of the retirement of a Public Safety Dispatcher [back in 2019] who had been assigned duties in support of the Sheriff’s Office IS [computer system] staff and the Sheriff’s Office’s belief that their needs would be better met with a Network Systems Analyst. In accordance with Policy 22, Human Resources sought the approval of Information Services (IS) leadership to add an IS position to a department other than the centralized Information Services Department.”

Hold on, again: “Information Services leadership” had to approve the Sheriff’s personnel request? Why?

“After a series of meetings and emails between November 2019 and September 2020, in which IS recommended an Information Systems Specialist be allocated to the centralized IS Department…”

Ok, as all this is translated from English-to-Albanian and back to bumbling bureaucrat-speak, a logical question arises: What “series of meetings and emails” took almost a year which “recommended an Information Systems Specialist be allocated to the centralized IS Department”? Recommended by whom? Centralized IS? And who, exactly, is Central IS? Janelle Rau?

We’re now slowly drifting into an unintended clarity which leads into the Sheriff’s sensible self-defense in his lawsuit asking for his own attorney regarding computer system autonomy and security.

But why now? Something very odd is going on here.

“Budget Unit 1960 (Information Systems) [is] to provide dedicated support to the Sheriff’s Office, [so] there was no further discussion or direction given to Human Resources.” 

Oh yes there was. This now looks like the initial a reference to the CEO’s attempt to take over the Sheriff’s computer system.

“The request was not submitted to the Board for their consideration/adoption.”

Probably because the Sheriff and his computer people balked at the CEO’s attempt to move computer people out of the Sheriff’s Office and into the CEO’s information services collective.

But since so much time has now passed:

“The Public Safety Dispatcher position is no longer vacant as it was in November 2019, nor does the MCSO have a vacant position to put forth to help cover the cost of funding. Therefore, the Sheriff’s Office will require a budget adjustment to fund the addition of one (1.0) Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Network Systems Analyst II Budget Unit 2310 [The Sheriff’s Department.] The current year fiscal impact and annual recurring costs [of about $98k] reflect wages at Step 5 (including cost of benefits) of 1.0 FTE Network Systems Analyst II for the rest of this fiscal year.” And about $158k per year thereafter. So “Budget Adjustment will be needed.” And “The Sheriff’s Office will work with the County Budget Team on a budget adjustment.”

When it was time for Board discussion, Supervisor Ted Williams immediately blurted out: “I support this. How do we pay for it?”

Meaning, we assume, he’s for letting the Sheriff’s keep his own computer system and staff, but only if the Sheriff figures out how to pay for it out of his already disputed budget.

Sheriff Kendall calmly explained that the necessary dispatch position has been filled so there are no vacancies or budget available to cover the cost the computer staffer. He then noted that his 2019 attempt to hire the computer staffer was “shot down” so the Dispatch position was soon filled. Kendall said he still needed that position because dispatch needs every slot they have nowadays. But Kendall had not brought it forward, Human Resources had.

Supervisor Williams then inadvertently revealed what was behind the whole item: “If we say no due to lack of funding, will we be sued?”

Kendall replied: “I have not sued anyone, I simply asked for an attorney.”

Yes, but the attorney was asked for because the Sheriff thought the Board was unlawfully infringing on the Sheriff’s department’s operations, particularly his Computer system and his budget and he wanted a solid legal opinion to back him up.

Supervisor Haschak then inanely asked Assistant CEO Darcie Antle: “Do we have $158k lying around unallocated?”

Apparently the Supervisor, like his colleagues, has no idea what their own budget situation is and they still don’t even have the close out numbers from last fiscal year which ended on June 30, almost four months ago.

Ms. Antle didn’t know either, so she suggested that they bring the item back “at first quarter and discuss it then.”

But because of the budget team’s failure to manage their budget, that “first quarter” report won’t be presented until December. If any departments are having budget problems almost half the year will be up before they even get a glimpse of it, much less have time to deal with it.

Sheriff Kendall has been operating without the computer staffer this long so he shrugged and agreed to bring it back in December.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s lawsuit demanding an attorney to clarify how much the Board can meddle with his department languishes in Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman’s chambers where it’s been for over a month now.

The Dismal Science, Mendo Branch

Mendo has no real economy besides wine, the shrinking pot business, the battered tourism business, and its ever expanding government (including the schools). So there’s never been much point to “economic development” — but, like the ever expanding cannabis permit bureaucracy slowly strangling Mendo’s non-corporate cannabis industry, the economic development staff itself is getting bigger.

Despite this depressing stagnation, the Supervisors talked for a couple of hours last Tuesday about “economic development” and a proposal to hand over around $175k to the “West Company” to do “economic development.” But the only “development” on the horizon is more money for local government and its ineffective auxilliaries like the West Company as they try to snag some of the giant pools of state and federal funding flowing westward to pay for non-existent economic development with public money to hand a few palsy-walsy local businesses at some distant if not imaginary time while the economic development people enhance their own economic development.

After the self-inflicted demise of the local timber industry, there hasn’t been much private business in Mendocino County to develop. As the Supes agenda itself, in a rare moment of clarity, says, Mendo’s two biggest private businesses are “health care and social services,” a not-so veiled reference to Mendo’s two large monopolies: the Adventist’s hospital monopoly and Camille Schraeder’s widespread Redwood Community Services Octopus, neither of which are “businesses” in any normal sense of the word since they don’t sell anything and the “customers” they have, have no choice.

Supervisors Mulheren and Williams went to some length to insist that, like ther colleagues, they were big cheerleaders for “economic development,” but they thought the West Company’s workplan lacked specificity, as if specificity like which pots of other government money they might apply for would make any difference. 

It didn’t matter anyway, because the three more reliable rubberstamps — Supervisors Haschak, McGourty and Gjerde — didn’t much care what the West Company did or didn’t do, as long as they called it “economic development.” 

So the Board voted 3-2 to allocate the $175k for the West Company to “provide services related to Microenterprise support for Community Development Block Grant Program, as well as an Annual Economic Development Strategy contract…” (The AVA being both a geriatric and a microenterprise, throw us some cash and we’ll hire some young blood.)   

“…At this time, West BDC proposes a three year contract to fill the need for an economic development agency and serve as an information clearinghouse, helping stakeholders work collectively to secure funds and streamline the governmental process, as well as oversee the economic resiliency plan.” Translation. A hundred or so government donut meetings from which only vague economic development reports willl emerge.

Another One Bites The Dust

Next Tuesday the Board plans to discuss how to replace their Human Resources Director, Mr. William Schurtz, who has apparently quit or resigned or been fired or whatever. In the present Stalinist management style, people frequently just disappear. 

“Agenda Item 5b: Discussion and Possible Action Including Creation of Ad Hoc Committee for Recruitment and Selection of a Human Resources Director.”

As usual, these senior departures are unexplained and unannounced. All the public gets is notice that a vacancy is being filled (if that). But we never really know. When we saw one of these kinds of agenda items a couple of weeks ago it turned out to be a promotion, pay raise and title change, not a departure. Also done in pointless secrecy, of course. So for all we know Mr. Schurtz has not left but is being rehired or reappointed or transferred or, in his jargon, maybe he’s being “reclassified.” Or stuffed in garbage bags underneath the CEO’s desk. There’s no mention of anyone being designated as “acting” HR director either. We had assumed the HR Director worked for the CEO who usually does her own (capricious) hiring and firing. So this may be an early indication that the Board is looking ahead to the post-CEO Angelo era when department heads might be hired and fired directly by the Supervisors as the CEO becomes more of a coordinator/administrator. (The lib-lab crowd is big on the “CAO” or Chief Administrative Officer model because even they realize that CEO Angelo has usurped too much control over whatever the County does. But in the present enviroment, without any improvement in management staff and systems, the “model” doesn’t matter.)

* * *

Speaking of the CEO, Item 9e on the Board’s closed session agenda is: “Public Employee Performance Evaluation - Chief Executive Officer.” 

That should not take long because CEO Angelo’s contract is up in a year and she has already begun missing Board meetings without explanation and letting her staff answer most of the Board’s questions. Why would she care much about what the Supervisors think of her performance, anyway? She’s made it clear she’s outtahere not later than her contract expiration date in October of next year.

* * *

AMAZINGLY, although nothing should amaze us anymore about Mendocino County’s mysterious management maneuverings, next Tuesday’s CONSENT calendar includes an item to “Approve Fifth Amendment to BOS Agreement 17-131 with NaphCare Inc. in the Amount of $3,484,847.76 for a New Agreement Total of $19,105,009.38 for Medical Health Services for the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) Jail with a New Term End Date of December 31, 2022.”

Nothing against NaphCare and their overworked jail staff, but shouldn’t the award of almost $3.5 million at least be on the board’s regular agenda and include a discussion of their performance and cost? Shouldn’t somebody at least ask Camille Schraeder (or anyone else, for that matter) if she wants to bid the work? After all, she has pretty much everything else and lots of inmates overlap with her mental health clientele. 

Hey, they could hand the money over to the Schraeders and call it economic development.

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