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County Notes (Oct. 6, 2022)

Guess what subject was conspicuously missing from Thursday night’s Ukiah City Council Candidates debate? A subject which will significantly disrupt the Ukiah downtown economy in a few years by moving one particular small group of people out of the downtown area.

The MendoVoice reporter ignored the candidates’ unfortunately abbreviated discussion of the Ukiah Police Department. Most of the candidates — incumbents Mari Rodin, Juan Orozco and Jim Brown, and challenger Thao Phi — expected that their troubled department would magically improve when they hire a new “super” police chief. Councilman Brown said the Ukiah police situation was “sad.” Councilman Orozco said it was “embarrassing.” However, candidate Susan Sher, a Ukiah attorney and mediator, got more to the point before she was cut off by the school-marmish moderator.

Sher: “A new super police chief is one aspect. I'm glad to hear that they will be carefully vetted. But there appears to be a systemic problem in the entire department. We have had so many credible accusations about sexual harassment and sexual assault. I know this happens in some departments, but this is really horrific. I don't really want to comment on the Sergeant Murray situation. We don't have all the facts. But I think it is a little suspicious that a former police officer is getting such a great offer from the criminal justice system. It seems like there is a problem with the internal affairs. We have skyrocketing litigation costs. There have been several very large settlements. We as the city residents are paying for these. We will have increased insurance premiums. So I think there should be a better process for resolving citizen complaints. I volunteered for several years on the San Francisco Department of police accountability and —” (at this point Ms. Sher was cut off by the moderator who went on to the next speaker.)

The candidates also talked about annexation (outside the current city limits,), walkable/bikable streets, the climate emergency, housing, the local economy, open space, homelessness… There were no significant differences that we could make out. 

The event was tightly controlled by the National Women’s Political Caucus and their long-standing and very annoying process of requiring audience members to scribble down their questions on 3x5 cards and then a woman carries them up to the woman moderator who picks and chooses the ones she likes, and probably rephrases them to make them more polite, made worse by another woman sitting in the front row frantically waving time-limit cards at the candidates while they’re talking to make sure they don’t go over their precise tiny time limits.

Before the candidates spoke, Supervisor Mulheren and a couple of local fire people discussed the two pending County ballot measures, the “essential services” tax which the Supervisors say will go to fire protection, and the Library tax.

Supervisor Maureen Mulheren said that “the most funding” generated by November’s proposed “essential services” tax would go to the two city fire departments (Ukiah and Fort Bragg) because of an allocation formula skewed by population. Those two departments are already well funded and, in the case of Ukiah, already have their own sales tax revenue stream dedicated to their fire department. The County’s many smaller fire departments and districts would get whatever’s left over — if they get anything at all. (The Ballot Measure language says the revenue will go into the County’s General Fund where the Board of Supervisors — who at present are all convinced that Mendo is in a deep financial hole and who have failed to deliver on past promises to fire departments — will decide how much to disburse.)

We also couldn’t help noticing that the Ukiah City Council chambers are conspicuously open and unprotected, without the kind of high-tech, bullet proof glass protection that former CEO Carmel Angelo insisted was necessary for the Supervisors chambers to the tune of over $400k.

* * *

You may have thought that most of the pandemic is finally in our rear view mirror. And it is — except for the part that involves the County handing hundreds of thousands of dollars more to Camille Schrader and her Redwood Community Services outfit in Ukiah — retroactively — and on into the fall of next year.

Tuesday’s Agenda Consent Calendar Item 3x): “Approval of Retroactive First Amendment to Agreement No. BOS 21-091 with Redwood Community Services in the Amount of $375,632, for a New Total of $1,070,824, to Continue Providing Emergency Shelter Services Needed to Prevent, Prepare For and Respond To Coronavirus Among Individuals and Families Who are Experiencing Homelessness in Mendocino County, Using Grant Funds Available Through California Department of Housing and Community Development for the Emergency Solutions Grant, as Funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Effective January 1, 2021 Through a New End Date of September 30, 2023 (Original End Date: June 30, 2022).”

And if you think that this retroactive rubberstamping will end on September 30, 2023, you’ll only be right if the feds turn off the tap. 

* * *

Here’s a claim made in the upcoming Measure B presentation package for next Tuesday’s Supes meeting by an anonymous County Mental Health bureaucrat that supposedly demonstrates that Measure B funding is doing some good:

“Measure B funding continues to provide a pathway for individuals who historically have not had access to crisis after care services reaching parity for non-Medi-Cal recipients.”

So, let’s see. They seem to be saying that a few dozen Medi-Cal clients who had some kind of crisis got some “after care” that in the past was only provided to “non-Medi-Cal recipients.” And it was paid for out of Measure B funds. We have no way of knowing how much Measure B money is going to provide these after care services.

We also learned that there are currently six people in Camille Schraeder’s Crisis Residential Treatment Center (aka the $4.449 million four bedroom “Phoenix House”). 

According to the June Measure B Financial Report, $98,027 has been paid for a “Whitmore Land PHF Study.” We hope to get a copy of that study.

* * *

Bye-Bye HHSA

Mendo is finally getting around to eliminating the pointless extra layer of Helping Agency Admin that was created back in 2008 when the County hired Carmel Angelo as their first Director of the Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency. The original idea was to combine Mental Health, Public Health and Social Services which each had their own expensive administration with staff and analysts and directors and assistant directors and combine them into one, thereby saving money, on paper. But instead Angelo simply created a Super-Agency on top of the existing three agencies with its own fourth set of staff and analysts and directors and assistant directors. Instead of saving money, it increased the cost with no discernible improvement in anything. Now, some 14 wasteful years later, they’re getting rid of Angelo’s creation. Again, the idea is to save some money by eliminating the extraneous layer of HHSA bureaucracy. But the agenda item doesn’t mention the impact of this apparent improvement on the budget. So for all we know the people who were in the old HHSA admin office will just be added back to the three offices that will now operating more or less independently.

Agenda Item 4c) Discussion and Possible Action Including Introduction and Waive First Reading of an Ordinance Amending Chapters 2.04, 2.28, 3.16, 8.69, 9.05, 9.40, and 20.243of the Mendocino County Code Pertaining to the Duties and Responsibilities of the Chief Executive Officer and Replacing County Code References to “Health and Human Services Agency” with the Departments of Behavioral Health & Recovery Services, Public Health and/or Social Services 

(Sponsors: Chair Williams and County Counsel) 

* * *

The Barbara Howe wrongful termination federal suit is still costing Mendo lots of money. 

Agenda Item 3f) Approval of Amendment to BOS Agreement 20-138with Liebert Cassidy Whitmore (LCW), Effective September 22, 2021Extending the Termination Date from December 31, 2021 to December 31, 2022 for Litigation Services for Howe v County of Mendocino.” (The agenda item does not provide budget info, and this may only be for an extension of time. But in the past lLCW has been authorized to spend up to $150k.)

We were unable to find any status info on this case on line. We put in a call to Ms. Howe’s attorney in San Francisco but so far, no call back.

Ms. Howe, some readers may recall, was unceremoniously fired by then-CEO Carmel Angelo back in 2019 when she was given 16 minutes to be out of her office.

In her initial federal court filing Ms. Howe “alleges she was retaliated against for her speech and actions when days later, on May 24, 2019, she was forced under duress to sign a one-page resignation letter by defendant Tammy Moss Chandler [at the direction of CEO Angelo]. After signing the letter, Ms. Howe also alleges defendants sought spurious temporary restraining orders designed to destroy her reputation, further retaliation for the above activity. Ms. Howe claims she was entitled to a name clearing hearing. Finally, Ms. Howe alleges she was discriminated against based on her sexual orientation (heterosexual), gender, age, and engaging in protected activity, citing comments defendant Tammy Moss Chandler made to Ms. Howe about how older employers are incapable of making good decisions, multitasking, and struggling with technology.”

MENDO has authorized up to $150k so far in legal fees with SF-based Liebert Cassidy Whitmore on the case, now in its fourth year.

Chuck Dunbar: RE: County Agenda Notes:

“Bye-Bye HHSA—Some 14 Wasteful Years Later…”

Mark Scaramella continues his excellent, detailed and lacerating reporting on the County and its wayward, inefficient leadership. I remember when the HHSA change occurred. (I was then a CPS social worker supervisor in the coast office.) It was claimed to be the best thing ever. Angelo and the bureaucracy made a really big deal of it—“the supreme sense of it, the efficiencies to be gained…,” that kind of bureaucratic nonsense you hear too often. On the front lines—the staff doing the direct work of the County—we all yawned and ignored it all. We had the real work to do. Nothing about this change much affected our work. And here we years later, as it all fades away. Much ado about nothing. Disgraceful really.

“The Barbara Howe wrongful termination federal suit is still costing Mendo lots of money.” 

Liebert Cassidy Whitmore (LCW) getting more money—no doubt a very large sum, for the County’s defense of their actions in firing her. The disappearances—by Angelo the dictator—of a number of dedicated County leaders who made the fatal mistake of speaking their minds still haunt the County and cost the taxpayers’ their money. I hope Barbara Howe wins this case and teaches the County a hard, expensive lesson.

A side note here about this law firm, LCW, a firm dedicated to management issues and defense, often directly opposed to the interests, rights and welfare of line staff in organizations: Years ago, after HHSA had been established, Angelo and the County hired LCW to conduct a training regarding “Management Rights.” One of their clearly anti-labor attorneys, a preening, self-righteous guy as I recall, ran the several hour training, instructing scores of County middle managers (supervisors, program managers, etc.) on how to exert maximum authority and control over line staff. There was, or course, little discussion or acknowledgement of worker’s needs and rights. It was a disgusting presentation, and it clearly sent Angelo’s message to staff: “We are here to control your actions, and we have the absolute power to do so.” It’s how she ran the place, and it hurt the County’s workplace immensely

Mark, I can imagine that your brother, Hugh, a long-time County worker, dedicated and whip-smart, would have appreciated your skilled journalism on these issues.

* * *

Mark Scaramella Replies:

My brother was very hesitant to tell me anything about his work. If he spoke about it at all he me made me swear that I wouldn’t write anything about it first. He was of the impression that anything I wrote about Social Services would be interpreted by his coworkers and bosses as coming directly from him, which it did not. I often had other sources. As a result I kinda avoided the Social Services subject except for things already on the public record. His (justified) fear and the potential of putting him in an awkward situation was to me a very telling sign about the work climate in Social Services. 


  1. Thao Phi October 6, 2022

    Hello, Thao Phi, Ukiah City Council candidate here. I am a regular reader of the AVA (thanks for introducing me to Caitlin Johnstone!) and relatively new/young to the local political scene. I want to clarify that I do not think nor did I say that the city police “would magically improve when they hire a new ‘super’ police chief.” During that round of questions, my answer on the city police came after Susan’s remarks. I stated the need to understand what’s going on with the current police department through assessment of those who serve and use the services, working with what we have since we cannot just wipe out the police, vetting for someone who both understands Ukiah’s needs and cares about its people, and rebuilding trust in the people — whom the police are supposed to be serving. I do not claim to have the answers (but ideas) to the many complex and nuanced issues Ukiah faces, but I am willing to listen and learn so we can more effectively problem-solve and improve the quality of life in the community.

  2. John Sakowicz October 6, 2022

    Nice article, Mark. Thanks for posting.

    Barbara Howe is a friend and former neighbor. She is as blameless as blameless can be. Barbara Howe was not only wrongfully terminated, but the county caused her reputational harm and tried to destroy her career. The county made false statements in a petition for a restraining order that they were later forced to withdraw.

    The Hon. Jeanine B. Nadel, who owes her judgeship to County CEO Carmel Angelo, presided over this mess.

    Justice for Barbara Howe!

    Remember Barbara Howe!

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