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County Notes: Get Cubbison II?

Last Tuesday, the Supervisors briefly discussed two seemingly minor consent agenda items that should be captured for posterity because they are filled with potential problems and indications of managerial failure.

The first was the item to turn payroll over to the Executive Office and hire a $100k consultant to “assist” with it.

In August the Supes decided to transfer Mendo’s Payroll processing from the Auditor’s office to the CEO’s office on grounds that the Auditor was understaffed and Supervisor Ted Williams was worried about it without providing any specifics. 

Consent Item 3j: “Approval of Agreement with ClientFirst Consulting Group DBA ClientFirst Technology Consulting in the Amount of $100,000, to Assist with Payroll Processing Project Management, Provide Project Oversight for Recurring Munis Improvements, and Initiate and Plan for Munis Improvements in 2022 through 2023, Effective Upon Full Execution through June 30, 2023.”

Supervisor John Haschak: This is taking the payroll out of the Auditor Controller Tax Collector's purview and putting it into the Executive office. Is that $100,000 being transferred also? Where is that $100,000 coming from to pay for this?

CEO Darcie Antle: Yes, that is $100,000 being transferred to the Executive office. Part of this is an ongoing process improvement that we have been working on that needed to be stepped up earlier in September, earlier than we originally planned. Mr. Dunnicliff is in the room and I believe we have these funds in the ITMP [?] that we are using to increase this contract.

Supervisor Ted Williams: Although the Executive office may be assisting with payroll, I believe ultimately the accuracy of every check is the legal responsibility of the Auditor Controller. County Counsel, do you agree?

County Counsel Christian Curtis: Yes, that is correct.

Williams: Including item 3j?

Curtis: Yes.

In this payroll item we detected another hint of “Get Cubbison” from Supervisor Williams in case the payroll transfer gets screwed up by people other than Auditor-Controller Cubbison who will get “assistance” from people she has no control over. Why did Williams even ask that question? Why did he say that the Executive Office would now be “assisting” Ms. Cubbison with payroll, not handling payroll as was originally claimed? Why are they paying $100k for “assistance” from a consultant about something that has not been previously discussed as a problem other than understaffing worries in the Auditor’s office? Why do they need “assistance” when the original idea was to transfer the payroll function to the Executive Office because the Auditor was understaffed and the Executive Office could (presumably) handle it? This one deserves close monitoring by the County Employees since it appears the Board is expecting problems to arise.

November 1 Supervisors Agenda Item. 4b: “Discussion and Possible Action Including Direction for Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector to Provide an Update on the Status of Fiscal Year End 2021/22Close, Schedule of School District Audits, Quarter 1Close, and Other Topics as Seen Necessary for Ensuring Continued Governmental Operations” 

(Sponsor: Supervisor Williams) 

And why is this entitled “Get Cubbison II”? Because no other department is getting this kind of scrutiny — such as the Executive Office, Planning and Building, Sheriff, Camille Schraeder/Mental Health, etc.

Mendo’s Long-Delayed Attempt To Clarify The Chief Probation Officer Conflict Flops

Item 4c on Tuesday’s Board Agenda is: “Discussion and Possible Action Including Approval of Memorandum of Understanding with The Mendocino County Superior Court for the Appointment and Review of the Chief Probation Officer. (Sponsor: County Counsel)”

The County’s Chief Probation Officer is appointed by the Courts and works for the Courts and provides most of its work produce to the Courts, but the County/Supervisors pay for it. It’s an odd arrangement that has created not only budget problems, but in one recent case, an awkward and costly situation in 2017 which found a former Chief Probation Officer named Pam Markham having sex in her office with at least one of her subordinates which created not only a scandal but forced Mendo to pay for interim Chief Probation Officers while Ms. Markham was on paid leave while the Courts dithered (“investigated”) about what to do about the Markham problem. Mendo probably would have dispensed with Ms. Markham and her months of high pay sooner than the Courts did, but the Presiding Judge took his/her time because the County was paying, not the courts. 

In the slo-mo aftermath of that scandal, in September of 2019, nearly two years after the scandal, the Supervisors issued a directive to County Counsel to “Determine Feasibility of Transitioning the Chief Probation Officer to Report to the Board of Supervisors.…” and “directs County Counsel and the Chief Executive Officer to draft an Ordinance regarding transitioning the Chief Probation Officer to report the Board of Supervisors and bring back to the Board of Supervisors for approval.”

In typical Mendo timing, three years later County Counsel Christian Curtis has finally delivered a proposed hybrid arrangement (“Memorandum of Agreement”) to the Board which calls for the Supervisors to nominate and the Courts to appoint the Chief Probation Officer. It also sets up a “selection committee” of judges and county officials, and gives the County an opportunity to review the CPO’s performance and recommend disciplinary action, but still leaves the review and the discipline to the Presiding Judge. The proposed new agreement also notes that “Each party is liable for the acts and omissions of itself and its employees and agents, including future consequences of said actions and omissions” — which of course is meaningless legalese since “liability” (i.e., cost) would still stick the County with the bill for any Markham-style “liability.” The proposal also calls for pointless “non-binding mediation” which, if unsuccessful, allows that “either party may pursue any available legal remedies,” which is pretty much what they already could do. 

The new arrangement is probably a little better than no arrangement at all, but it still leaves the County holding the bag while providing a fig leaf of legalistic mumbo-jumbo that depends on the willingness of the local lawyer-judges to cooperate. Ultimately, if a budget dispute were to arise, there’s nothing in the proposed arrangement which would force the Courts to cover the costs of their own poor decisions or inaction.

One Comment

  1. Lazarus November 3, 2022

    “And why is this entitled “Get Cubbison II”? Because no other department is getting this kind of scrutiny” M.S.

    It is always about the money. When the County goes belly up, they need someone to wear the horns…It’s a setup!
    Be aware,

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