The slo-mo train wreck that we have become accustomed to watching since Big Momma Carmel Angelo retired in March seems to have stalled. Say what you will about former CEO Angelo, but she wouldn’t have allowed the aimless inertia this leaderless Board of Supervisors has fallen into.
So little gets done anymore — besides lots of talk and reports — that the locomotives seem out of steam, about to come to a sputtering stop in their tracks or disappear on an abandoned spur line before they even get close to any kind of dramatic train wreck.
Our Hard Working Board Of Supervisors — or, as Supervisor Glenn McGourty likes to say, our “really, really hard working” Board of Supervisors — is taking a whole month off for Thanksgiving. Their next meeting after Tuesday, November 8 won’t be until December 6. Then just one more meeting in 2022 on December 13. Why not? It’s not like they have anything to do. No books to close. No payroll transitions to manage. No new hinky property tax software to implement. No employees to retain or pay. No vacancies to fill. No projects to track. Who needs them?
Commenting on facebook about this item, Supervisor Ted Williams took his familiar, dismissive tone instead of attempting any kind of substantive response:
Williams: “Board is not taking a month off. Giving more and more direction to staff, week after week, isn’t a recipe for success. Mark is in the dark if he thinks board meetings are the entirety of work, but the AVA is about selling stories more than truth-telling.”
Williams is right that “more direction to staff” isn’t working. But aside from the typical “you’re lying about us” whining without providing any examples, we are supposed to take Williams at his word that the Supes are working really really hard.
That’s not how the County’s own employees see the Board, however.
On Tuesday morning, County employee union rep Patrick Hickey provided as good an answer as we could to Williams’ inane claim.
Hickey: “You have a general fund reserve. You can only use that reserve if you have an emergency. Well, we are in an emergency. We are in an official emergency. You can tap those funds to support your staff to stop the hemorrhaging [of people leaving out of frustration or because of low pay]. Family and Children Services [Food stamps, Medi-Cal and employment assistance] are shutting units down. Mandated services that this County is required to provide — they are not able to provide. If the state actually did their job they would probably turn the lights out here in Mendocino County. They would say, Sorry — you are not doing the job you are supposed to do. We have been giving you money and you are not using it. We are offering you money, and you are not asking for it. Half of the County is state and federal funding. But we have people that are not being paid at market. That makes absolutely no sense. The County has made no proposals at the table for six months to deal with that. They [the expensive attorneys the County has hired to “negotiate” with the union] sit there and stare at us and say, We don't know what's happening; we don't know what we're supposed to do, we don't know what's in the budget — you tell us. No! That's your job! We have been waiting for six months for you to do your job, so do your job!”
The room full of County employees erupted in loud and extended applause. (We thought the hand-written sign from one employee who urged the board to “stop stalling” was noteworthy.)
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In case there was any doubt about why these supervisors have been trying to put the auditor/tax collector on the spot these last few weeks, Supervisor Glenn McGourty made it as clear as he could Tuesday morning that he wants the public and the employees to blame Auditor-Tax Collector Chamise Cubbison for their failures:
McGourty: “We really genuinely do not know how much money we have to work with. A quick civics lesson: Our Auditor Controller Tax collector Treasurer is an elected official. She does not answer to us. We have to have good information provided by her. She has not done it! We are waiting! That's what's holding us up! That's all that's holding us up! So have a conversation with her! Urge her! Encourage her to take help. We have offered help. We are trying really really hard [sic] to make this work.”
McGourty conveniently ignores the negligent role that he and his colleagues and their CEO and her department heads have in this process.
But when the subject of the one senior assistant their Auditor-Tax Collector needs now — the one the Board promised to expedite at the last meeting, the “help” that McGourty says has been “offered” — arose a few minutes later, Ms. Cubbison called in under public expression.
Cubbison: “I didn't see the information I requested from Human Resources until this morning. I don't really agree with the direction that HR is recommending. Apparently they did not hear my concern about limiting the applicant pool based on the classification. I feel strongly that a Program Administrator [that HR proposed] is not going to get me in the direction of a more analytical position. That is not at all what I'm looking for for the Treasurer Tax Collector office. It sounds like we are going back to the drawing board in this discussion with Human Resources.”
Again, the Board feigned concern and said they wanted to help. Nobody disagreed with Ms. Cubbison. Instead they turned the question back to Mr. Schurtz, Mendo’s Human Resources manager, who went on and on about the difficulties of a lengthy process of creating a new “classification” for the position Ms. Cubbison wants. County Counsel Curtis offered only vague promises that he’d look into the matter to see if there was any way to get around the tedious classification process. Nobody had any idea how to streamline or speed up the that process, much less actually hire someone, or what it would take to provide Ms. Cubbison with the person she needs now for her understaffed and overworked office. (Previously, they offered a loaner from the Executive Office, but that didn’t happen either.) In the end, all they could come up with was a vague idea from Supervisor Dan Gjerde who offered to suggest a few names of people who worked in the Auditor's office years ago who might be contacted to see if they’d consider coming back as extra help.
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Poor Supervisor John Haschak can’t get any respect. His instincts are frequently better than his colleagues but he has a disturbing tendency to wilt at the slightest twist or pushback. When he suggested that the Board follow the pot tax advisory measure and allocate some of it as Measure AJ called for couple of months ago, he then listened to Supervisor Gjerde’s and Williams’ transparently false claims that business as usual constituted compliance. Instead of persisting, Haschak caved and went along with this underhanded idea. Haschak also objected to the unplanned, ill-considered consolidation of the Auditor-Tax Collector office, and has seemed sympathetic to the predicted/predictable problems that resulted from that terrible idea and tried to ask Auditor/Tax Collector Cubbison what can be done to mitigate them. But again, when the Board does nothing time and again, Haschak sits by, uncomplaining. Hashack has tried in his way to represent the well-meaning pot growers trying to get legal in his district by bringing some of their problems and complaints to light, but when his ideas are not followed up on, he caves. Haschak has taken some responsibility for attempting to set up some kind of arrangement for “non-lethal” wildlife exclusion services which has been stalled now for over a year. When nothing happens, instead of telling County Counsel to fix the RFP so that qualified people can bid for the services, or introducing an agenda item to put his colleagues and staff on the spot, he simply repeats again and again that “we’re working on it.”
The latest example was last Tuesday when Haschak asked County Counsel Christian Curtis about the status of the well water extraction rules and whether anything can be done to speed it up.
Haschak: “Supervisor McGourty and I worked on this water extraction ordinance and there’s a lot of questions about where it is and what the hold up is. I think we dealt with it as a Board in July. And we’re hearing that it won’t go to the Planning Commission until maybe February. And it’s in County Counsel. So can you give us an update on where it is and if we can do anything to move it along?”
Curtis: “At this point, I don’t know if there’s anything that can be done to move it along. It is something that will require some more analysis and drafting and additional work before we’re able to go to the Planning Commission.”
Haschak, deflated, caved again: “Ok. Thank you.”
And, as usual, none of his colleagues, including McGourty, chimed in with any support or follow-up questions.
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George Dorner: If the Board of Stupes succeeds in driving Ms. Cubbison from office, what will they do then for someone to manage their newly created Embezzlement Bureau? Oh, that’s right, the voters will give them someone else to abuse. Probably someone unfamiliar with the office, who will be saddled with the same problems plaguing Ms Cubbison. The taxpayers’ hopes must lie in a future BOS. The present one lacks the planning ability to organize a two car funeral.