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County Notes: Great Moments in Public Expression

Chamise Cubbison, Dec. 8, 2021

“According to recent information being circulated by email, the following has been attributed to Supervisor Gjerde ‘…this is an opportunity to create increased visibility and accountability through the consolidation of a single elected officer accountable for these financial matters. One example: visitor transient occupancy tax is collected by the elected Treasurer. But the Treasurer does not verify the business/Airbnb pays all the tax it collected from visitors. Verification, if it were to occur, is the responsibility of the Auditor. However, the Auditor has not verified full payment in several years. By establishing a single elected officeholder we will provide one point of accountability. No more pointing fingers between two offices, with taxes going uncollected for essential services.’

“If Supervisor Gjerde made these comments, it shows that he is misrepresenting government code, doesn’t understand what the Auditor-Controller’s office does and has forgotten his own comments and recent County Board actions during the pandemic. Combining the offices will not create greater accountability. It will make a single elected official accountable. Currently there are two elected officials with responsibilities relating to TOT collections. It will also reduce the qualifications of the Auditor-Controller as the newly combined office will require that the individual meet either one of the Auditor qualifications OR one of the qualifications of the Treasurer, which are less accounting focused than the Auditor’s qualifications. …

“California property tax is the most complicated in the nation and every county in the state handles property tax differently. There is no ‘off the shelf’ software product available. The County issued an RFP for the replacement of the property tax system in 2014. There was one bidder, Thomsen Reuter. The County entered into a contract with the software developer in June 2015. However, at that time the company was committed to finishing their $90M + property tax system conversion with Riverside County before moving on to other California counties. There were several other counties in line before Mendocino County. The Riverside project took more than six years to “go live” and is still not fully completed. …

“In closing, I hope that this Board will make the right decision, drop this idea, take action to respectfully learn about staff challenges, appreciate these hard working employees and provide the resources and support we need to continue doing our jobs without future misguided interference.”

Estelle Clifton, Dec. 15, 2021

“The fact that the combination of these offices [Treasurer-Tax Collector & Auditor-Controllerd] by ordinance is lawful, does not justify an unplanned implementation. Combining offices creates less accountability by removing important checks and balances. The current officeholders are accountable and conduct their separate duties well. Because there is no implementation plan, no analysis of the destabilizing risks, or justification for benefits (if any – visibility is not a justification for destabilizing the fiscal departments of the County), this rushed vote creates a huge risk as the dedicated staff are being left unsupported and headed toward uncertainty. … It is clear that our BOS have not done due diligence to demonstrate this consolidation is necessary or beneficial to the fiscal responsibilities of the county.”

Treasurer/Tax Collector Shari Schapmire, Nov. 24, 2021

I am adamantly opposed to the creation of a Director of Finance position. The current structure has been successful for decades, it allows for critical functions to remain at the forefront and not minimalized by lack of time and focus. It also allows for the separation of duties that is absolutely vital for financial offices. Like with the consolidation of the Assessor- Clerk-Recorder, I fear if this consolidation takes place it will set the County on an extremely negative path going forward. We have learned a lot over the decades, one thing we know for sure, it is imperative that our financial offices remain stable.” 

Julie Beardsley, August 2022

“The long delay in providing [financial] information feels very disrespectful to our employees who have come to work every day, often putting their own health on the line, during these past two years of the pandemic. The implication is that we couldn’t possibly understand their numbers without them explaining them to us. But the only actual reason for them to refuse to give us the information outside the context of a formal presentation, is because they know that reasonable people who know as much about the way this county government works as we do would interpret the numbers differently from how they are choosing to explain them. We need the information to be able to make our own calculations and understand the county’s actual financial position. If their interpretation is correct, what do they have to hide?”

Chamise Cubbison, August 2022:

“Health Plan Deficit: The CEO’s office is responsible for managing the Health Plan, authorizing payment of all Health Plan payables, and reviewing various reports. It is unfortunate that the CEO’s office and the Health Plan consultants did not sound the alarm sooner on the growing deficit, but that is not because the information was not available.” 

Norm Thurston, long-time senior auditor staffer and after that was Sheriff Tom Allman’s budget manager (now retired), August 2022: 

“A message to the Board of Supervisors: If you want to get some factual information on the County's financial systems, you should talk to the one person who knows the most about those systems — Chamise Cubbison. Whoever is providing you with financial information now is not doing a very good job of it. To Chamise, I suggest you wander down to the Board chambers when they are discussing fiscal matters. Your presence may motivate our 5 supervisors to be more thoughtful before making unsubstantiated comments.”

Tracy Wright, Board member and Treasurer of the Sherwood Band of Pomo Indians Tribal Council and County Employee, August 2022: 

“I am glad to see (CEO) Darcie Antle paying attention to all of us as we are talking about budgets and you guys not understanding the budget. And yet the communication between you guys is not there. That saddens me. I sit on a tribal council board. When there is a question about the budget and I don't understand, I ask our CEO to make sure I understand. What do you mean, we don't have that money? And they explain it to me. That's what I expect from my CEO which I pay money to do their job. That's what should be expected from her [pointing at Darcie Antle]. I have been an employee with the county for 22 years. There are not many of us left anymore because when we took that hit before lots of people retired and left. I stayed. Last year I was going through cancer, I worked three months under chemo because I didn't want my work to fall on my coworkers. That's the kind of dedication and family we have here. But we can't keep it because you won't pay us what we are worth. We are not asking for you guys' salary. We are asking for a decent salary. ... A lot of the people in this room are starting out here, so they will get their training and then they will be gone. Eventually I will leave because it's just not worth it. When I start losing money to work that's when I will be gone. That's where we are going. Your proposed increase for our health insurance? And that's only for myself? It doesn't even have my husband on it? It's ridiculous! All we ask is for you to give us a fair shake and stop dodging a bullet, stop hiding behind not knowing. If you don't know, shame on you! Because she [pointing at CEO Antle] should be giving you the answers to any questions you have. If we were all sitting here listening to citizens of this county complaining about us not doing our job, you guys would be all over us. And she's not doing her job. You need to get on her. That's the final line.”

On Line Comment, August 2022:

Regarding retired Treasurer-Tax Collector Shari Schapmire’s recent observation that the Supervisors cheap shots at the Auditor-Controller and their claims about not knowing the County’s financial status are “irresponsible and inaccurate”:

“Schapmire is 100 percent correct. The reality, as shown in the County’s independent third party financial reports, (all available online) is that the County is awash in discretionary cash. Angelo did not make up the $20m figure, if ANYTHING she understated it! Why is the County Board of Supervisors crying poor?

One reason is absolutely the incompetence of the Board, their CEO and Executive Office fiscal staff. It’s simply easier to cry poor than to try and deliver services. For whatever reason the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis resulted in the executive and Board to unquestioningly prioritize the stockpiling of excessive amounts of cash. Prudent reserves are a good thing, but the County also exists to provide services. They have thrown out the challenge of delivering services to focus almost exclusively on the ever growing reserves, as if the County were a private corporation trying to boost its outlook on paper. The reality is the County Board controls over $50m in undesignated and designated reserves.

The second reason is that pulling the “crisis” card grabs headlines. It gives the management and the Board the ability to delay or prevent increases to employee compensation. The Executive Office is good at crisis. I would even say addicted to it. The reason? Incompetence. They can’t proactively manage, because that would actually involve doing their real jobs. It’s easier to cry crisis and hunker down than it is to stand up, make a decision about where money goes and then deliver on that commitment.

Long-time Local Cannabis Attorney Hannah Nelson on a proposal to use State Equity Grant funds for county cannabis department staff because, allegedly, handing it over to permitted pot growers might be against federal law, October 2022:

“If the feds want to be involved in this they will step in. This is an issue without a problem! Okay? It's been decided by the courts, by the annual budget. This item is so far beyond the scope and in my opinion — and I respect County Counsel Curtis — but this is legal malpractice to not have raised this issue if it was a concern, when your [Curtis’s] office has reviewed every single equity grant contract. In fact, a lot of the bottlenecks and a lot of the delays are because everything was being reviewed by your office and new issues kept coming up all of a sudden. I'm sorry I'm raising my voice. I'm very upset. I may actually file legal action about this.”

Patrick Hickey, SEIU Union Rep, October 2022:

You each pay lip-service to County employees but that doesn't pay the rent. Inaction over time is seen for what it is: contempt. Instead of negotiating in good faith the county administration continues to hide information. Do we have to file charges with the state every time we want to access public information? You have brought in a high-priced San Francisco attorney to negotiate, but you have given him no authority to bargain, even on such glaringly obvious things like agreeing to pay more than the minimum wage. We have provided the board with multiple ideas for identifying funds. Recently we have been identifying areas where the county has been wasting funds. You could ask nearly any employee in the county and they could point to multiple ways that they could save the taxpayers money. But again, we see no action. Just more circular discussions and going-nowhere ad hoc committees. When the county employees look to the board for leadership they see stagnation.” 

Leif Farr, Shop Steward, Long Time County Mapping/Computer specialist, October 2022: 

“When you budget general fund money, and it's not spent, then the following year it goes into special categories, one-time money. So what was general fund money that you didn't spend, becomes this one-time money that you have decided not to spend on salaries. You can point to a lot of things going on around the county. On my coffee break I walk outside here and I see the fantastic parking lot being built out here between General Services and the Administration building. Boy, that sure is one Class A parking lot. What was the priority in spending money on that? As opposed to spending money on employees? That's the kind of thing that is disheartening. So there are avenues. It's also very disheartening to negotiate with a negotiating team that can't make any decisions. First thing off the bat, they say that the county is broke, they have no money. Well, how did they hire you? Right? It's disheartening. 

Chamise Cubbison, October 2022 on potential cost savings from consolidation of the Treasurer and Auditor postions.

Cubbison: “I didn't really see a huge benefit in terms of the budget because the reality is what you've done is increase the salary of the department head but the full-time equivalent workload of the department is not any different. So the fact that there's no longer an elected Treasurer Tax Collector means that we are now probably going to end up with a Treasury Manager or another Assistant Treasurer-Tax Collector to cover the workload. So there's actually an additional cost for the additional department head, and that position would be paid at the same level that the Treasurer Tax Collector. But there's also the added requirement by Government code that there's another audit to maintain the separation of duties on both sides of the money, so to speak. So we will need an additional audit for that. We will also need to contract with an outside CPA for an independent treasury count, probably quarterly. After the consolidation, we still need to maintain the separation. There may be some administrative efficiencies such as for Payroll and Accounts Payable, but those are not huge savings. We will probably need another outside contract to make sure that we are collecting as much as we can on the transient occupancy tax, we have not incurred that contract cost in the last few years. There will be additional cost in resuming that software license so we have access to that new data.”

Kiki DeLong, Senior Analyst, Auditor Controller’s office. November 1, 2022

“It is really painful for our office to watch these board meetings. It strikes me as somewhat hypocritical, the way you address Chamise [Cubbison] specifically with regard to wanting her to name the departments that she is asking for a little bit more support from and analysis before sending materials to her for input. Against her will, she named the CEO's office, asking that they review the materials a little more. Then you took her to task for getting personal and having a personality conflict, maybe being difficult to work with. It's really obvious to our department that the agenda here is to see her fail. You pay lipservice to trying to provide support, but she is basically being used as a scapegoat. You basically blew up our two offices by forcing this consolidation against both offices' will; Against Schari [Schapmire who retired early saying she couldn’t work with “this board” anymore] and Julie [Forrester who just quit] and Chamise and Lloyd [Weer, former Auditor Controller, now retired] and several of the community members speaking out against this. There were not just against it, they just wanted a plan to be in place — until you did a study, not just because they did it in Sonoma County which is close to the Bay Area and has access to employees. You said, We can just do it! There was no study to see if there would be any savings or efficiencies for our county. There was no action plan. You just took her to task for not having an organization chart! You need to take care of this stuff. Because you basically blew everything up and created his urgency ordinance to appoint her to clean up your mess and now you can blame her for everything that's not being done through the departments? No! That's not how it works. We all have to work together. ... There is just this stonewalling of our department from the board, from the Executive office. It is getting really frustrating. We are all working very hard to try to carry the load of not having enough staff and not enough hours. And when we watch these board meetings and see the two-facedness where you seem to be wanting to support us, but then you take every opportunity to make Chamise your scapegoat. It makes us all want to just take a vacation — which I have not done. I have not used any vacation since becoming an employee of Mendocino County four years ago. Because we have always been understaffed, and it's not because the positions are not there. It's because you can't attract people to this area, this market. It takes so long to fill a position. From the time applicants apply before you get around to calling them in they have already accepted an industry position. Industry fills these positions in 21 days. Government fills the positions in two months or more. That has to change. If we need to get butts in seats and get work done, we need to be able to hire people quickly and competitively. That is not going on right now. We have a lot of empty desks and we have a lot of people trying to do two jobs. I don't like watching these board meetings. It makes me want to just quit. I stay out of respect for Chamise. But I do not feel support from the board. The board blew up our offices and now you are not happy because you are not getting things in a timely manner. Maybe you should've thought about that before your legacy went forward. You have no plan. You drove away our Treasurer Tax Collector. You drove away our Assistant Treasurer Tax Collector. And then you appointed Chamise and made her responsible for everything. She was not the previous Auditor Controller. She was brought in to take care of that job, and Schari's job and Julie's job. You did not appoint her when Lloyd left last year so she was not able to hire an Assistant Auditor Controller. She was doing Lloyd's job and her job last year. And now she doing Julie's job and Schari's job? And now you are whining about what's not being done? You created this mess. And I -- I've said my piece. I'm done.”

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.


  1. Norm Thurston December 1, 2022

    This compilation of comments shows the serious concerns many of us have over the Board of Supervisors actions. I am particularly concerned by the lack of knowledge by some supervisors about the function and value of internal controls. An internet search turned up this site, which provides some basic information on the subject. There is a link on the page that will allow you to download a Microsoft Word file, for anyone who would like to view it.

    • Rick Swanson December 1, 2022

      Norm Thurston for supervisor!

      • Norm Thurston December 1, 2022

        No thanks, Swanny! lol

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