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County Notes (September 27, 2023)

A couple of readers asked why we didn’t cover the main points of the Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, specifically their decision to postpone enforcement of the outdoor eatery tent ban for a year; their review of Fort Bragg Police Chief Neil Cervenka’s Care Response Unit (CRU) program, and their decision to waive permit requirements for solar roof installations. 

What’s to cover? 

The first one was decided before the meeting even began because nobody wants to squeeze the Coast’s eateries any more as they struggle to recover from the covid restrictions. There were a few water usage questions, but since nobody mentioned the $5 million water project which they trumpeted about a couple of years ago that’s supposed to be underway — or hurrying it up, which is what should be done — for the town of Mendocino, and nobody’s outta water at the moment, the discussion wasn’t worth much attention. 

Like everyone else in the meeting we have been impressed with Fort Bragg’s homeless management program and wish them the best. But since all the Board offered was the usual “we’ll look into” long-term funding… Again, there’s not much to say since they didn’t even give the Chief or his program a deadline for when they’d do anything, if at all. 

As far as the rooftop solar permit waivers, that should have been done long ago. Sonoma and Humboldt counties did it years ago, but Mendo kept the costly and discouraging permit requirements in place despite the obvious energy and political benefits, likely for the fee revenue was generating. 

None of these discussions or decisions will change anything. They were raised primarily as an afterthought to the Board’s decision to meet on the Coast to shore up their image out there. The presence of the large turnout of coasties made no difference either. 

In fact, all the these decisions and presentations could have been done in Ukiah on the consent calendar. The meeting on the Coast was local political theater and, as usual, the interested coast residents ate it up. 

We chose to cover the more important subjects that weren’t covered by other local outlets: The Board’s pathetic response to the sorry state of the County’s broken human resources system and the related “workplace culture” problems, and Supervisor Haschak’s weak attempt to put a small plug in the County’s looming budget gap with a short term rental tax proposal that went nowhere. 

The Supervisors whine constantly about their “structural deficit” and the “painful choices” they expect to have to make for the next fiscal year. Yet they can’t even ask their Assessor about the report on status of the assessment catch-up program they directed be provided monthly back in July, but have yet to receive or inquire about. If they can’t even get something important and simple like that from their staff, what makes anyone think they’ll deliver any money for Chief Cervenka’s model homeless management program? 

PS. We recall that the Measure B committee allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars for three crisis vans for three years four years ago, one of which was supposed to be on the Coast. Two such units were much later put in place, for much less than the allocated cost. So Fort Bragg should just get that unspent Measure B money for their program right off the bat if anyone in Official Mendo really was interested in helping to keep it going.

Agenda Notes

Based on next Tuesday’s Board Of Supervisors Agenda, you’d never know there was any kind of financial crisis, or expired employees contract, or tax collection backlog, or any real issues at all. 

Tuesday’s main agenda consists of two ag parcels requesting ag tax exemptions, discussion of a Redwood Valley “Community Action Plan,” a Willits area pot combining district, two “mini” block grants, abandonment of a swimming hole (“park”), discussion of “licenses vs. easements” for Sherwood Road, formal appointment of the current Pension system boss ($173k/year), the Legislative platform, Supervisors reports , and maybe a CEO report (which, if there is one, won’t be posted until Monday). 

The Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector is listed on the consent agenda, but only concenrning the rubberstamping some bond measure tax rates. The Assessor isn’t on the agenda at all.

There are also three closed session items: appointment of an Ag Commissioner (a slot that has until recently been filled by a part-time loaner from Sonoma County), appointment of an acting County Librarian; and “initiation of litigation: one case.” Nothing about contract negotiations with their employees.

Item 3f on the consent calendar is: “Approval of Amendment to BOS Agreement 20-122 (PA Agreement 20-81) with Liebert Cassidy Whitmore (LCW), Effective August 29, 2022, Extending the Termination Date from December 31, 2022 to December 31, 2023, Changing the Terms of Exhibit A, and Increasing the Total Insurance Reimbursable Compensation by $150,000.”

But that’s intentionally misleading because the attached contract says:

“Contractor shall provide the following services: A. Provide legal, advisory, and/or representation services to the County of Mendocino. for the case Harinder Grewal v County of Mendocino and other personnel related legal services. B. Provide timely status reporting on litigation, in a manner deemed acceptable to the Risk Manager and/or her designee, on Harinder Grewal v County of Mendocino by the fifteenth (15) of every month. C. Provide electronic copies of any and all documents or pleadings related to any cases to the Risk Manager, and/or her designee.”


“Now, Therefore, we agree as follows: 1. The maximum amount set out in the third Amendment, BOS Agreement No. 20-122, will be increased from $600,000 to $750,000; 2. The termination date set out in BOS Agreement No. 20-122A4 will be extended from December 31, 2022 to December 31, 2023.”

Which still won’t be enough because the case will not be over by then. So they’ll be back near the end of the year for more (insurance) money for LCW. 

The case of former Ag Commissioner Harinder Grewal’s wrongful termination allegation against the County and various named employees is being handled by the formidable Duncan James of Ukiah and his staff attorney, former County Counsel Doug Losak. It was filed back in 2020 and has gone through many costly legal processes since then. After numerous delays, a jury trial is now set for January 29, 2024. But 1) they may still settle this case before then (it should have been settled in 2020), or 2) the trial date may be delayed again between now and January.

Among the other routine items on the Consent Calendar is Item 3q:

“Acceptance of Report of Findings for the Code Enforcement Division’s Directed Enforcement Efforts of Illegal Cannabis Cultivation in Redwood Valley.”

Which concludes: 

“In total of 137 primary and secondary sites investigated, a total of 52 sites were determined to have violations of illegal cannabis cultivation and/or related non-permitted cannabis infrastructure. No other violations of Mendocino County Code were investigated or pursued during this effort.”

It’s possible that Supervisor Haschak will pull this item for discussion. 

Surprisingly, there’s nothing on this particular Consent Agenda about giving more money to Redwood Community Services, retroactively or not. But don’t worry, they’ll be back soon.

CEO Report Report

On Friday, Mendocino County CEO Darcie Antle released the September CEO report. Anyone expecting any meaningful information will be sorely disappointed. As usual, it’s pretty much the same as all the other Antle-versions of the CEO report with mostly data-free summaries of activities in various departments. For example, the Environmental Health Department reported that they had started an Instagram account. Nothing else. 

On a positive note, the Planning and Building “permits issued” report lists one (1) amnesty program permit issued. Unfortnately that’s only one out of about 300 permits issued for the month. But maybe it’s still early yet.

Since February 2023, Family & Children’s Services reports that it has partnered with Mendocino County’s FrontDoor for Families program to implement the Bringing Families Home program specific to families involved with Family & Children’s Services. 

The In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) unit says they “aided” nearly 160 new applicants and performed over 295 IHSS reassessments. Is that a lot? Not enough? A trend? We don’t know.

During the 2nd quarter (April-June) the Mendocino County Probation Department Juvenile Division reports that they have received 143 new “referrals” for new crimes and traffic violations. The Juvenile Hall reports receiving 45 bookings. The Pretrial release unit provided 287 assessments to the Court for release consideration. 59 Individuals were referred by the Court to the Pretrial release unit for monitoring. That sounds good, we guess. But it would be nice to know how many of the 45 juvenile bookings were released the same day and why and to whom.

We found the following “Assessment report” buried under the CEO’s Golden Gate Brige Initiative section, but after careful review we still have no idea what it means.

“Assessor’s Office Assessment — On September 18th, the Golden Gate team began an assessment of the Assessor’s Office to aid in the discovery and documentation of procedures, processes, workflows, and responsibilities. The assessment includes the following categories: Reporting structure analysis, Roles and responsibilities, Objectives and Priorities, Individual and Unit Accountability, Workflow and process documentation. Our goal is to provide the County and the Assessor’s Office a more holistic view of the responsibilities of the Office, document existing processes and procedures, and provide recommendations for process and workflow improvements.”

Could this be what the Assessor investigation rumor was about? Everything about this subject is so muddled it’s impossible to know what’s going on so it’s not surprising that rumors of various kinds pop up. The Supervisors can’t even agendize an item on the subject to clarify things or get things moving. Nor do they demand the monthly Assessor status report they directed three months ago. It obviously belongs on the front burner, not buried under the amorphous “Golden Gate Bridge Initiative” which, like the “leadership initiative” before it, is just another buzzword for business as usual.

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