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Who’s In Charge?

It’s now apparent that the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors have their necks fully bowed and have hung closed signs on their minds over the relocation of the Veteran Services Office (VSO). 

At Tuesday’s (Jan. 23) Board meeting, 3rd District Supervisor John Haschak provided the public and his colleagues with what sure looked a “done deal” report on the staff-created mess surrounding a cost-savings budget cut that has been badly botched. 

For those not familiar with the issue, here’s what happened. 

About two weeks ago, Supes Haschak and Glenn McGourty, who serve on the Board’s General Government Committee, sent out a letter providing background and activities surrounding the Vets relocation decision. Here are excerpts from their statement: 

“The move was precipitated by the Board’s directive to staff to downsize the number of county buildings and reduce costs. The Veterans Services house on Observatory Ave. in Ukiah had a homey feel. Veterans and staff felt comfortable in that setting. Yet there were some issues such as parking, public safety and space. 

“Recently, the rent being paid for Air Quality’s present building increased dramatically. The decision by staff was to get out from under the high rents. There existed unutilized space in the Public Health building which was sufficient for the Veterans Services staff but not enough for Air Quality. On that basis, the decision was made to move Air Quality and its employees to the Observatory Ave. space and move Veterans’ Services to a wing of the Public Health building.” 

“Supervisors learned about this from constituent outrage. Concerns have been raised about the move and we are trying to address these concerns as best we can. Some will say that we should just move the Veterans’ Services Office back to the house on Observatory. With the domino effect of the moves and considering that the new facility has some advantages, our perspective is that let’s make this new space the best it can be and that it be a space welcoming to veterans while fulfilling the needs of staff and veterans alike.” 

From the time the decision was made to evict the VSO from their long-standing occupancy at the Observatory Ave. site, both Veterans and the Supervisors constituents have been united in their public opposition to the move. Without a doubt, the overwhelming public response to this decision is opposition to this decision. And the Board knows it. 

Both Haschak and McGourty admit this fact in their letter when they state, “Supervisors learned about this from constituent outrage.” 

But their letter also proposes how to settle the dispute and make things right: “Some will say that we should just move the Veterans’ Services Office back to the house on Observatory.” If the Supervisors would have stopped right there at that juncture in their letter and followed the advice to “just move the Veterans’ Services Office back to the house on Observatory” they would have instantly solved the problem and eliminated all of the “constituent outrage,” and people would have applauded them for doing the right thing. 

But they didn’t do that. 

Instead, they supported the decision made by faceless bureaucrats who, by the way, didn’t even inform their alleged bosses, the Supervisors, that this stink bomb was about to be lobbed into the public arena. That’s what the Haschak-McGourty letter revealed when they stated, “Supervisors learned about this from constituent outrage.” 

Of course, that leads to another more worrisome line of inquiry into who’s truly in charge down in the County Seat. 

Here’s a quick story on who may be in charge, at least at times. From September 2021 through July 2022, I served, along with approximately six other appointees, on a committee working under the auspices of the Board of Supervisors Ad Hoc Drought Committee comprised of Supes Haschak and McGourty. 

The charge given our committee was to prepare a draft ordinance that would regulate private sector groundwater wells whose owners sell, or plan to sell water commercially, as well as individuals or entities that transport water from these commercial groundwater wells to customers. It should be noted that the impetus for developing this ordinance occurred in 2021 during extreme drought conditions when the local cannabis industry was in a record state of over-production, coupled also with record usage of both legal and illegal sources of water, some of which is transported by water trucks. 

In July of 2022, the Board voted 4-1 to approve the draft ordinance prepared by the committee, and forward it to the Planning Commission for further review. Specifically, according to the July 12, 2022 minutes, “Upon motion by Supervisor Haschak, seconded by Supervisor Gjerde, IT IS ORDERED that the Board of Supervisors accepts the draft ordinance and forwards [it] to the Planning Commission for review.” 

So you can say that it appears that we were a citizens committee that actually did its job and delivered a finished product — a draft ordinance — to the BOS. 

Since that time, the draft ordinance has sat on that dusty old shelf gathering more of that dusty old dust. 

At this week’s Board meeting, Jan. 23, Planning and Building Services (PBS) staff reported they have neither the staff nor the time to work on this now 18-month-old proposed ordinance. In fact, the Supes were informed there were a number of other approved Board actions or “directions” that fell into the same category. 

To make a long story very short and succinct, the Supes followed the recommendation to basically kiss off these items, consigning them to bureaucratic Limbo. 

And so it goes. 

(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher,, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live:


  1. izzy February 2, 2024

    Recalls that old Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first?” skit.
    From top to bottom, national to local, we watch government stumble all over it’s own feet.
    A sign of the times, apparently.

  2. Lurker Lou February 2, 2024

    And now insider sources report the county is now looking at surplussing and selling the old VA house on Observatory. So who’s on first is any ones guess.
    They abruptly canned long timer Janelle Rau so who knows who they will blame for the next mess

  3. George Dorner February 4, 2024

    I have heard through the vet’s grapevine that the Stupes are also messing with the Veterans Service Office in Fort Bragg.

  4. The voice of reason February 28, 2024

    It’s interesting that random folks are making comments about county personnel – without facts or any possible substantial proof. Who do you all really think gave the direction for the Vets move to begin with (follow the chain of command)? The “long timers” are leaving the county in droves for good reason (6 at last count under this new CEO…). Why do you think that is? And btw, you know what happens when one “assumes”… ;) nevertheless, the comment section makes for some good entertainment.

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