I highly recommend that you read the well-written, very easy-to-understand Grand Jury Report titled, “Who Runs Mendocino County?” It’s a point-on discussion regarding the governing dynamic between and among the Board of Supervisors and the Chief Executive Officer. It’s not a flattering account. You can find the report on the county’s website at: https://www.mendocinocounty.org/home/showdocument?id=28581
Over the years, I have written about many of the issues raised by the Grand Jury in this report. Ever since the Board of Supervisors adopted the Chief Executive Officer model of government in 2007, the supervisors have evolved into rubber stamps, ceding most of their authority and initiative to the Chief Executive Officer, thus creating a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. The problem with this situation is the CEO is not elected and is unaccountable to the voters, while the supervisors seemingly conduct themselves as if they are not responsible for anything once they ratify the CEO’s proposals. Prior to the adoption of the CEO Ordinance, the county operated under the Chief Administrative Officer model, a position with less authority than the CEO model. The main difference between the two models is the Board of Supervisors (BOS) surrenders its authority to directly hire and fire department heads and make organizational changes to the CEO. In effect, the CEO operates quasi-independently of the BOS. The CEO model has been an unmitigated failure. It’s time to return to a system that worked. By the way, 3rd District Supervisor John Haschak went on record at the 2018 candidate’s debate in Laytonville that he would support repealing the CEO Ordinance and replace it with the previous CAO Ordinance. The Grand Jury Report validates the basis for returning this county to the CAO model of government, so Haschak now has all the reasons needed to keep that commitment.
Here’s a few excerpts from the report.
[o] The Mendocino County Grand Jury (GJ), based upon its investigation, finds that the BOS has failed to establish and publish strategic county-wide policies with effective long term goals that address county-wide issues of public safety, health, economic, environmental and other needs of our communities, as it is charged to do. Rather, the BOS reacts to crises as they arise.
[o] The CEO has an enormous responsibility to fill in the gaps of leadership that occur. Often it appears that the CEO is providing leadership that has been abdicated by the BOS. This imbalance needs to be addressed by the BOS so that the county as a whole can benefit from more effective leadership on the part of its elected officials.
[o] The GJ became aware of public concerns addressing the issue of whether the CEO was exceeding her authority in determining and implementing policies that govern the County. The GJ turned its focus to the BOS itself and how effective the Supervisors are in addressing county-wide strategic needs, meeting the concerns of the public and establishing effective and easily accessed methods for constituents to contact individual board members.
[o] There is no published long term county-wide strategic planning by the BOS, e.g., fire response, homelessness, cannabis, housing and economic development.
[o] There is no written succession plan for the CEO of Mendocino County.
[o] The BOS does not adequately track directives given to the CEO. The current list of directives has inadequate status and descriptors and there are no timelines or milestones for completion.
[o] The CEO Report does not include substantive department updates, e.g. new jail addition, Sheriff overtime, BOS directive status, departmental statistics and major road project status.
[o] The Consent Agenda has often included controversial items, e.g. salary increases and cost over runs.
[o] In the BOS minutes, the name of the public speaker is listed but not a description of the issue raised.
[o] There are no scheduled proactive meetings with residents of individual districts to speak with their Supervisor.
[o] The GJ could not find a complaint or issue form on the Mendocino County website.
[o] There is no procedural requirement for any Supervisor to respond to a constituent complaint or issue.