Barbara Howe Speaks

There comes a point in nearly every hot, irrational blow-up when those involved must surely, in a moment of clarity, set aside their rage and wonder how in the world things got so bad. 

In the case of Mendocino County's Public Health Director, recently axed from her post after just 20 months on the job, spectacularly irrational forces were at work. 

The axee, native northern Californian Barbara Howe, told me that she thought she had found the perfect job when she packed up her worldly goods in Santa Fe and headed to Mendo, specifically to the County’s Department of Public Health, which is part of the county’s Health and Human Services Agency.  But less than two years later Howe’s boss, HHSA director Tammy Moss-Chandler, has filed a temporary restraining order against Howe that awaits action this week in Superior Court in Ukiah.  

Howe was summarily dismissed, she says, with nary a word from her boss, Moss-Chandler, or Moss-Chandler’s boss County CEO Carmel Angelo, or from a county HR professional presumably charged with properly carrying out the details of Howe’s abrupt termination. Adding insult to injury, Howe’s ID badge photo was blown up and made into wall posters now hanging in HHS break rooms for all to see. The poster text urges employees to call in the gendarmes tout de suite should Howe appear on the premises. Howe calls these her “Criminal Wanted” posters.

Howe has decided not go gentle into that good night. 

“They’ve criminalized me?” she asks, incredulously. “I didn’t do anything wrong.” Howe told me during our interview that she has to set the record straight on what really happened to her. “I have a solid reputation and I earned every bit of it,” she said, adding that if she doesn’t find another job within 180 days she’ll lose her pension. ”There may be a lawsuit out of this if I can’t find another job,” she said. Howe sent me descriptions of the many programs and activities she said she’s most proud to have accomplished with her co-leader, Dr. Gary Pace, who resigned in protest the day after Howe was fired.

So how did it come to this? How did these professionals charged with protecting the county’s most medically vulnerable end up so publicly toe-to-toe, culminating in a TRO (more common to warring spouses than to co-workers), a TRO initiated by the boss, no less? 

Looking back with the clear vision that hindsight provides, Howe said that in a meeting early on, she challenged county CEO Carmel Angelo’s decision to give the Sonoma County-based ambulance administration people the boot. “I was new and didn’t know that you can’t question the Evil Queen,” Howe said. “I felt like Snow White.” Howe said she thinks that professionally disagreeing with Angelo in a meeting – she was, after all, a department head — planted the seed in Angelo’s mind that Howe might not be squarely on board to serve as her personal rubberstamp. “If you don’t kiss her ass you get canned,” Howe said.

Howe said things didn’t spiral downhill to the TRO level in one fell swoop. For her first year, Moss-Chandler was off on a fire/disaster recovery assignment and Howe reported to former director Anne Molgaard, who Howe said was nothing but kind and supportive of her during that year. Molgaard has herself apparently been spirited away out of HHSA for murky reasons unknown to me or the public. Employees just seem to get disappeared a lot in that county agency: here today, gone tomorrow. Poof!

Howe told me that Moss-Chandler officially fired her for “committing county resources without authorization,” in this case four generators Howe promised to the county’s regional centers (following an inter-agency assessment Howe says she initiated) in case of emergencies— generators that, incidentally, had already been acquired with state emergency funds and were stored, awaiting placement, in a shed in Howe’s backyard. 

Howe, who said she’s used to working independently and is unaccustomed to being micromanaged, said news of “Generatorgate” (my term) got back to Angelo. “The Evil Queen on her throne said ‘I’m the only one who can speak for the county’,” Howe said. “My instincts said, ‘Shield up and don’t turn around’” (presumably to avoid getting stabbed in the back).

Then came the war of the text messages, laid out verbatim in stark supplemental exhibits in the TRO Moss-Chandler recently filed against Howe. In the first few Howe beseeched Moss-Chandler to at least tell her what she had done to deserve getting fired – all apparently to no avail, though Moss-Chandler did, according to Howe, bring up Generatorgate in three texts. Other than that, “My bosses never called me,” Howe said. “They didn’t even have the decency to have a conversation with me.”

Now, anyone who has worked with health professionals knows that in the modern way of assessing overall health, one’s mental state can be just as lethal to one’s physical state as a more measurable physical threat like, say, smoking three packs a day. Howe is clearly one of those health professionals who believes passionately in this mind/body connection. It was this belief, Howe said, that prompted her to caution Moss-Chandler, in a text message, against “spreading Carmel’s poison” throughout the organization, further predicting that failure to do so could ultimately result, for Moss-Chandler, in serious stomach problems, even ”cancer of the stomach.”  This exchange in turn led to Moss-Chandler’s improbable charge (and ultimately to her TRO against Howe) that Howe, with her “degree in science,” could be plotting to actually poison her, and that she therefore feared for both her own safety and the safety of her family. 

Howe said the whole subject came out of a conversation about dis-ease [sic]. “I just pointed out that her own behavior will affect her health — lying to people, spreading Carmel’s poison, it can make you sick,” Howe said. “I meant her no harm.”

Howe said that though she’s worried about what the future holds, she tries to keep it in perspective and is already applying for other jobs. First up is to get the TRO lifted since she said it could hurt her with future employers. She also said that at her court hearing she plans to pursue the improper handling of her termination, sans last paycheck, severance, COBRA notification, and other details she said are required by law.

Near the end of our interview, Howe told me that several months ago Moss-Chandler gave her and her colleagues copies of The Thin Book of Trust; An Essential Primer for Building Trust at Work, one of thousands of motivational books in the highly profitable “make your employees productive and happy” industry. I slogged through 20 or 30 pages before tossing it aside; I’ve read dozens like it. And I can’t recall even one revealing the simple truth: You’ll never get trust and respect from forcing your employees to read a book or attend a slick lecture. You have to earn it the hard way, every day, through your own actions.

Howe said there was a group discussion after everybody read the book, led by a paid facilitator. “Your taxpayer money at work!” she said. 

11 Responses to "Barbara Howe Speaks"

  1. James Marmon   June 19, 2019 at 10:06 am

    “They’ve criminalized me?” she asks, incredulously. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

    Join the crowd Ms. Howe. Good luck finding future employment. That workplace violence restraining order will be accessible to the public and prospective employers forever. See Page 563 of 657, https://www.mendocino.courts.ca.gov/online_services/caseindex/data/H.pdf and there you are. It will never go away. If you think there is a judge in Mendocino County that will defy Kit Elliott’s request, you’re wrong. Workplace Violence Restraining Orders are job killers. Welcome to early retirement. Angelo put me out to graze 8 years ago at age 57. Everyone uses background check companies and most those companies look into civil actions just because they can.

    James Marmon MSW
    Personal Growth Consultant

    “don’t just go through it, grow through it”

    Reply
    • Joe Hansem   June 20, 2019 at 7:54 am

      the case index link doesn’t tell you much except give you the parties’ names and the case number which you need to go to the court clerk’s counter in Ukiah and use to get the file pulled for you to look at. Maybe someone can do that and shed some light for us on what the allegations involved here are.

      Reply
      • mr. wendal   June 20, 2019 at 8:33 am

        You can find all of the details in the June 10 edition of the online AVA.

        Reply
  2. James Marmon   June 19, 2019 at 10:54 am

    FLASHBACK! Mendocino County Today: February 27, 2013

    “BABY EMERALD is the Fort Bragg infant beaten to death by a male foster parent. The child’s mother has retained an attorney with a long history of winning lawsuits against negligent CPS agencies. He’s suing Mendocino County in federal court for wrongful death.

    JAMES MARMON, a former CPS worker in the appeals process to get his job back, has long been an outspoken advocate for CPS reform. Marmon alleges that Mendo’s CPS routinely falsifies documents, as they seem to have done in the Baby Emerald case to make it appear as if they’d done due diligence before placing the infant in a home with an amphetamine user functioning as patriarch.

    IT’S NO SURPRISE that the County wanted Marmon out, and now the County has taken another step against its most vocal critic. Douglas Losak of the Mendocino County Counsel’s office, just last week, filed a temporary restraining order against Marmon: “Mr. Marmon: A petition for a restraining order against you has been filed with Mendocino County Superior Court. An ex parte hearing on the county’s request for a temporary restraining order is scheduled for Friday, February 22, 2013 at 1:15 pm in Courtroom E of the Mendocino Superior Court.

    THE REQUEST for the restraining order, which of course can be reversed upon a full hearing, was prompted by the following two messages from Marmon to County CEO Carmel Angelo: “Not only will l not go away, I can’t go away, my career is ruined; the County has made it impossible for me to transfer to another county through Merit Systems. I was a good social worker and I was wronged. Bryan Lowery is a criminal and should not be rewarded for being so. You have left me no choice but to fight on. Please stop the cover up and restore my good name. James”

    AND THEN there was the more problematical communique from Marmon to Ms. Angelo: “Carmel, I was just thinking about what is going on with me and my personal mental state; the recent news about the killer cop in Los Angeles really parallels much of what is going on with me. I reported wrong doing and I was punished for doing so. My career was destroyed. You should know I do not own a weapon and never have, and I am against physical violence and have always been. With that said, I have decided to continue my attempts to clear my name, without violence. I reported to you and DA Eyster over a year ago that Bryan Lowery was altering official records, I was ignored. You have left me no where to go, I have to fight. The emails I sent you over the years will become public knowledge. I was wronged and I will not go away.”

    WELL. As a veteran of hostile communications, I would say this is not overtly threatening but borderline. There’s certainly an implication of ultra-vi but in the context of a vow not to commit it. I sympathize with the guy. CPS, thanks to a lack of responsible oversight by the local courts in many cases I’ve been involved with, hasn’t been held to account for years, and I think that’s because they deal largely with people who can’t fight back, and because they deal largely with people who can’t fight back they can do their work in the dark. Clearly, the murder of Baby Emerald was committed as much by CPS dereliction as by the drug-fueled monster who did it.”

    https://www.theava.com/archives/20739

    Reply
  3. Hawkhurst   June 19, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    Diane Curry was forced out. Kelly Overton was forced out. Barbara Howe was forced out.
    If I were someone looking for a position as an “at will” employee, I would not work for this county. The damage that is being done is happening because the Board of Supervisors are not doing what we elected them to do – run the county – including the county government. If the power goes out for days this summer in 110 heat and the county has not prepared for this, it could be deadly.
    There need to be some significant changes made concerning in the people in charge.

    Reply
  4. Sick of lies   June 19, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    Trying to breach the corrupt shell that lays over the top of all of Mendocino counties non-compliant higher-ups is very difficult. There are so many things going wrong up the upper levels and in management it is an atrocity, a genocide of the common Folk. Everyone has been complaining Kicking and Screaming there’s a huge grand jury report about it. The court system is totally fried and corrupt they make all their decisions before you even get into the courtroom. But God forbid you try to reach out to any of them yourselves you’re going to get your head chopped off. Good luck Barbara you were the best breath of fresh air ever for the county. It’s going to be really difficult to find someone to fit your shoes and do it with compassion and empathy such as you did. Nobody ever listens when everybody’s kicking and screaming and crying about the way Mendocino County is ran it’s just ridiculous where the heck are the feds… the Takeover people. Christ somebody has to be listening out there that upholds law and does the right thing. it’s like we’re in deep space and the messages just get radio waved

    Reply
  5. John Sakowicz   June 20, 2019 at 7:58 am

    To the Editor:

    Marilyn Davin’s article, “Barbara Howe Speaks” is fine reporting, and it is also disturbing. Very disturbing — Howe was set up, wrongfully terminated, then her career destroyed by County CEO Carmel “Boss” Angelo

    The question remains: When will the BOS finally grow a pair and fire Boss Angelo for being the monster that she is? Hmm…2020 is the year, I think. Both McCowen and Brown will be gone.

    For our next CEO, Alan “The Kid” Flora gets my vote. Alan Flora currently serves as City Manager at City of Clearlake. He also serves on the Board Of Directors of the Lakeport Fire Protection District

    Readers may remember Mr. Flora as Mendocino County’s former Chief Deputy CEO, a job he held from January 2015 – October 2017 (2 years 10 months). Flora was disappeared by Boss Angelo for reasons that remain a mystery to this day.

    As a member of three grand juries, I found Mr. Flora to be competent, informed, diligent, courteous, and accessible.

    His professional specialties include: Budgeting, Strategic Planning, Economic Development, Negotiations, Public Relations, Community Development, Government Administration.

    Mendocino County needs to hire Alan Flora back in 2020.

    — John Sakowicz, Ukiah CA

    Reply
    • James Marmon   June 20, 2019 at 8:14 am

      You can’t have him, he’s ours and he’s doing a damn good job.

      James Marmon MSW
      Clearlake Resident.

      Reply
  6. Eric Sunswheat   June 20, 2019 at 9:24 am

    Sounds like Carmel Angelo is managing bloated County employee pension costs, by firing new hires before they become vested 5 years. Perhaps CEO Angelo should be rewarded with another pay increase, or enhanced severance pay package to go with her eventual golden parachute. However if the County has filed a frivolous TRO lawsuit against Ms. Howe, legal jeopardy may outweigh cost savings.

    Reply
  7. Sick of lies   June 20, 2019 at 6:42 pm

    Let’s put this into perspective.
    🎅🎅🎅🎅🎅🎅🎅🎅🎅🎅🎅🎅
    If this was a CPS case. Someone called with the supposed allegation true or false there would be an investigation of some type . There would be follow up and there would definitely be more than one contact with the family even again if it was a false allegation because that’s the way it rolls. If there’s an allegation there would be people and or police (or both) at that families door pretty fast. Kids would be gone sleeping on the floor or a couch in the CPS office cuz there are no foster homes to be had.

    Now we have multiple, multiple, multiple, multiple beyond multiple complaints from the residents that live here, the people that are attacked by CPS and other agencies for various reasons. Former staff members deeply verbalizing the dysfunction and Dire Straits of the internal workings of Mendocino County . The people complaining all the time about just the state of the lack of any services. Sure it looks good on paper and they spend some good grant money trying to do lots of things but nothing ever comes to a full fruition. The projects and intents crumble before they become effective. Nothing moves forward for a long period of time and there’s always so many loopholes along the path that everybody loses interest by the time that it becomes anyting . Not to mention all the huge lawsuits that we pay out all the time and many of them people don’t really realize how much it is you’re talking millions and millions of dollars not to mention legal fees that we pay out to defend themselves for the shotty Behavior. A proclamation of the Board of Supervisors and meeting does nothing woo-wee big deal. Bad unrealistic, enormous raises given to higher-ups. The level and amount of huge issues expressed by all involved who have lived to tell story goes on and on and on. And nothing happens.
    😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢

    Reply
  8. Not a Fan of Barbaric   June 26, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    To be honest “Ms. Howe” just got served a slice of her own medicine. The marvelous person everyone refers to was not what some of her employees saw. Barbaric was just that, barbaric! Those who worshiped Barbaric and speak nothing but good things about her where so far up her Arse. Yup, brown nosers! Some of barbaric’s comments where at some point racist, especially with some of the latino employees. Just recently she allowed an employee to be terminated due to lack of knowledge of the policies and procedures. Using the term “it’s the supervisor’s word against yours.” So now Barbaric, it’s TMC’s word against yours. Barbaric was rude and ruthless herself. Not so high and mighty now! There is a lack of sympathy for barbaric from some of the employees at PH. To be honest there is a breath of FRESH air! No more BO in those hallways to trail behind. Sorry, not sorry at all! Karma bit you quicker than you ever imagined barbaric!

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Sick of lies Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published.