County Notes (Aug. 7, 2019)

THE CEO’S freshly released response to June’s Grand Jury report which was entitled “Who Runs Mendocino County” is out. The CEO's response is predictably non-responsive, simply a run down of how the Grand Jury is eithier mistaken or somehow didn’t realize how much wonderful reporting she’s already doing.

However, one item which we've often brought up had to do with monthly reports from the various department.

The Grand Jury found that: “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.”

Notice particularly: “departmental statistics.”

CEO Carmel Angelo replied:

"Disagree. The CEO Report does include substantive department updates. The CEO report is released on a monthly basis and includes updates from various departments, including the Cultural Services Agency, Animal Shelter, Human Resources, Health and Human Services Agency and others on an as needed basis. Reports include information on facility projects, the budget, cannabis, important community meetings, Measure B, roads, upcoming meetings, and vacant Board and Commission seats." 

CONTINUING, “The CEO's report to the Supervisors is only one means of communicating information to the Board and general public. The Board Agenda contains standing items from departments such as Transportation and Planning and Building Services that include monthly reports on department activities. Certain county offices operating under elected department heads will also periodically report on activities directly to the Board or in coordination with the CEO. Board agendas also include updates and/or action items on substantive issues such as the new jail addition, mental health or homelessness. The Board agendas also include a standing item titled Supervisors’ Reports Regarding Board Special Assignments, Standing and Ad Hoc Committee Meetings, and Other Items of General Interest. Finally, reports and updates on substantive issues are included in the annual Budget Hearings and in quarterly budget reports to the Board of Supervisors.”

THE CEO’S RESPONSE completely misses the point, especially the “departmental statistics” point. The key word in the Grand Jury finding was “substantive” which the CEO intentionally misinterprets as “what we’re doing already.”

The CEO claims that her monthly report does “include substantive department updates.” Hardly. It’s laughably deficient in ordinary departmental management reports and the CEO’s response demonstrates that she does not know what management reports are. A substantive department update would include budget status (budget vs. actual), staffing status (vacancies, lost time, recruiting, backlog), current project status, and any unresolved issues from prior Supervisor directives. and if they were REALLY interested in “substantive” reports, they’d include the primary Cost Drivers for each department tracked monthly and tailored to each department.

AS IT IS, the CEO report is more a collection of press releases and random info bits which do not permit the Board or the public — not to mention the CEO herself — to track or stay on top of departmental activities. Two departments — Planning and Building and Transporttion — do submit monthly reports but they only address a meaningless snapshot of that month’s activities with no trend info, and do not include staffing or budget status.

IF MENDO can’t even bring itself to generate useful budget and staff reports for each department then the Board, the CEO and the Public — and the Grand Jury — will stay in the dark on whether services are effectively delivered and on budget, and problems will continue to be addressed only on an ad hoc or emergency basis when they become critical.

TAKE THE GLARING EXAMPLE of vacancies in Social Services which periodically only merit one cryptic line in a long list of departmental vacancies:

According to that one line there are 404 (!) FUNDED positions in HHSA’s Social Services department, by far the largest single department listed but the 404 are not broken down by category of position or vacancy. These positions are mostly funded by state and federal grants, not the general fund. Of the 404 funded positions, there are 97 funded vacancies (about 20% vacancy) and 77 “in recruitment.” But if you look at this department’s staffing over time you see that the vacancy rate never goes down much even though there are 77 in recruitment, and 41 “new hires” (over what time? we aren’t told). There are also 47 unexplained “separations” (resignations? transfers to other departments?) Which means that there’s very high turnover and not all recruits make it onto the job. There’s also no mention of backlogs per employee or wait times for applicants. Nor of how much “funded” funding is going unspent.

IF HHSA did ordinary departmental reporting this large problem would get some attention and a monthly tracking chart would show what progress (if any) was being made in closing the gap: Why is there so much turnover? Could extra help be brought in? What overtime options are available? What categories of applicants/clients are being delayed or denied services or assistance? Etc.

THERE ARE DOZENS of things that the CEO and Board could do to actually manage their departments if they simply did “substantive” monthly reports – which is obviously what the Grand Jury was talking about.

BUT EVEN THOUGH the CEO has herself promised to provide monthly departmental budget reports in the past, she continues to insist that business as usual is all anybody needs.

INSTEAD we get monthly reports on such things as the Animal Shelter, what out of county meetings are upcoming, when the next board meeting is, what the latest display at the County Museum is, how great the employees are, how much “leadership training” they attend, and when the next meeting to tinker with the Cannabis rules will be held. The CEO’s grab bag of a “report” is not what the Grand Jury meant by "substantive."

13 Responses to "County Notes (Aug. 7, 2019)"

  1. Ted Williams   August 7, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    “Why is there so much turnover?”

    Wages

    Reply
    • Mark Scaramella   August 7, 2019 at 1:32 pm

      Of course, that’s one (simplistic) reason, and probably the first one. But if you stop there, you’re ignoring other important factors like workload, supervision, backlog, working conditions, etc. which I know from direct discussion with line workers are major problems in some departments. But the Supes never express any interest in actual operations of the departments by asking for “substantive” (to use the GJ’s word) reports (such as those previously promised but never delivered) which include monthly tracking of staffing levels, workload, cost drivers, and budget status. And, from the tone of this simplistic answer, no such interest will be expressed nor even mentioned in the response to the Grand Jury report. Oh well, it’s Mendo. I’ve given up expecting any real management from Official Mendo. The Grand Jury report could have been a good opportunity to raise the bar a little, but it’s looking more and more like the answer will be something like, “Gosh! We’re doing such a great job, how could the Grand Jury not realize that? Oh, I know: we have to do a better job explaining to the public (and the Grand Jury) how great we’re doing.”
      PS. Take just one example: When was the last time anybody asked staff about what’s being done to fill the dozens of FUNDED Social Services Department vacancies (20% at last report), especially considering that nearly all of these “wages” do NOT come out of the General Fund and would be reimbursed at any reasonable rate by the federal and state funds earmarked for those positions/services? And how much overtime is being used? And how much outsourcing of work is being done? And if people are being denied benefits due to the backlog?

      Reply
      • Ted Williams   August 8, 2019 at 11:10 am

        Mark, what other examples can you offer? I’m all ears.

        Reply
        • Mark Scaramella   August 8, 2019 at 11:51 am

          Supervisor: The point I’m trying to make — and which seems to be the GJ’s point — is that Mendo’s departmental reporting does not provide the CEO, the Board or the public with enough monthly tracking info on the departments, especially the larger departments. In a conventional world (and even at our Local Community Services District on a much smaller scale) there’s a monthly chart or graph of budget versus actuals. Mendo does not do even that. There should also be, at a minimum, a staffing chart (graph) with funded slots versus actual full-time employees, a graph tracking at least three key cost drivers for each department (e.g., crime and jail stats for the Sheriff, non-duplicated clients and completed release charts for Mental Health, backlog and wait times for HHSA, etc.) and a project status report. (Besides the monthly directives status mentioned by the GJ.) This is all basic good-government stuff. If these monthly “substantive” reports/graphs were provided (and to some degree they’ve been talked about in passing in prior Supes meetings — the occasional reference to “departmental metrics”) then you wouldn’t need me to provide examples of things that need attention. They’d pop right up. They’d also provide the Board and the CEO with a handy graphic history of how things are going what’s getting done (or not done) over time as the monthly reports form the basis of trends and improved outcomes. If done right, the reporting at the Board level is backed up by comparable subordinate reporting at the departmental and branch levels and everybody has a much better understanding of what’s going on and what needs attention.
          If you want one single additional example, I’d focus on the woefully underreported $20 mil mental health contract. The Kemper report (or actually reports, there was one done on Ortner too) was the only decent snapshot of that activity in years, yet nobody followed up on its recommendations or kept track of the activity that was recommended.
          I have volunteered time and again to sit down with anybody interested to diagram out how I think these monthly reports should be done (I’ve done many of them in my corporate and USAF days) with an eye toward seeing what can be reasonably and easily done in Mendo, and nobody ever takes me up on it. Instead we get the occasional random departmental report, designed by the department not by management, with out-of-context numbers and no monthly record or tracking.
          As the GJ said, it’s done better in other counties and Mendo is long overdue for a monthly reporting upgrade. The lack of interest in the subject causes me to believe that Mendo simply prefers not to know about its actual operations and does not want the Board or the public to get too nosy.

          Reply
          • Ted Williams   August 8, 2019 at 12:47 pm

            I’ll take you up on the offer to sit down and explore diagram models.

            Reply
            • Mark Scaramella   August 8, 2019 at 2:11 pm

              Any time. I’m here most days, next door to Redwood Drive-In. 15 minutes, max. Whenever you’re in the Valley. (Or at the firehouse if you prefer). 895-3016 to verify first is recommended. PS. At no extra charge I’ll be happy to explain why I think zero-based budgeting is wrong for Mendo.

              Reply
              • Ted Williams   August 8, 2019 at 2:32 pm

                👍🏻

                Reply
    • James Marmon   August 7, 2019 at 3:52 pm

      Hostile work environment, starts at the top. You guys will never change things until you clip Angelo’s wings. You need to let department heads run their departments and answer only to you. There is no process for employees to complain without retaliation. This has been going on for years, read some past Grand Jury reports, specifically concerning HHSA. You have some catching up to do young man.

      James Marmon MSW
      Former SEIU President
      Mendocino Chapter

      Reply
    • James Marmon   August 8, 2019 at 5:42 am

      Grand jury report criticizes Mendocino County Children and Family Services department

      “The grand jury report blames the under-staffing on noncompetitive pay, work overload, poor management and low morale.”

      https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/4010653-181/grand-jury-report-criticizes-mendocino

      Reply
  2. Lazarus   August 7, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    McCowen according to several sources thinks the GJ is unnecessary, a waste of time, and composed of incompetents. So there you go, with that attitude what chance does the jury have? Want’a bet there are other higher-ups that think the same?
    Hopefully, next election cycle there will be new sups who will actually do their job regarding the GJ.
    Right Laz, you gullible Schmuck…
    As always,
    Laz

    Reply
  3. John Sakowicz   August 9, 2019 at 11:57 am

    Dear AVA,

    I wish we had five members of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors just like 5th District Supervisor Ted Williams.

    Williams is young, smart, alert, responsive, and committed to substantive, positive change.

    Williams is not afraid to ask questions.

    Williams is not afraid to reject a recommended action and be a lone dissenting vote.

    Williams is not intimidated by CEO Angelo.

    Williams is not afraid to buck the system which is seriously broken.

    Let me count just a few of the ways the county is broken: a county deficit budget by 2020; a $200 million unfunded pension liability; a lack of substantive financial reporting by county department; a lack of performance metrics reporting by county department; a cannabis permit bureaucracy that is inefficient and ineffective; a mental health monopoly held by RQMC with no back up service provider; an opioid epidemic; an inevitable county-wide drought and no plan to prevent it; an inevitable county-wide wildfire and no plan to prevent it; and a wealth gap between county department heads and line workers that is truly obscene and shocking.

    John Sakowicz, Ukiah

    Reply
    • Eric Sunswheat   August 10, 2019 at 12:09 am

      Well, at least Supervisor Gjerde took a voluntary salary pay cut, so don’t expect him to put out 100% after the long commute drive from Fort Bragg. Thanks Dan!
      Plenty of room for volunteer Supervisors in the future. What! No salary! Yes, the pension monster ate it, because the Board of Supervisors gave their CAO job oversight to the CEO.

      Reply
  4. Shitbird   August 10, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    The population here is shy of 90,000 people and dealing with dysfunctional and unprofessional conduct is hard , perhaps due to not wanting to step on toes in that sort of milieu.

    Speaking of dysfunction: the recent dispersal of the airport blvd encampment has led to many scattered and unsafe, for the homeless, settlements.

    And you guys are way off on the number here in Ukiah being only 200 people.

    The homeless need a Cesar Chavez to organize them and have them at the table in decisions made about them.

    The very 1st thing for them to lobby for is establishment of safe encampment sites away from our public trails and down by the river (so our recreational use isnt hampered and the paranoids among the homeless dont get hostile).
    These sites would have basic infrastructure for toileting showering cooking and storage. One city hired guard per shift (so maybe 6 hires for that). And a homeless cmt for some degree of self governance.

    Reply

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