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The Williams Problem

WE MENTIONED a few days ago that the Supes had actually created an ad hoc committee to prepare “Policies and procedures for placing items on BOS Agenda.” The obvious reason for such a committee was in reaction to Supervisor Williams who tries to put real issues on the agenda as if he was a Supervisor or something. CEO Angelo is assumed to be behind this poorly concealed attempt regain control of HER agenda by trying to force board members to go through some silly rigmarole before they can even bring anything up. As we noted previously, there should be no restrictions on Board members’ placing items on an agenda. If an agenda item is a problem for one reason or another they can simply continue it to a later date, or vote to not discuss it as they do now or (highly unlikely) County Counsel can simply point out any legal angle.

OBVIOUSLY, that particular ad hoc committee, like most of the other ad hoc committees, hasn’t produced anything. So on Tuesday, Board Chair John Haschak re-introduced the “Williams problem” discussion in a different form: Limit the number of hours that County staff can expend responding to Board questions. Apparently, County staff, especially those working on the Covid response, don’t like having their labors interrupted by upstart questions from Supervisors, especially Williams. It’s such a problem — according to Haschak anyway — that staff can’t even manage an occasional “I’m busy at the moment, I’ll get back to you later.” It’s also insulting to Supervisors — who already bend over backward to avoid over-taxing the poor overworked top staff — who, Haschak assumes, are too dumb to realize that some of their questions might require staff time to respond to and therefore make impossible demands on staff. When Williams simply asked to hear from staff about whether they thought there was a problem, CEO Angelo piped up and said she’d settle for limiting Supervisors to one hour of staff time a week each, especially staff involved in Covid response. Nobody bothered to notice that the half-hour wasted on this entirely pointless discussion used up several staff hours itself. In the end, Haschak proclaimed that it was “the general consensus of the Board” to do as Angelo requested. The upshot: Angelo now has yet another arrow in her quiver to help contain Williams: “I’m sorry Supervisor, but you’ve used up your staff time quota for the week. Maybe next week if I feel like it.”

PS. Haschak never mentioned the thousands of staff hours that dozens of staffers spend sitting idle in meetings mostly just waiting to be asked to comment or listen to CEO Angelo, not doing any “work” at all, much less covid work. At last count a couple of weeks ago, the County said they had held nearly 3800 virtual meetings taking up almost 11,000 hours of meeting time with a total of about 20,000 “participants” — about 350 people averaging 57 participants per meeting (208 of the 350 were “active users”). This enormous waste of staff time is ok, but Williams or some other supervisor asking for a little staff time after obviously considering their questions in advance is a problem?


  1. Lee Edmundson July 29, 2020

    If you don’t have the data, you cannot govern. The keepers of the data are County Staff in various departments. It seems to me that all Supervisor Williams is doing, is trying to do the job we elected him to.

    County CEO should not try to impede this; should rather encourage it.

    Supervisors are elected to govern. They cannot do so without essential information from County Staff. Limiting their access to 1 hour per week makes a sad joke of an already not funny joke.

    Supervisor Williams is merely trying to do the job we elected him to do, CEO should pave the way for him to obtain whatever information he needs to do his job to the fullest of his ability and capacity.

    To be honest, other Supervisors would be earning their keep if they were to follow suit. Ask the uncomfortable questions, dig down for the hard data. It’s not that he should be doing less, it’s that the other 4 should be doing more.

    Asking more pertinent questions of Staff, e.g.: does it really take over 30 hours to process a marijuana grow permit? If so, how? What is eating up the time? Does a project in the Town of Mendocino really require a 146 page Staff report? How? Why?

    The County Government / bureaucracy gravitates to the same-old-same-old way of doing things. Efficiencies can be had, but not without current data. Williams’ service offers the County a way out of its bad-old-ways.

    More Supervisors would better serve the interests of the entire people if they took a more active interest in actual governance. Put something on the Agenda that’s important to you and your constituents. Stop waiting for the CEO to lead.

    You have to lead. As uncomfortable as it may seem.

    This “Williams” rule is an insult to representative government. Folks ought to speak out about it, loudly.

  2. James Marmon July 30, 2020

    Williams needs to wait until next January to start fixing the mess Supervisors McCowen and Brown have left behind. He’s just damn lucky he hasn’t been threatened with a sexual harassment allegation yet. Brown and Angelo don’t play around, they put Woodhouse in his place in no time. The had poor Woodhouse so befuddled he eventually ended up in a psych ward counting dots on the ceiling.

    And then there’s McCowen’s Pot Ordinance and what it did to poor Hamburg. He ended up leaving town before his term was even up, his seat sat empty for months. Word has it that he too suffered some sort of mental break. Anyway, he couldn’t get away from the Robinson Creek area fast enough. Even left his poor deceased wife to rot in the back yard. I bet the new owners love that.

    Be cool Teddy.

    James Marmon MSW

  3. izzy August 6, 2020

    In a strange inversion, saying “Covid response” in a large empty space generates an echo that sounds a bit like “weapons of mass destruction”. An immovable obstacle in the way of clarity.

    • James Marmon August 6, 2020

      Yeah, Angelo and staff are going to ride that pony into the ground, “don’t bother them while they’re so busy”. Look how they tossed the marijuana issue aside for the past 6 months, “covid, covid, covid” and the big mess they have now. I wonder how much more of the County’s business is being ignored or left to Angelo deal with without any supervision. Maybe the Board should suspend all meetings while she deals with all this, they’re just getting in her way now.


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