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B is for Bank

It’s common knowledge among County insiders that our un-elected CEO Carmel Angelo runs Mendo, and definitely also runs our elected Board of Supervisors, theoretically her bosses. Supervisors have been instructed not to ask County staff any question that, in Angelo’s opinion, might take more than an hour to answer per week. All questions must be routed through CEO Angelo and all answers must come back through CEO Angelo. 


CEO Angelo also controls the Board’s agenda. A few years ago, on the bogus grounds of “saving money,” the CEO absorbed the Clerk of the Board’s function so the Supervisors no longer have a clerk working directly for them, they must defer to Angelo, not just CEO but Clerk of the Board. On top of her accrual of all this authority, we have the now familiar Covid excuse. If CEO Angelo claims that a supervisor’s question somehow interferes with the County’s covid response, then that question is quashed. Even legitimate matters that can’t be kept off the agenda, are manipulated, tweaked, delayed, papered over, shoved off on the consent calendar, or otherwise managed by the CEO.

A few weeks ago, Deputy CEO Darcie Antle made the apparent mistake of saying that the County’s covid-distorted budget numbers were “sobering” because a lot of doubt has been been discovered in the fine print of the reimbursement conditions. Nobody said a word at the time, and nobody has said anything since. And Ms. Antle has kept her opinion of the budget situation to herself in subsequent meetings, we suspect on strict orders from CEO Angelo. 

But the Supervisors express no interest in these questions in public. Even if they wanted to question this or that matter, there are so many restrictions on information in their over-orchestrated Zoom meetings and self-distancing from the County admin center, that there’s very little opportunity to bring anything up.

Even Supervisor Williams, who for the first few months of his tenure tried valiantly to bring up a few ordinary issues — the lack of meaningful mental health reporting, the failed pot program, the Board’s own agenda, the lack of a Measure B expenditure plan, etc. etc. — has now apparently given up. He seldom brings those subjects up any more, and at the last Board meeting, he didn’t utter a peep about the Board’s rubberstamping of Angelo’s pet Gold Plated Four Bedroom Schraeder Memorial Crisis Residential Treatment Complex until after the rubberstamp when he bemoaned Mendo’s lack of a “CFO” (Chief Financial Officer) without whom, Williams said, the supervisors will never get any real budget info. (And of course they’ll never have a CFO and even if they did they’d have to go through the CEO to even ask for any budget info.)

Last year, the Grand Jury tried to prod the Supes into taking a bit more control of the County’s business in their interesting report entitled “Who Runs Mendocino County?” — the obvious implication being the CEO, not the elected officials. But again that went nowhere when the CEO convinced the supervisors, timid to begin with, and seemingly terrified to arouse the wrath of the person they pay quite handsomely and allegedly supervise, that everything was fine if a bit disorganized. So the Board cobbled a few existing reports that were gathering dust together and called it a “strategic plan” and that was the end of it. The GJ’s suggestion that the Board at least take back the Board Clerk and the agenda wasn’t even addressed.

Which brings us to Measure B, another Angelo-controlled clusterbleep. For all their posturing about needing recommendations from the Measure B Committee before making any decisions, the Board never even asked what the Committee thought about the Schraeders’ grossly overpriced Cadillac CRT facility, not that the Measure B people had anything substantial to say anyway — the CRT is being rushed through on the bogus grounds that they have to hurry up and spend $5 million Measure B dollars to qualify for the state’s $500k grant.

This Wednesday, for example, the Measure B committee has posted their usual pointless agenda larded up with vague “discussion and possible action” items — meaning the usual two-hour meandering, aimless gabfest that they’re so good at. Nothing about a PHF, nothing about a crisis van, nothing much at all. Except for one extremely odd item. Item 3f: “Discussion and Possible Action Regarding BHRTC Ad Hoc Approval of Fixed Asset Over $5000 Purchase: Gun Locker for BHRTC.”

That’s right. A gun locker for the BHRTC. Oh! You don’t know who or what the BHRTC is? Why, it’s the Behavioral Health Regional Training Center, aka the newly purchased and remodeled (with Measure B money) old Jehovah’s Witness Church in Redwood Valley, aka the Sheriff’s new training room/substation, hence, we assume, the need for a gun locker. And what is that “BHRTC Ad Hoc”? We’re pretty sure it’s former Sheriff Allman and CEO Angelo, although it could be Sheriff Allman and some other somebodies. Whatever it is they don’t meet in public.

Measure B, local voters were told, would get the mentally ill and the drug addled off the streets and into treatment. Gun safes are not ordinarily considered to be useful in the treatment of mental illness.

The Sheriff may need a $5,000k or more gun locker at the substation. But this is a perfect example of how the CEO controls these agendas: Bury a dubious, highly debatable request in bureaucratic gobblydegook in an obscure agenda at the last minute that nobody reads and then get the Measure B Committee and the Supes to sign off on it without the slightest discussion.

You’ve gotta hand it to the CEO. She has this down to a science.

PS. Also on the Measure B Agenda is an item to change the Measure B minutes from “summary” to “action” minutes, meaning no mention of what was said or discussed, just a minimal list of motions and votes. Apparently despite the recent hiring of an assistant or two and a construction manager and a consultant, the poor, overworked “hard working” Measure B project manager just doesn’t have time to distill the Measure B gibberish down to anything remotely readable. So she’s now proposing to just skip it (like the Supes do with their minimal and long-delayed minutes). PPS. Early in the Measure B committee meetings they actually took pretty good minutes — the write up of the crisis van discussion was quite good — but now even that will stop.

No sooner had we posted the above on our website last week than Mr. Allman replied: “The gun locker at the training center was put on the agenda at my request. It is simply a very secure locker where attendees (Peace Officers) at a training class can secure their weapons. Because we will be using real-life scenarios during the training, the gun lockers will prevent an attendee from bringing live ammunition into the classroom where we will be using simulated weapons. This is for safety and reduction in liability.”

We certainly agree that using real weapons and ammo during simulations would be unsafe. And we guess we agree that something or somebody has to “prevent an attendee from bringing live ammunition into the classroom.”

But that wasn’t our point. We objected to using Measure B funds to pay for the gun safe, not the necessity for it. If the cops need a gun safe, then they should pay for it, not Measure B. One cop we spoke to recently even argued that the gun safe was required by Measure B! I explained that I had read the full text of Measure B several times and there’s nothing in there about a gun safe.

Of course, the basic gun safe argument is that Measure B calls for the development of a “Regional Behavioral Health Training Facility” for “behavioral health professionals, public safety and other first responders,” and, so the argument goes, a gun safe is part of the mental health arsenal, so to speak. 

But that interpretation has to be read in the context of Measure B’s title: “Mental Health Treatment Act,” and there’s just no way that a law enforcement requirement like a gun safe should be paid out of Mental Health Treatment Act funds.

Which brings us to “B Is For Bank.”

We now have the Board of Supervisors spending $5 million for a Crisis Residential Treatment facility that could and should have been provided sooner and much cheaper by remodeling an existing house in Ukiah for less than $1 million. (Kinda like they’re doing with the Training Center, come to think of it.)

But no, Measure B has accumulated millions of dollars in sales tax revenues over the last nearly-three years and everybody involved with Measure B has been infected with a modern, legalized version of Willie Sutton’s, “I rob banks because that’s where the money is.” 

Whether it’s spending $5 million for a $1 million house or more than $8,000 for a gun safe, the mentality is the same: Let’s go to Measure B — that’s where the money is.

Back in April of 2019 CEO Angelo, referring to Measure B, declared, “This is a major project. Think of all the people that come in and all the people you have involved in something like a $50,000 kitchen. We are talking some $30 some million dollars; we are talking three services, one building, two buildings, three buildings — who knows? Under normal circumstances I think we should hire three or four people, whether they are contractors or consultants or county staff or whatever. But we are not doing that, we are doing as low-budget as we can. We want to use as much of this money for services and that’s the right thing to do.”

Now that all those millions in Measure B money is accumulating, the CEO has reverted to “normal circumstances.” A few months after Angelo’s “right thing to do” assertion, the County did exactly the opposite taking Angelo’s $50,000-kitchen approach, hiring a project manager with admin staff, an expensive consulting architectural firm, a construction manager, etc. and more to come, to build a gold-plated Crisis Residential Treatment Center right next door to Camille Schraeder’s existing offices.

Why, what a coincidence.

Instead of using “as much of this money for services,” they’re using as much of this money as they can for things other than services: overpriced facilities and gun safes, for example.

At last Wednesday’s Measure B meeting, the vote for the gun safe was predictable and anti-climactic. Former Sheriff Allman, reverting to cop mode, tried his best to cut off the Committee’s usual rambling discussion, insisting that the gun safe was absolutely necessary and calling for a vote right away. 

The gun safe was quickly approved 7-2, with Mental Health Director Jenine Miller saying she wanted more info before she could vote for it and Committee Chair Donna Moschetti saying, correctly, but in her casual “just my opinion” way, that each organization wanting something in the facility should pay for it themselves, not Measure B. But by then, the seven others had already voted for it and her point was moot.

In other “because that’s where the money is” Measure B news, the Supervisors are being asked to spend $1.4 million Measure B dollars for Item 5j on next week’s Board agenda “to provide community education; Awareness, And Support Services to a contracted agency.” Which is a lotta blah-blah for the dough, but clarity being rare in Mendocino County, especially when tax money is up for grabs, the $1.4 will be carefully squandered, er, spent.

A couple months ago CEO Angelo got the Measure B committee to approve giving $1 million to the Community Foundation to hand out to local non-profits for comparably vague mental health services, but the Foundation wisely declined. So now that proposal has morphed into handing $1.4 million more dollars directly to Camille Schraeder (aka “a contracted agency”) for more unaccountable and ill-defined “services,” which is what the original $1 million was thinly disguised for in the first place. Now the CEO isn’t even bothering with the Foundation scam.

On the positive side, there are a couple of lesser but supportable proposals for Measure B dollars which also appear on the Supervisors Agenda for Tuesday:

Item 5f: “$1.3 million … to Purchase and Renovate or Build Permanent Supportive Housing for Individuals on the Coast that are Homeless, Chronically Homeless, or at Risk of Chronic Homelessness Who have a Mental Health Condition” — which is more more realistic since it’s not being handed over to the Sacramento architect (yet) with all the other bells and whistles they’re building for the Schraeders.

And Item 5j: “Discussion And Possible Action Including Approval Of $340,000 Per Year Over A Four Year Period Of Measure B Service Funds To Fund Three Mental Health Rehabilitation Specialist Positions For A Pilot Mobile Crisis Program.”

There’s nothing in the documentation so far explaining how they came up with the $340k number nor why they’re only paying for three mental health rehabilitation specialist positions.

According to an agenda attachment: “Mobile Crisis Team – This recommendation proposes a pilot program that would shift from a Mobile Outreach and Prevention Services to a Mobile Crisis Team that would provide three Mental Health Rehabilitation Specialists to respond and ride along with the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office. Data is available that shows these teams can be very effective and supportive for the individual involved in a mental health crisis. The collaboration recommends that Measure B allocate Three Hundred Forty Thousand Dollars ($340,000) per year for 4 years to fund three Mental Health Rehabilitation Specialist for the Mobile Crisis Team program. We also recommend that outcome statics [sic, statistics] are tracked and reported, so that information can be provided on the success of this program.”

We had been led to believe that this program, currently being developed by Sheriff Matt Kendall, not the Mental Health department, would also pay for the applicable portion of law enforcement that the rehab specialist would “ride along” with. This crisis team idea is an important service that will not only help everyone involved from clients, to cops, to mental health services workers, to the public at large, but will also reduce hazardous cop-crazy person interactions. But, as with everything else related to Measure B it is off to a bumpy start.

Neither former Sheriff Allman nor current Sheriff Kendall seem to have realized that they need to get their hands on that Measure B money for the “crisis team” pretty soon (like Allman did with the gun safe). Otherwise, it’ll all get gobbled up by the Schraders and the consultants and the architects and all the rest of CEO Angelo’s $50-kitchen approach and accompanying “normal circumstances” costs.

Fort Bragg City Councilman Bernie Norvell writes:

Measure B funds for Item 5f: These funds for housing are coming from the service fund not the facility fund. So we are now spending service funds on facilities because “ housing is the best service we can provide and all that money is piling up and not being spent “ This was the answer I was given when I questioned chipping away at the money in small pieces leaving nothing left for the big picture items. For example a county PHF.

Mendo Legal

Tuesday BOS Agenda

Item 5b: “Discussion and Possible Action Including Approval of Amendment to PA Agreement 20-81 with Liebert Cassidy Whitmore (LCW), Effective September 1, 2020, Increasing the Total Compensation by $125,000 (from $75,000, for a New Agreement Total of $200,000) for Litigation Services for Grewal v County of Mendocino (Sponsor: Risk Management)”

So Risk Management and County Counsel want to budget a total of $200k for the sole purpose of paying a San Francisco law firm to defend the County in regard to a Mendocino County Superior Court Case filed by former Ag Commissioner Harinder Grewal. Later in Tuesday’s agenda we find this item under closed session:

Item 9e) “Pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(1) - Conference with Legal Counsel - Existing Litigation: Harinder Grewal v. Mendocino County. Mendocino County Court Case No. SCUK-CVPO-2020-73798.”

So it’s possible that the Supes will discuss whether to make a settlement offer, in lieu of $200k of outside legal costs. (And if you wonder why Mendo’s own staff of eight attorneys in the County Counsel’s office can’t handle this litigation for a lot less, you are in good company.

Also scheduled for closed session is:

Item 9d) “Pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(1) - Conference with Legal Counsel - Existing Litigation: Thomas Allman v. Adam Aldrich. Mendocino County Court Case No. SCUK-CVPT-20-73829.”

AVA, Feb 19, 2020: Former Sheriff Tom Allman suffered a stalker when he was wearing the badge, and he seems to still be the object of Adam Aldrich’s obsession, which has now morphed into lawyers and court appearances, with the former Sheriff taking out a temporary restraining order against Aldrich, and Aldrich postponing the restraining order hearing while he lawyers up. PS. We understand that Mr. Aldrich was part of what is known in the north County as the “Dead Dog Brennan Gang.”

We are not sure what the County’s role in this case is. There’s nothing on the agenda about budgeting money for it. 

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