Press "Enter" to skip to content

Supes Blame Their Utter Failure To Act On Covid

Last week we wrote about the Board’s agenda item last Tuesday concerning the seemingly endless number of ad hoc committees the Supervisors seem to be endlessly appointing themselves to. The public, or that tiny portion thereof that tries to keep track, is as dazed and confused as the Supervisors seem to be. 

The item was “sponsored by the Executive Office,” meaning that it was on the agenda because two Supervisors are leaving the Board and two new ones are coming in and CEO Angelo saw a good opportunity to do away with all these pesky ad hocs in hopes that the new board won’t bother re-establishing them next year. It looks like CEO Angelo, at least, accomplished most of her mission.

Let’s take an ad hoc, so to speak, look at how the Supervisors ad hoc-ed their pile of ad hoc committees on Tuesday.

There was an ad hoc committee to “examine cannabis tax revenue available for the purposes specified in Measure AJ,” which is the advisory measure that passed by the voters in 2016 declaring that proceeds from the pot tax should go to mental health, roads, emergency services and cannabis permit enforcement.

Obviously, none of that happened as the County has ignored the will of the voters. 

Discussion on Tuesday:

Supervisor John McCowen: “Maybe Supervisor Gjerde and myself should be able to ask questions of staff regarding the cost of certain budget items that legitimately could be recommended for coverage through the cannabis tax. The goal is to get down to a net amount that would then be divided according to the advisory measure of the voters.”

Gjerde: “We can send an e-mail out by the end of the year and if the responses come in next year that's okay.”

Translation: Four years and millions of dollars of misspent pot tax revenues and they’re only now getting around to maybe asking questions of staff so that staff can scarf up most of the money for themselves before the table scraps are distributed to the public services that were supposed to get them.

It’s not clear if this ad hoc committee was disbanded. If it’s not disbanded, it will need a replacement for McCowen.

Then there was an Ad Hoc Committee “to work with Measure B Staff and Measure B Committee as needed to develop a business plan and formulate a common set of goals, including the development of a PHF unit.” 

So far, of course, there’s no business plan for the millions of Measure B sales tax dollars, and the last time the subject came up Supervisor Williams — the only Supervisors who even wanted a business plan in the first place — said he had “capitulated” and had given up expecting the Measure B Committee or staff to come up with a plan.

Discussion on Tuesday:

Haschak: “We are looking at the RFPs for the PHF (Psychiatric Health Facility] and that's ongoing too.”

Translation: That was it. Nothing’s happening besides the “looking.” 

Committee not disbanded.

The Board also had an ad hoc committee “to work with County Staff to discuss policies and procedures for placing items on BOS Agendas.” 

Last week we noted that we thought that elected officials and senior staff could put any item they wanted on the agenda, even if sometimes they had to be put off. But no, all such items must be approved by the CEO.

Discussion on Tuesday:

McCowen: “We can disband that. I think the issue can be left to the incoming board. I have some notes on the item I can pass to Supervisor Gjerde and he can do with them as he considers appropriate. So it can be disbanded.” 

Haschak: “Maybe some of those issues can be taken up in the board’s rules of procedure.” 

Translation: McCowen wrote some notes. That ad hoc was completely unnecessary if all they need to do is review their Rules of Procedure.

What about the “Ad Hoc Committee regarding hack and squirt ‘Measure V’ (Motion to direct code enforcement to investigate a documented first complaint regarding Hack and Squirt and return to the Board within 30 days; and formation of an Ad Hoc Committee.) (Williams, Haschak)” 

The last time hack and squirt was discussed, $120k per year Code Enforcement Consultant Trent Taylor said he went out and looked but the complainant wasn’t home and he couldn’t tell which parcel was alleged to have been hacked and squirted. 

And that was that.

Discussion on Tuesday:

Williams (to Haschak): “I will follow your lead.” (Remember, Supervisor Williams was one of the main proponents of Measure V when he was Chief of the Albion-Little River Fire Department because, besides the general fire hazard increase, firefighters assume the chemical removal of trees represents a chemical hazard to them if those poisoned, dead trees catch on fire.)

Haschak: “Since covid hit we haven't had any additional meetings. We did meet once or twice with representatives of the forest industry [sic] and people who were wanting enforcement of Measure V. Then everything’s been put on hold with the covid. I think at this point we could disband the ad hoc and see what the new board wants to do because I think County Counsel is going to come forth with some ideas. And that was their mandate quite a while ago.” 

Williams: “Let's disband it.” 

McCowen: “This is one of numerous items that people consider to be of some importance. It’s been on the agenda forecasting at times during the year and the board never had time for it.”

Nobody even asked if there was any follow up on the failed code enforcement visit to the area allegedly hacked and squirted.

Background: "Measure V Enforcement Delayed Again"

“Formation of an Ad Hoc Committee to bring forward recommendations to reduce street-level homelessness in Mendocino County.” 

Needless to say, that one is a complete dead letter except for the “Continuum of Care” whose sole objective is continuing their own funding, not reducing street level homelessness. 

Gjerde: “We had some really good conversations and strategies that we had a hand in with County staff. I think it would be smart to have a similar committee next year, but we should close out this committee for obvious reasons as Supervisor McCowen is retiring from the board.” 

McCowen: “This committee did a lot of good work in helping to move the Marbut report and recommendations forward and made significant recommendations endorsed by this board regarding the continuum of care and how the board interacts with that. One key recommendation is that the continuum of care be encouraged to broaden its representation potentially including governmental representatives, either the Board of Supervisors or City Council level or their appointed representatives. That would improve the communication and the functionality of the continuum of care.”

McCowen's statement is demonstrably untrue. The idea of expanding the already overlarge continuum of care to include more people meeting and caring is delusional as homelessness grows proportionately to their meeting and caring. The Marbut Report was barely mentioned in passing in the Continuum of Care’s Homelessness Strategic Plan. None of Marbut’s recommendations were mentioned, much less implemented. And the fact that McCowen thinks that adding yet more members to the 31 member “Continuum of Care” group will improve anything at all — much less address “street level homelessness” — shows that it’s long past time for him to retire.

There was an ad hoc committee to “Review alternative wildlife methods and mitigations.” (Also a related ad hoc committee to discuss supplemental services to the Federal wildlife killing and poisoning services contract.)

Haschak: “Supervisor Williams and I were on this ad hoc and we didn't do anything. It would have created a conflict with what Supervisor Gjerde and I were doing. It should have been disbanded long ago. Disbanded.” 

Gjerde: “We started the year with some good momentum on this and then of course covid hit. We had an interesting site visit with [ag commissioner] Jim Donnelly with supplemental services in the County of Sonoma that is not run by the County of Sonoma but by a nonprofit that resides on county land. They are willing to participate in coaching and giving the county additional information about how a similar operation could potentially be operated in Mendocino County. They receive millions of dollars in donations from some major donors down there so it's not like any nonprofit in Mendocino County can just pick this up without a very large fundraising drive and some truly dedicated almost volunteer people. We had at least one meeting with Jim Donnelly. I'm not clear if were going to make a lot of progress on this until we get someone else involved or get past covid.” 

Haschak: “We met with the Sheriff's department and Animal Care. The Sheriff’s department oversees animal control and the idea was to shift animal control from the Sheriff's department to animal care. Rich Molinari who is head of animal care is very supportive of the idea. The Sheriff's department was supportive of that idea. The problem was covid and the training that people in animal care would have to take on that extra duty would -- it's an official training and they have to be certified and that hasn't happened because of covid and so they haven't been able to make that transfer from the Sheriff's department to animal care but I think that the intent is still there and people are willing and I think it would be a step in the right direction.” 

Supervisor Carre Brown: Reminds board colleagues that animal control was part of animal care years ago and there were “problems.” The “problem’s” name was Animal Care and Control Manager Greg Foss. Brown continued, “And that's why animal control was shifted to the Sheriff's department. Animal control officers carry weapons and there is certain training that has to be done like any officer or deputy sheriff that carries firearms. It was also seen as a steppingstone for animal control officers to become deputy sheriffs.” 

Haschak: “That will all be considered in the potential transfer.” 

Ad hoc not disbanded.

Translation: They did nothing, and nothing’s going to change. Whether Animal Control is part of Animal Care — it should be the other way around — has absolutely nothing to do with the ad hoc’s purpose of developing alternatives to wildlife poisoning or killing. The ad hoc was nothing but a transparent attempt to keep the wildlife protection advocates at bay while the Supes pretended they were doing something.

Cannabis licensing ad hoc committee: 

Williams: “We are meeting almost every week and it needs to stay into the new year.” 

Translation: It’s pot, so of course they have to continue this one. Never mind that so far all they’ve “accomplished” is a deeper understanding that the program is a complete and utter failure and cannot be fixed.

Conclusion: The Board is lucky that “covid hit.” It provided a handy — but invalid — excuse to explain why the Board did absolutely nothing about any of these top priorities during the year. They didn’t even bother to ask about their status until CEO Angelo forced them to do it because two new board members are coming on and she wanted to get rid of as many of them (the ad hocs, not the Supervisors) as possible.

One Comment

  1. Betsy Cawn December 24, 2020

    Lake County’s citizens, the taxpayers who fund the salaries and benefits of elected and appointed officials, are not allowed to scrutinize the Board of Supervisors’ “Policies and Procedures” which are — according to the Chief Administrative Officer’s staff — not subject to the Public Records Act requirements. The County Counsel’s reminders to the Board members that the avoidance of the “perception” of impropriety is the final arbiter of their deliberations and delegation of responsibilities to advisory bodies of their own making. Seldom are these bodies called upon to make public their activities, even those that are formed to comply with state regulatory requirements (i.e., the Mental Health Advisory Board).

    For twenty years, the county Administration has published a list of the various “boards, committees and commissions” to which each year’s new Board chair “assigns” individual Supervisors for their “oversight,” with no requirement that the assigned officials inform the public — through the conduct of regular reports to the whole Board in their legally conducted meetings — of unseen discussions wherein the public weal is subordinate to the purposes and designs of special interest clusters whose duties reflect the unspoken direction of the elected officials and, most importantly, the nearly omnipotent Administration staff.

    “Secret” policies and procedures include a 1984 Board of Supervisors’ resolution generally defining the mandates under which their “boards, committees and commissions” operate, included in a document titled “Section One” — excerpted from a body of documents that contain who-knows-what internal directives. I can imagine the upkeep of that Administrative rule book would include, for example, recently approved procedures for workplace practices for preventing the transmission of highly communicable diseases such as COVID-19. I would expect to be able to find a section of the county’s website where all ordinances, resolutions, policies, and procedures would be easily accessible, but the body of information from which “Section One” is taken is an antiquated collection of selected directives housed in a rumpled old 3-ring binder on the Assistant Clerk of the Board’s bookshelf.

    In the late nineties and early 2000s, I was given a glimpse of a list of all ordinances created by legal actions of the Board of Supervisors in previous decades (recalling several endorsing cloud seeding as a way of managing drought conditions, for example), but current Administration staff claims that such a list does not exist. In that same era of more hospitable administrative services, I was given a 10-minute glance at the old binder full of excruciatingly boring codifications of such mundane policies and procedures as those governing the services of the county’s “purchasing” department, which defers the majority of all purchasing power to individual departments and provides supplies the janitorial and clerical supplies to administrative centers and public facilities.

    The internecine relationships of administrative processing centers (shielded by their own elected officials — the Assessor-Recorder, Treasurer-Tax Collector, and Auditor-Controller) with responsibility for operations that keep the county’s employees paid and benefited are coordinated by the county Administration, whose internal policies and procedures determine who gets hired and fired and promoted and puckered up to. As Lake County’s District 2 Supervisors discovered in 2020, the Board of Supervisors themselves have no way to hold the Administration accountable for fiscal practices such as deciding where to invest the funds held in the county treasury and whether those investments choices are effective.

    Somewhere in the dusty dungeon of public records stored in the Lake County Courthouse basement there is — perhaps — a written policy adopted by the Board of Supervisors on the advise of the Administration, stating that questions posed by members of the public will not be answered by them in the legally agendized “Public Comment” period of their meetings. Unwritten, we suspect, is the directive to ignore the requests for information received via email to individual department staff members. The only recourse to systemic violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act is civil suit, for which the average public citizen is ill-equipped to put forward even at the most rudimentary level (frequent Closed Session agenda items refer to cases or anticipated cases of violations of Government Code Section 57904(x); conclusions reached in these Closed Session discussions are rarely known).

    At the State legislative level, both the Senate and Assembly have powerful committees overseeing proposed legislation that make it to the floors for open consideration — such as the Governance and Finance Committee. Local legislation is painstakingly reviewed by County Counsel — sometimes referring to some established policy for reasons to resist taking action or exercising “great caution” in the creation of directives (resolutions and ordinances). When well-meaning elected officials veer too close to the Claymores of “creating more work” for “staff” and “setting a dangerous precedent” or “insufficient data” to inform their decisions, the Chief Administrative Officer provides an injection of soporific budget reports and analyses for offering them their defined choices, and invites the County Counsel to mother up and “look both ways” before crossing that public street.

    The uninformed and otherwise pre-occupied public is successfully deflected from awareness of the leeches and other parasites infesting the body politic due to the exigencies of life, which have now arrived at the brink of existential terror. Turns out the bomb was nothing, compared to the inherent corruption of government systems which now find themselves “helpless” to address civic needs.

    We have seen this phenomenon metastasize for the last half century, in the failure to maintain sewer and water infrastructure everywhere — and the increasing threat of toxic pollution in water supplies, air, and land. It’s not like there are not sufficient bodies of published records showing the consistent diversion of public funds for more important works (mostly for military programs abroad). As Leonard Cohen penned, “everybody knows.”

    So on reflection of Mr. Scaramella’s report on Mendocino County “ad hocs” and dismal comprehension of their ineffectiveness, the answer to why the public is not “represented” by their cherished District Supervisors is the implicit deal between the elected officials and the administration. Five elected Supervisors get to steer the boat, with a lot of time spent in the windless Horse Latitudes, and provided with minimally selective navigation aids for plotting any kind of course — and the Supervisors are protected from unpopular effects of their jockeying for position or hewing a career path so long as they stand behind the helm and sign all the paperwork brought by a steady stream of Bosn’s Mates. All in plain view of the swabbies swashing the deck. Safely going nowhere.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *