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County Notes (March 3, 2021)

CEO Steers Law Enforcement Funding To Teen Court, aka Guess Who?

An obscure grant application became a veiled source of controversy on Tuesday when Sheriff Matt Kendall took to “public expression” at the beginning of the Supes meeting to complain that “one hand didn’t know what the other hand was doing.”

Sheriff Kendall’s staff had spent months preparing a grant application for consideration by an obscure state agency that administers part of Prop 64, the 2019 proposition that legalized (allegedly/sort of) cannabis in California. Kendall’s grant application was for about $1 million which would have funded some sorely needed cannabis enforcement in the Covelo area (along with a lesser amount that would have focused on educating teens on the dangers of pot smoking).

Unbeknownst to Kendall, the Probation Department was preparing their own grant application to the same state agency for the same $1 million most of which would go to Camille ‘The Inevitable’ Schrader’s privately owned Redwood Community Services Ukiah conglomerate, with some funding to the Probation Department for a bogus “teen peer court” that somehow would address cannabis use by teen-agers. (Teens, you see, frown on other teens smoking pot, thus, logically of course, leading to less pot smoking by teens. Get it?)

When the state’s Board of State Community Corrections saw that they had two separate applications from Mendocino County they called CEO Carmel Angelo and gave her an ultimatum.

CEO Angelo:

“Mendocino County submitted two proposals to BSCC for Prop 64 monies, one from HHSA/SO ($1M) and one from Probation/RCS (just under $1M). I received a call from BSCC due to this. I asked if we could withdraw the proposals and submit one with all four parties and the answer was NO. Instead, I was given the following options: 1. Withdraw both proposals since a county could only submit one proposal, or 2. Decide on which proposal could go forward for consideration. After talking with BSCC and understanding more of what they are looking for, I reviewed both proposals for the following points: 1. Which proposal gave a clearer and more comprehensive response to BSCC? 2. Which proposal better represented services to youth? 3. Did any of the services have a proven track record already? 4. Overall, which proposal was just a cut above the other?”

“Please know both proposals are well written and comprehensive. But, knowing you want the proposal that offers the best chance of funding to go forward, and that you work together well [sic, whatever the hell that means] , I thought each of you would be supportive of either proposal going to BSCC, as long as Mendocino County was represented. Therefore, I decided to go with Probation/RCS, since they are focused on youth and restorative justice for youth. BSCC gave me until noon today to make this decision so I just contacted BSCC and gave them that decision. It may be a moot point in that BSCC may want to be courteous but know they will not fund us due to the initial two proposals, or they may be sincere in their efforts to help us. Whatever the reason, we submitted one of two great proposals and can resubmit another proposal from the county at the next round. Thank you.”

What’s wrong with this picture? Let’s count the ways.

1. The CEO claims that the Probation/RCS application “offers the best chance of funding to go forward.” Our review of the other rural counties which were awarded BSCC grants for the same criteria — Humboldt, Trinity, Sonoma, Lake — shows exactly the opposite: they all contain a sizable law enforcement component.

2. The CEO didn’t know that two proposals from her organization had gone in until the state called and asked her about it.

3. The CEO took it upon herself to make the decision and ace out the Sheriff without consulting the Supervisors, who should have weighed in.

4. There is an obvious public benefit to funding the Sheriff’s application and no discernible public benefit to the RCS funding.

5. There’s the CEO’s longstanding cozy relationship with RCS which would lead one to assume that if it’s up to the CEO (and it only was because of her own failure to coordinate the grant applications, making the decision, as usual, a last-minute deal conveniently putting the CEO in the sole position to decide), her friends at RCS would get the nod.

6. The Board just last month had made it clear that the best way to fund a few badly needed additional law enforcement positions would be to apply for state grant money. (But that process was derailed and turned over to an ad hoc committee where it hasn't been heard from since.)

When Sheriff Kendall notified the Board about this significant CEO bungle, not one Supervisor commented, not even to say that the CEO should have followed their previously stated intent to pursue state law enforcement funding, nor to say they hoped that the next round of funding would ensure that the Sheriff’s application is not botched like this one was.

Meanwhile, we’re sure that Covelo residents will sleep well knowing that Camille Schraeder and the Probation Department are spending $1 million dollars on a teen peer court in Ukiah.

Measure B: ‘Ground-Hog Day-ish’

Introducing her agenda item suggesting that the Measure B Committee be refocused, Measure B Committee member Shannon Riley said that the topic seemed “groundhog-dayish.”

The committee then proceeded to prove Ms. Riley correct as they meandered in their usual unfocused manner trying to assess themselves and their lack of progress, some saying there wasn’t much progress, others saying there was some but it wasn’t public as yet (i.e., private discussions about Old Howard Hospital in Willits), and still others saying covid intervened so what could anyone expect? (Most Measure B inaction preceded covid).

In the end the B Committee all agreed that some things have happened despite the Committee — a training center nobody wants, a grossly overpriced Crisis Residential Treatment house that staff says won’t cost anything to run because they’re not offering any new services, just another place next door to the Schraeders’ facility for business as usual, funding for a crisis van that is taking months to conduct the hiring process for three people — and that a financial plan would be nice,

A member of the public identified only as “Sherrie” reminded the Board that they already had a strategic plan on page 46 of the Kemper report which everyone thought was useful three years ago.

Newly seated committee member Ms. Michelle Rich of the County’s Behavioral Health Advisory Board suggested hiring a consultant to prepare a financial/strategic plan “based on the Kemper report” perhaps by May.

Committee member Mark Myrtle, a consistent voice of reason on a committee short of it, said hiring a consultant would just push things back another six months or more.

Supervisor Williams said he agreed with Riley that the Committee hasn’t done much and should be restructured.

Ms. Riley undermined her own proposal by reminding the Board that they might not need a financial/planning consultant and might have someone in-house who could do it, comparing the idea to what Riley said was (Ukiah Councilperson) Mari Rodin’s in-house “facilitization” of a homelessness strategic plan! 

CEO Carmelo Angelo, a committee member herself, who complained at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting that the Measure B committee was “all over the map,” and lacked focus, had no comments on restructuring and wasn’t in attendance at the time the virtual vote on restructuring was taken. Her loyal lieutenant, Dr. Jenine Miller, recently promoted from Behavioral Health Director to something like Assistant Health and Human Services Director, offered no opinions on restructuring either.

Riley then suggested that an ad hoc committee be formed to prepare plans to restructure the committee by focusing less on project details and become more like the County’s other advisory boards, i.e., an ignorable rubberstamp for however and whatever CEO Angelo’s staff ends up spending Measure B money on.

The votes for hiring a consultant and forming an ad hoc restructuring committee were unanimous.

The original idea of Measure B, the one voters supported, was to create in-county help for disturbed persons, help generally not available from existing County programs. But it's now obvious that the County is moving closer to simply absorbing the millions piling up from Measure B's voter-approved bump in the sales tax and dumping it into Dr. Miller’s and Camille Schraeder’s ever-expanding coffers.

(From an on-line summary of the plot of the 1993 movie, “Groundhog Day”: “A weatherman finds himself inexplicably living the same day over and over again.”)

Armed Guards at the Whitmore Lane Covid Isolation facility?

The consent calendar item was entitled: “4s) Approval of Amendment to BOS Agreement No. 20-118 with American Guard Services, Inc. in the Amount of $200,000 for a New Total of $374,720 to Provide Armed Security Guard Services for Persons Placed in Quarantine Due to the COVID-19Pandemic, Effective Upon Full Execution of Amendment through August 1, 2021.”

No armed guards, said County administration Tuesday (although they may be paying for higher cost armed guards). The contract for security guards at the County’s recently purchased ($2.2 million) “surge capacity” quarantine-isolation facility on Whitmore Lane just outside the Ukiah city limits says that the 24/7 guard(s) “shall be armed; to include a firearm, chemical spray and impact weapon.”

However, Social Services Manager and Pandemic Coordinator Bekkie Emery told the Supes last Tuesday that the guard is not armed, but does have pepper spray and a taser, and presumably a communications device. 

The guard is supposed to keep quarantined people in their rooms and keep others out and log everything minute by minute. Emery said that so far 94 people have been quarantined at the facility for one reason or another, including recently released inmates, homeless people and others with no place to isolate for up to two weeks because they either have covid or might have it. If someone makes a run for it, the guard is supposed to call law enforcement to return the person before he or she ignites a mini-pandemic. If anybody had been forcefully confined to Whitmore or escaped it was not mentioned in the always nicey-nice context of Mendo business.

The Whitmore Lane facility was purchased last summer from a pair of Pakistani Modesto-based medicos after an initial lease period for just over $2.2 million which seemed suspiciously low, considering that there are 76 bedrooms plus supporting rooms.

(Compare that with the four-room Crisis Residential Treatment facility being built on Orchard Street for $5 million.

Part of the reason for the low price tag may have been that the roof is in bad shape.

From last week’s CEO Report:

”Emergency Projects — On February 14, 2021, additional water damages [our emphasis, we hadn’t heard of the initial water damage] were reported at the County's Whitmore Lane facility. This significant water damage/intrusion was located in a different area as was previously remediated. Facilities staff have been working with an Architect to perform an in depth observation and review of the facility. However, due to the extent of the damage, and despite the work performed to try to mitigate the roof leaking, the roof/mechanical equipment replacement project was declared an emergency so that work could begin as quickly as possible. Additional information will be presented to the Board of Supervisors during the Mid-Year Budget report, including project creation and funding estimates.”

Exactly what the water damage entailed wasn’t mentioned nor was an assessment of whether there was more damage to come or as yet unidentified.

The Whitmore Lane facility, a former medical rehab stalag, is one of five new buildings being added to the County’s facilities roster. Using ill-defined funding sources, the County, which is you and me brothers and sisters, also bought the Best Western Inn on Orchard Avenue for conversion to homeless housing. The County is also in the process of constructing the $5 million Crisis Residential Treatment Center on Orchard Avenue in Ukiah. In addition, plans are being made to buy two more motels for additional homeless housing using pandemic/emergency funding.

The accounting and budgeting for all of this, including maintenance, staffing, management, etc. is far from transparent and has never been itemized, nor has the reduction in property taxes and the loss of bed taxes. We’re supposed to believe that somebody’s keeping track of these expenses and revenue decreases and that some glorious day it may be covered by federal and state reimbursements.

The Supervisors have yet to receive a financial plan for the much less complicated Measure B facilities and services. But nobody’s even asked for an accounting of the much more complicated homeless facilities and services and how they’re going to somehow avoid being a significant hit to the General Fund.

All the CEO has said so far is, “Additional information will be presented to the Board of Supervisors during the Mid-Year Budget report, including project creation and funding estimates.” 

The mid-year Budget Report is probably going to appear in March, but with the usual ridiculous time-delay it will only cover through December 2020. As usual, the CEO keeps the Supervisors and the public in the dark — until it’s late or after the fact, leaving the Supes in their usual position of having to rubberstamp whatever the CEO has spent the money on or covering whatever funding gaps may have accumulated with whatever “found money” or reserves or PG&E settlement money that the Auditor seems to magically find every June. 

Meanwhile CEO Angelo has announced that she “intends to depart the CEO position in the Fall of 2022” when her current four year contract expires.

Whoever replaces her, er, picks up the admin pieces, whether it’s as Chief Executive Officer or a reduced position of some kind, the new board will inherit a lot of expensive plates spinning in the air and will have a lot of accumulated, unestimated costs and revenue shortfalls to deal with.

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