Measure B was passed onto law more than three years ago, November of 2017. The idea, a simple one since complicated beyond all reason by limited appointees, incompetence, laziness and overlapping management, was to create an in-county mental health facility rather than the expensive export of the mentally ill to places far removed from family and support.
At last Wednesday’s meeting of the Measure B Committee, senior B member Shannon Riley (Assistant Ukiah City Manager) asked that Supervisors' Measure B materials be included in the Measure B Committee’s meeting materials. (See below.) Ms. Riley said such common courtesies would allow the B Committee to know if they had been “circumvented.” Riley also asked that a Measure B Committee member give a report to the Supervisors every month.
Supervisor John Haschak called in to say he’d be willing to be a liaison between the Supervisors and the Measure B Committee.
Committee Member (former Sheriff) Tom Allman said the Measure B Committee needs to know about Measure B items on the Board’s agenda ahead of time.
Committee member and County CEO Carmel Angelo said it’s the responsibility of “the Department” (i.e., Mental/Behavioral Health/Dr. Jenine Miller) which, as usual and conveniently, has “a pretty significant workload” to notify the Measure B Committee, but it would be better than asking the Clerk of the Committee or the Board to do it.
Of course, no commitments to info sharing were offered. However, Committee Chair Donna Moschetti reassured her B colleagues by declaring, “I have written down a lot of things.”
Commissioner Mark Myrtle, one of the few on-task members of the B Committee, wondered about the unexplained and abrupt disappearance of (former) Project Manager Alyson Bailey, adding that the Measure B Committee should have a say in whether or not there’s a project manager. (We note here that the sudden disappearances of public bureaucrats has become an ongoing fact of life in Mendocino County.) “It was eliminated by others, unbeknownst to Measure B,” said Myrtle.
Was the position really “eliminated”? It’s in the Measure B budget. “We’re in the dark,” added Myrtle. “Is there a project manager?” … “If we say to do something, is that our say forever? In business the person who has the funding has the ultimate say, but that’s not the case here. We don’t know anything except that the money is in our budget, but there’s no one in the position.”
County Human Resources honcho William Schurtz replied, “It has not been eliminated. It is still on the books. The position is still there. But the incumbent is no longer in that position.”
Myrtle, pulling teeth for every little info-morsel, asked if the County is recruiting for a Project Manager.
Schurtz said no.
Myrtle then asked who’s managing the Measure B activities?
Dr. Jenine Miller Director of Mental Health (and whatever other titles she now has) said that “different people” are doing various tasks like bookkeeping, and administration. Miller added, “Joy Bieler is doing the training center and remodeling.” Bieler’s husband, Mr. Lavato, is “doing the Crisis Residential Treatment facility. Karen Ann is working with the mobile crisis team. And Joy has been working on the after care contract and the RFP for Community Awareness.”
Myrtle pulled again: “So we have eliminated the position?”
Miller: “The position still exists.”
Myrtle: “There are no plans to fill it? Who makes these decisions? It was eliminated and then silence. I don’t want to be in the dark.”
County Counsel Christian Curtis conceded that Mr. Myrtle had asked a legitimate question, then launched into one of his patented insensible “uh”-laden sermons saying, essentially, that all the money and decision-making belongs to the County and the Supervisors; the Committee can only recommend.
Realizing nobody was going to answer his “legitimate question,” Myrtle finally stopped pulling and acknowledged that County staff and department heads make all the decisions and he will just have to remain a mushroom.
Committee Member Jed Diamond kinda sorta wished that there had been some notice, not just silence, no feedback. Just “suddenly” there was no project manager. After a windy pre-amble, Diamond concluded, “What happened?”
This prompted another repetitive procedural lecture from County Counsel Curtis who repeated that it was a personnel matter and everything is up to the Department head and not up for public or Committee discussion. (If you'll excuse the rather extreme metatphor, the difference between Mendocino County and Stalinist Russia is that Stalin simply executed people who asked inconvenient questions. In Mendocino County bureaucratic disappearances are personnel matters.)
Committee member Ross Liberty said he wanted to know more about the County’s plans to hire an operator for the Crisis Residential Treatment Center (which is being built next door to the Schraeders' admin building on Orchard Street, so one guess who “the operator” will be). “I understand that you are negotiating with someone,” said Liberty, “but we are completely in the dark about who will operate the CRT and I don’t think we should be.”
Committee member Michelle Rich — who is on the Measure B Committee by virtue of being Chair of the overlapping Behavioral Health Advisory Committee) said the Measure B Committee didn’t have the skills necessary to assess those operators or services, implying that County insiders would pick the Schraeders to staff the CRT and they didn’t need any input from Measure B once that was all lined up. (It’s taking months.) Ms. Rich said she and her Behavioral Health Advisory Board should help pick the inevitable Schraeders, but not the Measure B people.
Committee member Tom Allman, the man who singlehandedly gave life to Measure B, thought somebody on the Measure B Committee, not a government employee, should have something to do with choosing the operator and that it should not be done in closed session. “There can’t just be a man behind the curtain we trust everything to,” said Allman. “Transparency is the leader of good government.” Allman thought somebody from the Measure B Committee should be on the proposal review committee.” “I was on the Ortner selection committee,” added Alllman, “and I was embarrassed about how they were running their show after they were selected.” Allman asked the Supervisors to “demand” that the Measure B Committee be represented on the proposal review team. Oddly given his long experience as Sheriff, Allman didn’t seem to know that the Supervisors never demand anything from anyone.
Ms. Rich thought she could do it for both the Measure B Committee and the Behavioral Health Committee. Allman preferred someone else, not a county employee, from the Measure B Committee.
CEO Angelo and Director Miller remained silent throughout this discussion, confident that nobody from Measure B would ever get in their way and no “transparency,” much less leadership, is needed.
Ms. Riley reported out of her little committee restructuring ad hoc subcommittee that Measure B's clearly irrelevant oversight committee assume even more of a “general oversight” role and hold fewer meetings. She bemoaned the Supervisors approving matters like Training Center features that were not recommended by the Measure B Committee. She also complained that the dilapidated, roofless Whitmore Lane facility was discussed by the Supervisors as a possible Psych facility without any Measure B participation, as was Dr. Noemi Doohan’s “Ranch Proposal,” which was presented at length to the Supervisors and even a parcel [the McGehee property which they refused to sell the Mendo] was on the table, then off the table — all without any discussion by the Measure B Committee. “Things are out of order and not working,” said Riley, adding that no work has been done on the strategic plan which the Committee had authorized and which was at one time considered to be “very important.”
Citing the lack of consideration given to consultant Lee Kemper’s now three year old expensive “Needs Assessment,” Riley said that the Measure B process “is not linear, not transparent. We’re not sure who’s driving this bus. I can guarantee you it’s not the Measure B committee.”
Riley said she wasn’t quite ready to propose a new reduced role for the Measure B Committee just yet, but that’s the way she was heading. Maybe next month. It’s irrelevant anyway.
In effect, the Measure B Committee has made itself irrelevant, and even in those few cases where they have tried to engage with the process, nobody paid any attention to them.
Who is driving the B bus? Angelo, Schraeder, and Miller. All aboard!
SUPERVISORS NOTES, Board Meeting, Tuesday, March 23, 2021
DR. JENINE MILLER, Director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) (and newly promoted Acting Director of Health and Human Services) updated the Board on Measure B which was Sheriff Tom Allman’s well intentioned effort to improve mental health services in Mendocino County. Based on Sheriff Allman’s personal charisma the ballot measure received overwhelming approval. But the chief result to date has been circular discussions of priorities by the Measure B Oversight Committee producing no recommendations and general frustration.
CONSTRUCTION HAS BEGUN on a Crisis Residential Treatment Facility (CRTC) in Ukiah. It’s conveniently in Ukiah right next door to Redwood Community Services headquarters on Orchard Avenue. Dr. Miller told the Board it will be operational November of this year. More importantly, it is meeting State deadlines needed to preserve a $500,000 grant awarded years ago. The County backed itself into an expensive corner and is now spending $5,000,000 to prevent having to return the $500,000 in grant money to the State.
ONE EMPLOYEE has been hired as the first of three members of the Mobile Crisis Team. Months ago the Board approved formation of three teams. Dr. Miller reported that an MOU is being finalized with the Sheriff’s Office and Ukiah Police Department, a training plan is being developed and next steps are being discussed. No estimate was given of when the first Mobile Crisis Team would be operational.
A CONTRACT IS BEING FINALIZED with Camille Schraeder’s Redwood Community Services for the Crisis Assessment & Hospitalization After Care program which was previously approved. RCS currently provides crisis mental health services for the County. The only certain outcome of this project will be to funnel another several hundred thousand dollars into the coffers of RCS. No mention is ever made of measuring outcomes to see if the number of crisis calls or days hospitalized has improved. An RFP is ready to be issued for a “Community Education & Support Plan.”
DR. MILLER BROUGHT UP the Nacht and Lewis (Sacramento architectural consultants) contract to conduct a feasibility study of various mental health facilities, including a Psychiatric Health Facility (PHF). Last year the Board decided to put that part of the contract on hold. Dr. Miller wanted to know if the Board wanted to proceed with the contract or not.
FOLLOWING DR. MILLER’S presentation the Board rambled on in typical Measure B style about whether to move forward with a PHF, albeit four years after such initial discussions should have been completed. Possible locations and the need for a feasibility study were mentioned. Supervisor Haschak brought up the requirement for an annual independent audit as called for in Measure B. Supervisor Gjerde questioned the need for an audit given that relatively little money has been spent. The Supes finally agreed to do the “annual” audit (after only three years) because it’s required by Measure B as approved by the voters. (When we asked former Project Manager Alyson Bailey about that audit last year, she replied that so little had been spent that there was no reason for an audit, despite the Measure’s calling for it.)
SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS dropped a minor bombshell when he said he had a copy of the “Ranch Proposal,” an obvious reference to the CEO’s closed session attempt to get the Board to buy a 3,000 acre ranch next to Assistant Public Health Officer Dr. Noemi Doohan’s property on Parducci Road. The report out of closed session last meeting said the property had been sold and was not available. Which should have ended discussion of the item since the only purpose of the closed session was to discuss price and terms of purchasing a property that was no longer available. The AVA soon learned that the property was for sale — just not to Official Mendo. The owner called the CEO and bluntly told her the property was not for sale to the County at any price for any purpose.
THE SUPES were all familiar with the euphemistically casual “Ranch Proposal,” thereby confirming they held a closed session discussion in obvious violation of the Brown Act which only allows discussion of price and terms. But the property was not available to the County so there were no price and terms to discuss. But under the not so watchful eye of County Counsel Christian Curtis the Board went ahead anyway with a discussion of the Ranch Proposal.
THE RANCH PROPOSAL quickly became the Board’s first choice, a consensus that was most likely arrived at in the previous closed session. Williams acknowledged the property referenced in the Ranch Proposal was no longer available (at least to the County) but advocated for the concept based on the perception that NIMBY concerns would be less likely on a larger parcel in the unincorporated areas than in the cities. Supervisor Mulheren quickly chimed in that she could support the Ranch Proposal but would also like to see a discussion of possibly working with Adventist Health, a subject which had been dropped by the Measure B Committee and staff since it might not involve actual construction. Supervisor McGourty agreed with the Ranch Proposal but cautioned that there was a need to be in reasonable proximity to a hospital in case of medical emergencies at the PHF.
CEO ANGELO dropped another bombshell by raising the possibility of the roofless Whitmore Lane old nursing home as a second option for the Board to consider. The Board, never inclined to question the whims of the CEO, quickly agreed to study the feasibility of the Whitmore Lane property just weeks after approving spending $2.8 million to replace the roof which collapsed in a recent storm. Adventist Health had been in as a second choice, then out, as the discussion bounced around. We still don’t know why it’s not the first and most obvious way to get a PHF going. The County previously issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for an operator of the PHF. The time to respond passed months ago but staff has been suspiciously tight lipped about the process and potential bidders (which probably include the Schraeders). Dr. Jeanine Miller was less than forthcoming when asked if Adventist Health was in or out saying only that they were in the middle of the RFP process. The decision not to proceed with studying the feasibility of Adventist Health seemed to be related to the pending RFP, which might indicate they have submitted a proposal. Or that RCS has submitted something and Adventist has already been rejected. Of course, there was nothing to prevent the Board from discussing these options during the same illicit closed session on the Ranch Proposal.
THE SUPES FINALLY directed Dr. Miller and staff to bring back a “feasibility study” of the Ranch Proposal and the Whitmore Lane white elephant. Except Dr. Miller made it clear that her staff would only be reporting on the feasibility of the use and operations of the Ranch Proposal or Whitmore Lane as they were not qualified to weigh in on design and construction. The Board decided not to activate the Nacht and Lewis feasibility study which would assess the cost and feasibility of design and construction costs. The Board appears poised to go forward with a pig in a poke style Ranch Proposal (location to be determined) or the collapsed roof money pit known as Whitmore Lane.
NOW THAT IT’S GETTING LATE with years having been wasted, the new board is feeling public pressure to do something. So they’re about to rush into something that cooler heads would take more time on. What could go wrong?
THE AVA CONSTANTLY hears of collapsed morale in multiple county departments and high staff turnover. The common denominator seems to be the more closely a department works with the Executive Office, the worse the morale. Cases in point include Planning & Building Services and all departments within HHSA (particularly Public Health). Morale at Information Services, currently a barely on the radar screen division of the Executive Office, is at a particularly low ebb. The Supes are in the unenviable position of doing Ms. Angelo’s bidding and risking an exodus of veteran technical staff members or protecting the employees and risking the wrath of their de facto boss.
THE EXECUTIVE OFFICE presented the long awaited re-opening plan for County offices on Tuesday as well. Someone spent a lot of time developing a couple of aesthetically pleasing attachments labeled “Mendocino County Covid 19 Reopening Guidelines.” One page mirrors the State’s tier system of Purple = Widespread (covid); Red = Substantial; Orange = Moderate and Yellow = Minimal. The second page lists the departments, their current status and when they will open to the public (without an appointment) based on the tiers.
ELECTED OFFICIALS, who are not under the CEO’s control, appear to be more willing to open their doors directly to the public. The Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney, and Treasurer-Tax Collector are currently open. The Assessor-Clerk-Recorder plans to open when the County gets to the Orange tier which it should reach soon if current trends continue. The Auditor-Controller, taking no chances, will not open until the County hits the Yellow tier which is less than one case per 100,000 residents.
OTHER OFFICES CURRENTLY OPEN are Animal Care, Child Support (aka “deadbeat dad” enforcement), Public Defender and some unspecified functions within Health & Human Services Agency. Libraries are open two days a week (we haven’t been able to determine which days).
AGRICULTURE, AIR QUALITY, Planning & Building Services, Probation, Transportation and Retirement/Pension offices will reopen to the public when the County reaches the Orange tier (which may happen in the near future).
THE EXECUTIVE OFFICE will stay on lockdown with closed doors until the County hits the Yellow tier which is likely to be at least several months into the future. County Counsel and Human Resources (which function as extensions of the Executive Office) will also remain shuttered to the public, except by appointment, until the Yellow tier is achieved.
SUPERVISOR GLENN MCGOURTY asked when the Supervisors will be able to access their offices. The Supes offices are located within the Executive Office rat-maze on Low Gap. CEO Angelo responded curtly “we will be following the tiers” meaning because the Executive Office is tied to the Yellow tier, and because the Supervisors’ offices are within the Executive Office, the elected County Supervisors, along with the public will be locked out of their offices for the foreseeable future.
NONE OF THE SUPERVISORS seemed to have any inkling that their appointed CEO had just told her putative bosses that they could not access their personal offices. Quick, name one other example of a subordinate dictating to their bosses when and how the bosses can come and go from their personal offices. We’ll also skip the comparisons to the essential workers at grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and many others who have worked in close proximity to the public with basic precautions since the first days of the pandemic. The CEO and her timid rubberstamps don’t exactly tip the scales when it comes to profiles in courage.
INFO SERVICES DIRECTOR – The AVA previously discussed the Tuesday agenda item to create a Department Head position for Information Services. Item 5C on the agenda would create a Director of Information Services (Chief Information Officer) at a mere $278,678 (almost the cost of two deputies with patrol vehicles). The staff report for this items is a masterpiece of double talk including this gem: “The creation of the stand-alone department will not require the addition of any staffing resources at this time. With the Executive Office’s formation of a Fiscal and Administrative unit, this stand-alone department would be utilizing this unit to support the common departmental and administrative tasks, therby reducing the common administrative overhead required of a stand-alone department.” Adding a highly paid Department Head apparently doesn’t count as addition staff resources.
IT’S JUST ANOTHER unnecessary use of funds to reward a loyal insider. CEO Angelo has announced her departure for the fall of 2022 but speculation is building that she may be preparing to leave earlier. But on the way out she would like to create a soft landing for her loyal lieutenants, in this case Janelle Rau who serves as the CEO’s right hand. Ms. Rau may be capable in administrative tasks but lacks the basic qualifications to be CEO or CAO. And any incoming CEO would naturally want to pick their own second in command which would leave Ms. Rau out in the cold. Spinning Information Services off into it’s own department will provide the perfect landing spot for Ms. Rau. The entire item, including formation of a “Fiscal and Administrative Unit” within the Executive Office raises more questions than it answers.
A READER WRITES:
Looks like Angelo's plan to create a department head position for her top gun hit a snag, but that was a quick pivot to say it would be an open recruitment. If they don't change the qualifications and demand real technical skills, however, Angelo will still appoint her loyal deputy. I can tell you that's for sure the plan. Janelle Rau has already cleaned out her desk in the Executive Office and totally moved into the IT department. How do I know? I got it from friends of the family of an IT staffer. When you step on these people's tails they holler like mashed cats.