A number of “retroactive” items were on last Tuesday’s Board Agenda, the kinds of high dollar value items the Board has complained about in the past as being both retroactive and on the consent calendar, making the Board of Supervisors irrelevant and removing the possibility that other options or costs could be discussed.
Then there’s this fishy one near the end of the consent calendar:
4ab). “Adoption of Resolution Authorizing a Title Change and Salary Revision of General Services Agency Director, Salary No. D46B to Director General Services Agency, Salary No. 6298; Re-Establishment of the Classification of Director Social Services, Salary No. 6214 and Amending Position Allocation Table as Follows: Budget Unit 5010 — Add 1.0 FTE Director Social Services.”
Come again? “Title Change and Salary Revision” of the General Services Agency Director. The title is being changed from “General Services Agency Director, Salary No. D46B” to “Director General Services Agency Salary No. 6298…” And no salary change numbers in the item’s title or description.
Back in March, based on credible info from a source at Low Gap, we wrote that an agenda item at that time proposed to create a Department Head position for Information Services. Item 5C on that 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, thereby reducing the common administrative overhead required of a stand-alone department.” Adding a highly paid Department Head apparently doesn’t count as additional 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 would 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.
That was last March. Now on to Tuesday…
As far as we know no such “Director of Information Services” position was created back in March. Ms. Rau retains her present Deputy CEO title. But now CEO Angelo wants to make a meaningless change to the title of a director of an agency which is not even listed on the County’s website. (There’s a reference to “central services” but no department called “General Services” anymore.) According to an attachment to the “resolution” item near the end of the consent calendar “changing” the title (and there’s no other change in duties or organizational responsibility mentioned), the salary is being upgraded from a low base salary of $95-$105k per year to a much bigger base salary with a high of up to $157k per year. There’s no mention of who will fill the newly re-titled position with the much higher salary or why the change is being made nor why the job should now pay much more.
This one obviously ought to be pulled for Board discussion. But if history is any guide, it’ll get quietly approved just as the CEO presented it: Buried deep, deep down in a misleadingly titled item in an attachment near the end of the crowded consent calendar.
Update: All the consent calendar items were approved without discussion or comment.
CEO Replies To AVA Budget Inquiry
Mendocino County CEO Carmel Angelo replied to a series of budget questions we asked last week…
Thank you for your inquiry. The very nature of your questions is the reason the County budget team has been hesitant to present a “budget to actual.” County Government is dependent on State, Federal, and grant revenue funding, which typically is billed quarterly or annually, and reimbursement is not received until at least 30 days after billing. This cycle of billing and reimbursement causes a delay in posting revenue, which impacts “budget to actual” reports produced on a monthly basis.
I would like to reference back to the comments presented in the main part of my CEO report.
First item of note is there are several departments with lower than expected revenue which is causing them to reflect a deficit at this time. It is expected revenues from State funds and grants will be drawn down by the end of the fiscal year, to reduce or eliminate the gap.
Secondly, three departments, partly due to the wage increases over the last two years, have been able to hire and retain staff members. There currently are funds set aside in the miscellaneous budget unit to cover these costs, if a department is over budget on salaries and benefits
Third, as the department heads look to close year end, contractor and vendor invoices will need to be reconciled, which may reduce the surplus in some departments.
The County would expect to be at 88% of budget but is calculating 91% with the three major points above impacting year end projections.
Please note, the Auditor Controller will be working to close FY20-21 in August and September. The finalized budget reports for FY20-21 will available at 1st Quarter in the Fall.
Please see answers to your questions below.
AVA: The County Counsel’s office is projected to be 143% over budget ($924k budgeted vs. $1.3 million spent for an overrun of almost $400k. The reason offered for the overrun is “Benefits greater than budget.” Is there any detail available about that? We thought it had to do with higher than expected outside counsel costs.
A: There was a budget adjustment approved for salaries, however the corresponding adjustments to retirement and taxes were not accounted for as part of the approved budget adjustment. Based on 3rd quarter projections, County Counsel is projecting to be under budget by $51K at the end of FY20-21.
AVA: The Sheriff’s Department is listed as being about $620k over his $14.5 million budget (not counting the jail which is running a little under budget). Explanation: “Overtime and extra help greater than budget.” Again, how much of the overrun is overtime and how much is extra help and what was the extra help for? Also, what is the final Sheriff’s budget for the 2021/2022 fiscal year and how much overtime and extra help is budgeted?
A: Based on YTD May 2021 actuals, Overtime was over budget by $983,480. Based on YTD May 2021 actuals, Extra Help was over budget by $254,064. The question relating to the need for extra help, will need to be answered by the Sheriff's Office. Based on 3rd quarter projections, Sheriff's Office is projecting to be over budget by $1.9M at the end of FY20-21. FY21/22 Budget - General Fund impact $16,125,476: OT = $1,161,185. Extra Help = $250,00.
AVA: Probation appears to be on track to be way over budget at $2.5 million, $1.1 million over its allotted $1.4 million by the end of June. No explanation is offered. Is there any explanation?
A: When the report was presented, actual revenue (including inter-departmental) was less than budget. As noted on the report, any department with an asterisk had revenue less than budget (including inter-departmental revenue). Based on 3rd quarter projections, Probation is projecting to be under budget by $266K at the end of FY20-21, due to impacts related to COVID-19.
AVA: Planning and Building is listed as way under budget, running at less than 40% of its budget for this fiscal year. The explanation given is “Salaries less than budget.” Does that mean that the department is understaffed and therefore total salary expenditures are low? Or is the current staff being paid less than was budgeted? In either case, what is the plan for next year? Will the P&B budget reflect “salaries that are less than budget” again? Or will staffing and salaries be brought closer to budgeted amounts?
A: Due to numerous staff vacancies (approx 20%) related to retirements, and staff departures for other agencies, Planning and Building Services (PBS) is under budget on salaries, and associated costs for employees. PBS was also impacted by COVID-19, which slowed the ability to hire from outside the existing County staff. Since that time, PBS has been recruiting for all vacant positions and hopes to be able to fill a majority of the vacancies prior to the first quarter of FY 21-22, at which time we anticipate the projections and salaries coming into alignment. As for the plan, PBS is currently recruiting to fill positions.
AVA: The Health and Human Services Agency is not on the list. Presumably because they don’t expend any general fund revenues. But don’t they have a budget? Shouldn’t they be on the list? Will they be on future reports?
A: Yes this is correct, the report is only showing General Fund departments. Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) is not reflected on this list, as the only impact they have on the general fund, is a maintenance of effort agreement. A majority of their funding is through Federal and State allocations and/or grants.
AVA: Will any budget adjustments be made at the end of the fiscal year to reflect any of these (and other lesser) variations?
A: Annual and quarterly actual revenue and expenses will be accounted for during the fiscal year end process. There will be no adjustment to the budget, only adjustments to the actual revenue and expenses.
AVA: Lastly: the Board referred the question of holding department heads personally responsible for their budgets to the General Government Committee. The next meeting of the General Government committee is set for August 9, 2021. Will that meeting agenda include that specific issue in the agenda?
A. Supervisor Williams and Mulheren set the agenda for General Government. I am unaware of the agenda topics at this time.
Thank you for the opportunity to explain these questions,
Carmel Angelo, CEO
(Note: We forwarded the CEO’s response about the Sheriff’s department to the Sheriff for possible comment. As of Monday, July 12, we have not received a reply.)
On Tuesday, the Supervisors unanimously approved relaxing permit terms for temporary water tanks less than 5,000 gallons during the drought. But not really. It turns out that there are no permit requirements for small tanks except on the Coast, and even there nobody enforces it except in the hyper-vigilant Village of Mendocino where the town’s Historical Review Board has some set-back and aesthetic requirements which are as yet unchanged.
Additionally, as Chief Planner Julia Acker- Krog told the Board, “temporary” rules reductions will be re-imposed if or when the drought emergency ends; the permit applicant presently asking for the temporary waiver will be required to promise to either comply with the rules at that time or remove the tank.
Other than that break-through (non-)accomplishment, the Supervisors Drought Discussion on Tuesday was of little interest to thirsty Mendo County, providing no new information. The brief mention of using the Skunk Train to haul water from Willits to Fort Bragg was so preposterous that it barely deserves mention. Nobody asked Willits if they’re willing to part with any of their water. Nobody has asked the Skunk Train if the tracks will ever again see a train go from Willits to Fort Bragg or, if not, when they will. Nobody wondered about the weight of heavy water railcars going over the rickety old tracks, bridges and trestles. Nobody wondered if the Skunk even had any water railcars or where they’d come from. Nobody wondered about whether the old locomotives could even pull a heavy load of water up the steep switchbacks on the Willits side of the line… Otherwise, it’s a great idea!
Stiffing The Sheriff
THE FOLLOWING NOTE was buried in last Tuesday’s CEO Report. As usual, CEO Angelo delivered her report to the Supervisors the day of the meeting leaving very little time to review it or ask questions about it, not that the Supes show much interest anyway:
“2011 Efficiency Audit of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office — On May 25, 2021, an item was brought before the Board of Supervisors requesting an outside fiscal audit of the Sheriff’s Office, including the Jail. The update included in this [CEO] report is informational only to provide a historical background on a prior audit performed. On March 22, 2011, the Board of Supervisors approved the establishment of the Sheriff’s Ad-Hoc Committee. The committee recommended to the Board of Supervisors that an audit be performed to determine opportunities to optimize the Sheriff’s Office efficiency. The overall desired outcome was to review the organization in areas of management, staffing, service delivery methods, structure, public accessibility and resources deployment (the audit did not include corrections). The Board of Supervisors approved a contract with Harris and Harris Enterprises and the contractor presented a completed audit report at the October 18, 2011 board meeting. In the report six areas were identified with findings and recommendations: County Administration, Sheriff’s Overall Operations and Organizational Structure, Field Operations, Animal Control, Communications (Dispatch), and Administrative Services. On January 10, 2012 the Board of Supervisors received the Sheriff’s response and disbanded the Ad Hoc Committee and directed staff to work with the Sheriff to schedule continuing progress reports, the first of which was to be presented six months from the date of the meeting. In a search of records, no formal presentation was found.”
Sheriff Kendall wasn’t even invited to this discussion. The Supervisors asked for a copy of the 2011 “audit,” and CEO Angelo promised to get one to them.
CEO Angelo commented: “My guess is Sheriff Kendall has not seen this audit.” The CEO added that she would bring forward an agenda item to take another look at the 2011 audit to see if it has any applicability now. Another ad hoc committee of Supervisors McGourty and Williams volunteered to go over Sheriff’s budget and the 2011 report. the CEO noted that the 2011 “audit” showed that additional patrol positions in the field were needed. Angelo also said that Sheriff Kendall’s predecessor, Tom Allman was willing to accept an audit.
Free associating, Supervisor McGourty compared routine school district audits — the ones that always, ALWAYS, conclude that everything is fine despite below average test scores all over the place — with the Sheriff’s audit, saying that audits are good, real good.
We went back to the 2011 agenda to review what was available then. (Note: Carmel Angelo was promoted to CEO in 2010.) This October 2011 item came up:
SUMMARY OF REQUEST:On October 18, 2011, David Harris, of Harris and Harris Enterprises, and Steven Reader, of Steven Reader Enterprises, presented their findings and significant recommendations regarding the efficiency audit of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office. The consultants, Board members, Sheriff Allman, and staff discussed the findings and potential avenues for further review and consideration. By Board consensus, with the concurrence of Sheriff Allman, it was determined that the Board Ad- Hoc Committee remain in active status, with a renewed scope of assignment, for further review of the findings contained within the audit report. Therefore, staff recommends that the Board reauthorize the continuation of the Sheriff Ad-Hoc Committee, with a timeline to perform an in-depth analysis of the audit report findings, reporting back to the Board no later than 180 days, with a determination by the Sheriff and the ad-hoc committee as to which recommendations to further research for implementation, and if recommendations will not be implemented, a justification as to the rationale for same.”
The following week there was this:
“SUMMARY OF REQUEST: On October 25, 2011, the Board reauthorized the continuation of the Sheriff’s Office Ad-Hoc Committee, with a timeline to perform an in-depth analysis of the audit report findings, reporting back to the Board no later than 180 days. The Ad Hoc Committee held two additional meetings to discuss the audit report recommendations. The Committee determined that staffing recommendations are contingent on funding availability and that operational recommendations are the prerogative of the elected Sheriff. It is requested that the Board of Supervisors receive and discuss the attached response by the Sheriff to the audit recommendations for the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office; disband the ad hoc committee and schedule continuing progress reports from the Sheriff.”
As CEO Angelo tersely noted last Tuesday, however, “In a search of records, no formal presentation was found.”
The following year, nothing having been done, the Grand Jury recommended that one of the audit’s findings be implemented immediately saying: “The BOS should provide adequate funding for the MCSO.”
That didn’t happen either. It wasn’t even discussed.
We still have a copy of that 2011 “efficiency audit.” It is larded with useless consultant filler like “There is a need for a more collaborative process in which communication is improved.” In almost every case 20 words were used where two or three would have sufficed. Having been paid the usual consulting fee (we couldn’t find the actual amount, probably in the $75k-$100k range) the consultant had to submit something that looked kinda thick. But there was very little meat in the “audit” — most of it was already known by the Sheriff’s department brass and that probably explains why “no formal presentation was found.”
Paring the audit’s recommendations down to their “Main Conclusions and Recommendations” of the 2011 post-Great Recession Sheriff “Efficiency” Audit by consultant Harris & Harris, this is all they really said:
“There are holes in adequate coverage; no or little patrol officers assigned between 4:00AM and 8:00 AM, with City police sometimes responding to County areas. There is also concern of shortages of assigned officers in the Coast sector.
“The captains should report directly to the Sheriff with all other employees under the Captain’s chain of command. The department should follow a strict hierarchy of chain of command.
There is a shortage of sergeants to adequately supervise the patrol function, with over-reliance on remote technology instead of in-person supervision.
The County should Fill vacant positions.
Assess and possibly change the patrol schedule for certain parts of the year
Assess and reassign sergeants who under-supervise
Transfer staff as needed to balance workload, calls for service and supervision needs
Do not eliminate or freeze positions unless and until adequate replacements are in place
Have a focused recruitment and hiring for the coast sector.
Operating emergency vehicles with excessive miles endangers the officers and the general public. … Emergency vehicles with excessive mileage should be replaced.
Consider providing patrol sergeant time to the remote, but challenging area of Covelo.
Delay further layoffs until arrangements and coverage are in place for adequate beat coverage and supervision.
Consider reviewing and training staff in crime clearance criteria.
Cover patrol with patrol deputies, not detectives.”
If Sheriff Allman then or Sheriff Kendall now didn’t already know all of this, they should have been fired on the spot. But of course, they did know all of it. So there was no need for any more ad hocs, meetings, presentations or communications.
As the Grand Jury noted the following year the only significant recommendation — obvious as it was and is — was the simple statement that “The County should fill vacant positions.”
Lack of funding and inadequate focus on recruiting continues to this day.
The consultant’s concluding observation was: “There is a desire for better communication and cooperation between the CEO’s office and Sheriff’s office. The County should take steps to strengthen relationships, foster trust, and improve candid and forthright communication.”
Given that the CEO and the Supervisors didn’t even invite Sheriff Kendall to this discussion, on top of Sheriff Kendall’s open statement that he doesn’t particularly trust the CEO, we can safely say that while most of the report is now obsolete and useless, that observation at least is valid.
Besides, the Sheriff’s budget is the real issue, not any kind of silly audit, then or now. Remember, CEO Angelo left the Sheriff’s budget hanging in response to our inquiry two weeks ago.
We had asked: “The Sheriff’s Department is listed as being about $620k over his $14.5 million budget (not counting the jail which is running a little under budget). Explanation: ‘Overtime and extra help greater than budget.’ Again, how much of the overrun is overtime and how much is extra help and what was the extra help for? Also, what is the final Sheriff’s budget for the 2021/2022 fiscal year and how much overtime and extra help is budgeted?”
The CEO replied: “Based on YTD May 2021 actuals, Overtime was over budget by $983,480. Based on YTD May 2021 actuals, Extra Help was over budget by $254,064. The question relating to the need for extra help, will need to be answered by the Sheriff's Office. Based on 3rd quarter projections, Sheriff's Office is projecting to be over budget by $1.9M at the end of FY20-21. FY21/22 Budget - General Fund impact $16,125,476: OT = $1,161,185. Extra Help = $250,000.”
We have since heard informally that the Sheriff’s “extra help” overrun has nothing to do with the Sheriff’s budget, but is simply the cost of bailiffs at the Courthouse during the pandemic and was covered by court funding and should not even be in Sheriff’s budget, much less an overrun.
Nevertheless, the Supervisors expressed no interest in dealing with or resolving the Sheriff’s still large budget gap (mainly in overtime), and Supervisor Williams persists in asking for more data and more money wasted on audits to convince him of the obvious: Sheriff’s patrol needs to be fully funded and fully staffed.
Agenda Notes, Supervisors Meeting, July 19-20, 2021
Monday’s Supervisors Agenda (there are two meetings coming up next week, one on Monday, another on Tuesday) includes an item about possibly forming a Public Safety Advisory Board.
Item 5a) – “Discussion and Possible Action Regarding the Creation of a Public Safety Advisory Board or Alternative; and Adoption or Amendment of Ordinance Adding Chapter 2.39of the County Code Creating a Public Safety Advisory Board”
The draft ordinance accompanying the agenda item is pretty bland with verbs like outreach, examine, review, report, recommend… and this rather specific note at the end: “Nominate a member of the public to the Use of Force Review Board.”
There’s also a stronger list of “limitations” saying the prospective advisory Board would have no authority to change any decisions, make policy, impose discipline, investigate on its own, interfere with the Sheriff’s department, or subpoena documents or witnesses.
In effect, it’s a version of the Measure B oversight committee but without any money, and a grand opportunity for the local Blue Meanie brigades to cop-bash.
Monday’s agenda also includes a presentation from the Berkeley Cannabis Research Center on pot water use. Buried in the presentation is a comparison of pot water use to wine water use. These particular “experts” say that pot uses less than one quart of water per joint, as against one glass of wine which uses 21 gallons of water. But what would you expect from the Cannabis experts? Nevertheless, combining that water per wine glass estimate with Mendo's much larger acreage in wine grapes and the ratio between total pot water and total wine water becomes even more pronounced in favor of pot — assuming, of course, that a glass of wine is somehow equivalent to one joint. With the drought worsening by the day and wine grapes implicated in the latest Russian River flow reductions, Mendo may have to coin a new catch-phrase: Save Water: Smoke Pot!
Then on Tuesday, things could get much more interesting when the Board considers a request from Sheriff Kendall to approve an “agreement with the Law Office of Duncan M. James in the Amount of $50,000 to Provide the Sheriff with Legal Assistance Pursuant to Government Code section 31000.6, Effective Upon Execution with No Term End Date.”
We assume this has to do with the simmering dispute between the Sheriff and the CEO about the Sheriff’s budget and how much legal authority the Board/CEO has over the Sheriff’s funding. (Duncan James is a former Mendocino County District Attorney.) Sheriff Kendall is basically asking the Board to finance a legal opinion that the Board and the CEO probably don’t want to hear. Obviously, the Sheriff isn’t interested in the opinion of County Counsel Christian Curtis on the subject.
And there’s Camille Schraeder’s application to be a member of the Health and Human Services Agency Advisory Board. Since Ms. Schraeder & Co. is the Agency’s largest contractor by far, it’s hard to imagine a more obvious conflict of interest. But since this is Mendocino County, her appointment is assured, no questions asked.
In a press release announcing the pending private curtailments of a formerly public resource — water — Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, is quoted as saying, “Conditions in the Russian River watershed have deteriorated rapidly and are already worse than those experienced during the last drought. The board does not take the restriction of water rights lightly, but the situation we are facing demands our attention and action. Diversions must stop to preserve minimum flows for health and safety once storage levels worsen and curtailments are issued.” The board describes the curtailments as affecting “2,400 water right holders, including 1,600 water users in the Upper Russian River and up to 800 in the Lower Russian River.” It also describes the Russian River as “starting in Mendocino County and flows south through Sonoma County for 110 miles before entering the Pacific Ocean. Water stored in Lake Mendocino, a reservoir north of Ukiah, is released downstream to maintain flows in the upper section of the river. The supplemental water from the lake protects multiple fish species and municipal and agricultural uses, and during drought, accounts for nearly all the water in the river.” Obviously too little and too late. The irresponsible officials at both the County and the state could have issued mandatory restrictions back in April when they declared a “drought emergency," primarily so that they could qualify for more money. At that time everybody knew this was going to be an historic drought. The “deterioration” could have been substantially mitigated if the authorities had taken any timely “action,” and behaved as if their emergency declaration was indeed an emergency. Instead, they delayed and delayed and delayed. In fact, they still haven’t issued mandatory reductions like the ones in some local cities.In the wake of Esquivel’s tardy announcement, Elizabeth Salomone, general manager of the Russian River Flood Control & Water Conservation Improvement District in Ukiah, said “Currently, all post-1914 water right holders have been noticed to cease diversions due to insufficient water supply and the curtailment is a further action that expands to pre-1914 and riparian right holders.” The Potter Valley Diversion is a “pre-1914” water right since the tunnel was built in 1900-1908. But will the “curtailment” help? Only if it’s enforced. As we learned last week from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat of all places, asking the grape growers in the upper and lower Russian River watersheds to voluntarily reduce even 15% was largely ignored, and that’s why the Water Board is finally making this latest pronouncement. But the Water Board has a history of not enforcing its rules. So we don’t expect any real conservation from these water-hogging grape growers unless a downstream user files suit. And by then, there won’t be much water left. Former Third District Supervisor John Pinches told us in an interview on Saturday that he’s pretty sure the clever pot growers in the Eel River watershed are drawing water out of the Eel River underflow at night, well out of the sight of any law enforcement, and law enforcement, overwhelmed by illegal grows and practices, can occasionally swoop down on an egregious offender but is otherwise powerless to disrupt rogue pot ops. Similarly, there’s no reason to think that the grape growers along the Russian River, both upstream of Lake Mendocino in Potter Valley, or downstream near Hopland and points south will similarly flaunt the “curtailment” on their water draws from the public well — if there’s any there to be had.