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Wake Up, Dan Hamburg!

I started out to write about something more benign this week, but I can't stand it any longer. Wake Up, Dan Hamburg! Wake the freak up! You've been attending Mendocino County Mental Health Board meetings monthly and you have the unmitigated gall to question the Grand Jury's findings about mental health care in this county?!

Dan Hamburg, having seen you in action, or more accurately inaction, at many public functions, I have to say that you come off as some sort of pompous, self-centered phony, but are you absolutely daft as well?

Are you listening, Dan Hamburg? This is one of your constituents speaking. I voted for you in 2010. I'd sooner vote for a wild hog rooting up my trees than you again. Quite frankly I'm a little ashamed to admit that I bought the mud slung at your opponent in 2010.

I'm writing in reaction to a series of recent events. First, Mendocino County's Board of Supervisors on August 26th, issued their response to the 2013-2014 Grand Jury report that stated that there was an appearance of a conflict of interest in regard to Tom Pinizzotto, a former employee of Yuba City's Ortner Management Group (Pinizzotto is now Mendocino County Mental Health Director) being hired as a consultant by this County in 2011, Mr. Pinizzotto having access to patient records and billing methods, then Mr. Pinizzotto participating in the process that selected Ortner Management Group as the purveyor of a privatized system of mental health services for Mendocino County. All of this has been covered at length in pieces by Mark Scaramella for the AVA. What got my dander up was the Board of Supervisors seemingly on the record response to the Grand Jury's report on this appearance of a conflict of interest (readers will have to hunt through the Grand Jury's website to find it – it's much harder to find through the Board of Supes web pages). Keep in mind, as Mark Scaramella has pointed out numerous times, the Grand Jury reported only the appearance of a conflict of interest. The Board of Supes goes so far in their denial of this that they disagree with the most basic Grand Jury factual finding, which is: North Valley Behavioral Health and Ortner Management Group are clearly linked in both business and professional matters.

The Board of Supes response to that: “The Board of Supervisors disagrees in part with this finding with clarification. Ortner Management Group (OMG) is the Administrative Services Organization (ASO) for Mendocino County for Mental Health Services. North Valley Behavioral Services (NVBH) is a subcontractor of OMG."

Wow! That's equivalent to Major League Baseball issuing a denial, in part, that the San Francisco Giants are not clearly linked to Gerald “Buster” Posey in business and professional matters because Mr. Posey is a subcontractor of The San Francisco Giants, L.L.C.

If any member of the Board of Supervisors, or their lapdog County Counsel Doug Losak, had done even the most rudimentary internet search they would have found that Tom Ortner is one of the administrators of Ortner Management Group and the same Tom Ortner is one of the administrators for North Valley Behavioral Health. To deny the clear business and professional link between North Valley and Ortner is laughable at best. Doing so on the record is unprofessional and deceitful for both the County Counsel and the Board of Supervisors.

The Grand Jury also found a perception of a conflict of interest in the awarding of the privatized mental health services contract to Ortner Management Group (OMG). The Board of Supes (BOS – perhaps the “O” should be eliminated to more accurately reflect what they are currently doing and saying) through the persnickety parsing of words by County Counsel Losak objected to the “perception” terminology. The Grand Jury had to settle on a perception because the County has not made public documents that reflect assertions that the process may have been tinkered with by those in the know on the inside. One such assertion claims that a person or persons familiar with the system of awarding of points toward said contract may have influenced Ortner or North Valley or some other offshoot of their corporate identity (there are more) to purchase Redwood Creek Care Center (then a board and care facility) in Willits in May of 2011. Ownership of Redwood Creek would qualify Ortner as a local business, worthy of more points in the contract awarding scheme.

There are reports of other manipulations of the point system that led up to the adult mental heath services contract for our county being granted to Ortner Management Group (OMG), but the fundamental problem for us citizens is that neither the Supervisors nor County staffers like CEO Carmel Angelo or Health and Human Services Director Stacey Cryer has ever bothered to release any information about that process. It is still not absolutely clear who made up the members of the committee that graded Ortner as the winner of the privatized adult mental health services contract. Best guesses for that committee: Sheriff Tom Allman, Jim Shaw (then chair of the County Mental Health Board and husband of Anna Shaw who is director of Hospitality Center, the prime subcontractor for Ortner on the Mendocino Coast), Kristin McMenomey (General Services Director for Mendocino County), and Doug Gherkin (his “LinkedIn” page lists him as the CFO at Mendocino County's Health and Human Services Agency).

The Grand Jury report makes clear that the County's Health and Human Services Director, Stacey Cryer, and the Mental Health Director, Tom Pinizzotto, participated in the contract award evaluation. The loser in this contracting business was Optum Health, which already had years of experience in providing just the mental health services Mendocino County was looking for in several states as well as other parts of California.

Keeping in mind that the public has never been shown how the evaluation system for the awarding of points was created let alone who created it and what criteria they created it upon, the Grand Jury did release a chart showing the points awarded by Cryer, Pinizzotto and five committee members identified only as Staff #1-5 (Redwood Children Services was the points winner for juvenile mental health services in the county and graded in between Ortner and Optum). Pinizzotto gave Ortner 650 points and Optum 345 points. Cryer scored it 625 to 445 for Ortner. Staff #1 had it 540 – 420 for Ortner. Staff #2's card read 460 to 375 in favor of Ortner. Staff #3 had it a 440 to 0 knockout for Ortner. Staff #4 had it closer at 530 to 495 for Ortner. Staff #5 scored it for Ortner at 670 to 290. The chart of these scores appears in the Grand Jury report directly above the “Findings” that the Board of Supervisors was required to respond to.

Supervisor Hamburg

Dan Hamburg, did you read those scores and come away with no questions? One of the committee members gave zero points to Optum. How is that possible? How is it possible that you as the Board of Supervisors’ representative to the County's Mental Health Board did not raise a hue and cry about this? Are you paying any attention whatsoever?! You who brings your dog with you to every Mental Health Board meeting!? I no longer care if you are grieving. Everyone else on the Mental Health Board has an equal amount of grief in their lives. None of them sees the need to bring a personal pet with them to the County Mental Health Board meetings. Beulah, the matriarch Hereford cow here at the Macdonald Ranch, acts like she's a family pet. Perhaps I should start hauling her to the Mental Health Board meetings.

Dan Hamburg, I wouldn't pick on personal strangenesses like taking your dog to public meetings, except that it is representative of how out of touch you are with reality. You're the BOS rep to the Mental Health Board, but you co-sign the preposterous denial of the Grand Jury report and verbally attack it at a BOS meeting. What's up with that?! You are not fit to be the BOS rep to the Mental Health Board.

Perhaps we need to go into the situation in which your adult son was bumped to the front of the line for mental health services. Whether or not you took any active part in this, the situation itself creates another appearance of a conflict of interest. You need to resign as BOS rep to the Mental Health Board and let that position go to either the soon to be elected 3rd District Supe or 4th District Supervisor Dan Gjerde, the only member of the BOS with enough interest in the subject and who is new enough to his job to not be corrupted by the status quo goings on in county government. Let it be clear, each one of our present Supervisors, Gjerde included, is culpable to some degree for signing off on the BOS rebuke of the Grand Jury's  findings.

And why did all five of them sign off? Because this county is “pot committed” to the Ortner situation. The County CEO, Carmel Angelo, the Health and Human Services Director, Stacey Cryer, the Mental Health Director, Tom Pinizzotto, and the Board of Supervisors are all responsible in the ethical, political, if not legal sense for allowing such a non-transparent thing to happen, this thing that is the awarding of a contract to Ortner over a far more experienced company. All of the above named are responsible, in every possible, parsing sense of that word, for not letting the public know, at the time, specifically and in detail how this contract would be awarded. This means/meant informing in the most public way how the point system would work.

What has been going on for the past year and several months is something of a quiet cover-up. In other words the County CEO, the Mental Director, the Health & Human Services Agency Director and the Supes are hoping you the citizens won't notice the big OOPS! that occurred. Whether or not it was totally intentional is almost a secondary story to the mum's the word story that is ongoing. These Mendocino County elected officials and the high up staffers are hoping you won't notice. They believe they can get by with dismissing anyone who asks to see the particulars as some sort of strange “other,” who should just be ignored.

This is being written by a 60-year-old, sizable property-tax-paying resident of Mendocino County's Fifth District who was born in its Fourth District, who went to school in its First District and resided for a short while in its Second District, whose ancestors arrived in California before the Gold Rush and lived in the Third District for a couple of decades, a citizen who was taught how to parse sentences by a McCowen. The Board of Supervisors and County staff needs to stop parsing words, phrases, and sentences with Grand Jury reports and make public the specifics of how the privatized mental health contract was awarded, down to the details of how the evaluation methodology for that contract was concocted/created. Personnel privacy regulations may preclude the naming of the five “staff” members who scored the bids for the mental health contracts, but the person who scored a zero for Optum should have the ounce of integrity it would take to step forward and face the music. Did the County or BOS employ a system of scoring in which wildly out of the norm (high or low) scoring was discarded? These and many more questions need to be answered and published publicly or the Ortner contract is going to forever be tainted with the appearance of not only a conflict of interest, but also tainted by ethical and/or legal questions.

The Grand Jury's “Findings” regarding an appearance of a conflict of interest was only their first report concerning the privatization of adult mental health services in this county. The second report concerned the ineffective nature of the services provided by Ortner over the last year. One of the Grand Jury's findings said that services that should have been in place within 30 days were still not available more than six months after Ortner took over. Of course, our Board of Supes “wholly disagreed” with this finding.

I could go through similar findings by the Grand Jury and denials by the Board of Supervisors, but let us simply examine what happened in Fort Bragg on the first Friday of September, 2014, 14 months after Ortner took the reins of privatized adult mental health care services.

At approximately 5:30 Friday, Serptember 5, 2014, the Fort Bragg Police Department responded to a possible self-inflicted gunshot victim near the corner of Chestnut and Franklin Streets. Fort Bragg Police officers took the suicidal person to the emergency room at Mendocino Coast District Hospital where they waited for someone from adult mental health to respond to the crisis. That mental health service person is the responsibility of Ortner Management Group (OMG). At 7:22pm Todd Harris of Ortner was contacted by a concerned citizen. At 7:32 Harris returned that person's call with the information that someone from Ortner was on their way to the ER in Fort Bragg. On their way two hours later! This would be worthy of multiple exclamations if it were not still the norm for such occurrences. And yet our Board of Supervisors has the temerity to criticize the Grand Jury for calling Ortner into question for failing to provide adequate mental health services!

At a Public Safety Committee meeting on Sept. 12th, a citizen asked a representative of Fort Bragg's Police Department if officers are required to remain at the hospital with a prospective mental health patient like the suicidal person from the previous Friday evening. The response was, “Yes,” if that person is deemed a danger to themselves or others. The citizen asked a further question, “Is Fort Bragg PD being paid by Ortner for the manpower hours lost due to such a lengthy wait?”

The  answer was, “No.”

During these questions and responses, Fort Bragg City Manager Linda Ruffing was observed taking copious notes. Perhaps she and the City of Fort Bragg may be requesting just such recompense from Ortner in the future.

Readers who have not already taken a serious look at Mark Scaramella's reporting on this subject should get hold of his August 27th and September 10th pieces in the AVA.

The bottom line fellow citizens is that we are saddled with a Board of Supervisors who cannot see the handwriting on the wall. On the subject of mental health services Mendocino County's Grand Jury saw wrongs and tried to shine a light on those wrongs. Our Board of Supervisors and the higher ups in County Staff have responded with the equivalent of a royal F-U because they think no one out there in the populace is paying enough attention to catch them in their own wrongdoing. That wrongdoing is plain and simple: Not providing for a thoroughly open and transparent bidding process for Mendocino County's awarding of a contract for adult mental health services.

Their further wrongdoing involves the ongoing cover-up of that nefarious process and the blind monkey approach to oversight when it comes to the incredibly ineffective implementation of adult mental health services by Ortner Management Group (OMG). Preeminently culpable in this ongoing clusterf**k is the Board of Supervisor's two-faced representative to the County's Mental Health Board. That person is Fifth District Supervisor Dan Hamburg.

Wake up Dan, somebody's calling you out! A double wake up for the Mendo Lib power brokers who foisted this sorry sack of phony progressivism on us!


  1. Joan Hansen September 17, 2014

    Great letter Malcolm, It is very frustrating to see little or nothing done for the Coast mentally ill. Dan Gjerde is the only one who seems to take an interest. Some day maybe we can see justice done. Joan

  2. Eric Wilcox September 18, 2014

    Eric “Likes” this story.

  3. Nancy September 18, 2014

    The Mental Health Advisory Board was informed yesterday that County Counsel and Grand Jury legal advisor, Doug Losak has determined that County department heads are not required to respond to the Grand Jury. So don’t waste your time looking for Mr. Pinozotto’s response…there isn’t one. Also the HHSA response (referenced in the BOS response) is not on the GJ website because HHSA/Stacy Cryer did not provide the GJ with an electronic copy for posting.

    Is the County trying to silence the Grand Jury?

    Draw your own conclusions.

  4. james marmon September 18, 2014

    Psychologist Irving Janis defines groupthink as: “a mode of thinking people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ striving for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action. Groupthink refers to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures.”

    Read more:

    • Jesse Dugger September 20, 2014

      Thats nice I suppose if i disagree with the above assessment I am guilty of groupthink please get a life! Every body attacking Ortner is guilty of bandwagoning!

      • james marmon September 20, 2014

        Group protectors – the spontaneous emergence of individual members who protect the group from conflicting information and perceived threats.

  5. Jesse Dugger September 20, 2014

    Mike Scaramella’s piece is muckraking at its best and you Mr. Macdonald need to go back to the farm. Your brand of yellow-journalism does the community no service but actually are becoming part of the problem by tainting the efforts of Ortner/ICMS and blaming them for the problem. The fact is they are part of the solution and in a sense are the only solution to fix the perennially defunct system of county Mental Health Services. I hear you talk about you pedigree as a Mendo resident and I must say I’m impressed (snort), now why don’t you sit down and milk a cow while someone who actually knows the score breaks it down for you. I am a current employee of Integrated Care Management Solutions/Ortner Management Group, I am a former direct services provider for the County Mental Health Department and prior to that I was was a client of County MH. I am a former member of the California Network of Mental Health Consumers (the lobbying group responsible for the MH Services Act Law). In my time working for the County I was part of a beautiful committed team of former consumer providers and worked with some amazing individuals. I witnessed first hand the dismantling of MH Services in our county and was my self one of the victims of cutbacks that started because of County mismanagement. The county in my experience has always had trouble delivering MH services but it became impossible for the county to manage properly because of 2 things: 1) During my time with the county I saw the implementation of HHSA an administrative decision that came from the feds to lump together the 3 siblings; Department of Social Services, Public Health and Mental Health. The reason was simple, deliver services in a continuum that lets consumers receive the services they need in a wraparound community based fashion, lower the amount of red tape and eliminate redundancy. It was well intentioned but a complete and utter failure. The reason it failed is that DSS is the mean older bigger step sister and they used flexed their muscle, sent their hatchet women to cut services because they cost to much and at the same time they added layer after layer of middle management all imported from DSS. 2) The recession hit yes it was a real thing there was panic and MASSIVE cutbacks. Now lets talk about the real reason MH services have become privatized, its pretty dam simple the county couldn’t handle it. As the result of a 2013 Medi-Cal audit of fiscal year 2007-2008 the county was fined between .8 and .9 million dollars for 8 instances of non compliance with Medi-Cal regulations. As a former consumer and a current professional in the Mental Health field I am appalled at how easily you can discredit a company who is providing the best MH services that we have had in Mendocino County in the entirety of my 15+ year experience. OMG has a commitment to client centered services, they are expanding services rapidly taking on medication management with the addition of a new shot clinic, they are currently expanding services in the coastal area, they made sure that the Manzanita Drop In (MHSA mandated client centered services) didn’t get nixed… I could go on and on about what this company is doing for the community and what it will mean for us in the future but what you really need to take way from what I’m trying to say is stop attacking the appearance of impropriety and look at what is actually being delivered to the community.

    • james marmon September 20, 2014

      Mr. Dugger
      So, what you are suggesting is that “the end justifies the means” and that we should turn a blind eye to the any appearance of any impropriety that has taken place and/or is still currently taking place due to Mr. Pinizzotto’s continued level of involvement in overseeing and reporting progress to the Mental Health Board and the Board of Supervisors?

      It is my opinion that an outside evaluation of the mental health service delivery should be conducted immediately, and that Mr. Pinizzotto is not allowed to continue to influence the outcomes. I too watched Mendocino Mental Health be systematically dismantled by the county officials (including Mr. Pinizzotto) so that the privatization of services could be achieved.

  6. Jesse Dugger September 20, 2014

    One More thing needs to be pointed out here… the events of Sept 5th 2014 as described here are absolutely dead wrong, false, not the facts.

  7. malcolmlorne September 20, 2014

    Jesse Dugger is certainly entitled to Jesse Dugger’s opinion; however Jesse Dugger misses the big picture point: that the process of granting the county’s privatized mental health care contract to Ortner Management Company (OMG) was performed in a cloud of uncertainty if not secrecy. The Grand Jury pointed this out. The Board of Supervisors and HHSA higher ups have chosen to utterly dismiss all questions about the process that awarded the mental health services contract to Ortner. If Jesse Dugger knows exactly how that process occurred, from creation of the point system to who created that system and the criteria for that point system, he can explain it to the less informed public right here in the AVA.
    Jesse Digger is also ignoring another big picture point concerning the Board of Supes rep to the County Mental Health Board, Dan Hamburg. Being that rep and having mental health issues within his own family, Mr. Hamburg should not blithely dismiss the reports of the Grand Jury. Hamburg and the BOS are following in a dangerous pattern established by recent County officials in snubbing their noses at significant findings by Grand Juries in a variety of areas, not just mental health. Jesse Dugger is correct in saying that the County’s operation of adult mental health services has been abysmal in the years leading up to Ortner getting the privatized contract, but Jesse Dugger needs a broader historical brush to fully understand mental health services in this county and state. Fifty years ago, Mendocino County had dozens more full time psychiatrists and college educated licensed clinical social workers on the job 24/7 than it has today. The incident on September 5th in Fort Bragg is typical. Despite Jesse Dugger’s protestations, the incident did occur around 5:30 p.m. I know this because I spotted it on an internet site tuned into police scanners. I verified it with another person listening in live to the police scanner. At least one Fort Bragg PD officer accompanied the individual to Mendocino Coast District Hospital. This is verified by questions and answers at the Fort Bragg City government Public Safety Committee meeting held the following Wednesday. Another source revealed the timeline of phone calls made to Todd Harris of Ortner, including a return call from Todd Harris after 7;30 p.m in which Harris stated that a mental health crisis responder was on the way – in other words not yet present at Mendocino Coast District Hospital. Perhaps Jesse Dugger has some tiny quibbles to add, regarding this particular incident, but, again, the big picture truth remains: Ortner is incapable of supplying timely 24/7 crisis response on the Mendocino Coast, well over a year after being given the adult mental health services contract for all of Mendocino County. In addition, law enforcement officers are being compelled to spend inordinate amounts of their time “babysitting” for clients who are the responsibility of adult mental health care service providers. On a personal level, Jesse Dugger apparently has no knowledge of the difference between a ranch and a farm nor a dairy cow from beef cattle. He also demonstrates an utter lack of knowledge of this writer’s personal and family history within the mental health field. I would suggest that Jesse Dugger do a lot more research before questioning the journalistic ethics of this writer or any other.

  8. Helen Michael September 20, 2014

    The county could no longer provide MH services because they eliminated all the staff who did so. A self-fulfilling prophecy. SEIU 1021 Mendocino chapter entreated numerous times to be a part of the process to develop the RFP for Mental Health services and were totally shut out of the entire process. We have questioned the “appearance of impropriety” between Ortner Management Group and Tom Pinizotto from the very outset and of course our questions remained unanswered. This has been a muddy lagoon from the very start. I don’t see that changing without any legal impetus.

  9. Beth Bosk September 20, 2014

    I really appreciate Malcolm’s passion, persistence, and (most commendably), his lack of patience, refusal to be put off. –beth bosk

  10. Jim Updegraff September 24, 2014

    My, my, Mr. Macdonald certainly sparked a firestorm. As I read Mr. Dugger’s comments the more I think he doth protest far too much. He does have a thin skin.

  11. malcolmlorne September 25, 2014

    After being contacted by 4th District Supervisor Dan Gjerde, further research leads me back to the August 26, 2014 Board of Supervisors minutes, which indicate: “Upon motion of Supervisor McCowen, seconded by Supervisor Brown, and carried (4/1, with Supervisor Gjerde dissenting); IT IS ORDERED that the Board of Supervisors approves the Board of Supervisors responses to the 2013-2014 Grand Jury report and authorizes the Chair to sign same.”
    My apologies to Supervisor Gjerde for lumping him in with the other four supervisors in their response to the Grand Jury reports concerning mental health services.
    As I pointed out elsewhere in the article Mendocino County’s Mental Health Board would be better off with a Board of Supervisors liason such as Supervisor Gjerde than it is with the wildly inconsistent present Board rep, Dan Hamburg.

  12. Name withheld October 7, 2014

    I have worked with most of the folks discussed in this article – and I am thankful I do not any more. I believe this is the most accurate description of the dysfunctional inter workings of the County Board and ‘Executive Office’ I have seen to date. This group is not evil or corrupt, but they are completely convinced they are knowledgeable and right at all time. They are in capable of changing their position and incorporating new facts. The County is now run by a group of people with a long lists of “friends” and “enemies” and little knowledge of the law of proper management.

  13. Mark October 9, 2014

    I formally was the Director at the Access Center in Ukiah and I will say that Dr. John Riley, Todd Harris, Mark Montgomery, Jessica Riley and Jeff Payne together with Tom Ortner have lied constantly to the public, county and worst of all, their employees. I am not able to say much more than BUYER BEWARE! When I no longer tolerated the charade that OMG was pulling off and began to ask questions and defend my employees, OMG, including all listed above just simply lied. Much more will be heard from me as well as others…

  14. M Innes March 30, 2015

    Hamburg should have nothing to do with mental health services, given that a large percentage of people who suffer mental illness are people with PTSD caused by sexual abuse. My personal experience with Mr. Hamburg, sexual abuse, and PTSD is that I developed it from being sexually abused by a teacher at Hamburg’s former Mariposa school.

    I told his wife Carrie at the time that it was happening. It’s hard for me to believe that she did not tell him then. Yet the abusive teacher remained a teacher for the next 38 years, without any apparent inkling that he did anything wrong.

    If Carrie did not tell Hamburg then, I certainly did when I sent him a signature required, return receipt letter in August of 2009. He never replied, and the man who abused me went on teaching. But he did write to me recently, admitting what he did.

    Happily, someone (not Hamburg) told me I should file a complaint with the California Department of Teacher Credentialing against this teacher, which I did, seeing that the individual still has three active licenses to teach in public schools. Including working as a Resource teacher, with children with behavioral and cognitive challenges.

    Which brings me to Mr. Hamburg’s hypocrisy in his writings and declarations about autism spectrum, another behavioral/mental health issue. Hypocritical in my view, because I myself have a professional diagnosis of an autism spectrum condition, not that it was recognized when I was a student at Mariposa. But it does demonstrate how Hamburg is willing to crow about the issue when it suit or serves him, while ignoring a situation in his own past that is connected to both mental health and autism.

    I hope for all mentally disturbed and disabled people of Mendocino County that Dan Hamburg wakes up and goes off to drink his coffee somewhere else besides the Mental Health board meetings. The mentally injured and neuro-diverse deserve a more compassionate spokesperson. Thankfully, I don’t live in Mendocino County any more.

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