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County Notes (Jan. 10, 2018)

Predictably, the Board of Supervisors made the giant 40% pay raise they gave themselves official last Tuesday morning. Albion’s Sherry “Boobs Not Busts” Glaser made the only cogent statement in opposition (see below), the remainder of the remarks being either  irrelevant or the usual nuzzle-bumming from the self-interested, Ann Molgaard’s being as usual the most egregiously offensive. Supervisor Dan Gjerde voted against the raise saying it shouldn’t be any higher than what other department heads got. We’ve argued against these self-awarded raises a lot in the past and there’s no point in complaining about it any more here, except to note that three of the Supervisors who voted for the raise are lame ducks who have already announced they’re not running next term (Only Gjerde and McCowen will remain in office to face voters on this terrible decision, and Gjerde voted against it, kind of.) Also, the Supervisors have now tied their pay and benefits to the department heads’ pay, meaning that when they give their already overpaid department heads another raise they are also giving themselves a raise, creating not only a mutually beneficial double conflict of interest, but a level of cloying sycophancy that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere except a meeting of the County School Board.

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Sherry Glaser, Albion, Public Expression, Board of Supervisors Meeting, Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Glaser: Carmel Angelo is suggesting that you give yourselves a raise. On what merit, other than time passing? $2000 more per month brings your salary to $7000 a month. All of us who you’ve been representing have had a pay cut because of your ineptitude and your inefficiency in passing ordinances and protections. [The recent bust of a legal pot transportation operation called “Old Kai” with a County permit which has received national attention; see below] is a huge symbol of your failure. I am not rewarded at work for failing. I don’t get a raise for that. I got a raise last month for doing a really good job and bringing in revenue. I got a dollar an hour more. So I am not sure why you are getting a raise or why you would vote yourselves a raise? What have you done? What revenue are you bringing into this county? What have you done to bring in revenue? Ms. Croskey, you are new to the board. I don't know why —

Supervisor Hamburg: Please address yourself to the Chair.

Glaser: I don't know why anyone on this board of supervisors should get a raise. I appreciate your response to the fire victims and that you have discussed it among yourselves. But as far as the loss of these families of their legal product [the nearly one ton of marijuana Old Kai was transporting] you have been silent. So this is a $24,000 a year raise. A 40% raise. Meantime, the county is suffering. So many businesses are going out of business. I work at an Inn right now and we have very little business. Everyone is taking a cut. What you just read [the proposed resolution increasing Supervisor salaries] says “the increase or decrease.” I think it's time for a decrease in your salary. Or it should at least stay the same. $5000 a month seems sufficient. More than enough. Or maybe you could be giving the $100,000 or more per year that you'll be getting to firefighters, teachers, mental health. That $100,000 a year or more could really help people. But that’s not what you're doing. You are going to be seeing letters to the editor, radio ads, interviews, fighting this increase. Meantime, Mendocino County is suffering. I want to thank Mr. Gjerde for being a dissenting voice in this pay raise. None of us got paid to come here today. You are always being paid whenever you talk to us. And you limit our conversation. You are constantly telling us not to be redundant and repetitive. Which you are! Constantly repetitive and redundant. Constantly repetitive and redundant. Let us speak. Don't judge us. Don't silence us. Don't shorten our time. Listen to us and respond to us like you work for us. You do! We are your boss. We pay for this. You don't deserve a raise.

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In typical stumbling, pointlessly nitpicky fashion, the newly overpaid Supes and their embarassingly overpaid staff couldn’t even pull off the wording of the new salary ordinance without proving, yet again, that all the bullshit about being great decision-makers and attracting Mendo’s Best & Brightest, is a very dead letter.

After confirming that the ordinance would connect future Supervisors pay raises to both elected and appointed Department heads with Human Resources Department Head Heidi Dunham:

Supervisor John McCowen: I think that the phrase, and I'm looking at the actual ordinance section 30471b, the phrase, In the salary provisions agreed upon, is pretty vague in my mind so I have some alternate language if the board is willing to consider it.

Board Chair Dan Hamburg: And again, this is under b? Were you saying? I'm sorry.

McCowen: Section b of Section 30471b.

Hamburg: (Reading) The Board of Supervisors compensation shall be [unintelligible, mumbling], as provided for [mumbling]…

Board Clerk: Would you speak louder please?

Hamburg: I'm just looking at section 30407b which was referred to by Supervisor McCowen which reads, The Board of Supervisors compensation for services shall be increased or decreased as provided for in a salary provision agreed upon in any future department heads association memorandum of of understanding. Supervisor McCowen, if you could, would you suggest the wording change that you prefer?

McCowen: Yes. And I would strike out the phrase, In the salary provisions agreed upon, and for discussion I would suggest inserting after compensation for services shall be increased or decreased, and then I would suggest new language, Commensurate with the applicable terms and conditions as provided for, because it's more than just the base salary statement, I believe.

Hamburg: And I just want to ask Director Dunham, can you copy that? I mean, did you get that?

Dunham: I did not prepare the ordinance.

Hamburg. Okay.

Dunham: County Counsel…

Hamburg: County Counsel, I'm sorry. County Counsel?

County Counsel Kit Elliott: So if you could just repeat where it says, In the salary provision, so we are taking out, In the salary provision?

Hamburg: We're not taking out, we are just suggesting.

McCowen: Just a suggestion. And then the new language, if we, after we say, compensation for service shall be increased or decreased, the suggestion is, commensurate with the applicable terms and conditions as provided for in any future department heads association memorandum of understanding. And I would also strike the apostrophe because I don't think that's part of the title of the MOU.

Elliott: So yes, I've got that.

McCowen: So between the —

Hamburg: Yes, go ahead, repeat it back. If you would. How would 30471 now read in its entirety?

Elliott: So — I'm looking at section b. The Board of Supervisors, without the apostrophe, compensation for services shall be increased or decreased, um, as provided for —

McCowen: No.

Elliott: Sorry.

McCowen: …Commensurate with the applicable terms and conditions…

Elliott: Sorry. Commensurate with the applicable terms and conditions as provided for in the salary provisions agreed on — No? I'm sorry. I can't do changes on this machine. So if you want to read it back.

CEO Carmel Angelo: Yeah, I think I can do it, I can take a stab at this. I have paper in front of me which our chief counsel does not, so that's a little bit of a difference. The Board of Supervisors compensation for services shall be increased or decreased commensurate with the applicable terms and conditions as provided for in any future department head association memorandum of understanding. Did I capture that?

McCowen: Very well.

OH YEAH. Well worth their high pay. All of ’em. No question. All the way. Mendo’s finest at  their finest! As Hamburg and Elliott said five times: Sorry.

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The Ukiah Valley Sanitation District board has instructed their lawyers (Duncan James and staff of Ukiah) to “negotiate a settlement as quickly as possible,” according to a quote from Ukiah City attorney David Rapport as reported by Justine Fredriksen in the Friday Ukiah Daily Journal. The San District’s position seems to be in line with the priorities of their three newly seated board members who ran specifically because they wanted to see an end to the legal dispute that has been going on for almost four years now.

The City, for its part, has sweetened their recent settlement offer as part of a refinance of a sewer system upgrade bond (loan) which is apparently a better deal for the San District than the initial settlement proposal from mid-December.

There’s plenty of blame to go around since Ukiah controls the central core of the Ukiah Valley sewer system operation, billing and record keeping, which was the subject of the District’s 2014 lawsuit alleging that Ukiah had somehow tilted the system’s revenues and assets in the City’s favor, depriving the San District of millions of dollars over a period of decades.

The 2014 suit alleged that Ukiah had refused address the problem and that was why the suit was filed — which was probably true. And there probably was some money owed the San District, otherwise there wouldn’t be a settelement offer at all.

The suit somehow ended up being filed and heard in Sonoma County and has been stalled while lawyers flail away at each other at hundreds of dollars an hour. The Courts could have forced the parties into early settlement talks, but that would have been too simple and would have gypped the lawyers out of their giant billings. So that didn’t happen.

Ukiah’s latest settlement offer, which the San District now seems receptive to, was precipated when Ukiah’s sharp Finance Director Dan Buffalo noticed that the City and the San District could save a bunch in interest payments if they refinanced now before interest rates go up, as they are expected to do soon. Buffalo has used that basic expectation to put pressure on the Ukiah City Council and the San District to settle quickly.

But the deadline to benefit from the favorable interest rates, according to Buffalo, is January 17, which, given the pace that things have been moving so far, seems unrealistically tight — unless the two boards can somehow muster the highly unusual backbone to get their mutual attorneys to bat out a solid letter of intent to settle in just a few days.

If the task is given to newly seated San District Board member Julie Bawcom who ran on an explicit promise to settle the dispute, there would be a reasonable chance of success. If not, and they miss the deadline, the dispute could go on for years costing both organizations (and their rate payers) hundreds of thousands of dollars more in lawyer fees.

Smart money is on the latter.

One Comment

  1. izzy January 17, 2018

    As above, so below? From Howard Lisnoff in today’s ‘Counterpunch’:

    “…the domestic scene is left to rot on the vine, except for a minority of people, who either control the state, or benefit from the state in ways that keep them silent in the face of the gifts that the state has to distribute or throw at them.”

    Apparently, we’re in the company of giants.

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