Take Action! Mendocino County: Demand Community Input On New Leadership! (Updated)


Let’s abolish the title and function of CEO. It should be Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) who is a servant of the citizens and reports to our elected Supervisors. Of course, the title means nothing if the CAO acts like a CEO, as has been the history in this county whatever the title.

We must also have a responsive CAO who will work with our local expertise in moving to alternative energy systems rather than spending millions on consultants from elsewhere.

[Update: And while we are at it, change Supervisor meetings to evenings at citizen’s convenience, instead of Supervisor’s convenience!]

How do we make this happen?

Your thoughts?


Dave Smith for CAO! Give ’em hell, Dave.

Reference the CEO / CAO issue. As an Advisory Board member and part participant in a hiring panel for prospective County Department Heads, the change from a CAO model to a CEO model left a number of significant issues unresolved to this day.

Under the CAO model, the Board of Supervisors(BOS) essentially ran the County and the CAO took advice from BOS. When the system changed to the CEO model, the question arose regarding who these 20-30 Advisory Boards were actually advising. Since the CEO was running the place, the Advisory Boards were no longer advising the day-to-day decision-makers. However, when/if they continued to Advise the BOS, it often created problems about who’s in charge here and will these issued get responded to. Ex Supervisors Delbar and Wattenburger together with Supervisor Pinches (with the assistance and leadership of the CEO’s office) initiated a process to designed to curtail their input. I considered that a blow to participatory democracy and a freezing out of public input into the County decision-making process.

Reference, the historical participation by the public in the selection of County Department heads, under the CEO model, the CEO made those decisions and the public was again frozen out of the County Decision-making process. The net result of not having public participation on the hiring panels let’s the candidate that was ultimately selected for the position know that s/he need only be concerned with the CEO’s opinion of the the running of their department and can easily turn a deaf ear to the public and likely worry less about what the elected Supervisors have to say about their work performance and areas they choose to focus on.

I think the erosion of public input into County Government is a big, not talked about issue and could become a rallying point. Taking back our government is quite appealing these days.

I ‘m not sure if the name is important, although to some it may be. In business a CEO will often put out reports that obscure the lack of action. CAOs can do the same thing. Changing the name to CAO might show that a new and needed change in direction is being done. That might be worth it.
How to make it happen: public pressure. First, interview all the present Supervisors and ask them about the name and management change. What do you need to fix this county? What they would do especially if they got what is sorely needed: a good reporting system. Then interview the candidates as to how and why this would be a good direction. The direction to start with is the good reporting system, which is best described by Mark Scaramella:
“The county has never required formal departmental reporting on a regular basis from their various departments. Such reporting is standard fare for ordinary businesses and should include preformatted reports addressing personnel/staffing, budget status, outside contracts, overtime, extra help, lost time, and the (brief) status of all special projects in the department….
…objectives and assignments are accumulated with status reports each time they make presentations. The Supervisors then gain an understanding of what their departments are doing, what the trends are, what affects their budgets, what can be done to handle them, and surprises will be minimized.”
No more black hole studies.
Then the Supes should immediately cut all management salaries by 10% of anyone making more than $68K, including the Supes who haven’t taken theirs voluntarily. Question all candidates about this move. This will be a start on the budget deficit.

Hear, hear……I quite agree that while the CAO/CEO debate may have some merit, the real issue is getting the right person and my first thought is, let’s get someone who intends to live here, who cares about this community, who wants to build this place in a healthy way, not just use the opportunity to put something on the resume…….Sheilah

Indeed………time to imagine a new model? Could we actually convene and write it up? Imagine ourselves as ‘new founders’?

How one works out re-empowering the public is up for discussion—but in the end, I see disempowering the public as the casualty of the ill-conceived CEO process and re-empowering the public the goal. The existing model was not well thought out.

Reference Department heads, two things: When John Ball consolidated mental Health, Public Health, and Social Services, what essentially happened is 60% of the County workforce now had a single individual (Carmel) reporting to and advocating for the needs of this part of County services. the remain perhaps 10-odd Departments each still had a voice before the CEO. Also, now reporting to the CEO rather than the BOS, the needs of these departments were now filtered and directed by the CEO. This points to the enormous impact the CEO now had(s) on County direction and expenditures. Some of this was needed but a lot was lost. Add to this the emasculation of the Advisory Board input system and the troubles compounded. Based on the results of the Ball debacle, followed by Beltrami’s return, and then Mitchell the BOS are not great on foresight and are poor interviewers

I hope the powers that be take a look at the comments to this post. If more people post, those powers would be hard pressed to ignore what people are saying about how they want their county government to be run. Post away, please!

Unfortunately, I don’t think there’d be much practical difference between the CEO or the CAO model. It’s one of those “structural” things that some people like to talk about but with the kinds of people running and being elected as Supervisor in Mendo these days, having the department heads report to the Board or the CEO won’t matter in any observable way. It does depend on who the person is. Mike Scannell wasn’t a bad CAO and wouldn’t have been a bad CEO either. John Ball was a bit high-handed but that attitude was what the Supes needed — and rejected — and got Mitchell, the exact opposite: no-handed. One test will be what happens to Pinches’ two big pending proposals, whether you agree with them or not: 1. Scout Lake project progress, and Solid Waste privatization. If these two things get moving at least into real proposals then we’ll see that there’s been at least some change. Otherwise, it’ll be do-nothing as usual, on-lookers all.
PS. Please note that very few things on the weekly agenda are put there by the Supervisors, almost all of it is staff driven. There’s no other elected or non-profit board in the County that is so extremely staff driven. Do you think they’d start taking control of their own agenda if they went back to the CAO model? What odds do you give? For example, why doesn’t Pinches, who is the most active supervisor, put the Scout Lake project on the permanent agenda where it would get more attention? That’s his pet project, but he doesn’t even insist that he get a status report every week or every month. Why not? All that needs to happen to move it to the next phase is for Mr. Sanford to draft an agreement for the Boy Scouts to sign. And that’s been pushed back and pushed back for months. It’s arguably the most do-able project on the Supervisors’ plate. None of the other Supes disagree. Sanford has all the building blocks in place. And yet it’s been stalled for months. What does that say about the Board, the Supervisors, the CAO/CEO model and the department heads?
PPS. I agree in part with the comment about the Advisory Boards. But that assumes that the pre-consolidation advisory boards were influential. If they were, I certainly never saw it. We need a law enforcement advisory board with some clout to audit all of the law enforcement inter-related activities and budgets. And the existing advisory boards should go into cost containment mode, otherwise the activity they supposedly advise on may be cut drastically under the budget squeeze. Particularly in areas funded by the General Fund, such as the Sheriff, much of the DA, AODP and most of “internal support.” These boards also have to involve themselves with privatization proposals that will inevitably arise in tight budget times, even though they are frequently no savings and offer reduced flexibility on the part of whatever management is left in Mendocino County.

Ref influential advisory boards, having sat on what was the Public Health Advisory Board (which has morphed into the Health and Human Services Advisory Board), I would say this Board was incredibly influential @ the County level–perhaps second only to the Planning Commission. Also good was was done at times by the AODP and Mental Health Advisory Boards. But these excelled under prior PH Director Carol Mordhorst and prior AODP Director Ned Walsh and their inputs diminished under Mitchell / Angelo / the prior controlling interests @ the BOS

Lost in Translation May 15, 2010 at 1:25 pm

CEO/CAO = power. The board should be making the decision they aren’t. All that’s happening is things are shoved in there face they have a minor debate and then vote. Hasn’t anyone figured out the county has had 6 CEO’s in a 10 year period. Aren’t we just grasping at straws??? Now we have a CEO/Clerk of the Board at the end of her two year contract life in Mendocino County will be different, the home town atmosphere will be long gone, services will be contracted out, and the tax base destroyed. Then we will move on to the next CEO who will undo the damages of the previous CEO and so the cycle continues.