By Donna Westfall – August 10, 2017 – Some people are really good at chairing meetings and then there are those that are not. Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, (BOS) Chris Howard gets classified as really bad at handling meetings particularly when it comes to holding his fellow supervisors accountable for their lack of ethics involving respect and treating each member with civility.
Where do Supervisors learn about ethics?
California State Asssociation of Counties (CSAC)
State law requires elected and appointed officials to receive two hours of training in specified ethics laws and principles every two years. Newly elected and appointed officials must receive this training within one year of becoming a public servant.
What’s the purpose of ethics in government?
Maintaining public trust in the integrity of democratic institutions is essential to the success of representative democracy. In that fundamental sense, ethics and democracy are intertwined. Ethics is concerned with moral duties and how a person should behave.
What are the 3 basic ethical principles?
- remain free from improper influence,
- provide constituents with sufficient information to exercise responsible democratic citizenship, and
- contribute to an effectively functioning [governmental] process.
How can the Del Norte County BOS function properly when Chair Howard allows and encourages dysfunction? All it does is create, contribute to and foster dissension. It remind’s me of the four years I served on the Crescent City, City Council. “Donna Westfall bashing” was a favorite hobby during each council meetings by Charles Slert, Kelly Schellong, Kathryn Murray and Dennis Burns. The only one that acted respectfully was Rich Enea.
Let’s look at the BOS meeting held on August 8, 2017. It appears that Sup. Cowan has made it her mission in life to lecture, chastise, and demean Sup. Gitlin at every meeting. This time is was over the Oxford House Sequoia item for $26,000 of State taxpayer funds. The house is located on Lauff in District 1. Therefore, Sup. Gitlin’s district.
Here are her comments to Sup Gitlin after addressing the members of the public in the audience that are also tenants of the Oxford House Sequoia.
“…and I really believe that Mr. Gitlin here owes you all a public apology for his behavior and statement and knocking on your door and demanding to go in your house and knocking on your neighbors doors and demanding to go in your neighbors house. It’s not OK with me and I hope he does publicly apologize to you guys.”
Look and listen to the tone and tenor of her comment here in the video:
While this is going on, Chair Howard says NOTHING. He could have picked up his gavel and brought it down and admonished Sup. Cowan to stop, but did he? Nope. He did NOTHING. Why? It appears he approves of her behavior. Are they planning on ganging up on Sup. Gitlin for a change? Will they now try to enact a Code of Ethics and try to censure Sup. Gitlin by having 3 gang up against him; Cowan, Howard and Hemmingsen?
WHO HAS THE ETHICS PROBLEM?
Let’s rehash Sup. Cowan’s involvement in this particular issue. Last month she recused herself because of a possible conflict of interest. She doesn’t state what that conflict is. She doesn’t leave the room. Chairman Howard doesn’t admonish her to state the conflict or tell her to leave the room. She then interrupts Sup. Gitlin during the discussion when she supposedly had recused herself and should have been completely silent on the issue. In other words, her actions could have been based on ignorance or inexperience. Chairman Howard’s in-actions though, what were they based on…… complacency?
In questioning Sup. Gitlin this morning, I asked him if he demanded to go into Oxford House?
His response. “Donna, I knocked on their door. I handed them my card and asked to speak to Gene McVae, Programs Director as I was told he was in town and I thought he would be at the Oxford House on Lauff. The woman that answered the door told me he was not there, he was in Oregon. She invited me in to call him.”
I then asked Sup. Gitlin what did he learn in ethics training at CSAC?
Sup. Gitlin responded by saying, “We never want to cause dissension on the board. Demanding an apology does not contribute to a cohesive board.”
Doesn’t it make you wonder why Sup. Cowan didn’t spend 2 minutes talking to Sup. Gitlin in private? Is it because her intent is to publicly embarrass Sup. Gitlin? Does the woman have any brains or common sense or understanding of ethics? I think not. She appears to be acting once again like a real opportunist and playing to the crowd that supports her bad behavior.
You can watch Sup. Gitlin’s 4 minute response here:
This is what it boils down to: He was doing his job. The job the voters elected him to. Last month, I called and asked Sup. Gitlin to investigate what was going on. My neighbor also asked. Neighbors of the half-way house also asked. The BOS was asking to approve $26,000 for a project that states it is financially self-sufficient. Therefore, why should the taxpayers pay a dime? And why does Sup. Cowan think it’s not OK for Sup. Gitlin to ask questions regarding the expenditure of public money?
One can only wish that Sup. Cowan spent as much time researching the expenditures of public money as she does bullying and disrespecting Sup. Gitlin. No one disagreed that it was a good program once we understood what was going on. In my mind, the disagreement came down to the use of taxpayer money being given to a program that is supposed to be financially self sufficient.
Unquestionably, the tone and tenor of Sup. Cowan’s comments is one of disrespect to Sup. Gitlin. And, if she doesn’t change her tune, she’s not someone cut out for public office.
Did you know that there’s a Code of Ethics approved by Congress all the way back to 1958 for all government employees:
- Put loyalty to the highest moral principles and to country above loyalty to persons, party, or government department.
- Give a full day’s labor for a full day’s pay; giving to the performance of one’s duties one’s earnest effort and best thought.
- Seek to find and employ more efficient and economic ways of getting tasks done.
- Never discriminate unfairly.
- Engage in no business with the government…which is inconsistent with the conscientious performance of one’s governmental duties.
- Expose corruption wherever discovered.
- Treat all individuals …in a respectful and professional manner.
Chairman Howard and Sup. Cowan need to sign up for a refresher course in ethics fast because based on how this Board has been functioning the last seven months, I think they must have slept through their initial ethics training course. Or Howard and Cowan just intend to disregard ethics and keep on keeping on with their particular brand of dysfunction. I predict that they will continue to throw ethics out of the window except when it suits them. I also predict they will be a one-term-in-office politician.