Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

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?


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.










9 thoughts on “Did BOS Chairman Howard and Sup. Cowan flunk ethics training?”
  1. I think all agency’s should have a treasurer’s report included on each agenda.
    All of DNC agency’s are funded with tax payer’s dollars and taxpayers are entitled to see how their tax dollars are being spent. The transparency needed could be accomplished by including the treasurer’s report on each agenda from each agency.
    It would make the Treasurer of an agency the responsible party for reporting accurate balances for all money deposited or withdrawn from an agency’s account.
    With a mandatory Treasurer’s report on each agenda from each agency the taxpayer’s could be relieved of the “wild goose chase” looking for their tax dollars that could possibly be included in the “REQUEST FOR FUNDS (FROM SOME AGENCY) GOING TO (ANOTHER AGENCY) at the end of the Supervisor’s Agenda.
    A treasurer’s report would provide “THE TAXPAYER’S BUCK STOPS HERE!” place. If any person from any agency wants to “borrow” another agency’s money it would be included on two treasury reports, the borrowing agency and the lending agency. And the taxpayer has a record of how much money was paid back and when it was paid back from the account balances on the treasurer’s report from the lending agency and the borrowing agency. The transactions would be reflected and be balanced in each agency’s treasurer’s report. Taxpayers could object to and reject loans and projects and all conflict of interest expenditures before they got going.

    When there is a consistent place to record all expenditures the public can be alerted to unauthorized projects trying to sneak in from the back door. What project? The one that Lori Cowan was getting $26,000 dollar for.
    For what? The 4 bedroom house some women would share who want to get sober. Mental Health said they may need it for living expenses. Is this through mental Health?
    No, it is a self sufficient home to get sober. Sober houses are not entitled to gov. funds. Only halfway housing. Halfway houses have a lot of criteria included in order to operate.—s-the-difference-between-sober-living-and-halfway-houses
    Without the correct agency and a treasurer’s report $26,000 could get “lost” real fast!
    If it has not been determined which agency is in charge of the program, then how would you know if you were creating a halfway house or a sobriety living situation. And how could supervisors vote on a program they are not familiar.
    With the departure of McClure, (and the knowledge of her Coastal Committee Corruption,) and Finnigan, I thought all the wheeler dealer grants and low interest loans popping up from who knows who or where, was over. It seems like Cowan and Howard are here to join Hemmingson in voting for special interests. Watching these 3 supervisors is like watching a very poorly written play. Where does Cowan get off demanding a personal apology from Gitlin. The three stooges are trying to make Gitlin appear to be some kind of aggressive, self absorbed person.
    What did Hemmingson say about Gitlin? ““I think there’s maybe some misinterpretation of what a board member’s job is,” said Supervisor Gary Hemmingsen. “We’re not the Gestapo or Nazis. We don’t go knocking on people’s doors and force our way in to satisfy our own needs.” Did you ever hear of David Egan, Mr. Hemmingson? That is exactly what Happened to a citizen while on your watch. And what did you have to say about that? Not a damn thing!
    What did you have to say about the Chief Probation officer who embezzled money from the probation fund? “Oh, he did not embezzle that money. He used it for gambling. He was going to put it back!” You are a self-serving, bottom dwelling hypocrite.
    Cowan, how much money did you borrow? Was it for your own personal business? How much did you pay back? What happened to the business? Where do you get off apologizing for Gitlin? The only way you got elected to office was by associating yourself politically with the Honorable, intelligent, ethical Mr. Roger Gitlin and Bob Berkowitz. You told the public that Last Chance Grade was a priority and agreed with everything Roger and Bob said needed done to fix it in five years. As soon as you were elected you slithered back under your rock and joined the two quarter wits. You may have lied your way into office this time. I bet it does not happen again.

  2. Their shakra is off vibe based on the last time I attended a meeting. We need to give them all shards of rose quarts.

  3. Director Heather Snow did say what the money was going to be used for. Their RENT. That is what the problem is. Because the women are suppose to be working and paying 400.00 per person for rent, thereby making this the self funded program that it was intended to be. That is not the case.

    All of the Supervisors failed this issue. None of them did any due diligence on this matter and it is sickening to watch them collect a phenomenal amount of taxpayer money each month with benefits when they are not doing their JOB. Del Norte County is spiraling and it is not for the better.

    I really hate going to these meetings only to discover none of them did any research on any of the items on the consent agenda. you can always tell because they don’t have anything to say. They all rubber stamp each item without public discussion. There is no leadership here only clowns who enjoy spending their champagne diet on a water budget.

  4. Excuse me…just because Lori Cowan was able to wave a paper from the FPPc in front of the camera stating that there’s no conflict, in no way establishes that she’s doing her job right!

  5. Donna, thank you for the additional info. You can add to your list of bizarre behavior from Supervisor Cowan- the video I watched shows her admonishing a speaker because he indicated the Oxford property was a four bedroom house. If the Supervisor googled Zillow, the house is in fact listed as a four bedroom. No doubt someone went in there and sheetrocked additional rooms. Supervisor Cowan also admonished the speaker regarding a, “transient” nature created by the residents and visitors, stating where she lives is, “transient.” Guess what, she knew what she was getting when she bought the house. Apples to oranges.

    Now, your column answered some of my questions, not all. I did not watch anything on the video that justified approving a 26,000 contract. No tasks, no hours, not cost breakout. Director Snow stated that, “they may not spend all the money.” What kind of accountability for a contract is that? Unless there are additional facts, if I’m sitting up there I am not approving a vague contract for what is supposedly a self-supporting program. I would like to hear from Supervisors Gitlin and Berkowitz about their justification for approving this contract.

    Supervisor Berkowitz, I know you are tired of hearing about this, but brace yourself, there will be a lot more coming.

  6. Donna, would you go on a date with me? After my husband and I got divorced last year I haven’t had a lot of fun in my life. You seem like a fun person, “writing” funny articles like this and doing that stand-up comedy at the public comment section of the BOS meetings. You obviously don’t take life in Del Norte serious at all and that sounds like a lot of fun. You might be my soul mate! We could go to bingo together or maybe go feed the birds!

    1. It doesn’t hurt to ask questions, right? Turns out asking questions is the new prohibited act. Lori asks for travel money to go to Japan. It doesn’t hurt to ask, right? Apparently it does because it helps trigger a recall. Lori asserts it was OK to ask and she’s right.

      In turn Roger asks about the Oxford House and gets attacked by the same person who defends the right to ask questions. But this time the punishment for asking questions comes in the form of (1) a demand that Roger apologize for asking legitimate questions, and (2) false accusations that Roger “forced” his way into the Oxford House Sequoia. So, a new rule is added that it’s OK to punish ‘question askers’ by making false accusations in a forum where the person being accused has no opportunity to defend against the accusations. Reminds me of the McClure era.

      Enough circus for ya? No way! Pursuant to the new rule, Gerry Hemmingson must chime in with repeated attacks against the CC Times, claiming there’s no factual basis for any CC Times stories, based on an OPINION PIECE done by Linda Sutter (clearly titled “opinion piece” in CC Times). It appears to me the attacks are made without understanding the difference between NON-FACTUAL OPINION PIECES and factual news reports. What’s next? Everyone attempting to censor everyone else? Who can team up against another team? Can we stop this pretty soon? Whatever it takes to correct this and at least pretend to be respectful, please do so, even if it means gritting your teeth. We’ll see who can manage to act professionally at the next meeting. I’ll look to Chair Howard to keep some peace.

      My response? I’m going to be asking a lot more questions. To be responsible, my promise is that they will be good, well thought out questions and I will treat the board members no less respectfully than they treat people.

      A little legal trivia by the way — in law, a “person” may be a corporation or other entity (federal bankruptcy law), but an “individual” is distinguished in Black’s Law Dictionary as a natural person. The two are easy to confuse but are distinct, for anyone who may want to correct themselves before the next supervisor’s meeting.

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