corruption

Pat Black, “I trust staff to manage the books”

By Donna Westfall

Pat Black

Pat Black

November 24, 2015 Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting: agenda item #3 was pulled for separate discussion from the consent agenda. This item concerned Pat Black’s appointment to the Solid Waste Authority Board (The Board). The public wanted to address that issue later in the meeting rather than have it rubber stamped.

Ms. Black had already been confirmed by the Crescent City, City Council and the confirmation by the BOS was the last step to being appointed to sit on The Board.

Sitting with Pat Black were Dr. Tod Roy, his wife and friends, many of whom got up during public comment to speak in support of Pat’s confirmation. Dr. Roy, infamous for his many mistakes serving as Foreman on the 2014-2015 Grand Jury which resulted in Mary Wilson admonishing The Board listing all the inaccuracies,  and resulted in Roger Gitlin resigning from the Board. As a consequence of Dr. Roy’s actions, no one else from the BOS wanted to be on The Board.  Gerry Hemmingsen and Chris Howard both declined when asked by Chair David Finigan.

Speaking in opposition to her appointment by the public were Connie Morrison, Vici Dickey, Wes Nunn and myself. First of all, I objected to the questions asked during the interview process by The Board.  Instead of asking an inane question about understanding budgets, I would have phrased it this way, “If I were to bring you credible evidence of stealing, embezzlement or illegal activities what would you do?”  That’s what we need on our boards.  People who listen and then take action in response to inappropriate or illegal activities.  Not another bobble head who goes along to get along with Martha McClure, Ron Gastineau and Rick Holley.

Some of the issues revolved around business owners having no one on The Board to speak for them. Mary Wilson was asked if she would serve on The Board again, but rejected the idea after being practically publicly crucified.  Who wouldn’t?  She was insulted, humiliated, and shamed. Dr. Tod Roy did everything in his power to paint a picture of unethical behavior on her part. She defended herself by reciting the facts and won.

In the week prior to the BOS meeting, I attended two meetings where people of the public complained to me thinking that Ms. Black would be another Martha McClure puppet.

Those who attended the Ad Hoc meeting’s years ago remember asking Kevin Hendrick what he did all day on the job. Instead of answering, McClure injected herself into the conversation in order to distract from the subject at hand, which she is very good at doing. Also brought up was to discontinue the use of “pencil and paper” books. Pencil and paper accounting is a sure sign for encouraging embezzlement. Once again McClure didn’t think that was important, because one thing I’ve learned about McClure is that when she wants something done, she gets it done.  Having accurate accounting was not important to McClure nor to Kevin Hendrick. Otherwise, why would they fight it for so long?  Therein is the problem of staff managing the books. And, therein is one of the problems of McClure remaining on the The Board.

There was no issue about Pat Black being a sweet woman.  Everyone agreed on that point. Being a government employee the majority of her working life was an issue. Those of us objecting didn’t want another “whatever government does is fine with me,” attitude. Pat got up and spoke in her own behalf about having experience in the private sector when she and her first husband struggled to run a restaurant together. She kept the books.  She also is involved in her church and DNACA and is familiar with their budgets. Just as I was about to relax my judgment with this new information, she came up and spoke. During her comments she said that she trusted staff to oversee the books.

WHOOPS! Big red flag! And proves the point as to why business people don’t want her on The Board.

Trusting staff and the missing funds:

They (the Sheriff’s Department) have never solved the case of the missing money.  Their page and a half report by former Detective Bob Barber listed two suspects.  Kevin Hendrick, former executive director of Solid Waste was forced to take retirement; and Ellen Brown, administrative assistant who worked there from 1993 to 2009. And I think she also came back part time after that.  She’s retired.  Both were employees of the JPA. They were never interviewed. And there were only three keys to the safe.

Also mentioned during public comment was Treasurer, Ritchie Taylor.  He’s been treasurer/controller of the JPA for 15 or 20 years.  People of the public are also wondering about him:

  1. Why did he allow pencil and paper accounting for 15 or 20 years?
  2. Why did he not question the spending of $300,000 in grant monies earmarked for this area but instead 90% spent outside of our area?
  3. Why did he not know about the theft of the missing monies?

During The Board’s February 11th meeting this year, county resident, Lori Markel got up and said during public comment that Kevin Hartwick boasted to her that Ritchie Taylor taught him every dirty trick in the book.  If that’s the case, were dirty tricks being played on the Solid Waste involving Ritchie Taylor?

This is part of the staff that Pat Black trusts.

Where did I learn about not trusting staff? Sitting on the Crescent City, City Council for four miserable years.

Let’s take a detour

I recall being accused by my fellow council members of micromanaging the wastewater treatment project during the years 2008 – 2012 while sitting on the Crescent City, City Council asking questions that I thought any good elected government official would ask.  After all, we’re dealing with the public’s money. Turns out I was right about a lot of things. After only three years of repaying a $43.8 million loan, the City was in default.   Why was I the only one to ask questions on that council?  Why weren’t the other’s being prudent? Were they part and parcel of the fraud and corruption taking place at the WWTP? After all they were the ones that decided to censure me, remove me from ALL boards I was sitting on, and not allow me to place any items about the WWTP on the agenda. And they used the “Code of Ethics” as their tool to do so.

The Crescent City staff were the one’s that came up with the scheme about repayment of a $43.8 million loan putting it predominantly on the backs of the ratepayers. I predicted it wouldn’t work because the numbers didn’t work. You can thank people like former Public Works Director, Jim Barnts for that.  What happened to his back-up documentation? Why would he lie to the public about the lab paying for itself in 2 1/2 years when he knew darn well that the lab didn’t and doesn’t make a profit.

Trust staff? In the eight years I’ve lived here, I learned that there’s just too much corruption in this town to give any staff in any of our departments a blanket “I trust you.”  Like respect, it needs to be earned.

Ever heard of trust but verify? Apparently former Mayor/Councilwoman, Kelly Schellong, former councilman Dennis Burns, former Mayor/councilman, Charles Slert and sitting Councilwoman/former Mayor, Kathryn Murray do not subscribe to that philosophy.

Back to the issue at hand

Trusting staff is just not a smart thing to do in this County. But that’s what Pat Black would do.

Now who would she be working with on The Board? Chairperson Rick Holley.  They worked together for 18 years while she was a teacher and he was in Human Resources. They know each other well. Holley says, “She’s nobody’s puppet.  That’s an offensive terminology and if you know Pat you know how offensive that really is.”  Why then do so many people of the public have the perception that she would be McClure’s puppet?

rick holley

Let’s quote Holley about Oversight: “There’s a lot of oversight:

  •     1. County Auditor
  •     2. Outside Auditor
  •     3. The Authority Treasurer/Controller
  •     4. The County Treasurer
  •     5. The Executive Director of the Authority”

I agree that’s a lot of oversight.  Let’s revisit who’s who:

1.  County Auditor/Controller  – That would be Clinton Schaad.  He has earned my respect and I trust Clinton and his staff. Whenever I’ve notified him with questions he has always been responsive.  He never sidesteps an issue and if he doesn’t know the answer, he directs me to the people that do know the answers.

2. Outside Auditor – Smith & Newell out of Yuba City, Calif.  I don’t recall having any dealings with them.

3 The Authority Treasurer/Controller – Ritchie Taylor.  I have a problem with Ritchie continuing to be Treasurer/Controller of this organization.  As mentioned above, he didn’t say boo about Kevin Hendrick spending the lions share of $300,000 grant outside out this area.  He didn’t say boo about the missing funds. And he must have been perfectly happy using pencil and paper accounting all those years.

4. The County Treasurer/Tax Collector – Barbara Lopez.  I don’t have a problem with Barbara or her staff.  They have always been responsive to my requests in a timely manner.

5.  The Executive Director of the Authority. This was Kevin Hendrick’s position until he was forced into retirement. Now, Tedd Ward has stepped into his shoes except Tedd told The Board that his acumen is not in financials. Is Rick Holley now stating that Tedd Ward is still part of the financial oversight?

Rick Holley has some very definite views about bankruptcy: “If the interest is in getting a business person here so that they represent the business community that’s one thing  If you’re getting a business person here with the assumption that the business person will be able to evaluate financial records and those kinds of things better than another person I think you may be mistaken.  Not all business are successful.  Some of the people who have talked here today have declared bankruptcy that claim to be good business people.  THAT IS NOT THE KIND OF, …OF,… OF SKILL SET THAT WE NECESSARILY NEED.”

That’s one of the things that irritates me about Rick Holley. His limited focus. Let me remind Rick Holley that some very famous people had to declare bankruptcy. Such as:  Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and William McKinley. Just in case you forgot, they were all Presidents of the United States.

The following business people declared bankruptcy before they became hugely successful:  Henry Ford, H.J. Heinz, Milton Hershey, and Walt Disney.

Bankruptcy is not the end of the world.  The important thing about bankruptcy is to pick yourself up and learn from the mistakes, recuperate from an illness or death in the family, or a collapsing economy, and turn the situation around. That’s called a successful person.

The most famous current politician is presidential candidate, Donald Trump.  Twice his casino’s declared bankruptcy.

The point being that taking risks is part of the skill set of business people.  They are risking their money, time and energy. Who in this County wouldn’t want any one of those types of people mentioned above in our town and on our boards.

After polling the Supervisors Tuesday, November 24th, the vote was one vote short needed to confirm Patricia Black as the public member of the The Board.

  1. “Yes” votes – Chris Howard and Martha McClure  
  2. “No” votes –  Gitlin 
  3. “Abstained from voting” – Hemmingsen and Finigan

 

 

 

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