Supervisors respond to grand jury report
“The Board as a whole seems oblivious to what is really going on in the departments under its supervision,” the grand jury wrote in its annual report.
“Since this is a statement of opinion, rather than fact, the Plumas County Board of Supervisors disagrees with this ‘finding,’” the board wrote in its official response, released Oct. 16.
The supervisors had 90 days to respond to the grand jury report, which was received by the clerk to the board July 26.
County Counsel Craig Settlemire crafted the response with input from the supervisors. The board reviewed a draft document and Supervisor Lori Simpson suggested that more specific details be added. Those remarks were incorporated in to the final document.
In its response, the board at times agreed and at times disagreed with the grand jury’s various findings and recommendations.
Many of the items focused on county saving and spending, as well as retiree and health benefit funding. For the most part, the two entities agreed on the county’s financial status, though not always on the details.
But when it came to the grand jury’s assessment of the board, disagreement reigned.
Board responds to critique
In addition to the “oblivious” observation, the grand jury asserted: “One of the trends among the Board of Supervisors was the attitude that ‘someone should do something, but I am only one member.’”
The board responded: “The members of the Plumas County Board of Supervisors disagree with this finding and the implication that it applies to the entire Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors acts by way of a majority vote of its members; an individual member cannot act by himself or herself alone.”
As for the finding that the board was “oblivious to what is really going on in the departments,” after disagreeing with that assertion, the response went on to say that the grand jury contradicts itself by “accusing the Board of Supervisors of not supervising department heads, and then saying the department heads should not to speak to members of the Board of Supervisors, but ‘only a STRONG CAO.’”
The supervisors reminded the grand jury that they attend management council meetings, meet individually with department heads, and that open communication is encouraged.
The report also called the supervisors to task for not having a policy that addresses evaluations, supervision or discipline of department heads, and asserted that the supervisors do not perform timely evaluations of their job performance.
Again, the supervisors disagreed with the grand jury’s findings, and directed the grand jury to the county’s personnel rules. “As with other employees, this rule or policy was interpreted to require an annual evaluation of appointed department heads. However, in practice not every appointed department head is evaluated every year, since not every appointed department head is entitled to a step, merit, or longevity increase every year.”
The grand jury recommended that “The Board of Supervisors install a STRONG leader in the CAO position; a leader of strong moral charter (sic) who can stay above and not be swayed by the politics of public office.”
The board does not intend to fill the position this fiscal year, but will discuss the possibility during the 2013-14 budget process. “If the position is to be filled, the Board of Supervisors will seek a candidate with the attributes described in the recommendation,” the supervisors responded.
The response went on to say that the supervisors and department heads are addressing the duties normally handled by the CAO.
“Some public have stated that they prefer that the Board of Supervisors do the job of a CAO and save money which is currently happening this fiscal year,” the supervisors wrote.
Sick leave policy
The grand jury recommended that the county adopt a new sick leave policy for its employees and implement a “cap” to the amount that an employee can accrue. “This benefit should be used for being sick, not as an additional perk to an employee’s retirement plan,” the grand jury wrote.
The supervisors said that the recommendation had been partially implemented and that a cap of 500 hours had been negotiated with some employees.
“Extension of such a policy to other employees will be subject to future negotiations with other employee groups,” the supervisors wrote.
The grand jury also recommended that the “County needs to set up a separate Extended Sick Leave policy for its employees.”
“This recommendation will not be implemented because it lacks sufficient detail,” the supervisors wrote and added that it seemed to be inconsistent with the grand jury’s prior recommendation.
The grand jury challenged the board to “take steps to work together as a cohesive and functional unit.”
The supervisors said that they generally agree with the recommendation, but noted that the supervisors represent different geographic areas and also have diverse points of view.
“As a result, there are occasional differences of opinion among the board members as to the best interests of Plumas County and its residents,” the supervisors wrote. “Such differences are resolved by a majority vote of the board.”
As for several recommendations regarding the jail, the supervisors noted repeatedly that the sheriff is charged with “the sole and exclusive authority to keep the county jail and the prisoners in it.”
The supervisors added that they would “of course, seriously consider the Sheriff’s requests and recommendations with regard to communications in the jail in the light of overall County resources and needs.”