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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
August 11, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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August 11, 2010

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Feath 12A Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010 Supervisors revisit Brown Act violat Joshua Sebold Staff Writer jsebold@plu The Plumas County Board of Supervisors' first meeting in August featured a discus- sion of the circumstances around a Brown Act viola- tion that happened at the board's last meeting in July. The violation occurred when the board adjourned its meeting and was prepar- ing to leave while Indian Valley supervisor Robert Meacher glanced at his e- mail and read a particular message from county audi- tor Shawn Montgomery, in which she warned supervi- sors and department heads that a cash flow issue was looming. The board, perhaps con- cerned by the double-digit number of exclamation points in the subject head- ing, reconvened its meeting and called the auditor into the room for an unscheduled meeting, violating the Brown Act. By the accounts of board members, the auditor and a member of public who was in the hallway at the time and was invited into the meeting, there appeared to be no nefarious intent on the supervisors' part in calling the technically illegal meet- ing. A more thorough account of the incident may be found in the July 21 issue of the pa- per. This article chronicles the board's discussion at its next regular meeting about how this situation could be avoided in the future. Quincy supervisor Lori Simpson suggested the audi- tor should be more careful with her mouse and key- board in the future. "This is a very stressful time, especially for general fund people. That e-mail, Shawn, you sent out basical- ly was 'the sky is falling, the sky is falling.' "(When) you sent that out you alerted us to the cash flow, the budget officer wasn't here, what'd you ex- pect people to do, what were we supposed to do?" "Exactly what I wrote in there, until we can reassess it, can we watch expendi- tures that we don't have to make?" Montgomery re- sponded. "That's what we ask. If ex- penditures were made that were exceeding our reserves I would have stopped paying all the bills and then I would have come to you." Montgomery also ad- dressed Simpson's "the sky is falling remark," by adding, "I apologize that it came off that way." Simpson continued her point, "I know, please, I just ask that you use some dis- cretion on your e-mails. "The sky already fell, let's face it, it fell. Now it is time for us, elected officials, pub- lic servants, to project some confidence that we're able to handle situations and keep breathing. "I for one don't appreciate those type of e-mails. I think it's critically important at this time how you send them out, anything alarming or threatening, I'm going to call you guys on it; Tm sorry." "You should, you should," Montgomery agreed. County Administrative Of- ricer Jack Ingstad, who was out with a medical issue at the previous meeting, de- fended ' Montgomery's strongly worded e-mail, telling Simpson, "I think you have to keep in mind that we balanced this year's budget with $535,000 of one- time monies that won't be there next year." "I'm aware of that. I was on the budget committee," Simpson interjected. Ingstad continued his point, "I really don't think we have said the sky is falling. "I think every year since I've been here we have bal- anced this budget and worked through very diffi- cult problems and I think we've done it again. Howev- er I do agree with Shawn that the bag of tricks is about gone." Simpson agreed that at times things could seem pretty scary, "but let's try to project some confidence in what we're doing to handle the situation." "Well, I think we do. You can ask the newspaper. When I was asked to respond to the information I think I was able to explain to him (reporter Josh Sebold) that I'm not quite as concerned," Ingstad contended. "But that makes me con- cerned that Shawn put out the e-mail. You weren't here, you're going cover for her," Simpson argued." "No, that's not true, Lori, that's not called for," Mont- gomery disagreed. Ingstad continued, "She (Montgomery) deals with numbers on a daily basis so it's kind of like watching the stock market on your screen. "She sees it hourly so she gets really nervous. I don't look at it hourly. I'm a bud- get officer. I look at it for the next year or two years, and so my job is a lot easier. "She actually can see the checkbook going blank agd can't pay the bills and she's thinking 'I'm not going tobe able to pay the bills, wh~t am I going to do here? Y_~u know I have got to keep the county running." "But that should be an in- ternal thing," Simpson st~g- gested. "No, I disagree with that," Montgomery answered. "I can word it better, you're right, I can word most of my e-marls better." "When I word my e-mails going internally I kind of consider us family, that we're just saying it like it is. Obviously we're not and I will keep it on that level." Eastern Plumas supervi- sor Terry Swofford said he didn't think anyone at the county should be dissuaded from sharing information about a problem with the board. Montgomery said she would only send this type of e-mail to the supervisors next time and they could de- cide whom to pass it on to. Chairwoman and Chester supervisor Sherrie Thrall argued that was the opposite approach of what she thought should happen. She told the auditor an e- mail like this should be sent to the management council, made up of county department heads, not the supervisors. "We don't meet in time enough to address that kind of issue so you need to be de- termining those kind of needs at a much lower level than the Board of Supervi- sors." "It's not our job to call de- partment heads and say 'stop spending money.' It's your job to warn them. "We only meet three times a month and we obviously cannot have discussions out- side of those meetings of BUDGET, from page 1A cuts, if necessary, would probably be different than in prior budget cycles. "We have cut and cut and cut at the worker bee level. We've done that to the point where we have impacted the ability of some of our de- partments to function in case of an illness or disabili- ty." She added, "We have start- ed a process now where we're doing performance re- views with all of our depart- ment heads. We are asking them to set goals. "We are looking at the po- tential for combining de- partments and thereby re- ducing some of the really high-paid overhead that we're looking at. "We will be looking at re- tirements of some of the peo- ple who are like assistant di- rectors or something at that mid-year. "Now hopefully we won't need them, but when the time comes and we do need them is not the time to start trying to figure them out. . "We really can't afford to get rid of any more of our worker bees." Ingstad ended the meeting with some good news. "There are economic indica- level. We've already had tors that I'm getting from some people come in with different businesses some very good ideas, throughout the county that "We know that we have a are very positive." situation that we have One lodging provider in to have some options at the Whitehawk area was 'r River Bulletin on those kinds f issues, so some things Lat are really time sensitive and could be really hurtf~ need to be handled and a~; an elected of- ficial it's your job to handle them." Swofford ad[ led he thought department ht ads shouldn't share scary bl dget informa- tion with theiI staff. "Some of th.= department heads passed Lhis informa- tion on to sore e of the lower people in their department and I think th~ Ws where the panic came z]~ and I think that needs to be addressed that stuff like this shouldn't go any furthel than depart- ment heads." Thrall assm ed the public the budget s ~bcommittee was still meet: ng to keep up with new bud,. this to keep o] developments. "I think th~ problem was really clear w] expected, am was 'ff this is situation that et issues like top of future t mainly the hat it wasn't zat the e-mail i my feeling an emergency we need to do something v~ith and the board's not meeting for three weeks,, we need to know it. "I'm sorry if that stepped on people's toes, but some- times I think the bigger re- sponsibility tlo the county outweighs some of that." having its best summer in four years. The CAO said the county's goal was shifting to help achieve that type of result for local businesses, instead of trying to attract new ones. "We realize that now is not a time to be attracting new business into the coun- ty, because nobody's being successful doing that. What we need to do is encourage people to keep their busi- ness open and come up with new ideas tomake more money." consultation, wall orl, that when combined, will retied your li[eslyle. HAND-C~FTED FURNITURE by Jacob Morrison o[ Rustic Tree Creolions. IN-HOUSE SERVICES AVAILABLE BY MADE INTHE SHADE featuring a selection of wood shutters~ wood PAID POLITICAL ADVERTISEMENT "B" is for "BAD" BAD for the ladies BAD for our babies BAD for our children BAD forthe men BAD for our health BAD-for our wealth Vote NO on "B" and Save Our Hospital PAID FOR BY THE COMMITTEE TO SAVE OUR HOSPITAL L....L ..................................... 1~ ................................. J l . __