Wednesday, September 28, 2022
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A Crisis Becomes a Boon? The Whiplash of Mendocino County’s Financial Status

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Remember opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of MendoFever nor have we checked the letters for accuracy.


[Stock image by Matt LaFever]

Remember a month ago when Mendocino County Supervisors created an uproar by asking the state Controller to step in and take a hard look at county finances? 

Things seems so bad then that the public was left wondering if anyone at the county administration center had a true grasp on the county’s $355 million annual budget, and whether income was keeping pace with spending. 

Board Chairman Ted Williams at the time brashly claimed then that the county had ‘three sets of books,’ leaving he and the other four county supervisors confused and unable to decipher the county’s true financial condition. In an era when the county’s overall monthly operating costs total in excess of $29 million, Williams’ claims grabbed headlines.

So, imagine the surprise the other day when Williams boldly announced that actually, all seems well with the county’s coffers.  

Williams in an official county press release bragged about an upgrade in the county’s overall creditworthiness by a key credit rating service and suggested the current board had triggered some kind of fiscal turnaround.

Williams said there are several key factors for the S&P Global Ratings upgrade to ‘AA’, including the county’s “improved financial position, supported by enhanced financial management policies and practices that (S&P) consider strong.”

Williams, of course, credited the current board and a change in leadership at the county administration center. 

“Leveraging a newfound drive to bolster professionalism, staff and the Board were able to convey the state and trajectory of County finances with inordinate transparency,’ boasted Williams.

“When people asked for the County’s good news, I answer without hesitation: our hard-working staff. Their diligence is reflected in our new, upgraded credit rating, which will benefit bottom-line county finances for many years to come.”

All good and well but in reality, the improved credit ratings has more to do with what was accomplished over the past decade by staff, and not in a miracle month suggested by Williams.

Former county Treasurer-Tax Collector Shari Schapmire said Friday that the budget dance orchestrated by Williams and other county supervisors is clumsy at best.

“The county was in a true financial crisis a decade ago. We didn’t even have a contingency fund,” said Schapiro.

Schapmire said county officials then pulled together, dug deep into county finances, and worked diligently to restore stability.

“It took a lot of effort, time, and hard work but the county enjoys improved credit ratings thanks to the work done over the past decade, and not something done in recent weeks,” said Schapmire. 

Despite the impression Williams suggests about the credit upgrade, Schapmire said “There’s been no quick fix.”

Schapmire, a respected veteran county employee, repeated her past concerns about a push by current board members for a new Office of Finance that county supervisors would oversee rather than oversight is the responsibility of other elected county officials led by the newly combined Auditor/Tax Collector office.

“We really need to have a checks and balance system in place,” said Schapmire.

“Board members clearly did not understand how difficult they have made the jobs of others, and how necessary it is for independent oversight of the county’s budget process.”

Carmel Angelo, the county’s former Chief Executive Officer, also weighed in Friday on Williams’ pronouncement this week. Angelo retired in May after 15 years with the county.

“Elected and appointed county officials for a decade worked to bring Mendocino County out of a global economic downturn,” said Angelo. “Those were the people who were responsible for meeting payroll, developing a very health reserve, and improved credit ratings.”

Angelo said past board members studied the county’s budget, and ‘knew where the money was and how to stretch it.”

Angelo specifically recalled how former county Supervisor John Pinches “carried the county budget book with him in his truck.  He could tell you what page to find any information on the county budget.”

Angelo credited former county Supervisors John McCowen, Dan Hamburg, and Carre Brown for spending “many hours in the CEO’s office figuring out how to assure the county could meet its payroll, pay off our debts and set aside money for the next economic downturn.”

The county’s Debt Committee then was made up of Angelo, retired Auditor Lloyd Weer, former Treasurer-Tax Collector Schapmire, Janelle Rau, and others who developed long-term policies that “…helped assure financial accountability, and an ability to secure low-interest fundings to pay off county debt.”

Angelo said credit ratings for municipal governments do not happen by chance, let alone seemingly overnight. Ten years ago, the county’s credit standing was admittedly shaky at best, she said. Governments at all levels had been hit hard by a global recession, Angelo recalled.

“To say this Board of Supervisors is responsible for an improved credit rating and a transparent form of government negates all the good work of the hard-working, ethical supervisors and county staff over the last decade,” said Angelo.

For Williams to suggest a financial miracle has happened on Low Gap Road during the last month is laughable. His pronouncement underscores a public perception of fun and games in the boardroom at the expense of hard work and diligence.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Just finished watching the documentary ‘All The Queens Horses’. I hope this is not what is happening to all the money, especially the money designated for essential workers. While I agree that it would be nice to have all these upgrades, it would be a hell of a lot better if essential workers received a living wage and all the open positions were filled.

  2. I don’t think that’s quite how it went. The union is in negotiations for a new contract and negotiation a COLA and pay-raise. The county has just been saying that they have no money but refused to provide any evidence by way of financial documents. This is a violation on many levels and illegal. The union filed unfair bargaining practices against the County. The union also wanted to know where the 17+ million dollars is that was pandemic money given to the county. Part of the money was earmarked for the essential workers as a hazard pay for working through the pandemic. Over a thousand of the essential workers contracted COVID in the workplace. Hundreds contracted it 2x, 3x, even 4x in the workplace while the BOS shuttered in their vacation homes and would only appear by zoom. Yes essential workers kept the county going and were forced to serve the public, even people that were known to have COVID and without the proper equipment to prevent infection. These essential workers showed up every day regardless. These essential workers took the COVID home to their families, children, babysitters, etc. some essential workers died from COVID. Some of their family members died. Some are Long haulers Still suffering from having had COVID. Hundreds of these essential workers make little over the minimum wage. Yet once again the county stole money earmarked by the government for county employees and the BOS refuse to say where it is or what they spent it on. Sonoma county paid out part of the funds to their essential workers like every other county. Not MC! not our BOS. While the BOS shuttered in their vacation homes they spent well over a half a million dollars to remodel the BOS chambers and enhance security from the public that they refused to have contact with. They’ve yet to explain where they took that money from. Is the community aware how many county workers are actually homeless, in danger of becoming homeless, home sharing, or their families have food insecurities, and medical problems that have gone untreated because wages are so low and medical insurance so high that they can’t even afford to take care of their own health? Why in the H.,,, do people even wonder why the county can’t keep employees or hire new ones? Is the public aware that the union is actually doing a study among county workers that are homeless. The rent prices have increased so high forcing people out of their homes. One of the things forcing rents so high is the BOS greed in property taxes and the thousands of dollars in added taxes on the Property Taxes for fires, the college, the schools, etc. this BOS has also raised cost of permits to do any repairs on homes and apartments well over 100% in the past few years. All of this gets passed onto the renters. Now they want more taxes for water, Fire, increased sales taxes. It just never ends. They are broke when it comes to the essential workers and begging for taxes but have plenty of money when it comes to giving themselves hefty raises when they don’t even show up to work or when it comes to spending half a million dollars on their personal offices. The BOS also continues to give hefty raises to the highest paid employees in the county while keeping most of the employees at starvation wages. The other day a lady was saying that when she just got hired by the county, her HR paperwork said that she would be getting paid less than minimum wage. She brought it to the county’s HR attention that was illegal. They said, oh your right, that is less than the minimum wage, we’ll fix that. The county has hundreds of jobs like this yet, IN-N-Out Burger starts kids at 18.hour. The BOS thinks this is acceptable. How many employees at the welfare department are also receiving welfare? This BOS steals from the poor and gives to theirselves and then lies about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t have their internet and other things in their homes paid for by the county, voted for by theirselves, while they shuttered in their homes not working. Good working people are leaving this county for a better life while the county purchases more and more hotels for the homeless drug addicts and violently mentally ill. It’s an invitation to come to our county. It’s out of control. Most of our services are going to people from other counties who hitch a ride here because they’ve heard about our services. The filth and crime is out of control yet the BOS continuously spits in the faces of every tax payer in this county while they not only rob their back pockets but spend night and day obsessing on how they can rob the taxpayers front pockets. Disgusted!

  3. Apparently Williams has become pretty astute at the playing of politics. To suggest that the BOS had anything to do with a financial turn around in one short month indicates what he thinks about the intelligence of his constituents and the public in general. Better start looking for a new job

  4. My how the past Officials cover their tracks while the current officials are unable to produce a monthly budget why is that?

    Maybe it is the author who only draws from one side is the one with blinders on?

    • Mr. Williams a month ago created a stir with his remarks about a county financial crisis, and the need for outside state intervention because he said didn’t know which set of books to rely on. A month later, he trots out the improved credit rating press release. Williams suggests he and other current board members and the staff, are responsible. “Leveraging a newfound drive to bolster professionalism, staff and the Board were able to convey the state and trajectory of County finances with inordinate transparency,’ boasted Williams. So, perhaps Williams can share with us, please, what transpired between the earlier pronouncement and the new state of ‘inordinate transparency’?

    • Are you serious? The only one covering their tracks is Bowtie Ted, and he is covering up a massive lie that he has told. Three sets of books, the County is in financial crisis. Credit rating companies do not give you a rating for changes you may have made in a month or too. They look at your last rating, which was year’s ago and judge from there. There is nothing that Bowtie Ted and his band of IDIOTS could do to create this rating. If anything he could have harmed it, by publicly lying about a crisis the rating company could used that to down grade, but I’m sure they figured out he was lying or just plain stupid when they looked at the books.

      As far as past officials covering up, you a 42 year employee who has retired because of this Board. Think about how many Board’s she has had to work with in that time. She retired , the reason, Unable to work with Board of Supervisors!!!!!!!!!! She was the only one who said the County was not in a crisis, the rating going up proves she knows what she is talking about.

      Don’t be fooled people, Bowtie Ted is a massive liar and manipulator. He manipulates the Board every week, Photo-Op Mo votes with him on everything and she represents Ukiah, News Flash Mo, Bowtie’s area is the coast, you live in Ukiah!!!!!! Bowtie has figured out McGourty is just stupid, so he easy prey. Basement Dan will do anything Bowtie wants him to do as long as he can stay in his basement and zoom his life away. And poor Haschak, just outnumbered by these clowns.

  5. And the Truth shall set us free! Thanks for this insight. The news of our improved credit rating seemed so confusing. This makes better sense.

    • Dear Anna Marie,
      This is an opinion piece. ANYONE can submit an opinion article to MendoFever. This guy is NOT a reporter. He obviously has an axe to grind with Ted. Notice how many times he mentions Ted’s name?? The author of this opinion piece thinks that the county credit rating is tied to how much money it has. It isn’t. Even though Mendocino County’s credit rating has improved, we are still just as broke as before. There is no new money.

      • Ted Williams is the focus of the opinion piece because of his public remarks a month ago, and in a press release a few days ago. The comments focused on the state of the county’s finances, and its bookkeeping. Credit ratings are important because they determine how much a municipality can borrow, and at what rate. The county Board of Supervisors, chaired by Williams, intends to do just that. Personally, I don’t know ‘Cathy’ at Ted.Net, but if she asks around she would likely learn that I retired after nearly 30 years with The Press Democrat newspaper, including spending 25 years as head of the Mendocino County News Bureau based in Ukiah.

  6. Of course, Williams in a looney progressive on the politico make who’ll say anything to get ahead although it leaves us all behind. But, Angelo and Geniella dancing cheek to political cheek when it comes to the county coffers while she’s run off to San Diego with a fat pension in her purse? Astonished is what I am. Geniella: wipe that love dust from your eyes and wake up to the essential fact that the unfunded county pension plan will bankrupt everyone in sight.

  7. This is an opinion piece. ANYONE can submit an opinion article to MendoFever. This guy is NOT a reporter. He obviously has an axe to grind with Ted. Notice how many times he mentions Ted’s name?? The author of this opinion piece thinks that the county credit rating is tied to how much money it has. It isn’t. Even though Mendocino County’s credit rating has improved, we are still just as broke as before. There is no new money. The author is mixing facts of two separate financial subjects and doesn’t seem to understand how either of them work. What IS apparent, this is a hit piece. MendoFever should make it clear that is just someone’s opinion, not reporting the news.

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