Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Leaders Work to Backfill a Multi-Million Dollar Budget Shortfall in County of Mendocino’s Health Plan

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Left to Right: CEO Darcie Antle, 4th District Supervisor Dan Gjerde, 3rd District Supervisor John Haschak, 2nd District Supervisor Mo Mulheren, 3rd District Supervisor Ted Williams, 1st District Supervisor Glenn McGourty [Screenshots from the videocast of the Supervisors’ meeting]

The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors attempted Tuesday to close in on who and what is responsible for the multi-million shortfall in the health plan, which has caused as-yet unknown damage to the county’s fiscal health.  

The county has set aside $4.6 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA funds, to patch the hole in the health plan deficit, which accumulated over two and half years but didn’t come to light until April of this year. In addition to the $4 million projected deficit, this week’s CEO report stated that there was an incurred but not reported loss of $2.6 million in Fiscal Year 20/21.

CEO Darcie Antle reported previously that in fiscal year 16/17, then-Auditor Controller Lloyd Weer said the State Controller recommended spending down an overly robust reserve in the health plan. The county and its employees responded with a health holiday, which means neither party made health insurance payments for three months out of the year for fiscal years 17/18 and 18/19. Supervisor Dan Gjerde identified a key flaw in that approach at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

“It was represented to the Board by the elected auditor, Lloyd Weer, that the State of California was telling him that the reserves were too large,” he recalled. “And that they needed to be drawn down. At the time, their proposal was to only extend the holiday to the employees. Well, the county, the plan sponsor, is paying 75% of the plan. So the Board said, well, we’ll have the holiday, but both parties benefit equally. When employees have a pay holiday, so will the county. What the managers should have said was well, we weren’t proposing that. We’ll need to scale that back to maybe one month, because both parties are having a holiday. They never said that. They just went ahead and implemented a three-month pay holiday for both the employees and the employers and they did not speak up, as they should have, and said, well the math doesn’t work with that.” 

Deputy CEO Cherie Johnson told the Board that Weer was the only one who knew exactly what the communication from the state had been.

“I have not ever seen any documentations from the State, stating that the health plan reserves or savings needed to be drawn down,” she told the Board. “That was information that I had received from the auditor’s office. We did talk with our broker. He had never seen that either, and he said other counties had not received that information.”

Now, in the wake of the pandemic, the deficit is one of many heavy blows to the local economy. Cannabis taxes are lagging in a lackluster market, and the county has yet to see millions in disaster reimbursements from FEMA.

County workers, feeling the pinch of inflation and frustrated by the lack of a cost of living adjustment, or COLA, packed the chambers to overflowing during public comment, with social workers citing staggering caseloads and union leadership warning of an impending worker exodus. SEIU 1021, the county’s largest union, is asking for a 2% COLA, but county negotiators won’t budge.

Antle reported that the county is offering each employee a one-time payment of $3,000 from the ARPA fund, but is asking for a year-long pause in the COLA until last year’s fiscal books are closed. 

In early October, the county switched over from its self-funded health plan to a fully funded plan called PRISM health, an insurance pool for counties and other public entities that allowed employees to stay with their current healthcare providers. Health plan premium increases have been frozen until fiscal year 23/24.

But even with a new health plan, supervisors wanted to talk about how the old plan’s deficit spiraled out of control. Gjerde said the Board got bad information about the health holiday.

“At no time was the Board advised that it would result in depleting all of the reserves and actually creating a deficit,” he emphasized. “That’s been new information since we’ve had a changeover in auditor and new people managing the healthcare fund and new eyes on the healthcare fund. I believe there should have been better advice given to the Board.”

County Counsel Christian Curtis conceded that the Board had gotten bad information. “In some cases, the information that was put into the sheets as to what balances you were drawing out, and what one-time funds you were using, may have been incorrectly entered into the spreadsheets before they went to the Board, and that you may have had that erroneous information in front of you at the time that those decisions were made,” he said. When Supervisor Glenn McGourty asked him who would have entered the information, Curtis replied that the CEO may “be able to speak to that a little bit better. My understanding is they were generated by the auditor’s office.”

Supervisor John Haschak pointed out that more than one party was supposed to be keeping track of the health plan. “We’ve been paying an actuarial to manage the health plan,” he said. “And we have the auditor looking at the health plan, and we have the Executive Office looking at the health plan too, right? So how do we figure out where this deficit happened, and how do we get to the bottom of it to see, why wasn’t the Board informed about it, and how this all happened?”

Curtis said there is more material to review, but that with key personnel now retired, he expects the information “may be imperfect.” Still, he said the information, while not highlighted, had been available. “If I can be a little blunt,” he warned. “The deficit itself is reflected in the budget documents. I think this may have just been something that was buried; that while the Board may have had the information,  it may not have been particularly called out, or addressed very explicitly.”

Supervisor Ted Williams wondered if the Board could expect more revelations along the lines of the health plan deficit. “Do we think there is any other data entry that may have provided inaccurate reporting?” he asked.

 Curtis demurred, saying, “I can’t speak to that at this time.”

Williams pressed him: “Can you and the CEO assure us that that’s not the case? Can we trust the data that we have received?”

“We can’t make such assurance,” Curtis told him. “No.”

The Board agreed to ask Weer to provide an explanation, in writing if he prefers.

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13 COMMENTS

    • OK, genius repukeniKKKan,
      what’s your solution?
      Der Fuehrer is OVER, thankfully, after wreaking havoc on our democracy, so you can only hope someone equally willing to take from the taxpayers (the working class) and give to the rich who will try, again, to turn the US into a dictatorship. You want to get rid of Social Security and Medicare so the wealthy can have more?
      You suck

    • Right! The percentage of people in this county that voted for Newsome….goes to show there just insane as him…these supervisors better wake up and not woke up…

  1. What is the BOS not telling County residents and the State about their own culpability for financial criminal involvement?

    Are they unbridled innocent sociopaths nest-egging your retirement accounts? Any BOS folks recently put in a pool, or start a cult, or pay for golden showers?

    Critical thinking is lacking and incompatible with their criminal behavior.

    Where’s the Grand Jury on this, or should residents simply resort to public stoning?

  2. Mr. Curtis says that budget reports given to the Board contained this information, it just wasn’t highlighted. This all started in 16/17 and has continued until now. Wait, according to Bow Tie Ted he has not seen a report in three years. So what is it Bow Tie, did Mr. Curtis expose your lie?

    Now watch what happens, notice that this issue came up in 16/17 while Lloyd Weer was Auditor. McGourty and Bow Tie are going to try and tie this to Chamise Cubbison. It’s all part of their plan to disgrace Cubbison and get us voters to allow them to hire a Director of Finance, which they would control.

    I love how Ms. Antle remains so quiet and when she does provide info she blames others. Folks she was Carmel’s right hand and involved in this subject more so than any employee of the County. Remember Carmel’s goal was to takeover every County office she could, and then run it through her Dream Team in the CEO’s office. Ms. Antle was 2nd in charge. That’s why she was named to her position, she was the next in line.

    The real danger here is the Board itself. Bow Tie Ted and Glen McStupid want financial control of the County. They know that Basement Dan and Photo Op Mo will vote for anything they tell them to,.Haschak is a man on an island, so they don’t care about him.

  3. One more thing, any of the County Counsel’s attorneys and judges providing their legal services to the County and administrative staff can and should be reported to the State Bar of California for alleged misconduct here:

    https://www.calbar.ca.gov/public/complaints-claims/how-to-file-a-complaint

    If any attorneys are outside of California, they can be reported to their State’s respective Bar Associations found here:

    https://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/resources/resources_for_the_public/

    This is especially important in matters where the County may have used these attorneys to protect their own staff, like shielding fraudulent financial reports and years of budget shortfalls for BOS, CEOs, Auditors, admin/executive staff, etc. Attorney/Client privilege has little significance when one reports.

    If any of the County’s attorneys are aware of misconduct on the part of another attorney or judge, and they don’t report misconduct when discovered, then they too can be found complicit in their own misconduct and could face possible criminal prosecution and lose their law license.

    If Mr. Curtis and his associates don’t want to be reviewed by the Bar, perhaps they’ll have something to say about County staff past and present?

    No one is above the law.

  4. The County is a parade of the blind leading the blind. In the Navy, the commander of a ship that runs aground is relieved of duty even though the error was made by someone else. The County ship has floundered, but we still have the same people at the helm promising to do better next time. Sigh

      • Well, a blow up doll would be better than Bowtie Ted!!!!! Basement Dan is under Covid rules and vowed never to leave his basement for the rest of his life. If you own a camera, Photp- Op Mo will show up anywhere to get her picture taken. And the financial genius Glen McStupid is going to solve the budget, he just hasn’t figured out what County office he needs to start with. Here’s a hint Glen, Darcie runs it. You see under Carmel she was in charge of the budget. These are the people we elected, that would make us morons.

  5. It’s really a shame Cannabis could never outrun it’s druggie origins to provide a real industry in the way wine has. Alcohol is just as, if not more impairing and yet it is considered classy and bucolic.

    A friend in social services says there’s money to burn from covid relief but no one to manage or spend it properly. No family homeless shelter, minimal funds direct to people, just a fence. Meanwhile our kids are still catching up from hell year online.

    How has the money the county recieved from the 2017 RV fire been spent? There’s no itemized list anywhere. No one knows.

    The government isn’t going to rescue us. Meet your neighbors, have discussions with people from opposing parties with understanding. Grow a garden, save your seeds, worry about water. Put your phone down. Look up.

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Sarah Reith
Sarah Reith
Sarah Reith is a radio and print reporter working in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, focusing on local politics and environmental news.

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