It’s an annual dance — each year the Plumas County Grand Jury issues its report and each year the Board of Supervisors responds. But this year the two appear to be more out of sync than usual. That’s because the grand jury members don’t think that the supervisors take them seriously and devoted a good portion of their report addressing that accusation. This year’s 2016-17 grand jury report detailed the board’s lack of response to the 2015-16 report in a section aptly titled “Board of Supervisors Needs to Take Grand Jury Seriously.”
In remarks in this issue of the newspaper Grand Jury Foreperson John Lullo states, “There is a tendency (on the part of the supervisors) to delay and placate so that the whole process is undermined.” Lullo and the grand jury also take issue with the phrase “it is expected” that the supervisors often use to preface their intended actions. “Use of the term ‘it is expected’ is not a commitment,” Lullo writes.
The report alludes to two supervisors that the grand jury met with to discuss this issue, but did not disclose which two. But during a Board of Supervisors’ meeting earlier this month, when the supervisors were discussing the report’s release, Supervisor Lori Simpson said that she and Sherrie Thrall were the two mentioned, and that they both took issue with the grand jury’s characterization of what occurred during that meeting. Simpson sought advice from County Counsel Craig Settlemire about what could and couldn’t be revealed because of the confidential nature of grand jury proceedings. The supervisors must respond to the grand jury report in writing within 90 days.
In addition to chiding the board for a lack of response, the grand jury wants the supervisors to address a challenged probation department, the lack of a CAO, and the county’s outdated job descriptions and organizational chart.
“This year as in previous years, an important fact came to light. The County is in need of a Chief Administrative Officer (CAO),” Lullo wrote in a cover letter on behalf of the grand jury to Superior Court Judge Janet Hilde, who presides over the jury. “This job has been vacant for five years. By the Board of Supervisors failing to fill the position of CAO, they have by default assumed the responsibility of managing county operations. This is not the normal or established purpose of the BOS. Their role is to set policy and authorize spending. The result is inefficiency and discord among department heads. Refer to the Probation report contained herein.”
As has often been cited in this space, we at Feather Publishing couldn’t agree more with the grand jury’s assessment that the county is in dire need of a CAO.
Past grand jury reports have had two common themes — the need for a CAO and the need for a new jail. This year the latter was refreshingly a non-issue. “Due largely to the efforts of Greg Hagwood and his staff, the long hoped for $25 million grant was awarded,” the letter to Hilde stated, and a new jail is in the planning phase.
Another bright spot in the report was the grand jury’s assessment of the Peninsula Fire District in the Almanor Basin. “The Grand Jury found that the Peninsula Fire District is effectively providing quality service to its customers and employees who make up the Fire District,” the report reads.
The full report is included in this issue of the newspaper. It is relatively brief compared to past reports and makes for an interesting read, as will no doubt the supervisors’ response this fall. Let’s hope that the board responds constructively to the report, and that the two entities don’t simply end this dance by stepping on each other’s toes.