Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Friday, January 30, 2009

Smack Down at the County? From the BOS Agenda...

From the County Agenda for February 17, 2009 -- is County Executive Officer Mike Brown being taken down a notch? Read on....

On March 1, 2005 the Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance amending Chapter 2, Article X of the County Code which established the duties, responsibilities and authorities of the County Executive Officer. The Board letter premised the recommended action upon the goal to strengthen organizational effectiveness and to establish an organizational culture that would improve operations.

The ordinance that was adopted on March 1, 2005 transferred direct oversight and control of most County Department heads from the Board of Supervisors to the County Executive Officer. Specifically and most pertinent to the current recommendation, Section 2-71 (f) provided the CEO with “full authority of the Board to select, appoint, evaluate, suspend, terminate and retain those department directors except the directors whose appointment or removal is otherwise expressly provided for in statute.”

The language adopted by the BOS did not require the CEO to inform, brief or seek the input of the Board of Supervisors regarding such actions. Section 2-71 (f) provides only that “the County Executive Officer may, from time to time, consult with the Board of Supervisors regarding the execution of these responsibilities.”

Concerns have been raised regarding the organizational effectiveness of this structure including the absence of required direct consultation with the elected Board of Supervisors on the appointment of department heads. Further, several contradictions seem inherent in Chapter 2, Article X. For example, Section 2-69 contains the statement that “As the legislative
body of the County, the board of supervisors is responsible for its efficient and effective management….and the Board has ultimate authority and control over County policy, budgetary matters and strategic direction.”

Because of these concerns, and a concern that the Board meet its legislative responsibilities, we believe that now is the appropriate time to reevaluate this aspect of the County organizational structure and to consider amending section 2-71 (f) to return the authority to the Board of Supervisors to “select, appoint, evaluate, suspend, terminate and retain” department directors who are not elected or appointed by the courts.

We hope through objective review of the ordinance including a comparison to similar aspects of duties and powers of the CEO/CAO position in other Counties, this Board will have the opportunity to establish and define its responsibilities as well as the overall county structure.

Labels: ,


Anonymous Grateful County Employee said...

Thanks Doreen and Janet for having the courage to do this. I've been working under this cloud for almost five years now. We work under a regime that silences most creativity let alone truth. I'm assuming Salud will support you.
we, the silent county employees hope you stay strong and see this through to the end.

1/30/2009 9:22 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

This is an interesting turn of events. One wonders how much longer Mr. Brown will retain his position in this new political environment. He has always been very good at counting to three, but the numbers may not add up so easily now.

1/30/2009 9:35 PM  
Blogger Don McDermott said...

The March 2005 ordinance change was the result of the popular political trend to make government "run like a business." The adopted 2005 structure is dictatorial. That is not the way a representational government is supposed to work.

1/31/2009 6:47 AM  
Anonymous The next One said...

The idea that in the midst of the weakest economy in a generation due to a massive evaporation of private wealth resulting in a systemic softening in government income, we would choose to return to the hyper-politicization of our county's organizational structure, is itself indicative of the absence of competent leadership on the Board of Supervisors. It didn't take but a few weeks for Brooks' absence to be felt like a big bang.

1/31/2009 1:36 PM  
Anonymous The Obvious Question said...

I don't get it. Why don't they just fire this megalomaniac?

1/31/2009 1:45 PM  
Anonymous County Whino said...

Talent is very thin in these public administration jobs. Better stick with what you have. These are thankless, snakepit jobs managing over-paid bozos who have no purpose or work ethic other than their own job security.

Don't see any of the slackers already on the job wanting to take over this position, do we? Nope, they would rather just sit back and complain. Horrors if they ever had to take on a position with actual responsibility.

1/31/2009 5:06 PM  
Anonymous Babs Boxer said...




1/31/2009 6:59 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Next One, despite civil service protections, all public service jobs are political, and properly so. Public sector employees are responsible to the electorate in that they work for elected officials, whom are put in their positions by the people. A change in the political winds oft times results in a change in the civil service management. How else would the elected officials implement their mandate and vision? Sometimes, a very skillful bureaucrat will read the shifting winds and adjust. This does not often happen. We will see how truly skillful Mr. Brown is.

1/31/2009 7:35 PM  
Anonymous The next One said...


Voters do not elect people to
micromanage their govt's bureaucracy. In fact, people running for office go out of their way to assure voters they won't micromanage and instead will bring competence, vision and leadership at the policy level.

The Supervisors are policymakers. Their job is to make public policy. There job is NOT to manage people or to manage systems. And that involves hiring, firing and evaluating people, systems and outcomes. That is the job of a CEO.

When politicians hire department heads, those department heads become quasi political appointments. Voters do not need the people who they pay six figures to manage important government departments and agencies to be ideologues or trendy activists. They need competent professionals who are immune from the political winds that surround them.

A competent manager or executive will almost always have innate political skills that will assist them in doing their job but this is different than being a politician or political activist.

2/01/2009 1:15 PM  
Anonymous By any other name said...

to "The Next One": you're right--it's the job of the electeds to set policy---not the job of the CEO. This CEO has been making policy under the guise of "managing" and the electeds are usually the last to know. This CEO just happens to have a brand of ideology that you, Mr. Next one, happen to like--so you call it "doing his job".

2/01/2009 3:44 PM  
Anonymous The next One said...

A bunch of malcontent public employees are not a very sympathetic group these days. You remind me of misbehaved children complaining about the school's overly strict principal.

2/02/2009 7:33 AM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

The Next One, I agree that public sector program managers should be 100% civil service protected professionals that do not change at the whim of the electorate. On the other hand, the department head level is different. A department head is in the critical pivot position of turning policy into action and must have the trust and imprimatur of the policy makers. When the Board of Supervisors have hiring and firing authority at the department head level, the department heads are responsible to the vision of the Board. Such responsibility ensures that the wishes of the voters are turned into policies.

2/02/2009 8:03 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home