Friday, December 23, 2016

[Mendocino County] It’s All Good: CGJ, LAB, BoS, AG-that’s 8 of 26 elements in our local alphabet soup

GJ & LAB >> My congratulatory comments on both our Civil Grand Jury’s Excellence in Reporting Award & on our Library Advisory Board’s steady pressuring our Board of Supervisors to clean up the County’s Library accounting procedures drew two responses: “Hey thanks for continuing to nip at the BOS’s heels. It will take a third GJ report to get the BOS to follow through with an AG opinion on the director’s salary,” and this one from Michael Schaeffer, a LAB member: “maybe you should mention that while the BOS supported joint meetings with the LAB twice a year, the last was October 2015 and after many cancellations from the BOS the next is vaguely scheduled for spring/summer, 2017!” (jm: Current operative date is sometime in July.)
Let me >> somewhat unpack the above item. Our Mendocino Civil Grand Jury, which has broad power to investigate and report on local government, has twice investigated the County’s handling of Library funding. The County (CEO & BoS) brushed off the first report (2013-14): BoS are busy people, the Library’s budget is a mere $2 mil or so, and (perhaps) no one pays attention to GJ reports anyway.--But the BoS’s Library Advisory Board certainly paid attention to the 2014-15 GJ report and—in public and charged meetings—got a good (if, still partial) agreement with the BoS: All money collected through our Measure A Library tax (passed in 2011), goes solely to verifiable Library costs.--The GJ had documented significant deviation from that self-evident proposition in an accounting area called A-87 costs. The second time the GJ reported Foul! on the County’s bill to the Library for A-87 costs, the County agreed to repayment. I have confirmation that The Library is receiving installment payments for inappropriately billed A-87 costs. No mention of interest. The total reimbursement is somewhat less than the amount alleged by the GJ.--Realism in play.
Still, money’s yelling >> and requiring explanation of the sardonic comment (above), “it will take a third GJ report to get the BOS to follow through with an AG opinion on the director’s salary.”--That comment refers to a provision of the state Education Code (which governs County library operations). The code requires that the District Librarian’s salary be paid from “the same fund” as that which pays the heads of other County departments. That is, our District (or County) Librarian is, by California code, to be paid from what Mendocino County calls “General Fund dollars,” or similar phrasing. Library funds are not General Fund dollars, in any phrasing. They are “dedicated fund” dollars. That is, Library funds are Measure A money plus approximately .01% of owners’ real estate taxes, and they cannot be used to meet General Fund obligations (in this case, the District Librarian’s salary).--And that proscribed money is exactly what the County uses to pay the District Librarian’s salary. Over time, the sum mounts up: the Librarian’s annual salary & benefits were $100,000/year in 2015. Pressure builds on the County not to agree to a common-sense reading of Library law, since such a reading would require the sort of repayment the County made for mis-billed A-87 costs.
And >> there is the (on-the-face-of-it) oddness that dedicated Library funds are not to pay the head librarian’s salary. That’s the law.
And the law’s >> the reason for the opaque sentence in comment #1 above, “It will take a third GJ report to get the BOS to follow through with an AG opinion on the director’s salary.”--The AG is the California Attorney General who, if requested by our BoS, will—in perhaps a year or two—give us a binding(?) ruling on whether the Legislature meant “the same fund” when it wrote “the same fund” into law. If the Legislature meant what it wrote, then our County’s “General Fund” owes our Library’s dedicated fund some bucks . . . & some more bucks for each day our BoS does not workshop an agreement with its own Library Advisory Board (BoS appoints the LAB, for heaven’s sake!) to stop the mis-billing and mis-payment based on mis-reading.
December 21, 2016
Ukiah Daily Journal
By Jonathan Middlebrook

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