Friday, 03 February 2023

Sakowicz: Where are our leaders?

Lake County's County Administrative Officer Carol Huchingson is unexpectedly retiring.

“I have now made the difficult decision to retire, as of the end of April," Huchingson said in an article published on Friday, March 18, in Lake County News.

Huchingson did not specifically explain why she is retiring.

Huchingson’s gal pal, Carmel Angelo, the chief executive officer of Mendocino County for the past 12 years, announced her own retirement in January. Her last day was March 19.

It is interesting to note it had been six months since Huchingson pushed through her two waves of county raises, including very big raises for herself. The raises included up to $5 million approved in October 2020 — in which Huchingson received a 30% raise — and another $16 million in September, when Huchingson's raises totaled 54.5%, plus a 2.5% longevity increase.

Mendocino County observers will note that at the March 15 meeting of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, Agenda Item 5b, "Approval of Employment Agreement Between the County of Mendocino and Mendocino County Interim Chief Executive Officer Darcie Antle," Ms. Antle's own salary was raised to $200,000, with compensation including benefits totaling $338,000.

But why?

The counties of Lake and Mendocino are the two poorest counties among California's 58 counties. In fact, our poverty statistics can be compared to those in Appalachia or the deep South.

Here in the counties of Lake and Mendocino, one half of our residents are eligible for food stamps and one third are eligible for Medi-Cal.

The raises are inexplicable, unjustified and shocking.

Yet, Carol Huchingson and Carmel Angelo will have comfortable retirements. Very comfortable.

Also, we learned at the March 15 meeting of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors that, instead of having a big financial surplus, as we were led to believe by Ms. Angelo, the county is actually running a $12.1 million projected deficit.

Also, our county's cannabis program is running $3 million in the red.

Where are our leaders? And why don't more of us speak out?

When I objected to the board's proclamation for Ms. Angelo at the March 15 meeting — a proclamation that said nary a word about how Ms. Angelo made Mendocino County better, but instead focused on how well Ms. Angelo networked and managed her career — I was accused by Board Chair Ted Williams of making "unfounded personal attacks.”

It's interesting to note only political bigshots and county executive management spoke at the presentation of Ms. Angelo's proclamation. It was an orgy of mutual backslapping and self-congratulation.

No SEIU union reps spoke at the presentation. Nor reps from any of the county's other unions and collective bargaining units.

Not one member of the county's rank and file spoke. The people who do the real work.

No department heads spoke.

None of the county's constitutionally elected officers spoke. Not the sheriff. Nor the district attorney. Nor the treasurer-tax collector. Nor the auditor-controller. Nor the assessor-county clerk.

Not even our county's contractors spoke, including Redwood Community Services. They get tens of millions of dollars every year as the sole provider in no-bid contracts.

They were all notable by their absence.

I ask again: Where are our leaders? And why don't more of us speak out?

John Sakowicz lives in Ukiah, Calif.

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