No Transparency in Mendocino County

Today local attorney Barry Vogel addressed the County Board of Supervisors in response to the County’s refusal to divulge information to the local newspaper regarding county employees job duties, number supervised and pay scale. The Ukiah Daily Journal’s editor wrote this piece, published on the front page of the January 23 edition, responding to the County’s refusal.

A copy of Mr. Vogel’s comments is below. They were not received very well by some of the Board members:

Mr. Chairman and members of the Board, good morning. I’m Barry Vogel. I live in Ukiah and have been practicing law here for 35 years.

I come to tell you of my disappointment in the stonewall failure of Tom Mitchell, the County’s Chief Executive Officer, to answer the Ukiah Daily Journal’s inquiry directed to him and each county department head.

Journal’s questions, as reported on the newspaper’s front page last Friday are:

1. How many people do you supervise, and who are they?
2. How much is your yearly salary?
3. Please provide a brief description of your job duties.
4. What do you believe will be the challenges facing your department in 2009?

The answers are simple, straight forward and known. Yet, according to the Journal this information has been made secret by Mr. Mitchell and county attorney Jeanine Nadel.

One week ago today President Obama told our nation:

Those…. Who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account – to spend wisely, reform bad habits and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

It is bad habit to keep this information secret. Your support of this secrecy will question, among other things, the wisdom of how you will spend the little money that remains in the public coffers.

I am here to ask that you direct these questions to answered now, directly, openly and fully. Today.

Although this issue is not on today’s agenda, the law provides authority to when an emergency exists. “The blanket refusal to answer these questions” to quote the Journal’s editorial, imposes an emergency. You may address this matter today as an urgency measure by a 4/5ths vote. Make the simple finding that this information should be public: No court in this state will chastise you.

Knowing each of you, and I do, I believe that at least four of you voted for Mr. Obama and support openness in government.

If, however, you find that this senseless secrecy must endure, then I implore you to put this matter on the agenda of your next meeting and shine the light of day on the public’s business.

And do so now.

Thank you.

I am in complete agreement with Barry and hope Mendocino County will divulge this public information without further delay.

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