Rick Rudometkin has negotiated a $150,000 salary to serve in the dual role of CAO and Director of Transportation, apparently in closed session with the Modoc County Board of Supervisors at a time when the county is going broke and is on borrowed time. Please vote on who, in your opinion is the smartest:
1. Rick Rudometkin?
2. Modoc County Board of Supervisors?
3. The tax-paying public?
4. None of the above?
This message is for residents of Surprise Valley, but we think the rest of Modoc County could well benefit from it, too.
Dan Macsay of Surprise Valley is seeking a third term on the Modoc County Board of Supervisors. At this writing he has not been challenged.
Largely because the board of supervisors is a thankless job, and who in their right mind would want it?
What makes serving the public a thankless job?
We think the supervisors themselves are to blame.
Today, the board of supervisors is politically posturing over how it is going to repay the county treasury the money it illegally took and at the same time honor their obligations to special districts, and make monthly payroll without going bankrupt.
Macsay needs to be challenged. Someone must step forward during the campaign and make him accountable, something he has not voluntarily done so far. But we have our doubts that anyone will run against Macsay, and here is why.
There is a smugness among certain people in Surprise Valley that comes from a misguided belief that they are separate from the rest of the county, especially “those people in Alturas.” The smugness reveals an attitude that Surprise Valley is above it all, as if the problems of the county have nothing to do with Surprise Valley.
So, what happens? In the case of a non-existent supervisorial race in Surprise Valley you get what we call the “lowest common denominator syndrome.” In other words, you get what you pay for.
In this case, if Macsay goes unopposed or wins against token opposition, Surprise Valley gets the very supervisor who was on the board when it took your $20 million from the treasury to pay for Modoc Medical Center.
What’s any of this have to do with Surprise Valley, the smug ones will say?
Well, it's simple. If the county goes under it will take Surprise Valley with it. Surprise Valley is not a island unto itself. Just ask the folks at the Surprise Valley Health Care District. They’re seeking a permanent tax obviously meant to off-set revenues from -- where? -- the county.
Frustrated over its efforts to bring the proposed formation of a hospital district to a public vote, the Save Our Hospital (SOH) committee has launched a three-pronged attack aimed at the Modoc County Board of Supervisors, its legal counsel and election officials.
Mike Mason, SOH chair, informed the board on Tuesday that its attorney, John Kenny, is 30 days overdue in returning a written, impartial, legal description required for the ballot measure and that the board and Kenny are in violation of state election laws.
Kenny was not present at the board meeting.
Mason alleged that the reason for the county’s delay in working towards a ballot measure is that the board of supervisors intends to use the Modoc Medical Center, valued at an estimated $5 million, as collateral for a long-term bond sale.
“We encourage the board to look at the long term assets and leave the hospital to the district so there are assets for the district,” Mason told the board.
At its Jan. 28 meeting, SOH members voted to file a complaint against Kenny with the State Bar of California, the state’s bar association. It is not known if the complaint has actually been filed.
Immediately following his appearance before the board of supervisors Mason went to District Attorney Gary Woolverton and filed a letter alleging the county has failed to comply with the state election code 9015(a).
The letter, obtained by the Modoc Independent News, states in part:
“Due to the lack of response from the Modoc County elections official, board of supervisors and county counsel, we feel they are violating the legal state and federal constitutional rights of residents of Modoc County by not allowing the citizens of Modoc County the right to vote upon a very important issue facing this county.”
The SOH letter of complaint to Woolverton also stated in part, “In providing the ballot title, the county counsel shall give a true and impartial statement of the purposed measure in such language that the ballot title shall neither be an argument, nor be likely to create prejudice, for or against the proposed measure.”
In its demand for action by Woolverton against the supervisors, SOH went on to state:
“We request that you take appropriate legal action against the Modoc County elections official, board of supervisors and county counsel for violating California Election Code 9105 (a) and for the violation of civil rights of citizens in Modoc County who filed this request to circulate the proposed measure as of December 18, 2009.”
Woolverton was not available for comment as of Wednesday afternoon.
The SOH committee, on the other hand, has been outspoken about the board of supervisors and Kenny’s apparent lack of cooperation, and stated in its minutes, “… we have played fair and by the rules with the county, but they appear to be stringing us along and we need to take these steps to get a ballot on the healthcare district.”
Board Chair Dan Macsay, pointed out Mason’s remarks were made under the provision of the agenda allowing only for public comment and that the board could not take any action. He suggested Mason place the matter on the board’s Feb. 9 agenda, which Mason agreed to do.
In referring to the county’s overall collateral value, Mason quoted former MMC CEO Walt Beck as saying the county has $65 million in property. This figure is disputed by newly appointed CEO Richard Arrow, who said the figure is closer to $35 million, but that the estimated value of the MMC at $5 million was correct.
Mrs. McNielly’s kindergarten class from Alturas Elementary school visited the Modoc National Forest headquarters on January 27, while touring local businesses in Alturas.
The children were given a tour of the interagency dispatch center. They learned about firefighting equipment and personnel, weather maps and how aircraft are used and tracked in firefighting. They continued to the archeology department where they were told about the types of historical artifacts that are found on the Modoc National Forest and how the artifacts are cared for.
Before the class left the Forest Service office they were visited by Smokey Bear.
The Surprise Valley Health Care District got caught shorthanded last December when its tax assessment allocation didn’t come in at 100 percent. After 23 years of paying the assessment up front, Modoc County, in an eleventh hour decision, held back 50 percent of the district’s tax funds.
The financial domino effect that resulted meant that the Surprise Valley hospital administrator and board members had to secure costly short term financing to cover district obligations.
Lesson learned. The Surprise Valley Health Care District will be asking voters to approve a permanent tax assessment this coming June. The current assessment is for five years. This commitment will help the district when they have to secure short term funding during the year to maintain cash flow. The district believes lenders will consider a vote for the permanent tax assessment an endorsement by the voters that they support the longevity of the district.
The definition of “dwelling unit” will be also be voted on. According to the resolution calling for the election for the special tax, “dwelling unit,” “means a house, houses, bunkhouses, rentals, shacks, mobile homes, recreational vehicles, travel trailers, motels, duplexes, tents or any other type of shelter.”
“We will clarify the definition of ‘dwelling unit’ said Surprise Valley Health Care District Board President John Erquiaga. “We propose that people who have recreational vehicles parked on their land and who spend over 90 days per year here, should be taxed.”
Special public meetings are scheduled to address these issues.
Considering that there seemed to be some doubt as to the Modoc County Board of Supervisors’ ability to understand exactly what a “bond” is, we asked newly named CFO Richard Arrow to explain.
The following is what he has provided:
“In simple terms, the 'revenue bond' the board of supervisors is moving forward to issue is similar to a mortgage that a property owner obtains to obtain cash. In the process of obtaining the financing, we may try to obtain a rating from rating agency such as Fitch, Moody's or others.
“By doing so, depending on the rating obtained, interest costs that will be required may be reduced. The financing contemplated by the county does not require a public vote because the actual mechanism of the transaction involves a sale and lease back of properties that are presently owned by the county.
“There is no effect on tax rates to the property owners. When the county assets are sold to a public corporation (joint powers authority), probably between the county, city, or district, a lease will be created between the county and the authority.
“The lease payments the county will pay will be equal to the debt service payments (principal and interest) on the bonds that will be sold by the public corporation. Once the bonds are sold, the proceeds of the bonds will be transferred to the public corporation and ultimately turned over to the county in exchange for the deeds on the county-owned property.
“Upon the final payments of all principal and interest on the bonds, the property transferred to the corporation will revert back to the county. …this is how the transaction is anticipated to work.”
Editor’s Note: For reference, we suggest reading the Jan. 27 blog entry “Bombshell No. 2.”
The Incident Command System team created last November by Interim CAO Rick Rudometkin for the main purpose of coming up with solutions to replace the estimated $20 million misappropriated by the Modoc County Board of Supervisors, is reportedly in shambles.
Internally, the Modoc Independent News has learned, members are in disagreement, some are reluctant to embrace any “out-of-the-box” ideas, and overall they have apparently been unable to adequately address the financial issues they have been assigned.
“The team was made up of people that made no sense,” described one reliable source who asked to remain anonymous in describing Rudometkin‘s choice of team members.
Rudometkin told the board of supervisors at its Jan. 12 meeting that he intended to disband the team, but he did not explain why or when that would occur. When asked, at the time, for further clarification, Kelly Crosby, public information officer for the ICS team, responded:
“… Rudometkin will be requesting from the Board of Supervisor that we no longer use Incident Command System (ICS) in its formality. He plans to present this to the BOS at the end of January or early February. The change that Rick is proposing is dropping the ICS e.g. flow chart, Incident Action Plan etc. The Incident Command System assisted us in developing a county structure to organize and develop a process to work under, however the ICS structure has many unnecessary and ridged components such as the IAP (incident action plan), and Flow Chart. If the Board of Supervisors approved this change, the structure; groups/teams, goals and positions will remain the same. We will continue with the organized process that we currently have and use the same goals and task to be completed.”
Rudometkin also told the supervisors on Jan. 12 his Incident Command System (ICS) team is “working on a plan of attack” and will “probably be coming to the board in a couple of weeks with hard facts and issues for the board to consider.”
So far, no plan of attack, hard facts and issues, implied in Rudometkin’s statement, have publicly reached the board of supervisors, and certainly not in the time frame he predicted.
Since its inception, the ICS team has released five reports (including the most recent report posted today) and two standard “Frequently Asked Questions” lists.
The reports, which have been posted verbatim on this blog, have generally been vague and of little substance, but always promising.