Balancing the County’s Budget Deficits
on the Backs of Children
By Ray A. March
July 25, 2001
Richert Counters Michelson
While the commission continued its debate over the concept paper and Michelson’s handling of it, a careful reading of the minutes of the July 25, 2001 meeting discloses an indelible record that the commission expressly mandated that Prop. 10 Trust Funds be kept in the county’s coffers -- regardless of Michelson’s advice that they be moved.
Michelson had gone on record in her rebuttal to Patricia Cantrall “that it may be in violation of the Brown Act to consider her position on moving the money from the treasury when discussing her job performance in closed executive session”-- an obvious allegation that the commission did discuss in closed session that Prop. 10 money be kept in the county treasury.
But, on page nine of the 12-page minutes buried in the middle of a paragraph, is this statement by Dr. Edward Richert, acting chair, who wanted to clarify that:
“…no decision regarding leaving money in the county treasury was made in closed session on July 10, 2001. That decision was made in a previous regularly scheduled meeting; that the money would remain in the county treasury until an audit/accounting had been completed; and the discussion in closed session was to direct Donna to not pursue putting the money other than where it was.”
Cantrall quickly backed up Richert by declaring, “That’s right. After the audit we can all say where we want the money to be if we want Part A here and Part B somewhere else. But right now let’s leave the money where it is in the county treasury.”
Clearly, the intent of the commission was to bank with the county even though the commission had been told by Michelson that it was illegal to do so.
When it came to approving the Cantrall-written option that Michelson responded to, Richert was again sensitive to the allegation that Prop. 10 funds were discussed in closed session.
“Can we modify that first paragraph of the draft proposal to reflect that we didn’t make any new pronouncement of where our money was going to be or not going to be; this was simple direction to the executive director that her focus was not to pursue alternative courses for the money; that the money remain in the county treasury for the time being,” the minutes quote Richert as saying.
“How much simpler do you want it to be,” asked Cantrall.
“The implication was this decision was made in closed session and we want to dispel that and make it clear it was decided in a previous regularly scheduled meeting,” Richert answered.
Carol Harbaugh suggested including the words “per previous meeting” and Richert agreed.
“This was done before the whole public,” Cantrall came back. “Whatever. Don’t say I wrote it. I think you better rewrite the whole thing.”
In one quick exchange Cantrall, who abstained from voting on Harbaugh’s motion to adopt what she called “Direction to the Executive Director,” disassociated herself with the wording of Michelson’s job description.
At the same time the commissioners gave Michelson a strong hint not to go any further in her efforts to move Prop. 10 Trust Funds from the control of County Treasurer Cheryl Knoch.
There was no discussion of Smith’s resignation as chair, nor was it even on the agenda.
Next: Part 12
An outside CPA is hired to set up the Children and Families Commission’s books, leading to blunt criticism of the county’s handling of Prop. 10 funds.