“I would like to request from our legal staff that to place on our next agenda a performance evaluation of Mr. Combs. I appreciate the efforts made by Mr. Combs to date to assist Merced County with our administrative duties, but I have a number of very real concerns regarding inadequate communication between the CEO and the board members and our admin team, especially the department heads.
I also have concerns regarding the appropriate process for pursuing and establishing county policy including bargaining with employees and keeping employees informed, making them part of our county team.
I am concerned about the building reuse plan which is currently being developed and the board committed additional dollars to include the new bank building. I am also very surprised to see that environmental health has been moved from a county-owned building and relocated prior to the study being completed. And I am very concerned about the fact that I learned about the move on the county’s Web site.
Each member of the board of supervisors has committees and district projects which have required many hours and years of intensive research, reflection and from time to time require further board direction.
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Mr. Combs has suggested to me that supervisors’ projects will be assumed by administration. And I believe this an overstepping of his bounds as the county administrator and brings into question who works for whom in Merced County.
I am extremely concerned about the county’s budget forecast this year. We’ve heard very little on this subject. For the last several weeks, I have been asking Mr. Combs for budget info knowing that the state was projecting billion dollar deficits for the next five years. I have recently found out that Mr. Combs has not requested that county departments trim their budgets prior to the briefing which we received just yesterday. The departments brought in budgets which were the same as last year.
Mr. Combs also placed an agenda item before this board which required a contract for $95,000 for developing flood control information without consulting our partners on the Merced Streams Project – MID and the City of Merced. The chances of gaining their share of this expense have been compromised even as we face the worst budget year this county has seen in nearly 20 years. And this board still has no idea how the budget will actually look. And that $95,000 came from our general fund.
Please remember, we balanced our budget last year by taking $11 million from our carefully-set-aside rainy day fund, our reserves, which took us more than a decade to build up. We also laid off 86 employees. Why would we enter into any new contracts for projects prior to having identified where the funding is going to come from? Who is setting the priorities for the county? Is it the elected policy makers?
Furthermore, I was told by Mr. Combs that he was developing a succession plan which would replace the five percent notice bonus for department heads when they give notice of their intent to leave county employment. Apparently, this succession plan was never discussed with the department heads, or ourselves, before Mr. Combs placed the termination of the notice bonus on our agenda. To date, Mr. Combs has not come forward with a succession plan and shared it with me or other board members, to my knowledge.
What has happened to the board setting the direction for such policy decisions as our healthcare plan? I am told this is a topic of discussion amongst the CEO and our county staff. When did this board make the decision to enter into discussions regarding changing the health plan? When did this board make a decision regarding creating super agencies? Apparently, there is someone out there discussing combining departments into super agencies and this board has never had an agendized discussion regarding this matter. Again I ask, who is sailing this ship?
I look forward to our closed session discussion on the 30th of March with Mr. Combs. Thank you.