I started out to write about something more benign this week, but I can't stand it any longer. Wake Up, Dan Hamburg! Wake the freak up! You've been attending Mendocino County Mental Health Board meetings monthly and you have the unmitigated gall to question the Grand Jury's findings about mental health care in this county!
Dan Hamburg, having seen you in action, or more accurately inaction, at many public functions, I have to say that you come off as some sort of pompous, self-centered phoney, but are you absolutely daft as well?
Are you listening, Dan Hamburg? This is one of your constituents speaking. I voted for you in 2010. I'd sooner vote for a wild hog rooting up my trees than you again. Quite frankly I'm a little ashamed to admit that I bought the mud slung at your opponent in 2010.
I'm writing in reaction to a series of recent events. First, Mendocino County's Board of Supervisors on August 26th, issued their response to the 2013-2014 Grand Jury report that stated that there was an appearance of a conflict of interest in regard to Tom Pinizotto, a former employee of Yuba City's Ortner Management Group (Pinizotto is now Mendocino County Mental Health Director) being hired as a consultant by this county in 2011, Mr. Pinizotto having access to patient records and billing methods, then Mr. Pinizotto participating in the process that selected Ortner Management Group as the purveyor of a privatized system of mental health services for Mendocino Coounty. All of this has been covered at length in pieces by Mark Scaramella for the AVA. What got my dander up was the Board of Supervisors seemingly on the record response to the Grand Jury's report on this appearance of a conflict of interest (readers will have to hunt through the Grand Jury's website to find it – it's much harder to find through the Board of Supes web pages). Keep in mind, as Mark Scaramella has pointed out numerous times, the Grand Jury reported only the appearance of a conflict of interest. The Board of Supes goes so far in their denial of this that they disagree with the most basic Grand Jury factual finding, which is: North Valley Behavioral Health and Ortner Management Group are clearly linked in both business and professional matters.
The Board of Supes response to that: “The Board of Supervisors disagrees in part with this finding with clarification. Ortner Management Group (OMG) is the Administrative Services Organization (ASO) for Mendocino County for Mental Health Services. North Valley Behavioral Services (NVBH) is a subcontractor of OMG."
Wow! That's equivalent to Major League Baseball issuing a denial, in part, that the San Francisco Giants are not clearly linked to Gerald “Buster” Posey in business and professional matters because Mr. Posey is a subcontractor of The San Francisco Giants, L.L.C.
If any member of the Board of Supervisors, or their lapdog County Counsel Doug Losak, had done even the most rudimentary internet search they would have found that Tom Ortner is one of the administrators of Ortner Management Group and the same Tom Ortner is one of the administrators for North Valley Behavioral Health. To deny the clear business and professional link between North Valley and Ortner is laughable at best. Doing so on the record is unprofessional and deceitful for both the County Counsel and the Board of Supervisors.
The Grand Jury also found a perception of a conflict of interest in the awarding of the privatized mental health services contract to Ortner Management Group (OMG). The Board of Supes (BOS – perhaps the “O” should be eliminated to more accurately reflect what they are currently doing and saying) through the persnickety parsing of words by County Counsel Losak objected to the “perception” terminology. The Grand Jury had to settle on a perception because the County has not made public documents that reflect assertins that the process may have been tinkered with by those in the know on the inside. One such assertion claims that a person or persons familiar with the system of awarding of points toward said contract may have influenced Ortner or North Valley or some other offshoot of their corporate identity (there are more) to purchase Redwood Creek Care Center (then a board and care facility) in Willits in May of 2011. Ownership of Redwood Creek would qualify Ortner as a local business, worthy of more points in the contract awarding scheme.
There are reports of other manipulations of the point system that led up to the adult mental heath services contract for our county being granted to Ortner Management Group (OMG), but the fundamental problem for us citizens is that neither the Supervisors nor County staffers like CEO Carmel Angelo or Health and Human Services Director Stacey Cryer has ever bothered to release any information about that process. It is still not absolutely clear who made up the members of the committee that graded Ortner out as the winner of the privatized adult mental health services contract. Best guesses for that committee: Sherrif Tom Allman, Jim Shaw (then chair of the County Mental Health Board and husband of Anna Shaw who is director of Hospitality Center, the prime subcontractor for Ortner on the Mendocino Coast), Kristin McMenomey (General Services Director for Mendocino County), and Doug Gherkin (his “LinkedIn” page lists him as the CFO at Mendocino County's Health and Human Services Agency).
The Grand Jury report makes clear that the County's Health and Human Services Director, Stacey Cryer, and the Mental Health Director, Tom Pinizotto, participated in the contract award evaluation. The loser in this contracting business was Optum Health, which already had years of experience in providing just the mental health services Mendocino County was looking for in several states as well as other parts of California.
Keeping in mind that the public has never been shown how the evaluation system for the awarding of points was created let alone who created it and what criteria they created it upon, the Grand Jury did release a chart showing the points awarded by Cryer, Pinizotto and five committee members identified only as Staff #1-5 (Redwood Children Services was the points winner for juvenile mental health services in the county and graded out in between Ortner and Optum). Pinizotto gave Ortner 650 points and Optum 345 points. Cryer scored it 625 to 445 for Ortner. Staff #1 had it 540 – 420 for Ortner. Staff #2's card read 460 to 375 in favor of Ortner. Staff #3 had it a 440 to 0 knockout for Ortner. Staff #4 had it closer at 530 to 495 for Ortner. Staff #5 scored it for Ortner at 670 to 290.
The chart of these scores appears in the Grand Jury report directly above the “Findings” that the Board of Supervisors was required to respond to. Dan Hamburg, did you read those scores and come away with no questions? One of the committee members gave zero points to Optum. How is that possible? How is it possible that you as the Board of Supervisors representative to the County's Mental Health Board did not raise a hue and cry about this? Are you paying any attention whatsoever?! You who brings your dog with you to every Mental Health Board meeting!! I no longer care if you are grieving. Everyone else on the Mental Health Board has an equal amount of grief in their lives. None of them sees the need to bring a personal pet with them to the County Mental Health Board meetings. Beulah, the matriarch Hereford cow here at the Macdonald Ranch, acts like she's a family pet. Perhaps I should start hauling her to the Mental Health Board meetings.
Dan Hamburg, I wouldn't pick on personal strangenesses like taking your dog to public meetings, except that it is representative of how out of touch you are with reality. You're the BOS rep to the Mental Health Board, but you co-sign the preposterous denial of the Grand Jury report and verbally attack it at a BOS meeting. What's up with that?!You are not fit to be the BOS rep to the Mental Health Board. Perhaps we need to go into the situation in which your adult son was bumped to the front of the line for mental health services. Whether or not you took any active part in this, the situation itself creates the appearance of a conflict of interest. You need to resign as BOS rep to the Mental Health Board and let that position go to either the soon to be elected 3rd District Supe or 4th District Supervisor Dan Gjerde, the only member of the BOS with enough interest in the subject and who is new enough to his job to not be corrupted by the status quo goings on in county government. Let it be clear, four of our present supervisors, Gjerde excluded, is culpable to some degree for signing off on the BOS rebuke of the Grand Jury's findings.
And why did all five of them sign off. Because this county is “pot committed” to the Ortner situation. The County CEO, Carmel Angelo, the Health and Human Services Director, Stacey Cryer, the Mental Health Director, Tom Pinizotto, and the Board of Supervisors are all responsible in the ethical, political, if not legal sense for allowing such a non-transparent thing to happen, this thing that is the awarding of a contract to Ortner over a far more experienced company. All of the above named are responsible, in every possible, parsing sense of that word, for not letting the public know, at the time, specifically and in detail how this contract would be awarded. This means/meant informing in the most public way how the point system would work.
What has been going on for the past year and several months is something of a quiet cover-up. In other words the County CEO, the MH Director, the HHSA Director and the Supes are hoping you the citizens won't notice the big OOPS! that occurred. Whether or not it was totally intentional is almost a secondary story to the mum's the word story that is ongoing. These Mendocino County elected officials and the high up staffers are hoping you won't notice. They believe they can get by with dismissing anyone who asks to see the particulars as some sort of strange “other,” who should just be ignored.
This is being written by a sixty-year-old, sizable property-tax-paying resident of Mendocino County's Fifth District who was born in its Fourth District, who went to school in its First District and resided for a short while in its Second District, whose ancestors arrived in California before the Gold Rush and lived in the Third District for a couple of decades, a citizen who was taught how to parse sentences by a McCowen. The Board of Supervisors and County staff needs to stop parsing words, phrases, and sentences with Grand Jury reports and make public the specifics of how the privatized mental health contract was awarded, down to the details of how the evaluation methodology for that contract was concocted/created. Personnel privacy regulations may preclude the naming of the five “staff” members who scored the bids for the mental health contracts, but the person who scored a zero for Optum should have the ounce of integrity it would take to step forward and face the music. Did the County or BOS employ a system of scoring in which wildly out of the norm (high or low) scoring was discarded? These and many more questions need to be answered and published publicly or the Ortner contract is going to forever be tainted with the appearance of not only a conflict of interest, but also tainted by ethical and/or legal questions.
The Grand Jury's "Findings" regarding an appearance of a conflict of interest was only their first report concerning the privatization of adult mental health services in this county. The second report concerned the ineffective nature of the services provided by Ortner over the last year. One of the Grand Jury's findings said that services that should have been in place within thirty days were still not available more than six months after Ortner took over. Of course, our Board of Supes wholly disagreed with this finding. I could go through similar findings by the Grand Jury and denials by the Board of Supervisors, but let us simply examine what happened in Fort Bragg on the first Friday of September, 2014, fourteen months after Ortner took the reins of privatizatized adult mental health care services.
At approximately 5:30 Friday, Serptember 5, 2014, the Fort Bragg Police Department responded to a possible self-inflicted gunshot victim near the corner of Chestnut and Franklin Streets. Fort Bragg PD officers took the suicidal person to the emergency room at Mendocino Coast District Hospital where they waited for someone from adult mental health to respond to the crisis. That mental health service person is the responsibility of Ortner Management Group (OMG). At 7:22 p.m. Todd Harris of Ortner was contacted by a concerned citizen. At 7:32 Harris returned that person's call with the information that someone from Ortner was on their way to the ER in Fort Bragg. On their way two hours later! This would be worthy of multiple exclamations if it were not still the norm for such occurences. And yet our Board of Supervisors has the temerity to criticize the Grand Jury for calling Ortner into question for failing to provide adequate mental health services!
At a Public Safety Committee meeting on Sept. 12th, a citizen asked a representative of Fort Bragg's Police Department if officers are required to remain at the hospital with a prospective mental health patient like the suicidal person from the previous Friday evening. The response was, "Yes," if that person is deemed a danger to themselves or others. The citizen asked a further question, "Is Fort Bragg PD being paid by Ortner for the manpower hours lost due to such a lengthy wait?"
The answer was, "No."
During these questions and responses, Fort Bragg City Manager Linda Ruffing was observed taking copious notes. Perhaps she and the City of Fort Bragg may be requesting just such recompense from Ortner in the future.
Readers who have not already taken a serious look at Mark Scaramella's reporting on this subject should get hold of his August 27th and September 10th pieces in the AVA. The bottom line fellow citizens is that we are saddled with a Board of Supervisors who cannot see the handwriting on the wall. On the subject of mental health services Mendocino County's Grand Jury saw wrongs and tried to shine a light on those wrongs. Our Board of Supervisors and the higher ups in County Staff have responded with the equivalent of a royal F-U because they think no one out there in the populace is paying enough attention to catch them in their own wrongdoing. That wrongdoing is plain and simple: Not providing for a thoroughly open and transparent bidding process for Mendocino County's awarding of a contract for adult mental health services. Their further wrongdoing involves the ongoing cover-up of that nefarious process and the blind monkey approach to oversight when it comes to the incredibly ineffective implementation of adult mental health services by Ortner Management Group (OMG). Preeminently culpable in this ongoing clusterf**k is the Board of Supervisor's two-faced representative to the County's Mental Health Board. That person is Fifth District Supervisor Dan Hamburg.
Wake up Dan, somebody's calling you out! A double wake up for the Mendo Lib power brokers who foisted this sorry sack of phoney progressivism on us!