Early in the 1999-2000 Grand Jury's term, review priorities were established for the ensuing year. The Grand Jury exercised its discretion, authorized by Penal Code Section 925, to select four County Government functions for review. One of these functions is "County Management."
The responsibility for County Management rests with the Board of Supervisors (Board). These responsibilities are generally governed by the State Constitution and the California Government Code. The Board is vested by the State Legislature with the powers necessary to provide for the health and welfare of the people within its borders. The Board has executive, legislative, and quasi-judicial authority and responsibility.
The Board performs its executive role when it sets priorities for the County. Board members oversee most County departments and programs, and annually approve all departmental budgets. The Board supervises the official conduct of County officers, but it does not direct or control the daily operations of a County department, or otherwise limit the exercise of discretion vested by law in a particular officer.
Research was conducted by the Grand Jury in the following aspects of County Management:
Each of these four topics are covered in detail in this report. In addition, several issues of concern were discovered that do not fit into the four categories but are of sufficient import to require further discussion and recommendation here. Hopefully, this will provide the reader with additional understanding of County Management.
Amador County is a $42,000,000 a year operation. What corporation with a like budget is managed by committees whose membership changes each year? What successful corporation rotates its chairperson annually regardless of his/her successes or failures? The answer is few, if any. Modern corporate management requires consistent leadership.
Many of the elected officials and department heads interviewed by the Grand Jury related the success of the current management practices to the fact that Amador County is one of three California counties operating "in the black," and that there are large reserves set aside. This is mostly due to frugal budgeting by the Board and conservative spending managed by the Auditor/Controller.
While a strong financial standing is important, it should not be the only measure of the County's success. Other issues are important. For example:
In the four topics of this report and in the numerous reports that follow, information will be provided to answer these questions.
One of the Board's executive responsibilities is to set priorities. The Grand Jury asked each member of the Board, "Who sets the priorities, establishes the goals and objectives for the year, and are they documented?" That question remains unanswered. Persons interviewed referred to the County's General (Land Use) Plan as "The Plan." There was no indication of any strategic planning being conducted or considered for any other objective.
Many department heads and elected officials interviewed were asked if they have seen, or reviewed a documented County Strategic Plan or been asked to participate in County planning? The answer to both was "no." When asked if they did planning for their own departments the answer was a qualified "yes." Many indicated that they know what they want to accomplish, but keep it in their heads. Most do not involve their subordinates in their planning process. The Amador Economic Development Corporation, ( which is not a County agency but receives limited funding in the annual budget), was the only organization, of all those agencies and departments reviewed, that was able to provide the Grand Jury with a copy of its strategic plan.
It is probable that "planning" occurs at the various levels of County government in some form. However, it is not a coordinated cooperative effort involving the people who must carry it out. It appears that no individual, group or committee has been given, or assumed, the responsibility for providing a vision and direction for the future. Instead, planning appears to be crisis driven.
The Board must set the example for its department heads. Planning and direction must occur at the top of the organization. Instead of requiring only a justification for budget requests, the Board should also require the request be supported by the requesting department's short and/or long range plans.
Money received from grants is derived from taxes paid to federal and state government. It is important to the County's future economic health to actively pursue available grant funds that can assist the County in setting its priorities and, when properly planned, achieve its goals and objectives.
Grant management is the general responsibility of the Director of the General Services Administration (GSA). GSA receives or initiates grant proposals from several sources:
The County does not currently employ a Grant Specialist except for a part-time grant writer recently employed in the Health and Human Services Agency. An aggressive Grants Specialist could research available grants, make timely application, obtain funds, provide progress and interim reports, and develop a consistent accounting program to monitor expenditures and receipts. The Board should give serious consideration to including this as a position on the Board's staff. A competent Grant Specialist will more than pay his/her way.
In the Grand Jury's review of various County departments and agencies, a few department heads did voice a concern that they may be missing out on available grant funds. Others, such as the District Attorney and Health and Human Services, are grant oriented and rely on those funds to support their delivery of service. One member of the Board commented that he is concerned that on numerous occasions the Board has been given little time to analyze grants before they are required to vote on them.
DEPARTMENT HEAD PERFORMANCE EVALUATION
In interviews with the department heads, they were asked when they received their last performance evaluation and how often they are conducted. One person could only recall receiving four in the last twenty plus years. Another,one in twenty years. Others remembered receiving them but not in the recent past. All of them were aware that County policy requires employees to be evaluated annually and that they are required to provide their subordinates with annual evaluations.
When members of the Board were queried in this regard, four indicated that it is the Board's responsibility to annually evaluate department heads. One thought it was the Administrative Director's responsibility. One member stated that during his year as chairman, he made assignments to the Board to conduct evaluations but admitted that follow up was not conducted to see that they had been completed.
This has not been a priority for the Board; however, in the current organizational structure, the Board members have the only positions at a high enough level to complete the task. Not completing these evaluations could eventually prove embarrassing and costly when attempting to impose disciplinary action on management employees. Without documentation of the employee's past performance, even for those who serve at the will and pleasure of the Board, the disciplined employee may have grounds for a successful appeal and civil judgment. The Board should conduct annual performance evaluations of its department heads.
Past and current Amador County Boards of Supervisors have reduced the size of government by consolidating departments and reassigning tasks. This has provided some salary savings, allowing funds to be redirected for other purposes or placed in reserves. Downsizing is occurring at every corporate level in the Country and can be an effective way to reduce cost and reorganize operations to improve efficiency. However, without knowing the performance level of a department head, it is risky to increase the task load and expect them to undertake additional responsibilities and operate efficiently. GSA has grown due to consolidation, having 11 separate divisions under a single director's responsibility and control. His span of control is well beyond that of his peers in other County departments. This issue is addressed in greater detail in the report titled, "General Services Administration". Another department head is so overwhelmed by consolidation that he had difficulty in describing his own internal organization.
The consolidation process may have left out an important level in the organization, middle management. A management level employee to relieve the department head from direct supervision of employees, and to which some authority can be delegated so that the department head can be in a better position to manage the overall operation of the department.
It is time for the Board to have an organizational audit conducted by an outside entity. This should give the Board the information necessary to set future organizational priorities and establish reasonable goals and objectives in restructuring.
MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEM (MIS)
It does not appear that the Board has an effective system available to monitor and assess the data necessary to measure departmental progress and effectiveness.
Department heads can also benefit from having rapid access to MIS. This is an effective tool that can assist County Management in:
These are only examples. The potential uses of a MIS are almost unlimited. The need for a MIS is increased by the complexity of an organization, program or project, and is crucial in organizational restructuring. An effective MIS will be an advantage to planners in determining user requirements, percentage of use and appropriate cost sharing.
References to a MIS are made in Public Works Agency and GSA Reports. The recommendations in those reports can apply to every County department, agency and office. The Board should evaluate the information requirements of each entity of County Management to develop and implement an effective Management Information System.
During the interview process, it came to the Grand Jury's attention that the Assessor is exploring the use of a Geographical Information System (GIS) to take advantage of the technology to improve its mapping process. The Grand Jury was not able to discover a coordinated planning effort that includes all possible users. (The GIS is being used as an example. The Grand Jury is not questioning its need or procurement.)
It is important that major expense items, especially new technology systems, are properly explored by all of the possible users through inter-departmental communication, planning and cost sharing. This is not only good business, it is also an effective way to reduce costs to individual departments and avoid redundant planning and purchasing.
The Board should assure that a task force, composed of possible users, be formed to thoroughly explore the needs of County management. The Board should be properly briefed by this task force on their recommendations, prior to the Board approving the purchase of new systems and other sharable equipment.
The Board should: