Part of the Bay Area News Group

Mt. Diablo district draws ‘tape in the carpet’

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Friday, November 4th, 2011 at 3:09 pm in Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics.

You gotta love local government.

I attended a Mt. Diablo Health Care District board meeting in Concord on Thursday night and was surprised to find masking tape stretched along the carpet in front of the chairs for the audience with a note, “Please Do Not Cross The Tape.” (See picture below.)

Seriously?

I later learned that audience members at a previous meeting had slid their chairs perilously close to the table where the board of directors sits.  Kris Hunt of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association says she and others at the meeting couldn’t hear the board members’ discussion, so they moved up.

Yeah, I know, I know. Kris can be very scary.

But she is correct. I had trouble hearing the discussion on Thursday and I wasn’t even sitting next to the office printer.

Keep in mind, this taxpayer-funded district is under threat of dissolution after years of inaction and four grand jury reports in which it has been shown to spend most of its money on overhead. Critics calling for its elimination have been particularly vocal during meetings and emotions run high.

But putting down a tape barrier is petty and unnecessarily confrontational. (It reminds me of my two crazy spinster great-aunts in Oregon who painted a white line down the middle of the house they shared.)

This is an easy fix: Borrow a small public address system and some microphones. Use them.  And while you’re at it, record your meetings and post the audio files online.

The Tape Line

 

 

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  • Judy Lloyd

    Yes, it’s true! As a member of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, I can verify that Kris Hunt is indeed scary to any local government or county agency using taxpayer dollars. She understands budgeting and scrutinizes the books. That’s also the mission of the taxpayers association – to protect taxpayers in Contra Costa County. Beware of those of us who care about being good stewards of the public trust. We actually believe it’s the people’s money and should use it wisely!

  • http://www.cocotax.org Kris Hunt

    A line in the sand, I can understand, but tape on the carpet? I am not that scary, or maybe I am.

  • http://halfwaytoconcord.com BGR

    If the Times’ editorials concerning MDHCD are accurate, then bright yellow CRIME SCENE tape would have been more appropriate.

  • Elwood

    I believe that the MDHCD follies would make a good series of skits for Monty Python.

    Can’t you just see Eric Idle as Grace Ellis?

  • Elwood

    And John Cleese as Ron Leone!

  • Ken Hambrick

    Just one more silly and stupid action by Crazy Grace. Is she off her rocker or what?

    Moving close so you can hear is not threatening. I can attest to the fact that if you sit 10 feet away from the board you can hardly hear a thing they are saying.

    I’m not sure it makes a difference that you can’t hear because Grace will get her way and the district will continue to give away money to questionable organizations with questionable ties to health care.

    This is all a mad dash to give away taxpayers’ money in a vain attempt to preserve a useless agency.

  • Jack Weir

    It’s sad, really. Two otherwise seemingly rational board members (Roy Larkin and Jeff Kasper) support Grace’s obsession to preserve this useless district. (Director Frank Manske has worked for years to dissolve it.) Property tax continues to flow into this district to fund drumming, aromatherapy and free meals for teachers while tens of thousands of Contra Costans go without basic health services.
    It’s sad, too, that ordinary citizens have been bamboozled by Grace’s illegal tactics and know there’s little point in attending board meetings. God forbid that citizens should move their chairs so they can actually hear the nonsense taken up by the board.
    Let’s trust that LAFCO will do the right thing and dissolve this parasitic agency.

  • Jim B.

    Never heard of MDHCD before, but looks like another prime example of tax dollar waste. Look at their 2011 budget: http://www.mtdiablohealthcaredistrict.ca.gov/uploads/2011_Budget.pdf

    First, note that $40,000 of the $266,000 budget is earmarked for “Medical and Dental Insurance” of the five board members! Must a public entity pay for medical insurance for a part-time board member? Shouldn’t their $3,600 per year stipend be sufficient remuneration?

    Second, note that this entity is siphoning $238,000 in property tax dollars every year, its primary funding source. Couldn’t those tax dollars be better spent elsewhere?

    Third, just $6,000 is spent on employee wages. Give them credit for not creating a large, do-nothing staff.

    Fourth, they’re spending around $84,000 on “Contingent Community Action Funding,” whatever that is. They’re spending $80,000 on CPR ANYTIME. Those two initiatives appear to constitute what MDHCD does. If some other entity can do those better (or eliminate them entirely), then MDHCD seems to have to reason to exist.

  • http://www.cocotax.org Kris Hunt

    Actually, the benefit cost is for lifetime health and dental benefits for only two board members and their families: Grace Ellis and Ron Leone (now a Concord City Council Member). Grace who is 84, never bothered to sign up for Medicare Part B so the district has been paying a large amount unnecessarily.

    For the past year, I, as Executive Director of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, have been pointing out this cost issue.

    BTW, CoCoTAX went to LAFCO, which has the power to dissolve this district and asked them to do just that. There have been 4 separate Grand Jury reports saying the district should be dissolved, but somebody has to push that agenda. CoCoTAX is. I am pleased to say that LAFCO has commissioned a study of the District that should be done in January (this is part of the dissolution process.)

  • Wendy Lack

    @ Jim B:

    Welcome to the fight to dissolve this unneeded “zombie” agency.

    It is notable that recently the Board authorized the creation of a new General Manager position, which the District is in the process of hiring. Oddsmakers expect the job will be highly compensated. So much for “not creating a large, do-nothing staff.” It appears this position will be tasked with doing windowdressing to persuade the LAFCO consultant and Commissioners that the District has turned over a new leaf.

    I encourage all interested residents to express their views to LAFCO Commissioners who will be considering the fate of this agency in early 2012. Some Commissioners have expressed concern about a “lack of public outcry” about this wasteful, unnecessary District (ironic since it’s this District is an invisible agency that does not show up on your property tax bill — residents don’t even know it exists, thus certainly wouldn’t miss it if it were to be dissolved!).

    Please take a few moments to give the Commission a piece of your mind at: LAFCO, 651 Pine Street, 6th Floor, Martinez, CA 94553.

  • http://www.cocotax.org Kris Hunt

    Love the Monty Python aspect. These guys are a bad comedy skit about government. If only they were not wasting taxpayer dollars………

  • John W

    I can hardly wait to see the GM compensation. Safe to say that no competent person would take such a job (short-term and nothing to do), so they must have some crony in mind. It’s unbelievable that this thing just keeps on tickin’.

  • Jim B.

    I meant “no reason to exist” in the last line of my post of 11:24 a.m. Saturday. Where precisely is the MDHCD located? I am confused concerning why two board members have “lifetime health and dental benefits.” Is MDHCD obligated to pay for this even after those two directors are off of the board? Is this some type of obligation that could even survive the existence of the MDHCD? Can someone pinpoint exactly when this benefit was granted? I just can’t believe that a primary expenditure of a government entity ($40,000 out of $266,000 total budget) is nice health benefits of two part-time directors. So kind of Contra Costa taxpayers to serve as Ms. Ellis’s “assisted living” program. [Almost as bad as our "working class" County firefighters retiring at age 50 with public pensions of $100,000 per year for life. Our tax dollars fund their "dozing for dollars" while they're active and again when they're "lottery winner" retirees.]

  • Arne Simonsen

    I think BGR got it correct – CRIME SCENE tape is very appropriate!

    Four separate Grand Juries have issued reports on the MDHCD that were not flattering.

    At this point only LAFCO can put an end to this travesty and it can’t come soon enough.

    CoCoTax will continue to dog this authoritarian wasteful agency to its grave

  • Wendy Lack

    @ Jim B. – #13

    The LAFCO staff prepared a good summary for the Commission’s May 2011 meeting:

    http://www.contracostalafco.org/agenda/2011/051111/11%20-%20MDHCD%20Correspondence.pdf

    The four grand jury reports were appendices of the CoCoTAX letter to LAFCO (included as an exhibit to the staff report referenced above); you can find them on the Contra Costa civil grand jury website. Also note that, in my April blog post about the District on the Halfway to Concord blog, I link to each of those grand jury reports as well as links you may find useful (http://www.halfwaytoconcord.com/applicants-sought-for-mt-diablo-health-care-district-board). There are several blog posts on Halfway to Concord that chronicle the District’s activities (just put “Mt Diablo Health Care District” in the search box on the website).

    Regarding your question, “Where is MCHCD located?” The District area encompasses Concord, Pleasant Hill, Martinez and adjacent unincorporated areas. The Mt. Diablo Health Care District has office space — paid for by John Muir Health as part of the Community Health Agreement — at 1800 Sutter Street, Suite 385, in Concord. The office is open weekdays from 1-3pm.

    The District website is: http://www.mtdiablohealthcaredistrict.ca.gov/Home_Page.html

  • http://www.cocotax.org Kris Hunt

    Jim B – The District used to handle the Mt Diablo Hospital in Concord until it combined with John Muir. The district includes several cities including Concord. Ms Ellis is still on the board and she and her husband are covered by these benefits, Mr. Leone is off the board. The benefits are no longer offered to directors.

    Nobody looks into these special districts to see what is going on. We have likened the meetings to Alice visiting Wonderland. You really have to be there to see what happens, but few people come. This district is not financially sustainable. Ellis has spent more on unsuccessful litigation than they have on public good. This needs to end. You can look the district up under their name. We can guarantee you a parody of a public meeting that rivals Monty Python.

  • Wendy Lack

    Don’t miss the next episode in the continuing saga of this District: November 15th at 6:00pm (agenda here: http://www.mtdiablohealthcaredistrict.ca.gov/Agenda.html)

    The Board will consider authorizing additional payments to its newly-hired attorney, Ralph Ferguson; and will interview candidates for its newly-created Executive Director position.

    District residents are encouraged to attend to watch how their tax dollars are being spent. And to watch Mr. Ferguson laughing his way to the bank at taxpayer expense.

    Not funny.

  • Wendy Lack

    Just for the record:

    As of last night’s Board meeting, the sign-and-tape-line-in-the-carpet is . . . GONE!

    Thank you, Lisa, for shining some light on this absurdity. Public humiliation is indeed a motivator.

  • John W

    On a much smaller scale, this is just like High Speed Rail. It just keeps on ticking regardless of the absurdity. It’s as if the public has no say and can do nothing to make these people just stop.