Neil Derry

Supervisor Neil Derry
Posted: 11/24/2009 06:31:32 PM PST

Given the embarrassing history of corruption and scandal in San Bernardino County, it is understandable that some might be concerned by the recent dismissal of the county administrative officer.

The carousel of scandal and ineptitude plaguing our county government creates doubt, skepticism and cynicism.

Instead of allowing these concerns to go unanswered, I wanted to address my constituents.

Well before I took office, I was aware of the tensions that existed between many of our employees and the leadership of the county. Over this past year it has become apparent that the morale of San Bernardino County employees is extremely poor. Our employees, the men and women who provide services to this county, do not trust those who lead them. Worse, they don’t believe much of anything we say.

The outpouring of sentiment from our employees this week has been demonstrable. They believe we made the right decision and I am hopeful that the Board of Supervisors can start to rebuild the trust that we have lost so that we can move our county forward together. Without our employees’ cooperation, we will not be able to successfully address our ongoing budget struggles, which are severe.

With the state bungling through its budget again, I fully expect there to be crippling raids on our county coffers to cover up their mistakes. We have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

County management has had serious problems. Prior to my election, the county’s activities to clean up the destruction left from the Slide and Grass fires cost approximately $50,000 per lot. The taxpayers were left on the hook for more than

$6 million that will never be recovered. In contrast, we are now in the process of cleaning up the devastation from the Old Fire in Cedar Glen that has been ignored for six years. The cost is less than $8,000 per lot and many of these lots are being cleaned up by the parcel owners themselves.

Recently, a $6 million budget hole was discovered in our Land Use Services Department and I have a reasonable suspicion that other budgetary problems exist.

Beyond employee morale and other assorted fiscal matters, San Bernardino County has been plagued by ethics issues, both real and imagined. Most of the problems have arisen with elected officials or high-ranking managers and officials, not rank-and-file employees. The primary response was geared toward rank-and-file employees through the creation of an “ethics officer” and establishment of educational programs to teach ethics.

Over the last few years this county has had leaks out of closed session, seen the county assessor forced to resign under a cloud, and hostile work environment claims filed against high-level county officials. Clearly, things are on the wrong track and it starts with leadership at the top.

With all due respect for the past administration, it takes more than a balanced budget to keep San Bernardino County going. It requires mutual respect between employees and management. It requires bad decisions to be confronted and dealt with so that mistakes are not repeated. It requires ethics matters to be fixed, not papered over with useless gimmicks that were never intended to truly address the problems we have had. It takes aggressive and responsive leadership to properly deal with matters of concern before they balloon into a crisis.

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