Supervisor acts on reform ideas
Ryan Carter, Staff Writer
Created: 05/24/2011 11:46:06 PM PDT

Josie Gonzales, chairwoman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, said Tuesday that she would lay off a third of her staff, effective in July, as part of reforms she proposed to combat county corruption.

The move was no knock on the employees themselves, Gonzales stressed in a statement late Tuesday.

Instead, she said, they were “good, hard-working professionals” who simply came under the budget ax as Gonzales realigned her office’s budget in anticipation of the elimination of board discretionary funds.

Such funds are allotted to supervisors’ offices to spend as they see fit for programs and services in each of their districts.

But among reforms she proposed at a May 17 board meeting was the shutting down of discretionary funds for the 2011-12 fiscal year – a move she said would save $2 million.

Plus, she said, it would help burnish the county’s reputation – which has been battered in recent years, and in recent days, with corruption scandals.

“It’s about trying to practice what I preach, and trying to get back to where the people believe what we say is what we’re going to do,” she said.

The cuts will involve letting go of three people on Gonzales’ staff: an assistant to the executive secretary, a part-time intern and a field representative whose retirement was hastened by the cut, Gonzales said. Savings would be about $300,000 for her office, she estimated.

All have been key positions on a staff of nine, she said. They allowed her to service various needs of constituents in her district – from answering calls to working on district issues.

In making the move, she hoped to encourage her colleagues to consider similar moves as a decision on the overall county’s budget for the next fiscal year comes close.

The county’s chief financial officer has proposed serious cuts to the county’s budget, which Gonzales acknowledged that her own actions are a part.

But Gonzales stopped short of urging her colleagues to do the exact same thing.

“That’s totally left to them,” she said. “I don’t tell them what to do.”

But not all on the board agree that all the reforms that Gonzales has proposed and begun acting on are even reforms.

“Cutting staff is not reform,” Supervisor Neil Derry said. “It doesn’t change how the county operates. She’s welcome to do it, if she chooses.”

But Derry, who employs a staff of 10 people with his discretionary funds, said his staff is vital to serving his massive district, which is much larger than Gonzales’. Cutting any more – and he laid off one staffer last year – would severely cut into his ability to serve his constituents, he said.

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