June 11, 1999

Honorable Judge Ochoa, Presiding Judge
Santa Barbara County Superior Court
1100 Anacapa Street
PO Box 21107
Santa Barbara, California 93121-1107

Board of Supervisor’s Response to the 1998-99 Grand Jury Report on:
"Animal Health and Regulation"

Dear Judge Ochoa:

During its regular meeting of June 8, 1999, the Board of Supervisors adopted the following Public Health Department responses, with revisions noted below, as the Board’s response to the relevant findings and recommendations in their 1998-99 Grand Jury’s report on Animal Health and Regulation [Findings 1, 3(a), 3(b) and 4(a) and Recommendations 1, 3(a), 4(a) and 4(b)]. In addition, the Board adopted the following responses to Findings 2, 4(b) and 5 and Recommendations 2, 3(b), and 5 as the sole affected agency named.

__________________________

 HISTORY/OVERVIEW:
There has been a noticeable, adverse financial impact to the County’s discretionary revenues as a result of Proposition 13 in 1978 and creation of the Education Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF) in 1992. For the past seven years, since 1992-93, the County has lost approximately $60 million in discretionary revenues. Compounding this shift of County revenues to public education, was the recession of the early 1990’s. One of the cost-cutting measures the County took to live with a balanced budget was to cut services in many programs. Hence, the Animal Health and Regulation (AH&R) program was no exception and was affected by the County’s fiscal constraints. Fortunately, many citizens were concerned about this and volunteered their time and financial resources and continue to do so in 1999.

The County’s AH&R staffing decreased from 27.0 positions in 1988-89 to 22.5 in 1999-2000. That is a decrease of 4.5 positions (17%). During this same period, the number of kennels and cages doubled (see chart below which includes the additional 15 kennels scheduled for Lompoc), the Hayden bill increased the holding period from 72 hours up to 6 days which requires more kennels, staff, food and veterinary services, capital infrastructure has greatly deteriorated, and the County has not been able to financially keep up with computer technology and training. The Public Health Department, which houses the AH&R program, has requested that the County use the General Fund to fund one additional AH&R position (Departmental Assistant Senior). This will be considered, along with another $7.0 million in requests by various County departments and agencies, during the 1999-2000 budget hearings. It is important to note that the Board of Supervisors is projected to have about $200,000 available towards the unfunded requests. This falls $6.8 million short.

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SHELTERS
 
1988-89
1999-2000
Change (#)
Change (%)
Dog Kennels
108
158
+50
+46%
Cat Cages
74
217
+143
+193%
Bunny Cages
14
61
+47
+336%
TOTAL:
196
436
240
+122%
 
The County has had 6 AH&R directors in the past 11 years making it one of the highest management turnover positions in the County. For the past 26 years, since 1973, there have been 23 permanent and interim AH&R Directors. While this highly visible program provides a wonderful service to the community, like most other programs, it does not have all of the resources it would like. The AH&R program has also lost several staff with many years of experience over the years.

In calendar year 1993, the County’s AH&R program was augmented with a total of 16.25 FTEs in volunteer assistance from 5 volunteer groups and over $400,000 in program donations (ref: 7/19/94 board letter regarding the Grand Jury report, file #94-19,268). The five volunteer groups were ASAP, DAWG, CAPA, SAVE and PAWS. ASAP provided 58% of the 16.25 FTEs and PAWS provided 56% of the financial contributions. It is estimated that by year end, for 1998-99, the AH&R program will have enjoyed a total of 19,382 in volunteer hours (which equates to 14.1 FTEs) and received $314,769 in donations in calendar year 1998 (via provision of food, medical care & supplies, non-County boarding expenses and capital improvements).

The County has established policies for AH&R and greatly appreciates the contributions from volunteers in terms of labor and finances and AH&R staff’s dedication and commitment. The County has not, and would never, direct internal operations of private non-profit community based organizations. However, it is critical to the success of the AH&R program and for effective working relationships, that all volunteers and County staff follow the policies set by the Board of Supervisors.

FINDING 1: There is considerable discord between AH&R staff and volunteers. Incomplete and outdated policy and procedure manuals and weak AH&R management contribute to the discord.

    RESPONSE: The Board adopted the PHD’s response as the BOS response (partially disagree).

RECOMMENDATION 1: The AH&R Director should immediately revise the departmental manual to provide guidance for all personnel, including both paid staff and volunteers, working at all sites. The revision should include a section on foster care of animals, a revised section on adoptions, a section on staff responsibilities toward volunteers, and a section of rules for all volunteers working at a shelter. Volunteer input to this manual should be solicited – not negotiated through attorneys.

    RESPONSE: The Board adopted the PHD’s response as the BOS response (requires further analysis).

FINDING 2: Inconsistent agreements among volunteer organizations and overzealous volunteers undermine staff relationships with volunteers.
 
    RESPONSE: The Board partially agrees and partially disagrees with the finding.

The volunteer organization agreements were created in response to the volunteer groups’ requests. The two MOUs were adopted by the Board in February 1997 (DAWG and BUNS in Santa Barbara) and 2 months later the two Board resolutions were adopted in April 1997 (SAVE in Santa Maria and CAPA in Lompoc). The MOUs outline the volunteer groups’ rights and responsibilities and appoint them to aid and enhance the care of animals impounded by the County at the shelters. The resolutions outline the volunteer groups’ authority and responsibility and state that the mission of the groups is to provide humane care for animals impounded at the County shelters. While the commonality of all volunteer groups is to care for animals at the shelters, each group had different, specific issues and concerns at their specific shelter that were addressed in their MOUs and resolutions.

It is problematic if any individual(s) chooses to disregard the Board’s policy on animal health and regulation, whether they are permanent staff or volunteers and whether they are overzealous or not. The same philosophy is true when applied to the agreements. It is unfortunate, and counterproductive, when the intent and spirit of the agreements and policies are not embraced and followed by all involved. This behavior does undermine relationships. This Board wants to emphasize and clarify that staff is empowered by the Board of Supervisors with the responsibility and authority to follow and enforce the Board’s policies and the volunteer agreements (MOUs and resolutions). This issue is guided by the Board’s Strategic Goal #3, Organizational Effectiveness, Goal #6, Citizen Involvement, and Goal # 1, Efficient Government.

As with any other personnel issues whether dealing with permanent staff, extra help or volunteers, appropriate counseling, a corrective action plan, and monitoring of the person’s performance needs to occur. Should the problem continue, then the appropriate action(s) will be taken. As managers, it is important to place individuals in appropriate positions. So, for example, if someone is good at raising funds but is not good with interacting with people and performing operational tasks, then adjustments should be made.

RECOMMENDATION 2: The Board of Supervisors should rescind its existing agreements with volunteers and reestablish the authority of the AH&R policies and procedures. If formal agreements with volunteer groups are needed, they should be restricted to volunteer rights and obligations and should not include details of shelter operations. Operational details should be in the departmental manual.
 
    RESPONSE: The recommendation will not be implemented. The County will honor its agreements with the volunteer groups. It appears that all 4 volunteer groups and staff are not unhappy with the MOUs and resolutions but that some volunteers may be disregarding those MOUs and resolutions. If that is the case, then those individual volunteers will need to be trained/educated on the content and spirit of the MOUs and resolutions and the Board’s policies on Animal Health and Regulation. Those volunteers and employees who do not follow them should then be subject to appropriate action(s).

It would be beneficial for the newly appointed Animal Health & Regulation Director to set up a formal training program for volunteers to include review of policies, MOUs/resolutions and operations. Training of Shelter Supervisors was set up in 1994-95 as a result of the 1993-94 Grand Jury report on AH&R. This training should be expanded to include training of volunteers as well. This should help minimize misinterpretation and/or misunderstandings of the Board’s policies and MOUs/agreements.

As an alternative, the Board may consider, in the future, forming an Animal Health Collaborative facilitated by the County’s Organizational Effectiveness Director. Considerations in this decision would be availability of staff resources in light of other County issues and day-to-day operations, willingness of volunteer organizations to participate, clearly defined goals, objectives and timeline, and recommendation from the newly hired AH&R Director. Generally, collaboratives of this nature take many months and a lot of time and effort. The Collaborative could work pro-actively and cooperatively in identifying and agreeing on how the future of animal health services in the County should be structured. The Collaborative could identify those things they like, those thinks they don’t like, discuss pros and cons, reach agreements and then implement. The results of the collaborative would then help determine what to do with, how to handle, and/or what to change in, the volunteer MOUs/resolutions, etc. The Collaborative could consist of County management, County staff, volunteer representatives, and union representatives.

Both of the Memorandum of Understandings stipulate that the MOUs shall remain in effect for one year from the date of signature of the MOU unless superceded by a subsequent agreement, and the MOU shall thereafter be automatically renewed for one year terms for each succeeding year following the original term of the MOU year, unless either party gives written notice of termination of the MOU 30 or more days prior to the termination date of the MOU. It took seven months to create and adopt the existing MOUs. The MOU states that 90 days prior to termination, the volunteer groups and the County shall meet to discuss its termination. Since the MOUs are up for renewal in February 2000, discussions would have to take place no later than mid-November 1999 which is only 5 months away. Once the newly appointed Animal Health and Regulation Director takes office, s(he) will re-evaluate the MOUs and agreements for their need and effectiveness by October 1999 and present his/her recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. Modifications or amendments to the MOUs and resolutions can be discussed at this point in the process.

It may turn out that a more complete division of responsibilities between volunteer groups and staff is necessary. It appears that some responsibilities outlined in the MOUs are shared between volunteers and staff which can cause confusion and/or frustration.

As a point of interest, the ASAP volunteer group, a non-profit organization, does not have a MOU or resolution with the County nor do they feel they need one. They have operated at the Santa Barbara shelter for many years and enjoy a positive working relationship with staff.

FINDING 3(a): The volunteer organization DAWG exerts an inappropriate level of influence on the inner workings of the AH&R Department through its individual and collective access to the Board of Supervisors.

    RESPONSE: The Board adopted the PHD’s response as the BOS response (disagree partially).

FINDING 3(b): The conduct of DAWG volunteers has resulted in staff resignations and has created poor morale and an adversarial environment within the department.

    RESPONSE: The Board adopted the PHD’s response as the BOS response (disagree partially).

RECOMMENDATION 3(a): The Director and staff of AH&R should control routine shelter operations with support from management and the Board of Supervisors.

    RESPONSE: The Board adopted the PHD’s response as the BOS response (has been implemented).

RECOMMENDATION 3(b): The Board of Supervisors should recognize that its responsiveness to volunteers may well circumvent policy and place staff in an untenable position.

    RESPONSE: In accordance with Section 933.05 of the California Penal Code, the Board responds that the recommendation will not been implemented since it is not a recommendation. However, it is probably more appropriate to respond to this as a finding, not as a recommendation. Therefore, the Board partially agrees and partially disagrees with the finding. Please see the response to Finding #2.

The Board of Supervisors consists of five elected officials who govern the County through establishment of policies that affect citizens and staff alike and the adjustment of those policies when appropriate. The Board is the policy maker. Staff ensures implementation and enforcement of those policies. The current County policies governing volunteer operations at the shelters for 4 of the 5 volunteer groups are stated in MOUs and resolutions prepared by the County and adopted by the Board of Supervisors.

It is not the intent of the Board to respond to volunteers so as to circumvent the Board’s own policy and place staff in an untenable position. None of the members of the current Board, nor their staff, has ever overruled any AH&R staff’s decisions/direction, nor reprimanded any staff in regards to volunteer issues. The Board, as responsible elected officials, investigates and responds to constituent complaints, just as it does with staff complaints. With over 900 programs at the County, the Board does not have time to micro-manage County programs, nor is it appropriate. The County has highly competent, dedicated staff to run County programs.

While the Board recognizes and greatly appreciates the substantial labor and financial support and long-term ommitment from volunteers and the excellent work of County staff, it is important that everyone involved focus on achieving the mission and, implementing the policies of, animal health and regulation services.

FINDING 4(a): Mediation of conflicts is an important skill for the Director of AH&R. However, he is not mediating conflicts in a satisfactory manner, in part because of pressure from the Board of Supervisors to placate volunteers.

    RESPONSE: The Board adopted the PHD’s response as the BOS response (disagree partially).

FINDING 4(b): Staff feels hostage to volunteers because of volunteer access to the Board of Supervisors.

    RESPONSE: The Board partially agrees and partially disagrees with the finding.

The Board respects what staff feels regardless if it is justified or not, real or perceived. However, the Board is saddened to learn, through a grand jury report, that some Animal Health and Regulation employees feel hostage to volunteers because of volunteer access to this Board. Please see responses to Recommendations 2 and 3(b).

It is the Board’s understanding that the majority of volunteers have a good working relationship with the majority of staff. Staff knows that volunteers provide valuable services, that the County values volunteers’ input regarding shelter operations, and that staff is to enforce the Board’s policies (as guided by the MOUs, resolutions, operational instructions and training manuals).

 The Board empowers and encourages management to resolves issues at the lowest level of government that is possible. The Board values all staff. The newly hired AH&R Director is directed to determine why some staff feel hostage to volunteers and to take appropriate correction action(s) and/or recommend solutions to the Board of Supervisors by October 1999.

It should be noted that the Board embraces Goal #3, Organizational Effectiveness, of the County’s Strategic Plan which includes "maintain good communication systems throughout the organization" and "establish management policies and expectations that are consistent, fair, and clearly communicated."

NOTE: It would have been beneficial if the Grand Jury had cited some specific actions so that the Board could appropriately respond.

RECOMMENDATION 4(a): The Director of Health Care Services [Public Health Department] should update the position description for the AH&R Director to emphasize the duty of "conflict mediator between volunteers and staff".

    RESPONSE: The Board adopted the PHD’s response as the BOS response (has been implemented).

RECOMMENDATION 4(b): The Director of AH&R, as well as all levels of management above, including the Board of Supervisors, should create a supportive environment for AH&R staff.

    RESPONSE: The Board adopted the PHD’s response as the BOS response (has not yet been implemented).

FINDING 5: The Board of Supervisors creates public/private partnerships by accepting contributions, either cash and or in-kind services, for County activities.

    RESPONSE: The Board disagrees with the finding.

"Partnership" is a legal term, with a specific legal meaning. Even if the term "public/private partnership" is used in an ordinary and not a technical way, a partnership is not created simply by the acceptance of contributions by the County. Rather, a partnership is created only by an agreement that specifies the goals that the partners are pursuing and the respective rights and responsibilities of the partners. RECOMMENDATION 5: The Board of Supervisors should accept responsibility for ensuring that public/private partnerships do not have a negative impact on County activities by developing and enforcing policies and procedures for these partnerships.

    RESPONSE: The recommendation will not be implemented.

Each partnership should be considered on its individual circumstances rather than through across-the-board policies and procedures. We agree that the Board of Supervisors should accept responsibility for ensuring that public/private partnerships do not have a negative impact on County activities, including adoption of appropriate contract terms, but feel this should be done on a case-by-case basis.

The Board recognizes that the County always retains the ultimate responsibility for assuring the public health and safety and that this police power responsibility cannot be contracted away by a partnership agreement or otherwise.

Sincerely,

NAOMI SCHWARTZ
Chair, Board of Supervisors
Attachments
cc: l998-99 Grand Jury Foreperson