Environmental consultant Melanie McCavour could wind up losing her at-large seat on the Humboldt County Planning Commission tomorrow as the Board of Supervisors considers whether she has a conflict of interest after taking a job with the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria.
McCavour, who was appointed to the Planning Commission almost three years ago, was recently hired as Bear River’s tribal historic preservation officer (THPO), according to the staff report. That could be a problem, the report says, because according to the county’s cannabis ordinance, all commercial grows must be set back at least 600 feet from tribal cultural resources, and it will now be McCavour’s job to evaluate and approve grow operations under those criteria.
That means she’d have to recuse herself from considering any and all projects for which she’d also be serving as the Rancheria’s THPO.
Frequent recusals could make it hard for the Planning Commission to reach a quorum, the staff report says. “Therefore, considering removing Ms. McCavour and replacing the At-Large position would benefit both the applicants and the Planning Commission.”
It’s not clear who brought this potential conflict to the county’s attention. The staff report uses the passive voice, saying Clerk of the Board Kathy Hayes “has been notified of a potential conflict.” By whom, McCavour herself? Someone who doesn’t like how McCavour votes?
We sent McCavour an email and left a couple voicemails on Monday but have yet to hear back.
The Planning Commission has seven members, five of whom are appointed by individual supervisors to represent their respective districts while the other two are appointed to serve “at large,” meaning they represent the entire county and must be approved by a majority of the Board of Supervisors.
McCavour has been a staunch environmental advocate on the commission. She voted to deny a permit to rebuild a fallen billboard south of Eureka last year, and in 2019 she was in the majority that voted to deny the controversial Humboldt Wind Energy Project atop Bear River Ridge and Monument Ridge south of Scotia. She argued that it was not worth trading tribal cultural resources for a project that would make only “a tiny, tiny dent” in accommodating the energy needs of primarily Southern California residents.
The county staff report says removing McCavour and appointing someone else to her position “would benefit both the applicants and the Planning Commission.”
What else is on the docket for Tuesday? Well, if you’ve been following the seemingly endless drama surrounding Auditor-Controller Karen Paz Dominguez, it won’t surprise you to learn that she appears in several agenda items.
First, Paz Dominguez is being asked to deliver this month’s “written and verbal update” on county payroll. The payroll function was recently moved back to her office from the Human Resources Department, and the transition has not gone smoothly.
At a bruising Nov. 9 Board of Supervisors meeting, at which department heads, fiscal staff and supervisors laid into the A-C for being difficult to reach, vindictive and woefully behind in her duties, the supervisors unanimously voted to require monthly payroll updates from her. The board also asked Paz Dominguez to develop “metrics and comparables” so the board can see whether or not her office’s duties are getting accomplished.
She has yet to produce such a report or develop those metrics, according to a staff report. “As of Dec. 8, 2021,” it says, “the AC report has not been complete and there has been no communication to the [Board of Supervisors] on the status of these directed reports.”
Reached for comment via email, Paz Dominguez said the board does not have any authority to direct the actions of other elected officials — a stance she has taken previously and that the board disputes. She went on to say that if the board gives her additional tasks to perform then it will need to provide her office with additional resources, per California Government Code Section 26884.
“They can ‘direct’ as many new tasks as they want but if they don’t provide the resources necessary to complete those tasks, then they should not be surprised when the tasks are not completed,” Paz Dominguez said in her email. “Despite the poor timing and notice of this imposed presentation, I have agreed to allot 15-20 minutes at 1pm … to be at the BOS meeting. Were it not scheduled during our critical payroll processing day, I would have allotted more time.”
She also disputes the allegation that she has failed to produce the requested reporting, noting that she provided “a detailed zoom presentation regarding payroll and made myself available for the entire 4+ hours of that agenda item,” apparently referring to the Nov. 9 meeting.
Lastly, Paz Dominguez accused the Board of Supervisors of allowing false statements about her office to go uncorrected during public meetings.
“It is my expectation that this BOS will soon begin retracting the misstatements it has allowed be made into the public record about the A-C Office,” she wrote.
There’s one other item on Tuesday’s agenda that points the finger at Paz Dominguez, and it concerns First 5 Humboldt, the county’s child development organization. As reported early last month, First 5 Executive Director Mary Ann Hansen said her organization’s annual audit was held up by overdue reporting from the Auditor-Controller’s Office.
That situation was resolved shortly thereafter, but according to a staff report, First 5’s independent auditor wound up finding that the Auditor-Controller’s Office failed to live up to its accounting and oversight responsibilities under its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the county.
Specifically, the auditor concluded that “the formal financial closing process was not followed as it has been followed in previous years,” which required her to correct financial statements for receivables and accrued liabilities and make other changes “in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.”
The staff report says this audit finding could have dire consequences.
“The current finding is egregious and has the potential to impact the Commission’s ability to secure grants to provide needed services to Humboldt’s children and families and accomplish its voter-approved mandate,” it says.
Asked about this via email on Monday, Paz Dominguez said that given her workload she would not be able to provide a detailed response by my deadline but should be able to before tomorrow’s meeting. We’ll update this post with that response when it comes in.