Headwaters Fund also on BOS agenda today w/ photo update

A pair of items on the Board of Supes agenda may present Kirk Girard challenges he can’t dispense with in snarky letters to the editor.

"Read my lips: I don't care what you think!"

There’s that whole General Plan Update thing, of course. There’s also a request that the board approve the “slate” of projects the Community Development Disservices Director wants to dip into the Headwaters Fund to pay for.

As reported by the North Coast Journal, this year’s first installment of the Humboldt County Grand Jury Report notes some improvements in Girard’s management of the fund, while reiterating that the fund doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do–and, as an aside, Girard shouldn’t be managing it in the first place.

Why? Turns out the Grand Jurors think a fund created to increase the number of above-median jobs in the county should, you know, increase the number of above-median jobs in the county. Girard, on the other hand, seems to think the fund his department manages should be a really good source of funding for that department.

While that might seem like a surprisingly efficient funding mechanism for a public agency, not everyone is impressed. As the Grand Jury notes,

The perceived conflict arises when the Director applies for a grant, screens the grant, prepares a staff report and signs the grant contract as Grantee.

Well, yeah. There’s that.

This time around, Girard appears to be asking to fund other people’s projects. However, it remains to be seen whether he can convince the board that, say, building bathrooms at the Orick Rodeo Grounds and cleaning up toxic waste on Indian Island will result in an increase in above-median employment.

Regardless, the Grand Jury’s argument that Girard should relinquish management of the fund to the County Treasurer is compelling. Maybe that would free up some of his above-median staff time to finish the fricking General Plan Update.

Misty water-colored memories

AEDC…. AEDC…. We wondered why that sounded so familiar–like a high school friend whose name we remember but whose face is a pimply blur.

But then–aha!! That AEDC! It all came back at once–the dust-up! the excitement! the intrigue!! the whole stenchilada of controversy and scandal! All just a few years ago, but impossible to recapture now.

Instead–your indulgence, please. Allow us to recap, and we mean briefly! In one little sentence, even: The AEDC, acting as trustee for 584,000 of the City of Arcata’s CDBG dollars, spent 194,000 of them on the AEDC, instead of on a certain Foodworks Culinary Center, and then abandoned the project and defaulted on the loan.

A keyword addendum, if we may: HUD, displeased, city, fucked. You get the idea.

Then, of course, there’s the aforementioned audit report describing a spirited race toward fiscal imprudence between AEDC management and our very own Community Development Disservices Director–a contest which, as of now, is still too close to call.

So why, then, given the history, the audit, the bad math and sloppy accounting, the opposition from the community so clearly expressed during the public comment period Tuesday–why would the Board of Supervisors seriously entertain the suggestion that the AEDC be given in excess of a million additional dollars in public funds?

But we digress. Quick unrelated question–pop quiz, as it were: Anyone know who the controller of the AEDC is? Clearly not a very good controller, given the number and severity of problems described in the audit–but still. A name, please? Anyone?

Ah, that’s right. Something else we’d forgotten, until now. AEDC’s controller, Stephanie Witzel, is–coincidentally, we’re sure–the sister-in-law of Bonnie Neely, a name we couldn’t forget if we tried.

Audits and oddities

To: Humboldt County Community Development Disservices Director Kirk Girard

Subject: Headwaters Revolving Loan Fund request

Dear Director Girard,

Thank you for your recent request for an additional $1.5 million loan to the Arcata Economic Development Corporation from the Headwaters Revolving Loan Fund account. Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate your request for the following reasons.

  1. An independent audit revealed that you mismanaged the first $1.5 million you gave to the AEDC. Specifically, the auditor noted that:
    a. You cannot account for the money.
    b. The AEDC’s independent auditor cannot account for the money but has aked to borrow some of it.
    c. AEDC staff cannot account for the money and are uncooperative when asked to try.
    d. As a result, it cannot be determined whether the county is being repaid promptly, or even repaid at all.
  2. We’re still looking for that $11 million and change in Community Development Block Grants your department gave out and didn’t keep track of.
  3. All of this was made public just last week, and we haven’t forgotten about it yet.
  4. The appropriate response to a report that rips you a redundant pooper and recommends suspending activities with the AEDC is not to say, oh, yeah, cool, so can I give them 100% more money to mismanage?
  5. I was already up to my tits in complaints about your incompetence and arrogance before this most recent example of both.
  6. The big “not recommended” with my initials next to it on the cover of the staff report? Yeah, fuckhead, that’s all me.

Oh and Kirk–funny thing. Somehow, the agenda for the July 14th meeting at which the audit was presented does not contain a link to the audit report. Funnier still, every other agenda item is properly linked to its relevant supporting documentation, and only that audit report seems to be missing. Weird, huh?

Cordially,
Loretta Nickolaus
Humboldt County Administrative Officer