On the same day that voters will decide if the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors should become a part-time governing body, Nov. 6, the supervisors will vote to adopt a meeting calendar designating 25 meeting dates for calendar year 2013. They will not meet the remaining 28 Tuesdays of the year.
In recent years county supervisors have made themselves less available to their constituents by reducing their meeting dates. Board of Supervisors meetings are the only forums where any citizen can voice their complaints or concerns. Citizens have up to three minutes to address calendar items and another three minutes for the topic of their choice.
Few citizens ever have the chance to meet with their board member one-on-one unless they are large campaign donor. Generally, the best a constituent can hope for is a telephone discussion with a field representative or a passing glance at a fundraising or community event, unless it is an election year. Then board members tend to mingle more but usually insulate themselves by having staff members present to run interference.
Board meetings were held every Monday, except for holidays, until Jerry Eaves became a supervisor in 1992. He maneuvered majority approval to change the meeting day to Tuesday with the condition there would be no meeting when Monday is a holiday.
Several years ago once Supervisor Gary Ovitt became chairman, the meeting schedule was reduced to part-time and has remained that way ever since. With less meetings, the supervisors do not have to sit through the public comment section so often.
Some supervisors have expressed their dislike for the public comment section due to more and more citizens taking them to task for the corruption in the county. Often supervisors can be seen chatting among themselves while citizens are speaking and some supervisors leave their seats to attend to other matters.
Individual supervisors have no obligation to ever show up to a board meeting or even to work. Once sworn in, they collect their paychecks even if they never work, if they are on vacation, in jail, incapacitated or are on the campaign trail.
For example, the Los Angeles County Assessor who was recently arrested and jailed for several days collected his full check while in jail and he cannot be removed from office except by a costly recall, which will never happen in a county the size of Los Angeles. There is no provision for removal from office even in the case of malfeasance.
In San Bernardino County, three of the last seven chairmen of the board of supervisors have been charged criminally and four of five of the current sitting board members have been the subject of criminal investigations and/or charged with criminal wrongdoing. Several top aids, two county administrative officers and a number of other high-ranking county officials have also been charged and/or convicted of criminal acts.
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