Review of law as it limits the Board of Supervisors’ ability to oversee child
protective services and other welfare programs
“A poor lawyer tells you ’can’t do’; a good lawyer tells you ‘how to’.”
There is a nice agenda for the upcoming Sierra County Board of Supervisors meeting. Probably the most interesting will be a discussion by County Council Jim Curtis outlining what he sees as the “limits of the Board of Supervisors’ ability.”
Jim Curtis is a methodical, conservative attorney; after watching him a few years, this editor sees his primary purpose as cautionary.
We might expect the discussion to feature the power of the court to hold information confidential; the requirements for service provision; the powers designated to the Director of Social Services by California Department of Social Services, and the other provisions of law which prevent the people from having any control over the provision of services.
There will likely be some attention to the limited professional qualifications for Supervisors to make judgements about individual cases, and some talk about how the Board makes policy, and enacts state mandates, and how qualified staff have to be allowed the authority to run their departments.
These constraints are basic to the discussion. They are largely negative in effect; “you can’t do this because of this; you can’t do that because of the other.”
I hope the discussion will also explore the things the Board of Supervisors can, and must do, both to protect the county as a corporation, but also as the most local legislators with authority over us, to protect us.
The Board can, and indeed must, ensure that all County staff follow the law. We think the Board can actually set some stricter performance requirements than state policies call for.
There are not many tools for the Board to use, but though they are few, they are thorough. The Board can refuse funds. It can refuse new positions. It can replace key staff and can require levels of proficiency. It can hire staff who are not simply qualified, but understand the importance of working with the community in a cooperative, and not oppressive, manner.
In short, we think the Board can, and should, express community expectation. The discussion should explore the Board’s ability- rather, responsibility- to provide some accountability to the community. That accountability is much broader and deeper than an election every four or six years.
If the supervisors are powerless to protect us from illegal and oppressive behavior by county staff, to whom can we turn? The courts? That is past laughable to offensive. The facts are very clear: unless a family has money for attorneys and experts, they have no chance in court beyond the caprice of the judge. Unless you can afford appeals, you simply can not beat the government and their insurers.
In the current case, the offenses are egregious, and they have been largely public, thanks to our close-knit community rumor mill, which incidentally circulates dozens of stories like this. There is a claim from the “inside” which will anchor the family’s claim.
But that describes recourse for a single family. Does the entire family populace of Sierra County have to launch a class action suit against the Board to achieve community redress? Do the angry mothers, aunts and grandmothers have to come out into the streets together to be heard in court?
Families are too closely personal, and the lengthy and cumbersome chain of accountability to state legislators and federal congressmen is too long. If our supervisors and other local officials can’t make significant decisions about how departments are run, and how citizens are impacted by that department, then our government is a sham. If the Board of Supervisors has no authority, at last, to hold government intrusion to a level acceptable by the community, then we must abandon the pretense that we live in a free country, a “democracy”.
The Board can’t protect us from outrageous building codes; it can’t protect us from the Forest Service restrictions over use of the land in the county, it can’t protect the water that flows over our ground. If it can’t protect our families from harmful, illegal behavior by County staff, then it can do nothing but take our taxes. Families are the most sacred part of our Creator endowed liberties; they are essential to the pursuit of happiness and synonymous with life.
If that is the case, if our “democracy” is so weak and watered down by lawyers and bureaucrats, then the covenant that founded our liberty is broken, and we owe the government nothing. Not our taxes, not our allegiance, not our participation. Our votes are meaningless. We are not free people, we are serfs, working our lives for capitalists and turning our gains, and even our families, over to the king.
Let’s be hopeful that the methodical and conservative Mr. Curtis will explain to the Board, and the people of the county, how to. How to protect our families from outrageous and harmful intrusion; how to protect our finances from lawsuit.
At the very least, this discussion is months overdue. It’s ridiculous that the county newspapers carry an issue for more than half a year before the situation is finally addressed before the public.
See a related article HERE