Mokelumne Hill, CA Change


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Jerry Budrick
06/12/2014 2:41 PM

Penny Stone

Guest Commentary

have worked for Amador County over 28 years. In 1997, I came to Public Health. As Fiscal Officer, I work directly with Public Health’s budget, health realignment funds, and state/federal grants. I believe I have the knowledge to address Lori Jagoda’s guest commentary in the Dispatch on May 9, as well as Supervisor Novelli’s response to “unfounded criticisms” he said Ms. Jagoda was guilty of.

I had the pleasure of working with Lori Jagoda for 15 years. She was the catalyst of the Public Health Department for many years. As Public Health nursing supervisor, she set the gold standard. Her work, with our county health officer’s leadership, was at the highest professional level.

I knew Supervisor Novelli before he was supervisor. At that time, he worked for the road crew and was involved with our union, SEIU, as was I. I feel the need to respond to Supervisor Novelli to address what I believe are inaccuracies.

Supervisor Novelli states he is extremely sad to see Health Officer Dr. Robert Hartmann leave. However, in his next paragraph, he states the board questioned the 37-percent raise Dr. Hartmann requested in 2010.

That statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Dr. Hartmann has never asked for a raise in his 15 years as health officer. These rumors need to be put to rest. There was, however, someone in 2010 who did request Dr. Hartmann receive additional compensation — Ms. Kristin Bengyel, former health services director.

You may recall the article in the Ledger Dispatch, in June 2012, about Ms. Bengyel’s firing. She was former county deputy CAO, promoted by former CAO Teri Daly to health services director — the same Ms. Bengyel who was fired by the Board because of incompetency, inappropriate behavior, lying about her qualifications, etc. Ms. Bengyel, my director, came to me in 2010 and directed me to draft a revised contract to increase Dr. Hartmann’s salary, “so that he will make the same as the psychiatrist in Behavioral Health.” The contract was adopted by the Board, then rescinded by the same board a few weeks later.

Regarding the H&HS building/Public Health budget: we moved here in December 2007. My fiscal opinion is the cost of this building is directly linked to the loss of half of our staff and reduction in PH services. It is a primary reason we have cut over a million dollars from our budget. I concede the decrease in state health realignment, the very year we moved here, couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Supervisor Novelli stated our budget was inflated in 2004-2008. I agree. For many years, health realignment had been transferred to Social Services and Mental Health. It paid salaries of Social Services employees and for the cost of the move to the new building, its infrastructure, phone systems, equipment, etc.

Supervisor Novelli is surprised the cuts have not been more dramatic. We had 21 full-time equivalent employees. We now have 11.51. By October 1, we will have 10.51. Is he suggesting more cuts to personnel? Public Health’s rent is projected at $254,000 next fiscal year. Ms. Jagoda didn’t say how much property tax we pay, Supervisor Novelli confirmed we do indeed pay a portion. This building is far from grandiose. It was built to 20-year growth specifications, planned well before the collapse of our economy. Today, the Behavioral Health and Social Services Departments are at capacity.

To conclude, I must defend the previous H&HS director I worked with for 11 years. She kept her entire management/supervisory team well informed of plans for the building. The H&HS director was reporting to five Board members and a former CAO. We were told the General Services Director was involved, as well. The only person who ever voiced concern to me personally for future costs of this building and its impact on health realignment was our current Amador County Auditor Joe Lowe. He once said to me this building was going to bankrupt us. It just about has.

We will continue to cut, but the fact remains, we have to pay the rent, utilities and all the rest of the expenses associated with the building. Yes, Ms. Jagoda, a very expensive storage unit indeed.

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