Bureaucrat Beat: Bad Rules, Hidden Elections, and Misguided DA

Friday the 13th could bring bad luck down on the heads of bureaucracy as we point the public’s attention to the bad side. What is the bad side? The letter of the law when it buries the spirit of the law. We ran into a fair amount of that this week. Here we go –

picnic_and_canoeMammoth District Ranger Jon Regelbrugge did call me back to talk about the fees charged to the Mammoth Firefighters Association for the 40th annual Firemen’s Picnic and Canoe races on forest land. The firemen never had to pay a fee before. This time, the Forest Service demanded 3% of their gross. A number of residents cried foul. After all, the firefighters do good deeds, provide scholarships and financial help for victims of fire not to mention protect homes and businesses.

So, we asked Regelbrugge why the sudden ding on the charitable works? He explained that the forest regulations offer a narrow set of conditions that lead to a fee waiver and the firefighters fell short. Regelbrugge explained that if an activity benefits the general public at large or programs of the Forest Service, they qualify for a fee waiver. He said this year, firemen listed scholarships and help for families which benefit individuals, not the general public.

Regelbrugge said it’s not about whether it’s a noble cause. The regulations say what they say and he wants to be fair and accurate. The ranger did say he’s willing to talk to the firemen about next year.

We in the Bureaucrat Beat newsroom would only say that the Forest rules are perhaps the problem. The spirit of regulating federal land use should recognize groups who do good for communities and help them do more good. That’s the spirit of the use of land that belongs to all of us. Or maybe the Forest Service should let local folks help interpret the one size fits all regulations.

mono_courthouse_10-08Here was another problem this week. The Mono County Clerk’s office did follow the letter of the law when they sent out word about hospital board, school board and fire board elections. They said they published a blurb in the Mammoth Times, but that was it. And, the boards themselves did not send out press releases to inform the communities that seats were open on the Mammoth Hospital Board and Mammoth School Board.

To her credit, the Inyo County clerk did send out a fax to local media about boards with open seats. While the letter of the law may require narrow public information, the spirit wants to include everyone. We know people who wanted to run for Mammoth Hospital Board and they never knew they could. This has prompted website comments about a Good Ole Boy system. Can’t we think bigger?

And, to the person who wants to see salary schedules of local governments, we’re still working on it. We did learn that the Town of Mammoth has posted this info on their website. Here’s what you do – go the website, click on Departments, then Human Resources, then Benefits and on the page that opens up you can find the salary schedule. More later on Inyo, Mono and Bishop.

One more assassination of the spirit of the law. Inyo District Attorney Art Maillet made the angry statement this week that he will no longer speak to news reporters, i.e. he will no longer provide open information about criminal cases to his public.

One of our website readers offered this comment: “The trouble with bureaucracy and its very definition, really, is that individuals working within an agency somewhere along the line move away from the original intent of that agency until that original purpose is obfuscated beyond all recognition. At that point, it becomes all about the perpetuation of the agency, nothing more. Public Service, Public Trust is then tossed out without a second thought. Seems to me that this is the case with the Inyo County District Attorney’s Office, just now.”

Couldn’t agree more. The knife of personal interest has pierced the beautiful sincerity of the Spirit of the Law. How sad for the public and for Mr. Maillet.

With that, this is Benett Kessler signing off for Bureaucrat Beat where we await your word on our lives in the Eastern Sierra and beyond.

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