Opinion piece: broken promises

inyocourthouseIn January, the Inyo Supervisors voted unanimously not to pay Film Commissioner Chris Langley for 7 months of work while the County failed to produce a contract and an RFP.  Then last week, they reversed themselves and voted to pay Langley and to proceed with an RFP process.  Supervisor Linda Arcularius was the lone no vote.  The deadline for interested parties to submit applications to be considered for Film Commissioner is March 31.  Charles James wrote the following editorial on the whole issue:

Won’t Get Fooled Again…

By Charles James 19 January 2013

The Board’s vote could have a negative impact on the county if it becomes known to the film industry– and there is no reason to expect that it might not. Langley is held in high regard by those that film commercials and movies in our area. His success is evident in the very successful, recent release of the Quentin Tarantino film “Django Unchained”, which was filmed here largely thanks to Langley’s efforts. What might the commercial and film industry think of the board’s recent backhanded treatment of someone that the industry likes and respects? They, much like voters, may choose to vote with their feet.

Meet the new boss

Same as the old boss

-Lyrics by rock legends, The Who

Have we, the voters, been “fooled again”?

The recent actions by the Inyo County Board of Supervisors to deny payment for the services

that our County Film Commissioner Chris Langley provided over the past seven months is more

than simply disappointing, it is outright embarrassing. Hopefully it is not an indication of the

quality of decision-making that will be made in the future by the new Board of Supervisors.

Aside from the appalling lack of principles shown and the disrespect of one of the county’s most

prominent citizens, who also just happens to be one of our most successful county contractors,

the Board’s decision shows why many feel that our county often has little to show in the way of

progress and economic advancement.

If the Board can treat someone who has brought millions of dollars of economic benefit to the

county as badly as Langley has been treated, then there appears little reason to hope for the

“change” that voters sought in replacing three of the five incumbent supervisors in the recent

election. It is reasonable to ask: Is the “new boss same as the old boss”?

By voting to not compensate Chris Langley for his hard work and success, the newly elected

Supervisors demonstrated in one of their very first decisions in office that perhaps there may not

be the “change”, “progress”, or “hope” that many voted for in the last election. All three newly-

elected supervisors ran on promises to bring more jobs, promote tourism, transparency,

accountability, and improve the economic climate of the county. In that light, the vote against

Langley was a disaster…and a broken promise. Let’s hope that this recent vote is just an

aberration and not a harbinger of similarly bad decisions to come.

But it is not as if Langley left the board meeting with no rewards whatsoever for bringing millions of dollars into the county’s economy; he left with words of fulsome praise on the lips of the Supervisors of how wonderful and beneficial all the hard work that he provides is to county and its economy. None doubted that he did the work. Yet all that praise has little value coming from Supervisors who then went on to vote not to pay him; in essence “damning with faint praise” by undermining the value of his work through their subsequent vote.

Essentially the board’s action said, “Great job Chris, but your efforts really aren’t worth our paying you even though it was of tremendous economic benefit to the County and the screw-up was entirely our fault and not yours. You know these things happen!”

The past Board of Supervisors created this mess. What does it say about the Board of Supervisors that they failed for over a year to follow-up on one their own decisions? They never took the trouble to find out if the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the position of the County Film Commissioner was completed, but rather waited only to discover many months later that it was never done by the county staff upon which they rely to implement their decisions.

The objections to paying Langley last week came from Supervisor Arcularius. Last year she, along with then-Supervisor Fortney, proposed the perfectly reasonable idea of an RFP for the position of Film Commissioner. It appears that “one or more of their constituents” were possibly interested in applying. One objection she had now was that to pay Langley for his time would

“set a precedent” future county contractors may exploit. Well, how can anyone argue with that

logic on witnessing the gross negligence and failure of the Board and the County staff so far in

this matter? God forbid THEY take any responsibility or suffer any consequence; better to avoid

it altogether.

To his credit, CAO Carunchio told the Board Tuesday that he took “full responsibility” for the

delay in preparing the RFP. The mea culpa however meant little in righting a wrong. And even

though Fifth District Supervisor Kingsley said that his suggestion to pay Langley is not a

reflection on Carunchio, it does beg the question– “How could the failure to complete the RFP

not be a reflection on the CAO who just admitted culpability?”

This is how things are supposed to work: The Board makes decisions, and then it becomes the

CAO’s job to have county staff carry those decisions out in a prompt, timely, and professional

manner. That clearly did not happen in this case, so of course it reflects on him– it’s called

“accountability”, although there is no threat of consequences to the CAO or his staff for their

failure to produce the RFP. The only consequences fall on Chris Langley, who thus far is getting

screwed in this deal.

Arcularius went on to tell Kingsley that voting to pay Langley for the past seven months of Film

Commission work he has done “would be totally unsupportive of the (County) Administrative

Officer” and undermine the actions of the previous Board of Supervisors. Why must the board be

supportive of a county employee, regardless of position, if he or she did not do their job? Is it so

they do not have their feelings “hurt”?

This was not a simple case of “no harm; no foul”. Someone has been clearly harmed by this

“mistake”– as it is being euphemistically called, rather that the “failure” that it is. Generally,

most of us would agree that our CAO does very good work and our County Supervisors are good

people trying to make good decisions, but as this fiasco has proven, their jobs often become

greatly complicated by actions, inactions, disingenuous arguments, “mistakes”, and failures.

Supervisor Arcularius also said that to pay Langley will “undermine the actions of the previous

Board of Supervisors”. Well then, why have elections? Isn’t it possible that it was the dislike or

lack of support of past actions and decisions of the previous Board of Supervisors which led to

the replacement of three of the five incumbents in the most recent election?

The argument that the current Board should continue with “business as usual” and support what

“previous” Boards of Supervisors have already decided so as not to undermine them, even when

they may prove to be ill-advised or have had negative consequences, is a non sequitur. If that

were to become the case, then we– the voters– along with the newly-elected Supervisors, should

not stand for it.

The most recent news is that Supervisor Kingsley has asked to revisit the issue at the next Board

meeting. Let’s hope for a different outcome. If so, perhaps

we voters will “tip our hat to the new constitution” of the new County Board of Supervisors; but if not, well the message is clearly:

Meet the new boss; Same as the old boss.

5 Comments
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Russ Monroe
Russ Monroe
9 years ago

“I believe everyone should be treated with consideration and respect” ? Really?
Shouldn’t that have included Chris Langley?
That this issue hit the board level at all, should be an embarrassment to all involved.

Charles James
Charles James
9 years ago

Russ, I guess you have strong feelings on the subject, but as the author of the editorial on their initial vote, I cannot say that my feelings were quite that intense. Yes, I was disappointed, even a little angry at how the vote first went down, but the fact is… Read more »

Russ Monroe
Russ Monroe
9 years ago
Reply to  Charles James

Charles, under the heading of; giving credit where it is due…. If you actually read the two sentences that I wrote above, you might note that I did not call down the other four supervisors for anything. Additionally to disagree; being publicly robbed and fired, IS subhuman treatment, undeserved in… Read more »

Charles James
Charles James
9 years ago
Reply to  Russ Monroe

Russ, I often enjoy reading your comments, but I disagree with your ad hominem attack on Supervisor Arcularius. I’ve seen you post far better comments than the ones posted on this subject. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “A truth told with bad intent is worth all the lies you can invent.”… Read more »

Russ Monroe
Russ Monroe
9 years ago

Setting the bar higher than even Mr. Dumba could have imagined!
Congratulations, stupidvisor Arcularius, for showing us leadership of the most self defecating type!