Supe on Drug and Alcohol Funding Fiasco: Are We Opening A Pandora’s Box Here?

Sept. 30, 2011 | Nate Miley’s recent tough talk may preclude rising pressure stemming from his involvement with a burgeoning controversy over the counties procurement methods for handing out social service contracts.

Although, the local media has portrayed the issue as a few local communities losing funding for drug and alcohol programs, that story merely rides side-saddle to the potential of the issue becoming a wide-ranging county headache, or as Supervisor Keith Carson, said last week, having the possibility of “opening a Pandora’s Box.”

At issue is the perceived unfairness of two of Miley’s staff members sitting on the procurement committee that was set to choose non-profits for drug and alcohol prevention dollars. Carson also had a member of his staff on this particular committee.

The difference here being, Miley’s long-time girlfriend runs one of the organizations that received funding. Two groups which failed to renew funding for their programs during the procurement period appealed the decision on grounds of a conflict of interest and won. It’s was first time in years, according to county staff, an appeal had been granted.

The Board of Supervisors will further discuss the issue for a third consecutive meeting next week. Miley, though, now routinely recuses himself from any discussion of the matter, but the wide-spread use of supervisorial staff members to decide who receives funding for health services contracts and who does not could set a nasty predicament for the county.

The successful appeal could ostensibly render hundreds of procurement contracts void. Carson broached the subject last week and wondered about the chilling effect such a time-consuming rewrite of contracts could do in paralysing the county. Supervisor Wilma Chan agreed saying it would “open the door to chaos.” The board approved Sept. 20 to reinstate the current contracts, but only until the end of March while the matter is reviewed.

Chan said allowing staff members from supervisor’s staffs to sit on procurement boards is “a strange practice” since some offices choose not to place staff on the committee while each supervisor represents different constituents and districts. “I’m not making any judgment on that,” Chan said, “but that’s weird, right?”