Watchdog snaps at county over proposed policy deletion

El Dorado County
By: Raheem Hosseini Telegraph Correspondent
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Looking to tidy up a policy manual that had become the size of a James Patterson thriller, El Dorado County officials ran afoul of local watchdogs when they recommended one particular policy deletion last week. Before the Sept. 14 Board of Supervisors meeting, there were 87 policies taking up 419 pages of the board’s policy manual, many of them obsolete due to the passage of time and changing circumstances, according to the Chief Administrative Office. The office recommended culling 28 policies, nearly a third of the manual, and planned on revising or consolidating the rest. Supervisors ended up eliminating 17. One of the policies they spared — B-10 — was championed by representatives of the El Dorado County Grand Jury. Enacted in 1999, B-10 directs the county to distribute annual grand jury reports and board responses through a specially published tabloid in large area newspapers. In its summary of proposed deletions, the CAO cited the tabloid as impractical and not cost-effective, “especially now that reports are accessible via the internet.” But in an Aug. 7 letter opposing the policy deletion, grand jury foreman Steve Baker said the recommended action “strikes at the heart of citizen participation in effective oversight of county government.” Many county residents lack effective access to the internet, he added, citing the 2009-10 grand jury section on “Special District Websites,” which found a requirement for all special districts to establish and maintain websites impractical because only half of county households have good to excellent internet access. Earlier this month, the president of the El Dorado County Grand Jurors Association said talks of a replacement policy had already begun between his organization and the CAO. “We are confident that any potential policy adjustments can be accomplished by the end of this month,” said Chuck MacLean, the association’s president. Supervisors agreed to leave the policy alone until such a solution could be reached, said senior policy analyst Mike Applegarth. “There seems to be agreement that the tabloid may not be the most efficient communication tool,” he added. The policies that weren’t so lucky, in many cases, either no longer applied or were in conflict with more recent policies. For instance, supervisors voted to jettison a policy governing evening board meetings because there’s already a process altering the board’s meeting schedule. Supervisors spared a number of policies that were targeted due to funding issues, including a county legislative policy, employee suggestions award program, and a policy calling for the update of the Personnel Management Book. The board also opted not to delete an energy conservation policy the grand jury ruled the county was not following, as well as a policy that allows non-county agencies and individuals to request board agenda items. The CAO called the latter policy “potentially problematic.”