Harry Hufford, Ventura County's newly hired interim chief administrative officer, must wonder why there is so much distrust of the Board of Supervisors with regard to the use of tobacco settlement money.
That distrust is of the board's own making and goes back 10 years.
Hufford should be told of the shenanigans of 1990, when we uncovered the deception of the supervisors. They secretly approved a benefits plan that greatly enriched themselves and county department heads. That plan allowed the supervisors to nearly double their take-home pay without the public's knowledge.
When we attempted to find out how much money the supervisors were taking home, County Counsel Jim McBride and County Auditor Tom Mahon refused to provide it, claiming it was "privileged information." It seems that everyone in the hierarchy of county government conspired to keep that information secret, which they did for two years.
When the voters approved an increase in sales tax to increase funding to the sheriff's and district attorney's offices, a supervisor argued that those funds should go into the general fund. When it was pointed out that the people had voted specifically to fund public safety, the supervisor replied, "They didn't know what they were voting for." That attitude is, of course, what brought about the petition drive to lock up those funds for public safety.
The mental health merger was another example of the arrogance of a few of the supervisors. Even when told by experts that the merger plan was not legal, they adopted it anyway.
Now, those same supervisors are trying to convince the public that only they should control the millions of dollars coming from the tobacco settlement. They promise, really they do, that it is only this year that they will dip into those funds to balance the budget and in future years they will spend it on health care.
And they wonder why we don't trust them?