Merced County Supervisor Deidre Kelsey has called for a performance review of County CEO Larry Combs. Kelsey issued a stern four-minute statement at this week's supervisors meeting, opining that Combs' actions during his first four months in the office "bring into question who works for whom in Merced County."
The District 4 representative said she had concerns about poor communication, a lack of budget information and the creation of new policies outside of negotiations with the county's union.
"What has happened to the board setting such policy decisions as our health care plan?" Kelsey asked.
"When did this board make a decision regarding creating super agencies? Apparently there is someone out there discussing combining departments into super agencies and this board has never had an agendized discussion regarding this matter," she continued. "Again, I ask, who is sailing this ship?"
Combs sat quietly during her comments, which came at the end of an otherwise short board meeting.
Combs started work as county CEO on Nov. 30. He was scheduled to have a performance review before May 31, and once a year during his employment. Kelsey asked the county's attorney to move the evaluation to March 30, the next supervisor's meeting.
James Fincher, the county's in-house counsel, confirmed Friday that the item will be on the next closed-session agenda. Combs' employment agreement notes that the evaluation "shall be in accordance with specific criteria developed jointly by the Board of Supervisors and the CEO." The list of particular evaluation points was not available Friday.
When reached by phone, Combs said he looked forward to the one-on-one meeting with the supervisors.
"Supervisor Kelsey laid out some concerns she has. We will discuss them in closed session and I'm sure everything will be fine," Combs said.
On Friday morning, Kelsey stood by her original assertions.
"I have been frustrated and concerned," she said. "I felt that this was a fairly strong statement that needed to be made. For me, in particular, this is just part of the process."
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local 2703 issued a statement in response to the unfolding events.
It read, in part: "We share many of the concerns raised by Supervisor Kelsey, and we were pleased to hear these concerns raised. It's unbelievable that there is still no budget information coming out from the CEO's office, and it's unacceptable that requests for budget information from the people elected to oversee the operations of this county have been ignored. This county has tremendous problems, and keeping information from the people who are charged with the responsibility of decision making can only lead to greater problems."
The union statement also called for more light to be shone on county business and for a move away from policies they say are modeled after Sutter County, Combs' former employer. "It's our understanding that a lot of the issues are modeled on practices from Sutter County. Well, we're not Sutter County. Just because things were done a certain way in another county does not mean that it's appropriate to apply those ways to Merced County."
The full text of both statements are available at www.mercedsunstar.com.
Combs signed a four-year contract worth $205,000 a year on Oct. 27, 2009. It includes a buyout clause, which would pay full salary and benefits for six months, if the CEO is fired without cause.
Combs is the fifth CEO to serve the county in the past 50 years.
Reporter Danielle E. Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.