With contributions from associated editor Michael Pietrobon

At Tuesday’s Inyo County Board of Supervisor’s meeting, a discussion took place that, on its surface, seemed to be about potential cuts to the Inyo County libraries and the Eastern California Museum; part of the ambiguous “service re-design” to bridge a massive budget gap. Indeed, the agenda item and the proposals at hand could potentially severely impact these, and other, essential services.

Deputy Administrator Pam Hennarty began the discussion by clarifying to the public that “this is not about closing the libraries or large impacts.” It was later made crystal clear that Hennarty and CAO Kevin Carunchio favored an option that would in fact close the museum and libraries on multiple days, and require the resignation of two full-time positions. The contradictory nature of Hennarty’s comment, when viewed in light of the proposal being favored by Inyo County Administration, is concerning to say the least. Both Hennarty and Carunchio must not see the firing of Library Director Nancy Masters and Museum Director Jon Klusmire as a “large impact.”  It begs the question, then, as to what other full-time positions held by trained professionals and long-time residents of Inyo County, the administration consider dispensable and would not amount to a “large impact” if they were lost.

It was evident by the CAO’s statements during the meeting that he did not want to allow Library Director Nancy Masters or Museum Director Jon Klusmire to speak.  They were allowed to take the podium only after being pressed by one of the Board members, who reminded the CAO that the Directors of these respective departments deserve input. Suffice it to say that leaving Directors out of important decisions that directly affect their departments appears to be a tactic the CAO has used before. Library Director Nancy Masters noted that earlier this fiscal year the library was handed a surprise budget cut of 27%. The question should be asked of Inyo County Administration as to why, under any circumstances, a budget cut of 27% should be a surprise occurrence to the Director of the department it’s affecting - and a decision made without their direct involvement.

Consider this approach being applied to any other county service. Imagine (for example) the county proposing a 27% budget cut for Information Services, which is also an essential service used to keep the county running.  Would Inyo County Administration not take input from the Information Services Director? Or perhaps a proposal to cut the position of Deputy Administrator as part of the “service re-design;” would the Board and CAO consider Pam Hennarty’s input? Surprising division Directors with anything, let alone giant budget cuts, speaks to a severe lack of transparency and good-faith professional ethics.

When given the chance to speak during the Board meeting, Library Director Nancy Masters quoted Eleanor Crumblehulme, a library assistant at the University of British Columbia, saying “cutting libraries in a recession is like cutting hospitals in a plague.” The point being made is that in difficult financial times the importance of libraries only increases, as they are a source of free information and learning. A link to the Inyo County Board of Supervisors agenda can be put here, but if you don’t have internet access at home, how do you get it and find out the details on page 208 about the proposed cuts to your library? Your local library has a copy of the agenda for you, but keep in mind that if the slash-and-burn budget cuts proposed by Carunchio and Hannerty take effect, it may be difficult to access this or any other piece of information – especially if you work a full-time job during the week. Masters also spoke about her own plans for the library and museum, and the hope is that the board will strongly consider her suggested course of action.

In total, six plans were presented to the board. Masters presented two:  The “Roadmap Plan” which would increase expenses back to the board-approved 2012-13 level and put in place appropriate staffing and operating hours, and another option that would allow for continued staffing and operating hours with no increase in cost to the county (a notable feat by any measure). Deputy County Administrator Pam Hennarty presented four plans developed by Inyo County Administration: Option 1 would save $6,624 in operating costs and make a few personnel changes; option 2 saves $87,297 and adds day closures for both the museum and library; option 3 saves $47,120 and includes the same closures as option 2, but with different staffing options; option 4 saves $147,096, combines the library and museum departments, would include closures, and replace Directors Nancy Masters and Jon Klusmire with one joint director.

As the discussion drew to a close, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors asked CAO Kevin Carunchio what he advised as the next step. Carunchio’s response was that they simply needed to pick one of the proposed plans and move forward. When the Board asked Carunchio in return what his opinion was, he responded by saying, “Option 4 is a no-brainer.” Understandably, this elicited a few audible gasps from the audience, and prompted a number of people to ask Carunchio, “Can you repeat that?” Carunchio’s response was to get up and leave the room.  This left the Board to recommend that Inyo County Administration work more on options two and three and return with more information at a later date.  Whether the Library and Museum Directors will be allowed by Inyo County Administration participate in the effort to bring back more information on option two and three will remain to be seen.

As the Inyo County Board of Supervisors become more aware of the benefits of critical analysis and community involvement, as was seen during the discussions surrounding the REGPA issues this spring, there will perhaps be more willingness to require better leadership skills from the CAO. Leading by example and transparency are both key.  There has been a noticeable paradigm shift in Inyo County – more community members are voicing their concern and exercising their democratic rights.  CAO Kevin Carunchio has repeatedly made it clear that his office door is always open, and that he loves talking about the issues at hand in Inyo County. One of the most delightful parts of life in Inyo County is that we are still a collection of very small towns, full of friends, neighbors and stories. We live in a place were we can easily visit with our Supervisors and County Administration. We, as citizens and voting community members, need to continue to ask important questions, both of our elected Board and our CAO. It’s perfectly reasonable for us to ask Carunchio why he favored large raises and pay increases for himself, administrative staff, and others when he knew the result was that the County of Inyo would be faced with a $2 million deficit, and is now looking to eliminate positions and cut essential services to make up the difference. If we’re truly in the financial situation we’re told we are, then questions like these are valid and help lead to solutions.



9 Responses

  1. Paul Fretheim

    As you know, I favor a different solution. I favor combining the County Administrator Officer with the Dump Administrator, with fashion leisure suits provided as a perk.

    But the discussion yesterday, and I was there, was no laughing matter. At the annual meeting of the railroad group here in Independence at the Legion Hall, I was sitting with Mary Roper and Nancy Masters, Geri Rottenburg and a few other Indy residents. Mr. Carrunchio came over and wedged his way into sitting between Mary and Nancy. It was pretty crowded, and not easy to find a seat. Geri finished her dinner, and it would have been difficult for her to get in and out of the crowded aisle, so I offered to bus her empty plate to the garbage. I took a moment to fill my ice tea, and when I got back to the table, Mr. Carrunchio was standing over Nancy in an inappropriate, bullying manner, red-faced, and shouting in anger. It was unprofessional and unacceptable. There were many witnesses. He was shouting and abusive. When he stopped spraying spittle and stormed off, I leaned over to Mary, who was sitting next to me on my left, and asked what all the yelling was about. “He didn’t like Nancy’s insistence that the Historic Preservation law applied to the Legion Hall,” and that they couldn’t legally replace the historic windows with the type of window Mr. Carrunchio was proposing.

    To yell at someone who has done as much as Nancy has for our community like that in front of all those people is probably grounds for dismissal.

    I am not making that up. I would think that an investigation would find many instances of Mr. Carrunchio’s bullying behavior. I have been victim to it myself. How long are we going to put up with this guy?

    I am a union supporterl, and I don’t favor replacing union members with volunteer staff. At the same time, I am on the board of the Friends of the Eastern California Museum and have been for many years. We have over 400 members, and I am sure we could come up with volunteers who could augment the single paid employee the County Administrator seems to think is all the County can afford to provide a couple of days a week. I am willing to be one of those volunteers.

    If we could train 16 volunteer docents willing to donate 1/2 day a month, that would provide the necessary coverage to keep the museum open 7 days a week.

  2. Paul Fretheim

    Museum Director Klusmire yesterday seemed to suggest using some of the endowment funds to bridge the gap. My dear friend, Bob Hudson, who passed a couple of years ago, willed over $30,000 to the museum. He should have willed it to the Friends of the Eastern California Museum, where it would have been safe, but he didn’t ask me about it, and he willed it to the County, earmarked for the Museum. I am absolutely positive that Bob would roll over in his grave if he knew that his endowment was proposed to be used to make up for a deficit caused by irresponsible salary increases.

  3. sweetheartofthevalley (Yaney LeeAnn MacIver)

    I say go with Option Five. Demand the immediate resignation of CAO Kevin Carunchio his compensation as of a 2011 article on Sierrra Wave is: “Carunchio’s new yearly salary amounts to roughly $160,800, plus about 1/3 of that for benefits.” Sierra Wave

    So with that 160,800-147,096=13,704 left over for other necessary expenses in the County.

    The Museum has been absolutely essential to me in learning about the last century with the DWP. I smell a DWP rat and wonder if it’s Linda’s parting destruction of Inyo County on their behalf.

    The Library Director’s salary range is $53,076 to $64,464 and the Museum Administrator’s is $50,652 to $61,596. With other Museum staff below:
    MUSEUM ASSISTANT, $30,360 to $36,804–now I think that’s a part time job
    MUSEUM CURATOR COLL & EXHIBITS, $40,032 to $48,624

    In looking at how much it takes to live in Inyo County the Curator’s position is the minimum for rent/mortgage to be at around 1/4 of income. But neither the Library Director or Museum Administrator are compensated much above that.

    Cutting back on the Museum will further erode Independence. This is not good.

  4. This is just the beginning

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    This is just the beginning June 19, 2014 at 4:29 pm #
    Library and Museum are just the beginning of cuts to the service of our community that this “service redesign” is trying to implement. Every department that is “ok” is being financially drained in order to pay for the raises of the higher up admin (not the hardworking people at the bottom). You will see in the near future Kevin to give proposals similar to this to the board for every department. These services being cut have a drastic impact on the lives of all in our community. FOR ALL THOSE BENEFITING (Kevin and the department heads): How many people’s lives are you willing to hurt in order to fatten your wallet? Your last raise was more than the majority make in a month. How many county employees will lose their jobs, their way of providing for their children, to provide you with a more luxurious life! How many tax paying citizens of this community will lose services they expect and need in order to give you an easier life?

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    • Paul Fretheim

      I just made “Dump Assistant” up. It is lower paying than County Administrator, so moving the current CA to DA would save hundreds of thousands of dollars $$$ annually. And then we would have a chance of getting some useful work out of him instead of bullying. Most bullies, if not all, turn out to be cowards when you stand up to them.

  5. sweetheartofthevalley (Yaney LeeAnn MacIver)

    well looking over the wage scales, assuming just one person in each of the categories which I’m sure there are more than one person doing some of the jobs in various departments. I think if everyone took 2 days of furlough for each month for a year that would cover the 2 million shortfall. I will need to mail the supervisors my thoughts and spreadsheet. But the question still remains does the county know where it is going and what vision does the CAO have. That should be the top questions being asked of him and the supervisors. Also concerned citizens should be framing those thought s now.

  6. tarakoheD. morin

    What a fantastic and well reasoned/considered and objective review of what the meeting last week re: the disposition of the budgets for libraries and museum! Bryan has done a excellent job summarizing not only what happened at the meeting in a visceral way, but also took it a step further into the realm of ‘greater meaning’ for county government and county residents. Man, if only we could get this kind of reporting on a regular basis!! I do plan to be as active as time permits me to be, and I for one can be counted on to begin making a much greater effort to get off my duff and participate in Inyo!


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