Commentary -- Surrender Accountability To Bureaucracy, Latest Establishment Reform Proposal

by Placerville Newswire / Sep 28, 2017 / comments

[Dan Dellinger]

Whither you are talking about callus corporations or ever-growing government agencies one issue unites both Liberals and Conservatives – their complete frustration with the unaccountable bureaucrats who run them.  Most of us believe that taxpayers and customers have every right to expect satisfactory results. Unfortunately, what many of us see as accountability, the knowledge of who is actually responsible for the success or failure of a given task, is rapidly disappearing from both government and corporate institutions as they keep adopting more bureaucrat-shielding “modern” management practices which further insulate their workforces from public contact.  While we can choose not to patronize unaccountable corporations, government law dictates that we must patronize government bureaucracies. So without accountability from our government agencies, how can we continue to trust that our problems will be resolved and our needs met?
The hard truth is that if the public loses trust in an institution, that institution will fail. Therefore, if we want our government agencies to succeed we must reform these institutions to restore the public’s declining trust in them. Thus, it would seem, to avoid their failure we should be reforming our government agencies in ways that will ensure greater “civilian” control over civil service workers and managers to foster interaction with, rather than isolation from, the public. Reforms like placing departments under the direct supervision of an elected department head rather than an appointed City or County administrator, removing “electronic fences” from departments, and allowing the public to talk directly to technical specialists without having to waste their time going through layers of screeners. Which leads to the important policy question before us, should we replace the publically elected management oversight of an important County department with the management oversight of a County hired civil service bureaucrat? 

In an apparent power grab, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors appears to be in the process of replacing the management of three important County functions from elected department heads accountable to the voters, to unelected civil service bureaucrats accountable only to the County chief administrative officer (CAO). Since the Board of Supervisors appoints the County CAO, power would be transferred from the voter’s choice of managers to the five-member Board of Supervisors. The targeted departments are elections, auditor, and controller.  The Board of Supervisors voted to come up with a new reorganization scheme to transfer elections from the elected Recorder-Clerk on August 29 and will likely be placing a forthcoming recommendation of the County Charter Review Committee seeking to eliminate electing the County Auditor-Controller and instead making that position civil service under the County CAO. With the well known penchant of the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors to sweep problems under the rug rather than fix them, do you think these reform proposals facing the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors will help restore lost public trust in our County government?


Dan Dellinger is a government relations and political consultant based in El Dorado County who can be reached at