Political Opinion - A Conservative’s Picks, Pans, and Punts for the 2018 Countywide Primary Elections

by Placerville Newswire / May 07, 2018 / comments

.[Cris Alarcon]

My wife used to introduce me in college as a “Card Carrying Republican” after she saw a “Sustaining member of the Republican Party Since 1988” card in my wallet when we were still dating.  That means I have pushed local Party politics for 30 years! This Spring I will focus on the one office that I truly believe needs a new leader, the Auditor/Controller’s office, with only a brief review of key countywide races of  the District Attorney and Recorder/Clerk.


District Attorney -

Sitting DA Vern Peirson is headed for re-election in the Primary with solid L.E. endorsements falling in place as the critical 30 days of voting begins this week.  Vern had a no-show opponent in the last election cycle that had withdrawn before the election began. This election cycle he faces a qualified and accomplished opponent, but she is facing a demographic disadvantage.  In the last two elections the conservative DA has faced liberal opponents. El Dorado County is a solid “Red” county with significantly more conservative voter-ratio than the state has, giving advantage to conservative candidates. Additionally, we are a solid “Law & Order” county that even bragged about it when we called ourselves “Hangtown.”  An aggressive conservative candidate for the lead prosecutor’s position has considerable advantage and Vern is likely to remain secure in his seat unless challenged by a quality conservative opponent.


Recorder/Clerk -

There is No replacing Bill Shultz!  Bill is retiring (retiring again, since he long ago retired from the Navy).  Bill was well known for the competence of his management skills, his unimpeachable standard of ethics, and his good natured demeanor.  No one can replace Bill, but three are vying to step into his shoes. One candidate is Dan Dellinger, a personal friend and sometime business partner of mine.  So I will “Punt” on this one because I am so biased in Favor of Dan, who I see as the best candidate, that I cannot come close to being objective. I will say only that Outgoing leader Bill Shultz was well served by his management skills, and similar skills might be wanted in his successor.  The local newspaper wrote fair articles about each candidate that can help you decide who would be best:



The A/C - Recharge is Needed

Case against Joe Harn, an entrenched career politician:

  1. Failure to keep up with industry advances;

  2. Failure to protect the Taxpayers;

  3. Failure to conform to modern personnel practices.

Joe Harn has been our county auditor for 24 years and he seeks another 4 years.  He presents a pleasant face and says the right phases to key voter groups, so why are so many prominent county leaders like “the People’s Sheriff” John D’Agostini, publicly supporting his opposition for that office?

Joe is a career politician that has become an expert at playing politics that serve himself and friends, but delivers a disservice to the majority of voters in the county.  Those that know Joe casually think he presents a charming and disarming demeanor, but those that know him well know a different person when, “the real Joe Harn” stands up.

Politics was once an honored profession of high calling by those of strong principles and courage whose interest in being elected to these positions of public trust was to serve the country and make sure their generation left a better world to the next generation.  They were, for the most part, people of integrity, commitment, and common sense who viewed high political office as a term of service, not a lifetime vocation. Our founders did not design this system for career politicians, but rather citizen politicians who would serve a couple of terms and let someone fresh off the street serve, someone who is acquainted with what's happening now, not decades earlier when they took office.

It is a heartbreaking fact that nowadays politics has become not a calling but a game. Politics has become a daily "conflict game", dominated by career politicians concentrated on winning points on the other side, rather than on developing and delivering good public policy, and good government. Important issues have been left to drift.  For too long, career politicians have focused more on advancing their own careers than helping the people they were elected to serve.

The standard of "by the people, for the people, of the people" has turned into, "buy the people, fool the people, and rob the people."

I will cover several areas to show Joe’s political dishonesty and corruption.  I will go into some detail in order to pierce the polished and persuasive sound-bites Joe has refined over the decades.  I majored in both Accounting and Marketing, so I will try to take some complex accounting issues and explain them in non-accountant ways.  I am also the Debate champion from Ponderosa High (many years ago) and a principled Conservative that resents corrupt politicians that hide their own self-serving behind the mask of “taxpayers advocate,” so I will be bringing the big stick to Joe in this article.

I will cover these subjects: Failure to keep up with industry advances; Failure to protect the Taxpayers; Failure to conform to modern personnel practices.  First, the failure to keep up with the industry. I first got to know Joe almost 20 years ago as a member of the El Dorado Taxpayers Association, a very fiscally conservative local group that meets most Monday mornings.  I have attended over 100 of these morning meetings under the leadership of conservative champions like Ellen Day and Bernard Carlson, and I saw Joe at about 10 meeting, or about once a year. But when he was there he sounded great and a solid taxpayers advocate, by what he said.  It was not until I had an “insider” tell me about what was really happening that I got the know the real Joe Harn.

CASE #1 - Mental Health Billing Delays

About a decade ago we lost some money because we had provided state required health service but we failed to bill for reimbursements in time to get repaid.  The Auditor’s office should have noted this and suggested the fix. Joe’s response was that it was the fault of the Health department failing to bill. But the head of the Health department did not see that as the problem.  So they sought outside expert accounting help to find the problem and suggest fixes. It turns out that a friend had just moved to El Dorado Hills to be near his parents to help with the care of his sick child. He had retired from managing a $100 million Federal program and was looking for interim work.  I asked him to apply for the consulting job I talk about above. I told him that I love EDC, but we could use some professionalism, and pushed him to apply. He did and he was very qualified and won the bid.

The problem he found was not hard to understand, but the resistance from Joe to exposing and fixing the problem was very enlightening!

- The Problem. Certain government service we are made to deliver but we don’t get paid in advance, only after service are rendered and we bill the state.  Usually those reimbursable costs must be submitted within a time period, like a year. After that they become “stale dated” and are no longer payable. What was happening is that for long-term services one department would say “it is approved, start services” and another would start clinical services.  As the services went on services were accounted for and when finished, a final billing would get generated. The loss was from interim bills that were not getting to the billing department in time and became “stale” by the time the final bill was generated. This was not unusual for a large and diverse organization, and is the reason the Accounting department share’s its expertise with other government entities (so they don’t have to hire outside consultants to do the same work).

- The Detection.  The consultant found that many EDC departments have custom software that does not communicate with other departments, and sometimes not even within a department.  He proved this by opening up several county accounting systems, capturing the data, then creating a new Excel spreadsheet to interpret the data. He thereby showed where the data was getting dropped in a complex accounting system between departments.  He also exposed that our county accounting systems do not sufficiently communicate with each other.

- The Reaction? “Hooray” we solved the problem? Nope.  Joe’s reaction was that it was another Department head’s failure, not the accounting department.  The Health department learned of the problem from an outside contractor, not from our own accounting department.  The problem with our diverse accounting systems inability to communicate was an issue taken up by subsequent BOS action to put the county on one system that will communicate and provide transparency needed to identify and fix emerging problems before we have to hire an expert to come clean our house.

- The Fix.  FENIX it is called and it is software that allows all county accounting departments to communicate. In March 2013 BOS contracted with Tyler Technologies at a cost of $5.6 million for a financial accounting system, subsequently referred to as FENIX. Every department has different software packages because the needs of a bridge engineer in DOT are different from the needs of a substance abuse counselor looking for treatment referrals, but the goal is to get the accounting parts of all departments communicating.

- The Progress.  Think “Bullet Train” or “Water Tunnels” and you get the picture of FENIX’s implementation: Years behind schedule; Big $$$ over budget; no one really knows if it will EVER get completed.  The contract specified an implementation timeline of 30 months (completion: September 2015). Now running two and a half years behind schedule, no clear end in sight.


After debriefing the consultant it was clear to me that Joe had no interest in a transparent and effective accounting system for all the county, but rather he wanted his department to be the choke-point for accounting information that could only be accessed by his department.  I had to face the fact that my conservative taxpayers’ advocate was just a fraud telling me what I wanted to hear to get my vote, while all the time focused on lining his own pockets when he was saying. “Look over there.”

This failure to modernize is in stark contrast to other department heads like outgoing Recorder/Clerk Bill Shultz’s drive to modernize their respective software suites under their leadership.

[BTW, that friend left consulting for the county when he got his family settled and went to Afghanistan, behind the Red Line, to provide his expert accounting and management skills to our soldiers in the field.  But I still think the coolest thing about Raph is that he was a junior speechwriter in D.C. in Ronald Reagan’s administration! Now how cool is that!]

-- End of Part 1 --

Part 2: Failure to protect the Taxpayers.  I will detail how Joe diverts taxes from taxpayer approved services, to other unknown services, but does not return the collected taxes to the taxpayers.

CASE #2 - Fire Department Taxes Diverted

CASE #3 - Mental Health and Homeless Funding Unused, reverted to State's General Fund

Part 3: Failure to conform to modern personnel practices. Joe Harn is a Bully to staff and above the law as an Elected office holder.

CASE #4 - Grand Jury Report