In January, the Inyo Supervisors voted unanimously not to pay Film Commissioner Chris Langley for 7 months of work while the County failed to produce a contract and an RFP. Then last week, they reversed themselves and voted to pay Langley and to proceed with an RFP process. Supervisor Linda Arcularius was the lone no vote. The deadline for interested parties to submit applications to be considered for Film Commissioner is March 31. Charles James wrote the following editorial on the whole issue:
Won’t Get Fooled Again…
By Charles James 19 January 2013
The Board’s vote could have a negative impact on the county if it becomes known to the film industry– and there is no reason to expect that it might not. Langley is held in high regard by those that film commercials and movies in our area. His success is evident in the very successful, recent release of the Quentin Tarantino film “Django Unchained”, which was filmed here largely thanks to Langley’s efforts. What might the commercial and film industry think of the board’s recent backhanded treatment of someone that the industry likes and respects? They, much like voters, may choose to vote with their feet.
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss
-Lyrics by rock legends, The Who
Have we, the voters, been “fooled again”?
The recent actions by the Inyo County Board of Supervisors to deny payment for the services
that our County Film Commissioner Chris Langley provided over the past seven months is more
than simply disappointing, it is outright embarrassing. Hopefully it is not an indication of the
quality of decision-making that will be made in the future by the new Board of Supervisors.
Aside from the appalling lack of principles shown and the disrespect of one of the county’s most
prominent citizens, who also just happens to be one of our most successful county contractors,
the Board’s decision shows why many feel that our county often has little to show in the way of
progress and economic advancement.
If the Board can treat someone who has brought millions of dollars of economic benefit to the
county as badly as Langley has been treated, then there appears little reason to hope for the
“change” that voters sought in replacing three of the five incumbent supervisors in the recent
election. It is reasonable to ask: Is the “new boss same as the old boss”?
By voting to not compensate Chris Langley for his hard work and success, the newly elected
Supervisors demonstrated in one of their very first decisions in office that perhaps there may not
be the “change”, “progress”, or “hope” that many voted for in the last election. All three newly-
elected supervisors ran on promises to bring more jobs, promote tourism, transparency,
accountability, and improve the economic climate of the county. In that light, the vote against
Langley was a disaster…and a broken promise. Let’s hope that this recent vote is just an
aberration and not a harbinger of similarly bad decisions to come.
But it is not as if Langley left the board meeting with no rewards whatsoever for bringing millions of dollars into the county’s economy; he left with words of fulsome praise on the lips of the Supervisors of how wonderful and beneficial all the hard work that he provides is to county and its economy. None doubted that he did the work. Yet all that praise has little value coming from Supervisors who then went on to vote not to pay him; in essence “damning with faint praise” by undermining the value of his work through their subsequent vote.
Essentially the board’s action said, “Great job Chris, but your efforts really aren’t worth our paying you even though it was of tremendous economic benefit to the County and the screw-up was entirely our fault and not yours. You know these things happen!”
The past Board of Supervisors created this mess. What does it say about the Board of Supervisors that they failed for over a year to follow-up on one their own decisions? They never took the trouble to find out if the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the position of the County Film Commissioner was completed, but rather waited only to discover many months later that it was never done by the county staff upon which they rely to implement their decisions.
The objections to paying Langley last week came from Supervisor Arcularius. Last year she, along with then-Supervisor Fortney, proposed the perfectly reasonable idea of an RFP for the position of Film Commissioner. It appears that “one or more of their constituents” were possibly interested in applying. One objection she had now was that to pay Langley for his time would
“set a precedent” future county contractors may exploit. Well, how can anyone argue with that
logic on witnessing the gross negligence and failure of the Board and the County staff so far in
this matter? God forbid THEY take any responsibility or suffer any consequence; better to avoid
To his credit, CAO Carunchio told the Board Tuesday that he took “full responsibility” for the
delay in preparing the RFP. The mea culpa however meant little in righting a wrong. And even
though Fifth District Supervisor Kingsley said that his suggestion to pay Langley is not a
reflection on Carunchio, it does beg the question– “How could the failure to complete the RFP
not be a reflection on the CAO who just admitted culpability?”
This is how things are supposed to work: The Board makes decisions, and then it becomes the
CAO’s job to have county staff carry those decisions out in a prompt, timely, and professional
manner. That clearly did not happen in this case, so of course it reflects on him– it’s called
“accountability”, although there is no threat of consequences to the CAO or his staff for their
failure to produce the RFP. The only consequences fall on Chris Langley, who thus far is getting
screwed in this deal.
Arcularius went on to tell Kingsley that voting to pay Langley for the past seven months of Film
Commission work he has done “would be totally unsupportive of the (County) Administrative
Officer” and undermine the actions of the previous Board of Supervisors. Why must the board be
supportive of a county employee, regardless of position, if he or she did not do their job? Is it so
they do not have their feelings “hurt”?
This was not a simple case of “no harm; no foul”. Someone has been clearly harmed by this
“mistake”– as it is being euphemistically called, rather that the “failure” that it is. Generally,
most of us would agree that our CAO does very good work and our County Supervisors are good
people trying to make good decisions, but as this fiasco has proven, their jobs often become
greatly complicated by actions, inactions, disingenuous arguments, “mistakes”, and failures.
Supervisor Arcularius also said that to pay Langley will “undermine the actions of the previous
Board of Supervisors”. Well then, why have elections? Isn’t it possible that it was the dislike or
lack of support of past actions and decisions of the previous Board of Supervisors which led to
the replacement of three of the five incumbents in the most recent election?
The argument that the current Board should continue with “business as usual” and support what
“previous” Boards of Supervisors have already decided so as not to undermine them, even when
they may prove to be ill-advised or have had negative consequences, is a non sequitur. If that
were to become the case, then we– the voters– along with the newly-elected Supervisors, should
not stand for it.
The most recent news is that Supervisor Kingsley has asked to revisit the issue at the next Board
meeting. Let’s hope for a different outcome. If so, perhaps
we voters will “tip our hat to the new constitution” of the new County Board of Supervisors; but if not, well the message is clearly:
Meet the new boss; Same as the old boss.