The present term for the office of the Yolo County Public Guardian-Public Administrator ends in January of 2019. Due to Cass Sylvia's decision to retire at the end of December 2016, staff previously brought forward for Board consideration the possible integration of the Public Guardian-Public Administrator office with other existing departments in order to share resources and achieve greater efficiencies.
On May 31, 2016, County staff presented to the Board potential organizational models for the Public Guardian and Public Administrator offices as used in counties throughout California. Staff recommended the exploration of the most common model among counties, which consists of separating the two offices and consolidating them with larger departments; specifically, consolidating the Public Guardian with a health department or agency and the Public Administrator with an elected official. The Board directed staff to develop an organizational structure and transition plan consistent with this model for Board consideration at a future date.
To assist in this development a collaborative planning team was formed which included the Public Guardian-Public Administrator, Sheriff and staff from the Sheriff-Coroner’s Office, Health and Human Services Agency, County Administrator’s Office, County Counsel and Human Resources. This report provides the proposed organizational structure and transition plan for this model as developed by the team.
Currently, Yolo County operates with a combined Public Guardian and Public Administrator office that is duly elected by the public and stands alone as its own department. The office served approximately 190 clients in FY 2015-16 with the majority of cases falling under the duties of the Public Guardian (see Attachment A for list of duties). In addition to the Public Guardian-Public Administrator, the office also has 4 full time staff. However, as shown in the organizational chart for the office (Attachment B), one deputy public guardian position is currently vacant.
About 10% of California counties have a combined Public Guardian and Public Administrator office that stands alone as its own department (either elected or appointed). In only three counties (Inyo, Imperial, and Yolo County) is this office a stand-alone elected one.
This model is beneficial in the relative independence it provides in the administration of the duties of the office. However, this independence also means a lost opportunity to obtain the service alignment and increased resources, support staff, and internal controls that come through consolidation with a larger department.
Proposed Organizational Model
The model recommended by County staff is the most common model among California counties at approximately 50%. The model consists of separating the two positions and consolidating the Public Guardian with a larger health department or agency and the Public Administrator with another elected office, usually the Sheriff or District Attorney. For Yolo County, the proposed model is to place the Public Guardian with the Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) and the Public Administrator with the Sheriff-Coroner’s Office.
Currently the office of the Yolo County Public Guardian-Public Administrator is operating on a limited budget with a small number of staff and no front desk support. It is anticipated that separation and consolidation of the department under larger departments will improve these issues while also providing a greater alignment of services, increased resources, support staff and internal controls. Additionally, it is important to note that the proposed model would not involve the elimination of any current positions staffed under the existing Public Guardian-Public Administrator department.
Public Guardian Consolidation with the Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA)
Specifically, staff recommends the Public Guardian be consolidated with HHSA. In addition to administering estates as conservators, the Public Guardian also serves in Yolo County as a conservator of persons. These duties complement many of HHSA’s aging adult and mental health services and would allow for greater collaborative and wrap-around service provision.
As displayed in the proposed organizational chart in Attachment C, the Public Guardian function would be placed under the Adult & Aging branch of HHSA to assist in service alignment. Specifically, an Assistant Public Guardian position would be established to oversee 2 FTE Conservatorship Officer positions (also known as Deputy Public Guardian positions) and 1 FTE Sr. Accounting Technician. The HHSA Director would provide oversight as the appointed Public Guardian. Day to day management of the cases would be handled by the Public Guardian line staff, and would incorporate best practices in the conservatorship field, including family and caregiver participation whenever possible to ensure a holistic support team for conservatees. Staff currently holding these positions would continue in that role under this organizational structure.
The structure proposed has been designed to alleviate any potential conflict of interest between Public Guardian staff making decisions on conservatorships and mental health staff under HHSA directing payment. First, Public Guardian line staff would be supervised and managed by the Assistant Public Guardian, thus keeping them separate from mental health staff. Secondly, two protocols have been developed in accordance with California Welfare and Institutions Code section 5371. One protocol (Attachment D) separates and lists the duties of Public Guardian staff and mental health staff. The second protocol (Attachment E) creates a procedure that delineates how a dispute would be resolved if one were to arise. Essentially, the Assistant Public Guardian and the supervisor of the mental health clinician/case manager involved would review any dispute that may arise. If unresolved after the review, the dispute would move up to the Adult and Aging Branch Director for a determination, with the ability to then appeal to the HHSA Director/Public Guardian for a final decision.
Public Administrator Consolidation with the Sheriff-Coroner’s Office
Additionally, staff recommends that the Public Administrator be consolidated with the office of the Sheriff-Coroner. In Yolo County, the Public Administrator must be an elected position or be consolidated with an existing elected official. Converting this from an elected to an appointed position would require a legislative code change (under Government Code §24011) or a ballot measure (in accordance with Government Code §24009).
In Yolo County there are three elected offices with which the Public Administrator may legally be consolidated: Sheriff-Coroner, District Attorney, or County Assessor/Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters. Among California counties the position is most commonly integrated with the Sheriff or District attorney. One county in California, Del Norte, has the Public Administrator combined with their Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters and no county appears to place the position with the an elected Assessor. Ultimately, staff recommends placing the position with the Sheriff-Coroner as the duties of the Public Administrator to manage the estates of the deceased are anticipated to benefit from the alignment with the Coroner. The position would also benefit from access to the information systems, equipment and other resources at the office of the Sheriff-Coroner.
As displayed in the proposed organizational chart in Attachment F, the Sheriff-Coroner would be the elected Public Administrator while the day to day case management would be conducted by a Chief Public Administrator position under the Finance section of the Administration Division. The position would report directly to the Chief of Finance in the Finance section followed by the Undersheriff-Coroner. Additionally, the Chief Public Administrator position would require a new position classification.
If the Board approves the recommended action to move forward with the proposed organizational model, the transition would follow the timeline as shown in Attachment G. The official transfer of duties would occur on January 1, 2017. Before that date staff would return to the Board with ordinances to separate the Public Guardian-Administrator positions and consolidate them with HHSA and the Sheriff-Coroner’s Office. Additionally, staff from HHSA and the Sheriff-Coroner would meet with Public Guardian- Public Administrator staff to prepare for service delivery transfer. Once the integration has occurred, quarterly check-ins will occur by the County Administrator's Office over the course of 2017 as well as a Board update after the first 6 months.