County leaders decided this week to rescind a decision it made in January, approving a retroactive contract for Inyo County Film Commissioner Chris Langley to ensure he is paid for work he did out of contract last year.
The board voted 4-1, with First District Supervisor Linda Arcularius as the dissenting vote, for a $30,000 contract from July 1, 2012 through March 31, 2013.
Langley’s film commission contract expired in June 2012 as county staff prepared a Request for Proposals for the position in response to requests from the public.
That RFP was not completed until last month, and Langley said he continued to provide Film Commissioner services from July, 2012 through January, 2013 in good faith, operating under the impression that the RFP and an opportunity to apply for the contract was forthcoming.
County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio, who was responsible for drafting the RFP, said last month that he took full responsibility for the delay in preparing the document, citing a heavy workload that required him to put the document on the backburner.
When the board considered the RFP last month, Fifth District Supervisor Matt Kingsley proposed the idea of creating a retroactive contract that would pay Langley for his services in 2012. Ultimately, that idea was shot down, and the board voted unanimously to seek proposals for the Film Commissioner position, and to approve a contract with Langley for services from Jan. 1, 2013 through March, when proposals for the Film Commissioner’s position are due.
Kingsley said that discussion left him feeling “inadequate and ineffective” as a supervisor, and asked to revisit the discussion this week, saying Tuesday that Langley “clearly provided services. I want to acknowledge that Langley did work and we want to pay him for it.”
Kingsley said the board looks at two main criteria when ratifying contracts with people who are not county employees. Those criteria are whether or not there is money in the budget for the contract, and whether or not the contract is good for the taxpayers. “This meets both,” Kingsley said. “I believe it is clearly a benefit to the taxpayers.”
Second District Supervisor Jeff Griffiths added that the contract before the board was for $30,000, but the economic development Langley brought to the county while working out of contract was worth far more than that.
“On Jan. 15 I did not fully understand the process of ratifying a contract into the past,” Griffiths said. “At this point, we need to look at a positive path forward. The work he has done more than pays for itself.”
Third District Supervisor Rick Pucci said he feels the same way, but wanted to be sure the contract was both legal and acceptable to Langley.
County Counsel Randy Keller said the contract question could be interpreted two ways. He explained that if Langley was under the impression that he would later be compensated for his work, then the contract is fully legal. However, if Langley was aware that he wouldn’t be paid for the work he was doing, then moving forward with the contract at this point would be considered a “gift of public funds” as a thank you, or reward for a job well done. Keller said a gift of public funds is unconstitutional.
Kingsley said the county has a history of asking Langley to perform services out of contract for a month or two every year while local leaders finalized the year’s budget and he had no reason to believe that he would not be compensated for last year’s work.
Pucci said he was “real comfortable” moving forward with the contract.
First District Supervisor Arcularius said she agrees that the services Langley performed are “important,” but maintained her opposition to approving a retroactive contract. She said during the Jan. 15 meeting that approving a retroactive contract would set a precedent of the county paying un-contracted workers, would “undermine” the authority of the previous Board of Supervisors and would show a lack of support for Carunchio,
Arcularius pointed out that Langley had not yet signed the contract the board approved last month, which would have paid him for his services in January.
“Mr. Langley is openly asking to be compensated and ratified for services that could have been done under contract,” Arcularius said.
Kingsley pointed out that Langley had been out of the area and unable to sign that contract, and added that he, not Langley, was requesting the retroactive contract.
Arcularius also pointed out that Langley, late last year, stopped identifying himself as the Inyo County Film Commissioner while providing Film Commissioner services because he was not under contract.
“That was a deciding point for me” in January, Arcularius said. “There is always the opportunity to call and ask how to go forward” if Langley had concerns about his contract.
In accordance with the board’s decision this week, Langley will serve out the remaining time on the retroactive contract and, if he chooses to do so, may respond to the RFP by March 31 to compete for the 2013 Film Commissioner’s contract.