CAO Hufford addresses Rotary Club

November 02, 2000
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesVentura County government was addressed by Chief Administrative Officer Harry Hufford during a recent Rotary Club meeting that featured his insights into serious issues facing the county.Accompanied by Supervisor Kathy Long, the interim CAO since December, said he is an American history and government buff who believes the county got the “short end of the stick” when former CAO David Baker walked off the job after just a few days.“When someone is hired they are extended a level of trust,” said Hufford, an experienced CAO who ran Los Angeles for a decade. “. . .walking away is bad form.”Although he stepped in during a time of high controversy and a governmental low point, Hufford said he welcomed the challenge and found his new position a “hoot in some respects.”He implemented a hiring freeze and trimmed millions from the county budget, believing “my job was not to run away from issues. . .and people learned that when I said ‘No’ I meant it.”
With an unbalanced budget to juggle, Hufford embarked on a series of across the board budget cuts, noting all departments “feed at the same trough. . .but we got in balance for the current year.”Hufford discovered that salary increases had never been factored into to anticipated revenue expenditures, among other problems, but “this year we’re in a pretty good financial position,” especially with the Board of Supervisors decision to give more clout to the Chief Administrative Officer’s job, “more authority to benefit the public,” even when dealing with elected county department heads.Measure O, a ballot initiative proposed by Community Memorial Hospital which has spent over $2.5 million on the campaign to wrestle control of over $250 million in tobacco lawsuit settlement monies from the county, has been a top challenge, said Baker, as the county legally cannot campaign against the measure.But the revenue from the tobacco lawsuit, which will be parceled out annually, is “Public money, taxpayers’ money, and the public would have a better shot at accountability,” of its spending if the funds stay under county control, said Hufford, where “you can hold the supervisors’ feet to the fire,” in use of the funding.

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