Those that have been reading the blog since near its inception over three years ago know there are two things that propelled this blog from being about a group of disgruntled San Bernardino County employees to what we have today: the most-read political blog in the Inland Empire.
First, when Supervisor candidate Neil Derry participated in our blog discussions about local politics, for the first time the blog gained a wide-spread legitimacy.
But before that, in December 2006, the event that quadrupled our readership overnight was the publication of “The Memo That Started It All.” It can be found here: memo
The publication of that memo, along with a copy of the email showing that Transitional Assistance Department administration attempted to cover up the incident, got the attention of county administrators and it wasn’t long after that that former County Administrative Officer Mark Uffer banned the blog on county computers for the first time. There is a reason he did that and it relates to Service First and to so many of the comments made on the various blogs about his termination.
“The Memo That Started It All” is a memo of concern that was written by a group of Employment Services Program district managers detailing the despotic, irrational, and inane tactics and methods undertaken by Linda Haugan, Nancy Swanson and Michael De la Rosa in their administration of the Welfare-to-Work Program. Because retaliation is an expectation in the Transitional Assistance Department (TAD), it was done anonymously.
It was thought that Supervisor Josie Gonzales would be the most open of the supervisors in listening to the concerns of managers regarding the ineptitude of administrators. Of course, we now know they were wrong. Josie simply turned the memo over to Mark Uffer.
Mark, in his typical antagonistic manner, called a meeting of TAD managers. Once he had his captive, terrified audience secured, he proceeded to berate the managers for daring to speak up. He then took the memo in hand, stated “This is what I think of this,” and tore it to shreds before their very eyes. I think most were in disbelief as they had made a genuine effort to expose inefficiency and ineptitude as Mark had preached about in his Service First sessions. Remember, “Do the right thing”? Mark proved he was not about doing the right thing.
One brave manager by the name of Melody Martinez took all of his ranting and berating she could take. She had some choice words for Mark and then stood and gave him a “Heil Hitler” salute. Needless to say, this long-term employee was not allowed to keep her job.
Now, almost three years later Uffer has been terminated. As we read the various blog comments here and on the newspaper website, four themes stand out. First is his use of “jacked up” during Service First. Someone counted during one of his presentations and he used the terms “jacked up” and “pissed off” over 30 times in the first hour of that particular presentation.
Second, Mark’s ridicule of a young McDonald’s employee really seemed to hit a sour note with attendees. Most of us were young and working a minimum wage job at some point. I heard one stat that nearly one quarter of all Americans worked at McDonald’s at one time or another in their lifetime. The story did not resonate with employees. Instead most seemed to feel sorry that this poor employee was forced to deal with the likes of an ego-driven Mark Uffer.
Third, the Gestapo-like tactics of human resource officers to instill fear and trepidation into attendees is still talked about. Human resource officers gained significant power and authority to abuse employees under the Uffer administration, and like Nazis, they seem to relish in the mental torture and financial ruin of their fellow county employees, destroying employees and their families alike.
And finally, the comparison of Mark Uffer to Adolf Hitler is a reference we still hear. And I wonder why? It is not only the fact that Mark is unable to control his urge to destroy anyone who he feels is a threat or disagrees with him in any way, but also his on analogy when comparing “five percenters” to Jewish slaves and Holocaust victims.
For an “uneducated” lot, county employees remember their history. When Mark Uffer told attendees he was going to place gold stars on the foreheads of those he deemed to be “five percenters,” he offended thousands of county employees. Many know the history of the gold star being placed on the forehead. It was done to designate Jews, especially Jewish women, as slaves. Centuries later, the Nazis used a yellow star to designate the Jews in the concentration camps.
Mark saw nothing wrong with his tirades using such a racist and offensive emblem. I know because I asked him about it personally. Mark also saw nothing wrong with how he treated, berated, intimidated, and belittled employees in Service First. Mark did do some good things for this county but he will never be remembered for them. Mark will always be remembered for Service First and the hatred he spewed towards county employees . . . baseless hatred to gain control and power through fear and intimidation. When news spread through county departments that Mark had been fired, employees cheered, clapped, and felt a sense of relief. What a legacy!