By Robert J Hansen
Sacramento, CA – Dr. Corrine McIntosh-Sako, a member of the Sacramento County Mental Health Advisory Board, told the Board of Supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting that she has been the target of continuous personal attacks received both verbally and in writing from a fellow mental health board member, William Cho.
“Unfortunately, I believe it is because of my advocacy for a non-law enforcement response program for behavioral health and quality of life crises in addition to identifying as a woman that I have been the target of repeated harassment by a fellow mental health board member,” McIntosh Sako said.
McIntosh-Sako notified the Mental Health Board Chair, Loran Sheley about what she’s been experiencing from Cho, as well as consulted with County Counsel and has been trying to resolve this issue for more than ten months.
Sheley agrees with McIntosh-Sako’s claims as she was the first to file the complaint against Cho.
At a Mental Health Board retreat last January, Cho said his purpose for serving on the Mental Health Board is to ‘be the voice of reason and to make sure the Wellness Crisis Call Center program does not get co-opted by social justice rhetoric.’
Sheley feels that Cho is not interested in helping people who need mental health services but in monitoring the members of the Board.
“It seems he is serving as a force that monitors what we’re doing and a barrier in a lot of ways,” Sheley said.
McIntosh-Sako informed Supervisor Patrick Kennedy in March 2022. And a formal complaint was filed with this County’s Equal Opportunity Office (EEO).
Kennedy said that the Mental Health Advisory Board’s rules on respecting the opinions of others go “above and beyond” what the County’s rules are.
After McIntosh-Sako’s public comment, Supervisor Rich Desmond said that he has every confidence in his Mental Health Board appointees.
“All of my appointees have all my full faith and confidence to serve and continue to serve on that mental health board,” Desmond said.
McIntosh-Sako felt Supervisor Desmond’s comments were dismissive and showed that nothing is going to be done about Cho’s behavior.
McIntosh-Sako received the EEO’s decision regarding her complaint only a few hours after she gave her public comment.
“We have concluded our investigation,” Nancy Gumnor, an analyst, said in a letter. “The findings do not support that there was a violation of County policy.”
Gumnor said the EEO contacted Ryan Quist, Deputy Director of Human Services, to discuss McIntosh-Sako’s concerns of harassment and inappropriate communication by Mr. Cho and forwarded him the information and documentation for review.
McIntosh-Sako said that Cho continues to demonstrate a pattern of challenging and defamation of her character and his repeated use of put-downs, insults, and excessively harsh criticism has led her to believe that this behavior constitutes harassment.
According to McIntosh-Sako, one of the most significant issues has been advocating for a public health approach to mental health issues in Sacramento County.
“I use my experience and expertise as a mental health professional to advocate for policies and budgets that take a public health approach to deal with mental health matters so that a proper response to a mental health crisis is not dependent on law enforcement,” McIntosh-Sako said.
Supervisor Desmond and Kennedy were asked in an email what will be done to prevent behavior like this from continuing in the future and whether any actions will be taken against Mr. Cho.
Sacramento County Public Information Officer Kim Nava responded, saying that because there is an active investigation into the allegations, the County cannot provide any details while that is ongoing.
“The investigation is being handled by the County’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office in consultation with the County Counsel’s Office,” Nava said.
This is the same investigation that was just closed by the EEO on Tuesday.
The Mental Health Advisory Board is not in charge of the Wellness Crisis Call Center and Response Treatment Program but has an ad hoc workgroup dedicated to advising the County’s Behavioral Health Division about the program according to Nava.
McIntosh-Sako believes there should be a commitment by Sacramento County to a work and volunteer environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity and that unlawful discriminatory practices, such as harassment, are prohibited.
“I believe that this County should commit to handling reports of discrimination or harassment by examining them impartially and resolving them promptly,” McIntosh- Sako said.
Sheley and McIntosh-Sako agreed that this could be one of the ways that the public loses its trust in the processes of its local government.
“I would think that a Supervisor who appointed said member would be concerned about how this behavior reflects on him and his leadership,” McIntosh-Sako said.
“I would hate to think that a shared background serving in law enforcement, or this member having served on his appointed supervisor’s election campaign, would preclude corrective action being taken. It’s also not lost on me that this member was appointed to the Mental Health Board at the same time talk of an advisory committee for the Alternatives to 911 response program for behavioral health and quality of life crisis would be housed under the mental health board.”