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Reform Efforts

Message from County Executive Jeff Smith

Welcome to Santa Clara County’s webpage on Reform Efforts.

This page is intended to provide information related to four aspects of our government: organizational transformation, Just Culture, accountability and oversight, and civic engagement.

Recent events have strengthened my commitment to fostering a learning organization in which coming forward to report errors or problems is expected and respected, and that employees feel safe to “call it as they see it.”

The County has strengthened our policies and administrative controls, and we are reminding all employees of the Mission, Values, and Vision Elements that are to govern how we approach decision making and the standards we can use to evaluate our own performance.

I am committed to transparency and accountability, and I am currently reviewing additional training strategies that empower employees.  As the County continues to engage in continuous improvement, we will post updates on this webpage.

Strategic Approaches to Organizational Transformation

Information about the County’s strategic approach to service delivery, which includes the importance of employee perspectives and contributions, will be made available here. Many residents may not be aware of the County’s Mission, Values, and Vision Elements, as well as programs the County currently has underway to foster openness, transparency, and innovation.


Just Culture

County executive leaders will be engaging in a Just Culture training program.

“Just Culture” is a process to implement organizational improvement, presenting a set of design laws that influence the ability to create desired societal outcomes. The five-skill model is designed to help change an organization’s culture by placing less focus on events, errors and outcomes, and more focus on risk, system design and the management of behavioral choices. It does this by defining three manageable behaviors based on an event’s degree of risk—human error, at-risk behavior and reckless behavior—and it strongly encourages the creation of an environment of free and open reporting within process systems. This helps  build a culture which encourages coaching and honesty at all levels, in order to bring about the best possible outcomes. Just Culture has been implemented by various organizations in such high-risk industries as healthcare, aviation and energy to name a few.

Throughout the training, we will explore concepts and develop supporting skills in the following areas:

  • The appropriate responses to human behavior, shown to improve staff engagement and employee satisfaction measures
  • How the right framework of justice will ensure accurate and balanced accountability, avoiding the pendulum that swings between punishment and ‘blame-free’
  • How engineering principles, human factors and the law influence your design of safe, reliable systems
  • How creating a culture of learning will position you to better understand, predict and manage risk before harm occurs
  • Knowing where to spend precious and limited resources for maximum organizational risk management, performance and economic benefit
  • How values-based decision making delivers better outcomes for those you serve


County Accountability and Oversight

The recent discovery of abuses by a former Board member signaled the need for review of fiscal controls related to credit card and travel-related purchases.  We have instituted additional checks and balances, management and staff are assisting one another, and we are in the midst of a top to bottom review of policies to ensure that the correct controls and systems are in place.


Changes to County Expense and Reimbursement Policies

To address the recent lapses in the County’s review of Supervisor Shirakawa’s Procurement Card usage, the Board of Supervisors has recently approved key policy revisions related to the use of Procurement Cards and employee travel. Key changes are listed below:

  • Travel Policy:  Requires Board members, elected officials, and those traveling in their capacity
    • To obtain pre-approval from or provide advance notice to the Board of Supervisors in public session.
    • To provide itemized receipts for all travel-related expenses.
    • To have their Trip Expense Vouchers and Missing Receipt Affidavit (if any) to be reviewed and approved by the Chief Operating Officer.

         These changes will improve oversight and accountability, and ensure the compliance with AB 1234.

  • County Procurement Card (P-Card) Policy
    • Eliminate redundancy and provide increased clarity on allowable versus prohibited purchases.
    • Require the elected officials to report their individual P-Card expenses to an open session Board of Supervisors’ meeting agenda on a quarterly basis.
    • Add a provision authorizing the P-Card Administrator to immediately terminate or suspend a P-Card user’s privilege for non-compliance.
  • Non-Travel Business Meal Policy
    • Expand the policy to be applicable to all County officials and employees including the Board members, elected officials and Board appointees whom previously were not governed by this Policy.
    • Specify additional requirements and clarifications as to reviewers, reimbursement rates, documentation and submission timeframe, missing receipt guidelines and requirements.

        The revisions eliminate certain ambiguities caused by the previous inconsistent policies and/or ordinances, and will improve oversight and accountability.


Civic Engagement


The County has over 1.7 million residents for whom it provides a wide range of services, and yet County services are often overlooked. In the future, news about County programs and results will be posted here to allow for a greater understanding of our clients and the services we deliver.

Citizens and community members are encouraged to be involved in the government process. Follow the links below for more information. 


Feedback Information

I want to know what you think. Please take time to provide feedback about the content you would like to see on this webpage. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Click here to submit your feedback. ​

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