NEVADA CITY, Calif. Jun 1, 2004 – On any given day, several items on Tuesday’s agenda could have been the A-1 story. The recognition of out-going supervisor Drew Bedwell, the county budget workshop, a request to remove age and accessibility requirements from the “granny” unit ordinance and the selection of a new Board vice-chair. However, all this activity took a backseat to one item: Peter Van Zant’s request to rescind the selection last week of Fran Grattan-Freedle for Clerk-Recorder, which not only filled the Board Chambers, but also provided insight into the thinking of our elected officials.
Bedwell recognized for his service to Nevada County
At the start of the BOS meeting, out-going supervisor Drew Bedwell, absent because of illness, was recognized. In his absence, Bedwell’s planning commissioner, John Spencer, accepted the plaque for him. Spencer, who has been named as a possible candidate to fill Bedwell’s seat until November, said that he was in frequent contact with Drew and thanked the BOS on his behalf. Accompanied by his wife, Grass Valley Mayor Patti Ingram, Spencer joined the BOS in a short ceremony in the hall of the Rood Center.
Granny Units will still have age requirements
A request by Drew Bedwell to amend the second unit ordinance of the land use code didn’t find sufficient support. His request to remove all deed restrictions, reporting requirements, as well as age and disability qualifications on second units, commonly referred to as “Granny Units”, was stalled by a 2-2 vote. Horne proposed having the Affordable Housing Task Force look at the suggestions, while members of the public asked to have the current standards remain in place.
Process in Freedle’s selection questioned
Over 80 members of the public were present when supervisors started to address Van Zant’s request to rescind the selection of Fran Grattan-Freedle to the post of Clerk-Recorder, pending a background check and a final vote.
On Monday, May 24th, the BOS conducted interviews with six finalists selected by two screening panels, plus Freedle, who had been added by Drew Bedwell to the pool of finalists. Both the external panel, composed of two election officials and a local bank officer, and an internal county panel, had discarded her candidacy. By a 3-2 vote last week, Freedle was chosen to succeed Lorraine Jewett-Burdick.
As news of the Freedle’s selection spread, so did community outrage. Van Zant, who had voted with Green against Freedle’s appointment, questioned the validity of adding her name to the slate of finalists, after the panels had submitted their recommendation.
In his report to the Board, Van Zant reminded everyone that the BOS had voted unanimously on April 13th to appoint the two panels, have them conduct interviews and present a final selection to the BOS, who then would made the final decision. The insertion of Freedle’s name into the list of finalists happened after a memo was sent out by County CEO Rick Haffey on April 23rd to supervisors. Haffey accepted sole responsibility for the memo, saying that he wanted to give the BOS as much “flexibility” as possible in their choice.
Van Zant said: “I’m trying to establish that the process, that this Board passed, was not the process that was used. This is not a witch hunt; I think it is important to establish that the process was changed.”
To a question from Sue Horne, if at any time a Board member had come to the CEO and requested this change in procedure, Haffey responded: “No, no one called and requested this. I was under no coercion from the BOS as a whole or individually.” (Editor’s note: Last week Drew Bedwell confirmed to YubaNet.com that he added Freedle’s name to the list).
Robin Sutherland wanted to know why Van Zant hadn’t brought up his concerns when Freedle was interviewed by the full board on Monday, May 24th, Van Zant said that he wanted to finish his report to the Board and then would address her questions, but Sutherland insisted on an immediate response. “Because I didn’t think about it at the time, and neither did anybody else on the Board, that our process had been violated.”
After some discussion, Van Zant continued: “This Board takes action when there are three or more affirmative votes. The action to add Ms. Freedle to the selection should have come back to the Board to be voted on, in my opinion. It violated our order of doing business, our decorum. I believe the public was robbed of an opportunity to know what was going on. Anybody that was paying attention said: ‘They’re going to send it through two panels that selected finalists and then they’re going to select one.’ That did not happen. A seventh person came in. I asked a question of staff this morning and I’ll answer it for them now. ‘Did the other applicants, who were not selected by the panel, were they notified that they could have gone to a supervisor and get their name on the interview list?’ And the answer is no. I don’t know about the legality of it, but I think we’ve done a disservice to the whole process and to these other people. Only one person got a chance to exercise that option.”
At the prompting of Sutherland, County CEO Rick Haffey clarified: “As Supervisor Van Zant said, no one was contacted, and that includes Ms. Freedle, and told that they had the opportunity to contact their supervisor. So no one was treated differently, no one was contacted by the staff.”
“I guess I would submit, in fairness, that once she was selected then it should have been made available to the other folks,” Van Zant said. “My suggestion is that we go back to the original process and select somebody from the six that were deemed finalists.”
Walking back through the process
Sue Horne said: “I’d like to walk back through the process. From my perspective, as we went through this process, the Board took a vote that we would go through a certain process, as far as how we would look at the candidates. And it was not stated publicly, because I went back and listened to the tape to see if there was a mention at any time during that public discussion, that the Board also had the opportunity to interview a candidate. This was not discussed at that meeting. So when I saw the notice and though each supervisor was contacted in regards to if they wanted to interview someone that didn’t make it through the panel, didn’t qualify or wasn’t recommended…” (Laughter in the audience).
Horne continued: “Each supervisor was given the opportunity to add a name to the interviews.”
Green replied: “No, I wasn’t contacted.”
Horne: “You were not contacted? It was my understanding that the Clerk of the Board emailed every supervisor.”
Cathy Thompson, the Clerk of the Board confirmed that she had emailed the supervisors, but that supervisor Green was on vacation. The Personnel Director was supposed to contact Green over the weekend, said Thompson.
Horne continued: “When I was made aware that you could add an additional person, that was not my understanding. So I had a conversation with both our CEO and Gayle (Satchwell, Human Resources Director) and I was assured that indeed this was always the intent… that this process was appropriate. And, with that in mind, when we came to interview each of those individuals, I looked at each individual separately and equally because I was assured that that process was appropriate. I am hoping that the audience is not accusing this Board of doing something individually to try to wrangle somebody else to be interviewed. Because, as far as I’m concerned, that process was approved by our CEO and our Human Resources Department. And that was the answer that I was given.”
“You would be correct if the CEO and the head of Human Resources had the right to change a Board process,” said Van Zant, interrupted once more by Sutherland, who asked the audience to “please be respectful of the process and keep the heckling to yourself; it’s very disruptive while we’re engaging in a conversation here.”
Sutherland then turned to Satchwell and asked: “When did you give copies of all the applications to the supervisors and what window of opportunity did we have to respond to the process?”
“All of the applications were given to the supervisors early on in the process. I’ll have to take a moment if you’re looking for the actual date,” said Satchwell.
“Yes, I’m looking for a date. I’d like to know when you put out those applications, with the memo attached that said if there was anyone else that we think should be considered, and what period of time we had to respond,” Sutherland said.
“For the benefit of the supervisors, I would like to point out that the Human Resources Department did it at my direction,” Haffey interjected.
“Again, I would like to reiterate that this is not about who, this is about what took place outside of our process,” Van Zant said.
“And why, Supervisor Van Zant, why did you not speak up earlier? You had over a month to express your dissatisfaction with this process! To come in, after the fact, after the “appointment” is made, is very suspect,” said Horne, which caused the audience to chuckle at her choice of words.
“I guess the public could level that charge at all of us, since we all have responsibility for the Brown Act and for sticking to our own policies. If you want to get into what’s suspect, then we’re going to be here a long time,” Van Zant replied.
“I would ask you to answer the question. Why did you not bring this up? You had many opportunities to bring this up. We could have discussed it, it could have been public and we could have worked this out. But to come in after the “appointment’s” been made is just very poor.” Horne insisted.
“We made a mistake.”
“Well, we made a mistake and now we have a chance to rectify it.” Van Zant said and the audience applauded. “To tell you the truth, it wasn’t on the top of my list, but it never occurred to me that one who was rejected by two of the panels that we set up would be interviewed. It just never occurred to me.”
More applause from the audience followed and Sutherland interrupted Van Zant, again, asking the audience to hold their applause or she would “adjourn the meeting for five meetings each time you clap.”
“I don’t know about that, but anyway, if you go back to the timeframe, the April 23rd memo where this option was given, I don’t remember exactly when I was aware that it was Ms. Freedle, being brought forward around the panel process, but that was several days…” Van Zant tried to answer Horne’s question, but was interrupted again by Horne. “Is your problem not with the process?”
“I’m trying to answer your question,” he continued. “I never figured that somebody who was not moved forward would be interviewed. And then several days or 48 hours before our direction, our interviews, Ms. Freedle shows up. That’s when I thought, oh my gosh, this is a violation of our process.”
“Then why didn’t you say so?” Horne asked.
“That’s not the point,” said Green.
“It is the point. If you’re objecting to the process, then you should have brought that up way before that vote was taken,” Horne said.
“I would ask that you both be respectful of each other in this process. I’m the Chair this year and I’m responsible for it. I’d also like to add that I’m somewhat concerned also, considering that Fran was the first person we interviewed and I’m questioning why, at that time, you didn’t say ‘time out’,” Sutherland interjected.
“I wish I had,” Van Zant said.
“Gayle, did you have anything to add? How long did we have the packages?” Sutherland demanded. “According to our records, I believe that the set for all applications for all candidates was attached to the Friday memo dated April 23rd,” Satchwell responded.
“And we conducted the interviews on…?” Sutherland wanted to know. “May 24th.”
Edith Schenone, Grass Valley: “In an effort to have you reconsider your decision in appointing Fran Freedle to County Clerk-recorder, I am writing this letter to all. I am a seasonal temp worker for the Elections Office. I have also worked for Santa Clara County and Butte County Elections Departments a total of 10 years. From my experience in the election process, I can honestly say that Ms. Freedle is not qualified for this important position. It is an insult to Lorraine Jewett-Burdick, Joy Massey, the current elections workers and all the people of this county, to appoint someone whose election experience consists of reading a poll worker’s handbook. I very much agree with Peter Van Zant in saying that this decision is a violation of the process that was set up. This job requires the experience and knowledge that Joy Massey would bring with her to this position. I am telling you this not because I know all there is to know about running an election. I am telling you this because I feel so strongly that our county deserves the most qualified person for this extremely important position. Please rescind your decision in appointing your political colleague to this position. This goes beyond the duty to a friend, it is your duty to appoint the person with the experience and integrity to insure our election process is carried out legally and in full compliance with the election codes of the State of California. I believe this person to be Joy Massey. I would hate to see Nevada County have a failed election. You will have failed the citizens of this county that elected you to make fair and non-partisan decisions. Thank you.”
Jim Hurley, Nevada City: “Peter Van Zant has provided you an opportunity for correcting a terrible mistake, something that very few people in Nevada County support: The appointment of somebody from your ‘clique’, who is not qualified and could affect, in some material way, future elections in Nevada County. You should take advantage of this opportunity, even though it might be considered legalese, to remedy that. This is your chance to get out from underneath a mistake that you made. Thank you.”
Harry Wyeth, Grass Valley: “I don’t know if the majority of the BOS noticed, but there’s been a few changes in county staff over the past few months and year. I seem to recall that the CEO, the Planning Director, the County Counsel and others…”
“I would ask that you please speak to the item that is on the agenda,” Horne interrupted.
“There is a connection here, and it will be apparent in about 15 seconds. They’ve been asked to leave or otherwise made to feel that their experience was not needed here. I worked as a county confidential employee for 26 years. I was on a first-name basis with supervisors, department heads, chief executives and members of special districts. I can tell you that things that supervisors and members of board of directors did, that raised the most animosity, was not following rules and micromanaging by ignoring the advice of experienced advisors. Now, although Supervisor Horne makes possibly an arguable case, here it would appear that the Board has managed to do both. You set up a system to appoint a department head. A panel of experts, a good thing to give advice was assembled and it appears that it was intended to be ignored in the very end. This procedure tells any qualified, experienced county employee, or advisor panel, that they are not important. That their advice to the Board will count for very little when the chips come down and you have a personal motivation to do something different. If this were a case in court, the judge would call both sides back into his chamber and say: ‘Look, maybe the county has an arguable case here, but this looks terrible. Why don’t you go out and settle this case. Put the matter back before the panel, maybe put this woman back into the panel, have her interviewed and go through it again to give everybody a fair shake.’ And I think that’s what you ought to do. Thank you.”
Gilbert Fulton, Nevada County: “I am a citizen of the United States and of this county and I am moved by the proceedings today to speak. This governing body is involved in squabble and it is disheartening to see a body that is appointed and elected by the citizenry involved in such tawdry behavior. This is my take on this: panels appointed by this body interviewed applicants for this position. It seems that it would be a matter of common sense to appoint a candidate from the selection that was approved or recommended by these panels. That’s where the best candidate would be selected by this body, rather then what seems, on the surface, to be a little irregular. I thank you.”
Eileen Jorgensen, Nevada City: “I think you’re hearing about this outrageous, egregious act to the citizens of Nevada County. I would like to point out what will come down when the Secretary of State needs to come in and handle elections in Nevada County. It will not look good for you and I do not want to make Nevada County the new Florida. Thank you.”
Glenn Garrett, Nevada City: “We are a deeply divided community. I’m feeling that at this point in time the democratic process is being challenged here. Supervisor Bedwell was elected by 19 votes, and although a lot of people didn’t feel happy, I think we all felt good with the process of how he won. I think we deserve the best candidate possible for Clerk-Recorder. I would ask the supervisors, each of you, to ask yourself if Ms. Freedle is the most qualified candidate. I think this has a lot of bearing on the future of Nevada County.”
Catherine Smith, Grass Valley: “As a member of your constituency, I feel hijacked by the process that went down. I’d like you to reconsider your decision and listen to your public.”
Barbara Rivenes, Nevada City: “Many of us are deeply concerned about the process that was subverted for the position of Clerk-Recorder and Elections Official. As a full Board you agreed and you essentially entered in to a contract to interview those candidates put forth by two committees. But because Ms. Freedle did not make the cut, you broke your moral obligation, if not legal obligation, to abide by your agreed-upon process. I believe you have a moral obligation to serve the best interests of the citizens of Nevada County, not just the Republican Central Committee. The 3-2 vote last week on these item is another in a series of actions smacking of cronyism and toadying to the special interests that funded your campaigns. Shame on you. The only right and moral action is to rescind your previous support of this appointment and begin again.”
Jane Kovac, District 2: “I hope that you can rescind this decision. I want my vote to count next November. This election will be a failed election with an inexperienced person. It’s a very detailed process and there is no way, even if Ms. Freedle is a genius, that she can come up to par to run this election in November. My choice is for an experienced person and that would be Joy Massey. Thank you.”
Tina Marshall, Nevada City: “I’ve heard a lot of people speak this morning and no one seems to be speaking to the issue before the Board and was the process in which the selection took place. From everybody who has spoken this morning, from Mr. Haffey to all of you, it appears that the process was followed as you were told to do it. And I think what we’re hearing is a lot of sour grapes because the person that perhaps some people wanted selected wasn’t selected. I think there’s a lot of people very unhappy with that. And had someone that they preferred been selected, then maybe the other side, or perhaps people who feel like I do could say, well it was political for them. No matter who gets chosen on whatever leaning they have, unfortunately, that’s gonna be the response. But I think that the fact that you did the process as you were required to do, that you all had an opportunity to select someone else, that’s what we’re dealing with. And I believe that’s right and I don’t believe that this should be rescinded. Thank you.” (Tina Marshall is a member of the Republican Central Committee)
Kerri Timmer, Grass Valley: “I really don’t understand how you can sit here this morning with a straight face and defend the appointment of Fran Grattan-Freedle as Clerk-Recorder. You all agreed, on April 13th, in a rare unanimous vote, to adopt a specific selection process, appointing two, not one, but two review committees. Including one made up of election professionals from outside the area to screen your list of applicants and provide you with a slate of finalists for your consideration. It’s bad enough that after approving such a process, you would completely ignore the recommendation of the committees that you yourself set up. But to blatantly pull a candidate out of the rejection pile and then appoint her over any of the six finalists presented to you, that is truly an affront to all of us. To the citizens of Nevada County who will affected by your act, as well as to the people on the selection committees who gave willingly their time, at your request, to assist you in this task. Is this really government acting most effectively and efficiently for the people? I really don’t think so. You sit here today and you say that because your candidate has been trained as a poll worker, she’s more qualified than any of the six finalists presented by your own selection committee. That’s like saying that the trained greeter at Wal-Mart is now qualified to run the company. I urge you to rescind this decision and to go back to your agreed-upon process. It seems to me that the April 23rd memo, where you were given the option to add candidates to the list, was to add candidates for the panels to review, not for your interviews. I would ask for you to look at it again, that’s what it appeared to me on the documents that were shown.”
After an interruption from Sutherland, Timmer finished: “Please choose one of the six finalists presented to you by your selection committees. That’s why you had the committees; that’s what you said you would do. Please, just be true to your word, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”
Don Rivenes, Nevada City: “The public, based on a public meeting that you held, was assured that a certain process would be followed. Whether Peter decided to talk about it too late or not, you don’t shoot the messenger; the process that was in place, was voted on. It was a public process, and that was what the public expected to happen. To have some private memo, or some recommendation by the Executive Officer to change that process, without the public being involved, is not a fair process. You should go back and redo this, no matter how late this came up. It is to the benefit of all the public that Peter finally brought this up. Thank you.”
Steve Enos, Grass Valley: “I’d like to go ahead and view today in a completely different context, not one of bickering and putting a microscope on words on a page or what paragraph 7 said, but on the intent of what it is that elected officials go ahead and govern. We want citizens to be involved in the civil process and come forth from our communities and step up, like you have all done, to get involved in the process and to come before you to speak at this microphone and to let you know how they feel. And it’s your role to go ahead and listen to us, not argue with us, not to berate us, but to listen to us and deliberate on behalf of everyone, for the best good of our community. And if you truly believe that moving forward with the current situation is what is best for this community, then go ahead and proceed that way. But I do not believe that is the case. I view this as an opportunity to bring people together today, versus driving people further apart. Everyone here knows, regardless of what their opinion is, that there is a wedge that has been built because of this. It’s happened before in this county and some of you came forth and actually ran on platforms to go ahead and change that way, the way it functions in our county. This is not just a few people in the county that are saying, ‘you know what, we have concerns over the way this is done’; there is a huge outcry out there. From all different spectrums that are saying,’ please go ahead and reconsider what you have done’. So I’d ask that you take this opportunity, which I believe this is today, to show this county that we are going to go ahead and follow a different path, bringing people together, versus driving them apart. There is enough reaction out there from the public for everyone to understand that this is the case. Please take this opportunity to bring us together, go ahead and change the direction that you have chosen and let’s do something different than what we’ve done. Something positive versus something divisive. Thank you.” (Steve Enos is a member of the Grass Valley City Council, speaking as an individual)
Paul Emery, Nevada City: “I know it is not proper to ask a question of the Board, but I will ask anyway this time and perhaps you can refer to it later on. I think what we have here is a question of public trust, with the issue being patronage. I would like for the Board members, at some point during the morning, to explain any involvement that Fran Grattan-Freedle would have had in your election campaigns, whether it be fundraising, committee service, political advice and also her involvement in the Republican Party for fundraising that might have assisted in direct or indirect ways in campaign assistance. I think that is really essential to what is on the public mind. It’s a question of process and it’s a question of public trust. Thank you.”
Don Jones, Penn Valley: “When Fran Grattan signed me up for two committees to update the five-year plan, many years ago, I was happy to serve on those. But all these committees, when they submitted all the stuff to the Board at that time, every one of these reports that we’ve spent probably thousands of hours on, was rejected. They just plain ignored what we submitted as the public. Well, this is sort of a similar situation. Drew Bedwell, whom I also knew way back in my gold mining days, submitted this and I have a feeling that it’s a plain Republican move and even Doolittle supported this nomination. I never heard of a county, getting an appointed position by the Board, supported by a Republican group. This is ridiculous. Let’s rescind it, for heaven’s sake.”
Michael Fox, Nevada City: “I’m not representing any special interests, I’m here to speak as a fellow citizen. I’ve lived in this county for only sixteen years. I’ve watched the process in that sixteen years, I’ve watched the non-partisan Board of Supervisors constantly be partisan in their decisions. They were elected through donations of special interests and lobbyists, the process has been polarizing and divisive and fed with the passions of righteousness. We all lose in this process. Our governor is succeeding, because he is working with all the people and building consensus. There is no doubt that, based on voting records, ex-supervisor Fran Freedle is strongly partisan. The position this Board is about to hire her requires, at minimum, the perception of impartiality. The voting process is the cornerstone of democracy.”
Edith Lufkin, Nevada City: “I think that a lot of us who are here today can agree that what took place with this process can have justification under certain circumstances. I have yet to hear one argument to justify what is taking place here. A list of six candidates, who had much experience, many qualifications, endorsed by experts in the field, and you come up with somebody who knows nothing whatsoever about the job. I would like to hear one good reason for you making this leap, I haven’t heard it.”
Sutherland indicated that Horne wanted to respond to Lufkin: “I’d like to make some clarification. The position of Elections Clerk is a position that does not have any minimal qualifications. I would remind respectfully, that the present Elections Clerk, when she was elected, did not have any on-the-job experience. I would also like to say that there were, I believe, two individuals that were selected by the panelists that had no election experience. So to say that we had six highly qualified candidates is entirely incorrect. And if you knew about the arbitrary cutoff at six, Ms. Freedle was in the very top, and had we had seven, or maybe eight, she would have been sitting before the panel. In fact, she was selected, within a couple of those interviewers.”
“How do you know that?” Van Zant asked.
“You’re trying to make the assertion that Fran has absolutely no qualifications and the rest of the six are just highly qualified, and that is an unfair assessment to me.”
Dabis offers precedence and a way out
During Horne’s response, Treasurer-Tax Collector E. Christina Dabis seated herself at the public microphone: “My name is Chris Dabis and I happen to work here, but today I’m not speaking to you in that capacity. I come to you as a citizen and a resident of Grass Valley. I believe that this territory may have been crossed once before when the Assessor decided not to stay the Assessor and we needed to appoint someone in that position. At the time, there were panels set up and applicants made their applications to Personnel, neither Gayle nor Rick were here at the time. They were screened by Personnel and a number made it through the screening process, which then came to our panels. There were two panels because there were so many applicants. After we finished our interviews with those people, we were asked, after we had finished everyone that had made the cut, we were asked by a representative of the CEO, if we would screen just one more that didn’t initially make the cut. And my answer was no. Why? Because the ground rules, as set by the Board of Supervisors, were set. It would have been nice, and it was very accommodating by the CEO to ask if we would do that. But still, the fact of the matter was that the ground rules were set. I think that we already covered that and it may be precedent-setting for you to look at. The ground rules were set. Nothing personal against any of these people, but the ground rules that you set are established. It was very nice and accommodating that your CEO, that you hired and that you could fire, your Personnel Director, that you hired and you could fire, tried to accommodate you over and beyond what your rule said. I really do think you should reconsider and come back to the basic goal that you had and the standard that you set. That’s the fair thing to do. I’m sorry if it upsets you, but that’s how I see it. Thank you.”
A visibly unhappy Sutherland turned to the CEO: “I would like to request that both Mr. Haffey and Rob Shulman address the process of the Assessor’s office. Did we use the same process?”
Haffey replied: “Madam Chair, yes. The description by the Treasurer- Tax Collector is correct. They had a screening panel, the Personnel Department at that time did the first screen, then it went to a professional panel and the Board made its appointment from there. The only difference between that position and this is that there were higher certification requirements for an Assessor.”
“Was the Board at that time allowed the opportunity to provide additional names?” Sutherland probed further. ” I wasn’t part of that process at the time, but I don’t believe so,” Haffey added. Dabis also clarified that the panels at the time believed that the then-CEO had acted at the request of one or several members of the Board, but the panel still said no.
Turning back to the audience, Sutherland was faced with the current Clerk-Recorder seated at the public microphone.
“Lorraine Jewett-Burdick, Clerk-Recorder. I had really wanted to stay out of this fray, but when Sue said that I had absolutely no experience, I felt that I needed to respond. I not only had the opportunity to work with the retiring Clerk-Recorder for several months before I took office, well before that I took intensive Election Administration courses. I had hundreds of hours of experience before I hit the ground, but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that I had a successful tenure because of my staff. In large part thanks to Judy Bromley who had 23 years of experience and took me under her wing. We all worked hard and long hours and got the job done. That is not the case in this office anymore. You know I’ve been imploring you to help us hire people; everyone is getting out of Elections. Right now we have one staff member who has been the polling place and poll worker recruiter and that’s it. Other than Joy, that’s the only one who has any election experience whatsoever. In my view, because of the budget cuts, the office has been gutted and it’s simply not the most opportune time to have someone without elections experience.”
Horne was quick to admit her mistake: “I stand corrected. Lorraine, when you were elected to the position, did you have any on-the-job experience, when you were elected by the citizens?” “I had the coursework. I was a certified Election Official based on the coursework,” Jewett-Burdick repeated.
“I apologize,” said Horne. “I thought that you had no experience when you were elected.”
“I just want the public to know that I thought I was following the procedure that was set out for this Board. I agree that in the public’s eye, it doesn’t look good, OK?” Horne stated. This statement earned laughter and mutterings from the public, with a break ordered by Sutherland.
After gaveling the meeting back to order, Sutherland once more wanted to “warn the audience to please be respectful of our proceedings here and that would mean not yelling out statements from the audience and/or applauding.”
Barbara Green said that she counted at least seventeen people who spoke to the issue and that there were a lot more people in the audience (over eighty). “I’d just like to give people a chance to express their feelings, without applauding or whatever you’re talking about. Those of you who feel strongly that we should reconsider this appointment would you please stand up?”
The overwhelming majority of the audience got to their feet.
“Thank you, this takes the place of your applauding, booing or whatever. Thank you,” said Green.
After more discussion about the exact meaning of a Friday memo, called ‘legalese minutiae’ by Van Zant, Haffey once more offered to fall on his sword for the BOS. “I indicated two times that Board members could add candidates that from the bottom field, and I did that without your Board changing your process.”
Sutherland jumped at the occasion and asked: “And you did it without Board approval?” “Exactly,” said Haffey.
“There is an issue here, and our safest ground I think, is going back to what we said collectively we would do,” Van Zant said. With a nod towards the Treasurer-Tax Collector, he continued: “That fortunately, thanks to citizen Dabis who has a good memory, is going to be safe ground, because it is also what we did the last time this issue faced the County of Nevada, which was the Assessor’s position. If we go back to that, I don’t see whatever the outcome is, well, this is Nevada County… If we go back to that, at least we will take away the process and fairness issue regarding the other candidates. Is there some proposal that we can get this thing moving forward the proper way?”
Horne wanted clarification: “Are you proposing, Peter, that we go back and interview again? Or are you proposing that we select an alternative?”
“I talked to staff and they could set up a process within the parameters we started out with, to reassess the six members that came out of the interview process. It would still be our choice. I think we all said that there are qualified candidates in that list, we could just go back and do it here in public like we did before. Then we’re on safe ground again, we’re really on safe ground,” Van Zant clarified.
“I’d like to say that, personally, I don’t feel that I have anything to apologize as far as my behavior in this matter in following the process that was laid out before me goes. I had concerns about the addition of an applicant, of any applicant that wasn’t set forward by the panel. I was assured that this was appropriate. So when I came before this Board and interviewed the seven, in my mind, every one of those individuals was equal in that interview. However, it seems to me, well, I would like to ask County Counsel, what is the remaining process for the confirmation of the vote that the Board took last Monday?” asked Horne, turning to County Counsel Rob Shulman.
“The item will be put on the agenda for the meeting of June 8 or June 22,” county counsel said.
“The reality is, we have four Board members here instead of five. It is my desire to get a person appointed to that position. We have to take another vote on this matter, correct?” asked Horne. “Correct,” was Shulman’s reply.
“Seems to me that the reality is that this Board has to come to an agreement on who that person is going to be if there has to be a confirming vote. When the Board voted 3-2, the second choice was Kathleen Smith, who has held the elected position, I believe. Is that correct?” Horne asked the Human Resources Director. “Yes, I believe so,” said Satchwell.
“She is not involved in Republican party politics that I know of, or in any politics that I know of,” said Horne.
It’s not worth it
Looking at the audience, Sue Horne took a deep breath and continued: “I’m just looking at the reality of the situation. And, you know, I abhorred what happened. There’s people shaking their heads in the audience, and you’re one of the folks that abhorred what happened with NH2020 in this community and how you felt that you weren’t listened to. I have heard from Democrats, I have heard from strong Republicans in this county that do not like the perception of what took place. I am not going to participate in a process that undermines honesty and openness and what the majority of folks in this county want. And that is a non-partisan position being held in the Elections Department. Now, we have to look at little bit larger than our own personal desires in this. There is a greater good and that is the good of the county. There is an overwhelmingly bad perception of the Board’s action, although in all honesty I had the feeling I was doing the best job that was before me. I will not put this Board back in a position what NH2020 did to this community. It’s not worth it. So, we have a 2-2 split vote, it’s a given. I think this Board needs to take the second choice, that was Kathleen Smith, who is not from this community, not involved in politics in this community, is qualified, and move forward. And I would put it on the remaining members of this Board that we need to move this county forward. I would like to make a motion that we rescind this decision and that we nominate Kathleen Smith.”
“When we took a straw poll last Monday, only 3 of the supervisors had her on top; neither me nor Peter had had as first or second choice,” said Green. “All the candidates were very, very good, but she wasn’t one of my top choices.”
Sutherland, cutting the discussion short, said: “There’s a motion on the floor. Is there a second?” Even though she had voted for Kathleen Smith last Monday, Sutherland apparently wasn’t ready to support Horne’s motion, which died for lack of a second.
Van Zant said that he was very grateful that Sue Horne was willing to move forward: “God knows I don’t want any more NH2020s in this hearing room.” He proposed that the Board rescind Freedle’s nomination and instead select the current Assistant Clerk-Recorder Joy Massey. “Looking toward the November election, I think that Joy is the key for getting this done, regardless of who is getting the job, because of her experience.”
“I don’t consider that a compromise, because she was your and Barbara’s first choice,” Sutherland objected. Nevertheless, Green seconded the motion and the question was called. A 2-2 vote brought no action on the motion.
Barbara Green asked: “Would the Board consider another alternative? If we substituted Mary Ross…” Sutherland cut her off: “You mean Mary Ross with two weeks of election experience? No, I don’t consider that a qualification.”
“Even if I made the motion, I can see where it would go,” said Green.
Van Zant tried once more to achieve consensus by making a motion to direct staff to bring back the six original candidates’ files and that the Board make a decision then.
“I would like a written declaration from the CEO and County Counsel that a recommendation was made to this Board, which was not approved by this Board, to bring additional candidates, and the fashion that is was made. I would also like to request that transcripts be made of the interviews that were conducted last week and be made available to the public for their review. I have to say, Fran she did really good in the interview. She did very good. I think that we need to open up that information to the public, even if we do proceed with additional interviews,” Sutherland added.
Van Zant restated that his motion was for the six that were advanced by the panel. County Counsel said that since Freedle’s name was still on record as their first selection, she would have to be on the list as well. Van Zant re-worded his motion to remove Ms. Freedle from the selection list and take a fresh look at the six candidates next Tuesday.
After some more back and forth and one last comment about Van Zant’s tardy discovery and the associated cost of reopening the discussion, Sutherland wanted to reiterate that she thought that Freedle did really well in the interview. The vote was called and the BOS voted 4-0 to remove Fran Freedle’s selection from the list and make a new selection next Tuesday.
The decision was welcomed with “unauthorized” applause by the audience and kudos by many to Horne and Van Zant.
No public was present in the afternoon for the Board’s workshop on the County budget. Deputy CEO Joe Christoffel walked the Board through some of the department budgets. Hearings will start Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m. in the Board Chambers.
Sue Horne was appointed unanimously as Vice-Chair for the remainder of the year.
Consent Calendar Spending
- Resolution authorizing execution of a renewal contract with Eric M. Rubinstein, M.D., to provide direct clinical and other psychiatric services for citizens of Nevada County at the Nevada City Clinic for the period July 1, 2004 through June 30, 2005, in the maximum amount of $39,520.
- Resolution authorizing execution of a renewal contract with Sara Burns, dba Alta Sierra Medical Transcription, to provide digital dictation and transcription services for Behavioral Health’s medical records for the period July 1, 2004 through June 30, 2005, in the maximum amount of $32,000.
- Resolution authorizing execution of a renewal contract with Nevada County Housing Development Corporation to provide a transitional living program at the Manzanita Family Center to provide shelter and support services for CalWORKs participant families referred by the County’s Human Services Agency or the Emergency Assistance Coalition (EAC), for the period June 25, 2004 through June 30, 2005, in the maximum amount of $65,000.
The next meeting of the Nevada County BOS takes place on Wednesday, June 2 at 9:00 a.m. at the Rood Center in Nevada City. The next regular meeting will take place on Tuesday, June 8 at 9:00 a.m. at the same location.