A case in point — at last week’s board of supervisors meeting, Steve Pezzullo, a candidate for the District 2 seat on the Lassen County Board of Supervisors held by incumbent Jim Chapman, questioned the legality of the $4,000 each supervisor is allocated as a discretionary fund in the county budget.
Pezzullo claimed he could find no legal basis for the fund. He said he talked to other boards of supervisors and none of them had discretionary funds. He even said one board of supervisors he spoke with said the use discretionary funds “undermined the democratic system.”
Then he further alleged giving funds to local nonprofit groups favors the incumbents because they’re “buying votes” in the upcoming June 5 election.
As evidence to this assertion, Pezzullo claimed he’d asked several community groups for their support, and they said they couldn’t support him because Chapman had given them money from his “slush fund.”
Lassen County District 3 Supervisor Larry Wosick tried to support Pezzullo’s assertion from the dais with a stuttering, tongue-tied, second-hand account of events he said he learned from an unidentified “youngster” he knew very well who told him his parents were “furious” because they had been getting financial support from former District 3 Supervisor Lloyd Keefer’s discretionary fund, but all the money dried up after Wosick’s election.
Wosick said his point was the use of the discretionary funds influences the vote, and he cited this story as the proof of his assertion, although he added there’s probably nothing we can do about it.
Supervisors explained how in decades past the board used to receive more than $100,000 in requests for funding from community groups each year, how the board bitterly bickered over who should get funding and how the funding decisions were frequently made in such a political manner everyone involved thought the process was unfair.
So more than a decade ago each supervisor was given a small discretionary fund approved by the board in the county budget process.
The board then ratified the expenditures in public sessions and the county auditor finally cut the checks after obtaining authorization of the approved expenditures from the county clerk’s office.
Despite the local history lesson, the critics continued to press the issue. Pezzullo and Wosick want someone to bring forward a legal opinion blessing the discretionary funds.
Wosick even wants our county counsel to gather opinions on the matter from the other 57 county counsels up and down the state.
Wosick asked our new County Administrative Officer Martin Nichols for his thoughts on the discretionary funds, and Nichols replied a process nearly identical to ours was used in Marin County when he served as CAO there.
OK. Enough already. What really gets me steamed about this whole stinking discussion is it only takes a few seconds researching “supervisors discretionary funds in California” on the Internet to put a whole different perspective on these nagging questions from these unrelenting critics who wasted nearly an hour of everyone’s time sobbing their personal opinions about the matter — the fact is, discretionary funds for supervisors are common all across the Golden State. What? Let me say that again. Discretionary funds for supervisors are common all across the Golden State.
Counties mentioned on the first page of my search include San Bernardino, San Diego, Kern, Los Angeles and Merced.
Please, don’t let them brand me as another hack for the good old boys — go to your favorite search engine and find out for yourself.
Sure, some discretionary funds have come under fire for alleged misuse, most famously the Los Angeles County supervisors who have a whopping $3 million per year to spend in their discretionary funds.
Interestingly, after claims of misuse and government investigations, that board adopted a policy nearly identical to the one already in place right here in good old Lassen County in order to ensure the funds are spent in an open and transparent way.
Honestly, I don’t have a problem with people rising up on their white horses to right a wrong or draw attention to an injustice. But I do have a problem with people who start with a premise and then try to bend the facts to support their assertion.
Sorry, but this “corrupt Lassen County Board of Supervisors creates an illegal slush fund the likes of which no one has ever seen in order to buy votes in the upcoming local election” allegation is about as baseless and lame as the dome over Westwood April Fool’s hoax that swept across the county like a wildfire earlier this month. Some people actually believed that one. I know. I got the phone calls.
Let me welcome you to yet another round of Lassen County politics.
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