June 11, 2013 — I realize I’m jumping right between the shooters and their targets with a bullseye on my back by writing this piece, but I can’t remain silent any longer.
Everybody knows the very best way to conduct a political campaign against incumbents is to hurl all the criticism you can muster at those in power you seek to replace. I mean, who knows how much of the muck will stick? Just keep piling it up over a period of time, and eventually some people will begin to believe there must be something to all of it, and hopefully that belief will morph into outrage and support at the polls.
The political effort to take over county government that District 3 Supervisor Larry Wosick, his wife, supporters and others began several years ago continues to this day, although Wosick, much to his credit, said he has personally accepted and acknowledged his vision for the future of the county had been rejected by the voters when they returned District 1 Supervisor Bob Pyle and District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman to office in the last election.
Let me say I believe completely in the people’s right to pick their representatives — that’s the way it ought to be. But many readers may not remember — and it’s curious to note — District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson first addressed the rumors of a recall campaign against him way back in April 2011, the week after the board failed to second a motion by Wosick to give Tom Stone, Lassen County’s former county administrative officer, a $25,000 per year raise because he had been assigned the county’s human resource director responsibility. Wosick said Stone got “a raw deal.”
Hanson also apparently made an inappropriate comment regarding Stone during a closed session meeting that day, and he publicly apologized for making that undisclosed remark a week later when he first spoke of the recall from the podium during public comment. Hmmmm?
Let’s see, that means the recall campaign started nearly three months before the board fired Stone, an action Hanson’s critics claim was based largely on the former county administrative officer’s whistle blowing regarding the failed redevelopment effort in Herlong — an important leg of their case against Hanson. And Hanson was recently dismissed as a defendant in Stone’s wrongful termination suit. Now there’s a development.
Let me be clear again lest someone say I’m defending Hanson, because I’m not — the District 5 voters will determine his fate during a recall election this fall, and I’m fine with that. It’s totally their call.
Now some of these critics have focused their attention on Lassen County Clerk Julie Bustamante and her alleged incompetence.
Bustamante came under fire for her participation on a redistricting committee critics alleged was trying to change the district’s boundaries to protect Hanson from the recall. “Is this a conspiracy to disenfranchise voters and to subvert the power of the board of supervisors?” one challenger asked in a letter to the editor. “OMG. These people are sworn to uphold the Constitution, and now they are trampling our rights.”
Wosick sent an email to Bustamante urging the redistricting committee to reconsider in an effort to stop a “massive backlash campaign against the board” because the proposed change would affect the Hanson recall campaign.
But in the end those allegations proved to be completely false. The board rejected the committee’s recommendations, and in any case the voters who elected Hanson will be the very same ones to vote in a recall election.
Some have suggested Bustamante played a role in rigging the election in which two challengers for seats on the board lost. There is absolutely no evidence to support that allegation either, other than a candidate’s insistence on the mathematical impossibility of the results.
The clerk also has been criticized for refusing to accept some Hanson recall petitions because the proponents used a form she had previously rejected. Ah, another conspiracy du jour.
A visiting judge ruled the error was so minor it did not affect citizens’ understanding of the petition they signed, and he ordered Bustamante to count the signatures and move the recall process forward if it qualified. Of course, the critics forget to mention on day one, long before the matter went to court, Bustamante said she legally had no choice but to reject those flawed petitions, but she would comply with a judge’s order if one were issued. The critics gripe about the delay in the process, but they don’t mention recall proponent Tom Hammond waited nearly 90 days to file his request for a writ of mandate, and then the court took months to hear the case. After their day in court, Bustamante complied with the judge’s order, and now we’re going to have a recall election. Oh, what an obstructionist!
Recently Bustamante wrangled with a website operator’s request to obtain a free-of-charge copy of the board packet as provided to the local media as a courtesy for many years. The county no longer provides a free packet to the media, and the newspaper now obtains the information from the county’s website, although some information is provided at the meetings. Personally, I disagree with the county’s decision. I think the county should provide a free copy of the board packet to everyone who requests one. But having said that, I also recognize it’s not my decision to make.
The latest round in this campaign against the clerk focuses on the county’s website and the clerk’s alleged mishandling of minutes for the board of supervisors meetings. I agree with the assertion the minutes should be approved in a timelier manner, but, ultimately, the board is responsible for its minutes, not the clerk.
Of course — pull up your waders on this one — this critic also alleges the board lets the county clerk do whatever she wants because they’re scared of her since she handles the elections. Lions and tigers and county clerks, oh my!
Why just last week this critic said she had filed a Brown Act violation with the Lassen County District Attorney’s office after a debate in the board chambers about the public availability of the minutes before the board approved them. I’m not a legal beagle, but I’m guessing once the district attorney reviews this complaint, he will reject it, too. I suspect this is another instance of lots of smoke but no fire.
I speak only for myself. Butstamante and her staff have been courteous, professional, competent and helpful in every way whenever I’ve contacted the clerk’s office seeking information. Thanks to all.
Now, based on these complaints, some critics even have begun calling for Bustamante’s recall. Again I have no problem with that if the people desire another clerk. I just hope these noisy naysayers can come up with a better reason or two before they try to run her out of office. And I also trust the people will recognize the political nature of this mudslinging campaign.
So the real questions are — will the revolution continue and will this criticism affect people’s perception of the integrity and competence of the county clerk and result in another recall election?
Corruption, conspiracy and Lassen County politics — you’ve gotta love it.
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