By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

Budgets, bribes and hefty promises punctuated the discussion last night between the public and candidates for District 4 Del Norte County Supervisor.

In one particularly heated exchange, challenger Sarah Sampels charged her opponent Clyde Eller offered her a bribe not to seek election.

He offered to compensate me not to file my papers, for this election, Sampels said of Eller, as the crowd let out groans.

When asked if he wanted to respond, Eller said no, characterizing the complaint as a rumor Sampels had started.

That wasnt the only sharp disagreement between the two supervisor candidates.

Both candidates were asked to defend their past public office decision-making and how each will improve the countys sickly budget.

Its not a rosy picture, I can guarantee, but I want to be part of the solution, Sampels said.

Eller disagreed with Sampels and promised the county is not going bankrupt, but looking at growth and several improvements.

Were going through the process of changing the base of our economy ... By the beginning of next year, we will have a balanced budget, Eller said, pointing to a resort area project funded by the Elk

Valley Rancheria and hoped-for airport improvements as positive developments.

But questions on why the county has budget problems sparked some heated debate.

Why have you opposed development of the 1,000 Pacific Shores lots and how do you explain keeping the lots off the tax sale, one man asked of Sampels who, as tax collector, controls the countys annual sale of tax-delinquent properties.

Sampels explained two state agencies asked that the Pacific Shores lots be pulled from the auction list so that the state could pursue purchasing them.

So I had no choice, Sampels said.

More questions on how much the unconsummated Nor-Cal deal has cost the county, why the county sued the city to gain control of the water system and why the supervisors dont look at budget reports every month fueled the discussion.

One man asked Do you find it responsible to allocate the tobacco settlement money before its in your hands, just to balance the budget?

As the seven-year incumbent, Eller responded yes.

That is the methodology of which government is funded, Eller said.

Eller also said the county was justified in suing the city for control of the city-owned water system, even though the county lost the lawsuit, and still owes the city a settlement of at least $200,000.

Sampels said the suit and the use of tobacco money not yet here was irresponsible.

The county did start spending the tobacco money knowing we werent going to get it. As for the water wars ... you cant just steal something from someone that doesnt belong to you thats another $200,000 we owe. Wheres it going to come from, Sampels said.

Eller later accused Sampels of not doing her job as tax collector by neglecting to go after those not paying the hotel-bed tax.

The board asked her to do it and she refuses to do it, Eller said.

On the defensive, Sampels retorted thats an absolute lie. The only person not paying the TOT tax is Mr. Alan Murray and I was told not go after it until after litigation by the county against him was over.