Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

Two of five County Supervisors protested Tuesday following what they deemed to be unfair treatment by Board Chairman Chris Howard.

The claims came after three consecutive agendized appointments of supervisors to other boards.

Item 33 on the agenda was to appoint Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen as a delegate to the Golden State Finance Authority with Supervisor Lori Cowan as an alternate. Item 34 was to appoint Hemmingsen as the delegate to the Rural Representatives of California with Cowan as the alternate. Item 35 was to appoint Hemmingsen as the delegate on the Solid Waste Authority Board with Tedd Ward as the alternate.

Gitlin objects

District 1 Supervisor Roger Gitlin pointed out what he called “a disturbing trend,” regarding appointment of supervisors to boards and committees.

“I see there are three prominent names, pretty much all the time, in issues that reflect on our county. We’re effectively eliminating the voices from District 1 and District 5, Supervisors Gitlin and (Bob) Berkowitz, respectively,” Gitlin said. “It’s’ disturbing, because I see it all too often.”

Gitlin nominated Berkowitz to serve as the delegate to the Golden State Finance Authority, with Hemmingsen as the alternate member. Berkowitz seconded Gitlin’s nomination, but county legal counsel Elizabeth Cable said the motion would need to be pushed forward to the next agenda, as it was not on the agenda for action.

Chair responds

Howard said he expected the sentiment might arise as a result of the nominations.

“I had removed myself from these committees, as Cowan had asked to serve,” he said. “I’ve drug her to a lot of discussions, both at CSAC and RCRC over this last year and had the chance to observe her interactions, with many of the folks representing other counties, (and) agencies within the state and she’s done an excellent job representing this community.”

Howard said when a board member serves on a committee they represent the board and its decisions, not their individual opinions or districts.

“My hope was that this would not be contentious but I understand your reasoning, Supervisor Gitlin. I’m not trying to overlook, but at the same time, I’m trying to address a need that I believe Supervisor Cowan would address well,” Howard said.

Berkowitz objects

“Mr. Chairman, it seems like you have created such a closed-loop system that it’s impossible for any nomination that you have proposed to get a fair hearing,” Berkowitz said. “It’s obvious that the supervisor you support will automatically get selected for any position.”

Berkowitz said that in looking at the three items, it appeared to be a “systematic and deliberate elimination of 40 percent of the members of the Board of Supervisors.” He contended that 3-2 votes essentially leave his district without representation.

“In an open system, the chair would ask for other supervisors to weigh in on the selection process and then have an open discussion where others who want the position would get a fair hearing,” he read from a prepared document.

Gitlin concurred, saying the appointments are based on animosity, anger and frustration.

“It’s juvenile and it doesn’t belong on this board,” Gitlin said. “So, I’m not going to approve 33, 34 or 35, in an effort to try to bring this board together in some kind of fair manner where all voices and all districts are heard.”

On the second action, Howard said Hemmingsen already serves in the position. He said he served as an alternate but upon recusing himself, appointed Cowan, “which is my discretion as board chair.”

All three appointments were approved by 3-2 votes, Gitlin and Berkowitz voting no.

With the changes, the county’s list of committees shows the following number of times supervisors are listed as delegates and alternates to boards: Gitlin 9/5, Cowan, 14/3, Howard 18/2, Hemmingsen 21/1 and Berkowitz, 17/5.

According to the County’s Administration Manual, the board chair, at their discretion, may appoint members to other governing bodies and boards, provided such appointments are confirmed by the board.

At the next meeting Jan. 9, the supervisors may select a new chair and if so, a list of new committee appointments will be brought to the following meeting, Jan. 23.

Reach Tony Reed at treed@triplicate.com

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