I don't live in District 5, but I did recently endorse Andrea Macon for Supervisor of District 5 over Brian Oneto. You can read some of the personal reasons why I did endorse Andrea on her website, andreaforamador.com. Now I’d like to outline a few of the reasons why I believe there is still a need for change at the Board of Supervisors, just like in the last election.
I have been watching and participating in politics both locally and nationally since 1974. I have a keen interest in following local government for the most part, however. I know Brian, I remember when he was elected in 2006. Several months later, Brian voted in favor of a renegotiated lease on the new Health and Human Services building on Conductor Boulevard. The original lease was only about 17 months old at the time it was renegotiated. Why? Now, recently I have seen a lot of dollar amounts thrown around regarding this building, but let's stick with facts. On August 23, 2016, I went to a Board meeting to speak with them about their Response to the 2015-2016 Grand Jury Report. For those that don't recall, the Board was very unhappy with the Grand Jury Report.
I told the Board that I took issue with 14 of their 19 findings and started with Number 1. Before I even got through number 1, some of the board members started getting rather upset: first Oneto, then Plasse, followed by Boitano. After the commotion quieted down, I asked the Board if $7 million was about the amount the taxpayers would be paying on the renegotiated extra 5 years on the lease? Supervisor Oneto said, "Yes." $ 7 million dollars is about 7 ¾% of the county’s currently proposed $90 million budget. How many mentalhealth professionals and other health and human services for the taxpayers could be had for $7 million today?
Now, Brian will tell you that the renegotiated lease was on the Consent Agenda, where all items can be passed with one motion. He will tell you and is quoted as saying, "What the modification was portrayed as is not what we were sold." But he made no attempt to pull it from the Consent Agenda for discussion, as he had a right to. He just voted along with the other supervisors 5-0 to approve the extension of the lease for 5 years. What did the taxpayer get in return for the $7 million in rent? A onetime, $400,000 payment, at a cost to the taxpayer of over $7 million!
Amador CAO Chuck lley said in the same meeting "I implore you (BOS) not to do anything like that in the future." And County Counsel Greg Gillott also said in part of his response that, "it probably wasn't the best deal for the County." So, for an additional 5 years tacked on the lease, the taxpayer received a onetime payment of $400,000 (which by the way, no one has ever explicitly explained where the money went). In the Board's response to the Grand Jury, they acknowledged, "… that the funds should have been identified in the lease and future agreements will follow that practice." I believe the Grand Jury has investigated the HHS Building and the lease at least three times now, 2010-11, 2013-14, 2015-16.
I would urge you to read an opinion piece in the Mountain Democrat written by El Dorado County government watchdog Larry Weitzman, titled, "The Balancing Act, Questionable Dealing." I don't think it was ever reprinted locally. It will give you some good insight into the Board of Supervisors’ mismanagement on the whole Health and Human Services deal. And let's not forget that the Board originally could have bought that 8 acres from SPI where the HHS building is today for $2 million, but dropped out of negotiations on that to buy the Wicklow Way property for $1.8 million, but that's another story. (“The Strange and Twisted Tale of Wicklow Way,” M.W.Boitano,December 21, 2009)
Moving on, there was the situation Brian caused at one time when he was the board Chair. Dr. Bob Hartmann, Amador County's well-respected Public Health Officer, had his contract extended by board action on the consent agenda had his contract extended by board action on the consent agenda, 5-0 until June 2013. Weeks later, after Brian voted to extend Dr. Hartmann' s contract, he brought the contract back to the board agenda for "reconsideration." He questioned Dr. Hartmann’s duties, and even the hours he worked. After much wrangling, th Board approved a partial salaray adjustment, and a contract that expire at the end of June 2011. Dr. Hartmann signed the contract so the good people of this county would not be without a Public Health Officer.
Brian brought Dr. Hartmann’s contract back to the board for reconsideration shortly after Brian and his brothers blocked a prescriptive easement used by Dr. Hartmann and his wife, Mel Welsh, to access property they own. You can read about that in a letter written at the time by local resident Judy Hotchkiss -- see Amador Community News, February 2011.
The community rose up in support of Dr. Hartmann. The medical staff at Sutter Amador, by acclamation, requested the board to recognize Dr. Hartmann for the contributions he had made as a public servant and provide him with a long-term contract. Eventually, that did happen, because other supervisors recognized Dr. Hartmann’s value to the county.
Let's move on to the fine example Brian set over the renaming of Squaw Ridge in 2017. Squaw Ridge is behind Silver Lake in the Eldorado National Forest. The Washoe Indian Tribe from Markleeville had requested the name of the ridge be changed from Squaw Ridge to Hungalelti Ridge. Tribal representative Darrell Cruz asked for the name change because the tribe finds the word “squaw” to be derogatory and demeaning to the women of the tribe. However, Brian struck a contrary note, questioning whether the word squaw was truly offensive and the usefulness of the name change. The Board voted to approve the name change, 4-0-1, with Brian abstaining.
Recently, I asked Brian Oneto a couple of questions on his re-election Facebook page. He never posted them on his page, nor did he answer me in person, by mail or in any way. So much for transparency and responsiveness. Here were the two questions: Why are your mailers coming from outside the county, and would you accept a donation from a union?
On the subject of unions, Brian Oneto had made a big deal regarding the SEIU “pledge.” It is included in the questionnaires most unions send out before they endorse any candidate. The pledge is standard boiler-plate language. It asks among other things, if a candidatewould cross a picket line. It also asks if the candidate would or would not interfere with employees’ right to organize. That right to organize is guaranteed by law, so in reality, Brian was asked if he would abide by the law.
Brian has protested way too much about the pledge, even going as far in his newspaper ads to ask if his opponent will recuse herself from salary negotiations with the SEIU because she accepted a campaign contribution from them. Brian knows full well that the Board does not bargain individually with the union representing county employees. He knows that the Board hires an outside counsel to do that. It is much ado about nothing.
As a longtime Carpenters Union Member (32 years) I know a little about Unions and how they work. A Union would never support a candidate who would interfere with workers' legal right to organize, and it wouldn't support a candidate who would disrespect workers and cross a picket line! It speaks volumes to me and other union members that the union that represents most county employees endorsed Oneto's opponent.
As an aside to the Union issue, I can tell you that when the local Lumber and Sawmill Workers Union was on strike in 2012, Brian Oneto, even though he has a logging background and operates a logging business, did not stop by and offer his support to us in the 14 days we were on strike. The only County supervisor who came to support us, and actually spent time picketing with us, was then-Calaveras County Supervisor Chris Wright.
And while we are on the subject of logging, I noticed that Brian recused himself a while back on an agenda item involving the Amador Water Agency letting a bid out regarding timber on their property. Most likely they were dealing with tree mortality issues. It didn't take much research to find that Brian was waiting on an opinion letter from the Fair Political Practices Commission regarding whether he could bid on the timber in his current capacity of County Supervisor. He did receive a favorable letter from FPPC saying he could bid on AWA timber.
Upon further research, Oneto’s FPPC Form 700 filings for the year 2017 show that he had gross receipts between $10,000 and $100,000 from a company called Rjj Management. I typed their name into Google, which came back with an address in Richmond, California. Further exploration on Google Earth showed what appeared to be a log-export yard located on the water in Richmond. More research revealed that Pacific Gas and Electric in the recent past had commissioned a company called the Beck Group to study where their dead and dying trees could be processed. The Beck Group listed Rjj Management as one of the facilities where logs could be disposed of, and said that Rjj exported 90 percent of the logs they receive to China.
Now, in the Union sawmill business, we always said, “Log exports are job exports." Sierra Pacific Industries was also listed by Beck as a company where logs could be disposed of. A local, American company with sawmills in Sonora, Chinese Camp, and Lincoln, to name a few, as a company where logs could be disposed of. A local, American company with sawmills in Sonora, Chinese Camp, and Lincoln, to name a few. Now, maybe Brian logged someone’s property an arranged for the logs to be hauled to the Richmond export yard, at the owner’s direction, and then Brian was paid by Rjj a turned around an paid the actual landowner. I don’t know why you have an arrangement like that, but I would like clarification from the candidate.
Now let's suppose Oneto is the successful bidder on the Water Agency timber. Will he do business with Rjj Management, a known log exporter to China, or will he do business with Sierra Pacific Industries, an American company?
The logging issue brings up another question: If you are a full-time supervisor making $60,000-plus a year with full benefits as well, where do you find time to go logging? And why, if you’ve been in the logging business for 30 years, would you get notices of logging rules violations from CalFire as recently as last November?
I would bring up his recusal record, but that had been discussed at length lately. But what if the Plymouth casino becomes a reality? Your District 5 Supervisor has already been advised by the FPPC he cannot be involved in any discussion on either casino, as well as he can't even be on any ad hoc committees to discuss either one of the casinos, one of which just broke ground recently (Buena Vista). He has recused himself over and repeatedly on these casino issues. So, if you live in District 5, you will have no voice on the proposed casino in Plymouth at the Board of Supervisor level if Brian is re-elected. Is that fair to you?
For all the reasons I have listed, I believe it's time for a change in District 5. I encourage you to visit Andrea Macon's website at andreaforamador.com, and read her presentations and reasons she would like to have your vote.