By Samuel Strait, Reporter at Large – January 31, 2021

A recent article by none other than Jessica Cejnar in the Lost Coast
Outpost, titled, “FPPC Clears Del Norte County Of Misusing Public Funds
To Promote Measure R
,” contains only two significant errors, along with
a number of minor ones.  It helps immensely if you as a reporter would
get both sides of the story before you go to print.   It seems that Del
Norte County is not quite cleared of the complaint from Ms. Sutter, and Mrs. Westfall. The complaint has now had new evidence added to the original source material which mirrors three previous complaints by other county residents to the FPPC, each of which was successful.   It would appear that Supervisors Howard, Berkowitz, Hemmingsen, former Supervisor Cowan, County CEO Sarina, and Emergency Services Director
Kymmie Scott have some explaining to do.

The second major mistake was Miss Cenjar’s assumption that Measure R
money can be earmarked for any specific task.  Due to the way that
Measure R was constructed and only needing fifty percent plus one, it
would go into the County’s general fund to be spent on anything the BOS
desires.  Japan anyone?  The flyer, which contains a number of factually
incorrect statements cannot guarantee the sales tax money collected will
be used on any of the eight specified projects.  If it were possible to
do so the measure would have required a two third vote to pass.  Basic
necessities like groceries and prescription medications are already
untaxed and do not need Measure R to provide protection. An oversight
committee sounds very responsible except that it can only suggest, it
has NO enforcement authority over the BOS to do the right thing.   The
only thing the flyer got right was that “All funds generated by Measure
R will be for the County of Del Norte to provide essential general
services.”  The only problem with that statement is that it does not
specify what exactly essential general services are.  As I said the
funds generated by the tax measure will go in the County’s general
fund.  They can be spent any way the BOS decides.   Employee raises anyone?

The County, is trying to claim the flyer was educational, which is kind
of hard to do when the flyer contains so much misinformation.   When you
compare the County’s effort with issues in other Counties with similar
errors in judgement to which each County was taken to task by the FPPC,
it seems difficult to take Ms. Cejnar’s white wash at face value.  It
would appear that the County may not be cleared.

One further point needs to be made regarding this matter, in that Board
of Supervisor Chairman Chris Howard has made the statement that “Every
time a complaint like this is submitted, which now happens very
regularly with a small group of individuals, it generates effort by
staff, which takes time away from the good work we could be doing.”  He
continues with ” Our county and our legal counsel went through every
effort to make sure that this Measure R was done above board and in a
transparent fashion and that has now been vindicated by the FPPC.”  As
you might suspect, not only that it might not be the case, but it is the
County’s job to ensure that nothing illegal takes place, no matter what
time it takes staff to accomplish the task of checking whether or not
the complaint is valid. 

May we all be reminded, it is not as though we have not had issues that have been corrected by citizen oversight before.  Missing money from the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority (DNSWMA) comes to mind, as well as issues with the Fair Board’s operation of the Fairgrounds.  I believe it was $6,000 saddles for which the Fair has no horses, or lavish grocery and liquor purchases, as well as expensive hotel accommodations.  Chair Howard is also not immune from the occasional slip ups in Supervisor meetings, where First amendment rights were trampled, and Brown Act violations have been known to crop up.

It should be very clear to all involved in County or City government,
and various Boards as well, that exceptional transparency and doing the
peoples business becomes squeaky clean and above board.  No more having
CEO Jay Sarina letting contracts on his own without seeking Board
approval when urgency was not necessary as an excuse.

One thought on “Is Reporter Jessica Cejnar doing a disservice to her profession?”
  1. Another Great Article SAM about our Board of Supervisors and what they do with our TAX MONEY! Thanks for Keeping your EYE on DEL NORTE !

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