The bribery charges against the late Adam Hill, former 3rd District county supervisor, are small local versions of all the stewing garbage left behind by a defeated ex-president.
In the 1970s, during a meeting of the Board of Supervisors, one agenda item was to consider subdividing a large agricultural parcel between Atascadero and Morro Bay.
The owner wanted to have several much smaller (and more saleable) parcels. Such changes were routinely approved by the three so-called "pro-growth" supervisors. That parcel, however, was located in the 5th District, my district, and along with 3rd District Supervisor Kurt Kupper, I opposed it.
That morning, before our board meeting, the property owner called and asked me if there was anything he could do to get me to change my vote. I told him: "No, don't even think about that possibility."
During that era, teachers often brought whole classes of students to supervisors meetings in order to witness how local government works. On that day, such a class and its teacher were sitting in the last few rows of the (then much smaller) supervisors chamber.
County planning staff presented the subdivision item to the board and recommended against it! When it was time for board discussion, I was given the opportunity to speak first because the subject parcel was located in my district. Knowing that the board majority would vote 3:2 in favor of it, I still moved to deny the change in parcel size because I knew it would get a second vote to open the discussion from Kurt Kupper, my 3rd District colleague.
I started off the discussion by telling students in the back of the chamber that: "This is how local politics works. This morning, I received a phone call from the property owner. He offered me a bribe and I said, 'No!'"
By my public exposure of a property owner's bribe, the three supervisors from Districts, 1, 2, and 4, were forced into changing their routinely expected vote in favor. This one time, however, the final vote was 5:0 against subdivision. Of course, that property owner was not very happy. Yet, after that vote I thought to myself: "That's the way to deal with corruption (an attempted bribery) in local government." But, later that year, the county Cattleman's Association named that same owner: "Cattleman of the Year". Surprised? That's how SLO County governmental politics worked about 50 years ago.
Richard J. Krejsa
former SLO County supervisor