Rancor between members of the SLO County Board of Supervisors continued Jan. 24 when the new conservative majority of John Peschong, Lynn Compton, and Debbie Arnold voted to appoint only members of that majority to positions on three influential advisory bodies.
In a series of 3-2 votes, the board majority appointed Peschong, Arnold, and Compton to roles at the California State Association of Counties (CSAC), the Economic Vitality Corporation, and the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO)—bumping supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson from their incumbent positions on those committees.
The board voted on 20 appointments in total, but the three committees for which more supervisors expressed interest than there were spots available became a lightning rod for controversy and symbolic of the power shift taking place on the board.
The shake-up drew fiery comments from Hill and Gibson, who accused the three supervisors of picking political favorites and catering to the agenda of the Coalition of Labor Agriculture and Business of SLO County (COLAB), a special interest group. The spat carried a similar tone to the board’s previous meeting on Jan. 10, where the same majority gave Peschong the board chairmanship over Hill, abandoning a procedure of rotating the chairmanship in which Hill was next in line.
“This is another sorry example of where this board is going,” Gibson said. “This is a petty political trophy sought by the board majority.”
Gibson went further to suggest that the threesome colluded to exclude the other two, which would be a violation of the Brown Act. He characterized their votes as “in such lockstep I wonder how it was arranged.”
Chairman Peschong disputed Gibson’s claims.
“It’s simply not true,” he told New Times.
In the first vote, Peschong was chosen to replace Gibson as the representative to CSAC, a coalition that “represents county government before the California Legislature and federal government.”
The move drew sharp criticism from Hill and Gibson.
Hill contrasted Peschong’s brief tenure as a supervisor with Gibson’s decade of experience working with CSAC. Gibson claimed that SLO County’s status at CSAC could be compromised with a freshman supervisor taking his place.
“In my tenure this county has had a strong voice [in CSAC],” Gibson said at the meeting. “I’ve been involved in many of the most important discussions that have secured funds to this county. [Now] that strong voice goes away.”
Peschong retorted that he would not allow the county’s position weaken at the state level. He said his main incentive to take the position was to oppose any threats to Proposition 13, the state law that sets a ceiling on property taxes and requires a two-thirds majority vote for tax increases at all levels of government.
Supervisors Arnold and Compton voiced their support for Peschong, and Compton complained that Gibson only represented “his interests” to CSAC.
“I don’t think you speak for me at CSAC,” Compton told Gibson. “I feel like I have no idea what you’re doing up there.”
When Arnold, Compton, and Peschong’s subsequent appointments to the Economic Vitality Corporation and LAFCO continued to exclude Hill and Gibson, Hill called the situation “a farce.”
In response, several audience members cheered.