The San Simeon Community Services District announced on Oct. 14 that its vice chair and board member resigned, leaving the district to fill the vacancy.
During the virtual board meeting, chair and board member Gwen Kellas read former vice chair John Russell's resignation letter in which he cited a potential conflict of interest and his ability to adapt to a changing meeting landscape as his reasons for leaving.
- Photo Courtesy Of The San Simeon Community Services District Website
- VACANCIES The San Simeon Community Services has a newly vacant seat on its district board.
In his letter, Russell noted that the board would be considering several important issues, including lifting or altering the current building moratorium, finding a site for the new wastewater treatment plant, and choosing to extend the district's contract with Grace Environmental—which manages the district—or choosing a different firm.
The considerations, his letter stated, will require considerable discussion by the board and community, however he would have to recuse himself from the moratorium and wastewater treatment plant site issues.
"As the owner of 5 acres, of which more than 2 acres are either clear or mostly clear. I have a clear conflict of interest between the community's and my own personal interest. By law I must recuse myself from any and all discussions and votes on both issues," the letter stated.
Russell moved to San Simeon in 2004 and was elected to serve on the board in November of the same year.
In the last several years, materials and tools used to inform board members have changed significantly. For example, he wrote, for the Oct. 14 meeting, the board packet contained 131 pages. Rather than printing out the packet, it's emailed and saved to a board member's computer.
"I am now over 83 years old, and to my great sorrow, I'm not as sharp and energetic as I once was. At my age, learning something new is really very difficult and thus making notes or moving quickly around 131 pages in a computer seems to be beyond me," the letter read.
The district was set to discuss the vacancy at its Oct. 28 special board meeting and decide whether to hold a special election or appoint a new director.
SLO County Clerk Recorder Tommy Gong said the district has 10 days after the notice of resignation to notify his office of the unexpected vacancy—which the district has done—and 30 days to decide how to fill the seat.
If the board doesn't make a decision within the 30-day period, the appointment decision falls to the SLO County Board of Supervisors.
According to a staff report, holding an election to replace one board member would be a costly for the district, largely in part because the deadline has passed to add a candidate to the ballot for the upcoming November election.
District staff's current recommendation is for the board to follow the appointment process to fill the vacant director position and direct staff to post a notice of vacancy as well as potentially mailing it to residents of San Simeon.
If the district decides to pursue an appointment, a new board member will be sworn in at the Jan. 13, 2021, board meeting or a special meeting could be scheduled to allow more time.
San Simeon voters aren't electing their board representatives this November, as not enough candidates filed to run for the open seats. San Luis Obispo County Clerk Deputy Director Helen Nunn said three seats on the district's board were expiring. Only two candidates filed their declaration for candidacy during the filing period from July 17 through Aug. 8, leaving one seat still available.
"At the end of the candidacy period, we discovered that there was one seat that no one had filed for," Nunn said.
The filing period was extended to Aug. 14, and the clerk's office notified the district about the vacant seat.
"So at this point there was a notice of election [the San Simeon Community Services District] posted on their window. I believe we also sent it to the newspapers that there was one seat that had not been filed for and we asked for recommendations," Nunn said. "The board came back with the name recommendation of Daniel de la Rosa." Δ