A.B.C. – Another Briggs Conflict – This could cost the County a new Courthouse
Publisher's note: Due to the length and significance of this story, we have put it out as a three part series. Part one lays out several complaints about Briggs Conflicts of Interest, Part two gives the specific and full complaint made to the Judicial Council, part three gives their full response.
For many months, we have been investigating corruption by elected public officials in El Dorado County. The investigations were prompted by the indictment of Supervisor Ray Nutting. After DA Vern Pierson and Auditor Joe Harn became named by Nutting as being politically motivated, we had a closer look and found many indications that support Nutting’s claims. The most damning is a letter by DA Vern Pierson that is clearly the politicization of his office.
In reviewing documents, we found that there seemed to be more than a little dirt and skeletons in our elected representative’s individual closets. The official that comes up most often is Supervisor Ron Briggs, but he is not alone and as the winter months move on we will see much more of it become public.
We have previously reported that Supervisor Ron Briggs seemed to be in violation of a conflict of interest when he voted to fund the Experience El Dorado promotional film of El Dorado County. This was to promote the county and used county taxpayer’s monies. Not only did he vote on the funds several times, he even interjected himself into a private party held by the film maker honoring Deadliest Catch celebrity Capt. Phil Harris at a Red Hawk Casino Christmas party.
What the public was unaware of was that Briggs’ own farm was promoted in the film series. It is without question that Briggs benefited at the taxpayer’s expense with this film. We examined Brigg’s disclosure forms and we found no disclosure of taxpayer’s gift of funds to Supervisor Brigg’s commercial operations.
In part, because the standard for Conflict was presented by our DA Pierson when implicating Nutting, Briggs’s fellow Supervisor, we conveyed this information to Vern Pierson. We know exactly when the DA looked at the information. We do not know if the DA is investigating Briggs, a political ally, with the same fervor as he has used against his political foe Nutting. In fact, we do not believe the DA is investigating this at all.
During our investigation, we found a number of other people that have made complaints to the DA’s office about Ron Briggs regarding his real estate deals in the county. They say that the complaints went nowhere.
It was discovered last week that someone went over the head of El Dorado County DA Vern Pierson, right to the State authorities. The Administrative Office of the Courts agreed that some things look questionable enough to send a warning letter to the county Board of Supervisor and change the status of the proposed courthouse.
About the courthouse:
Our historic courthouse is a historic treasure, but has many deficiencies to modern adjudication; some are very serious safety issues. The state agreed and has us on a short list of new Courthouses to be built. The list is ever growing shorter due to the state’s budget crunch.
Last year, at an Oct. 26th meeting of the Judicial Council El Dorado County’s courthouse projects received the following designation: “proceed with site acquisition and reduce hard construction costs additionally by 10 percent.”
In the years it takes for projects of this magnitude to get a final approval, Supervisor Briggs was unapologetic about buying property around the south-western periphery of Placerville. He was open about the fact that he was planning to develop and re-develop these real estate investments. One such investment is the property adjacent to the proposed courthouse that he talked about developing into professional legal offices to serve the courthouse. Known to some insiders was the fact that the new jail, built many years ago, included the land for a new courthouse with a tunnel to transport the incarcerated to trial.
Anyone with this knowledge, and the desire, could have bought land for developing future development to serve the expected growth. In the county, only a Supervisor would be in a position to vote for a project here or there. Repeatedly, Supervisor Ron Briggs voted for the proposed courthouse location. The county has an option on one of the pieces of land owned by the Briggs Family Trust. Supervisor Ron Briggs, in recognition of the conflict of interest, has recused himself from all deliberations and discussions relative to this matter but has voted often to build a courthouse next to it.
After one, or more, people complained about Briggs attempt to enrich himself with an unfair advantage the state has changed the status of our proposed courthouse and is investigating the allegations.
The July 25, 2013 complaint accuses Ron Briggs of “corruption” and claims the last grand jury disbanded because of it.
Curtis L. Child, chief operating officer, sent a letter dated Sept. 6 to the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors and the county counsel in which he, based on the complaint, changed the designation of the El Dorado County courthouse site plan to “controversial.”
“… the administrative director of the courts typically approves site acquisition terms before the proposed acquisition is submitted to the State Public Works Board for acquisition approval. If a site is considered a ‘controversial site,’ however, the proposed acquisition must be approved by the Judicial Council before submission to SPWB.”
“The concerns expressed in the attached letter appear to warrant treatment of the site at 300 Forni Road as a ‘controversial site.’”
“In light of the significant cuts to courthouse construction funding over the last few years that have resulted in projects being canceled, scaled back, suspended or delayed, the Judicial Council will want to know that the Placerville project is cost-effective and reflects good stewardship of limited state resources.”