Do El Dorado County Leaders Reflect the Community's Standards? - Editorial
In the county we have over 50 elected positions in County, City, Schools, and Special Districts and in all of these cases the people have asked the citizens to support them as Representatives of the people. An elected position is more than just a job, it is a position of civic leadership. A some cases, such as judges, the ethical standards go beyond the job and dictate acceptable behavior in their private lives. This is because even the appearance on impropriety has a detrimental effect on the public's faith in the office. In our county, elected positions like Sheriff, District Attorney, Registrar of Voters, and Superintend of Schools also have a standard that goes beyond the elected office holder's job duties in order to protect the faith and integrity of the critical office.
When one looks at the real significant problems in our county we can quickly see that drugs, particularly, Driving under the Influence, is the biggest crime factor in El Dorado County. As such, how do our Elected office holders reflect out community standards?
Some of our critical office holders like Bill Schultz, have a lifetime of the highest standards in both their professional lives and their private lives. Additionally, he is a genuine nice fellow. El Dorado County is well served having such a gentleman overseeing critical functions like elections.
The major complaint against our Sheriff, John D'Agostini, is that he won't 'play ball' with power elite often called the "Good Old Boys" or GOBs. But this seems a moot complaint as he was elected precisely for that reason. Voters wanted a Sheriff that had not only the highest standards, but also treated every person with dignity and respect, and equally, regardless of Name, bank Account, or Job. As the Sheriff's job rating by the average citizen has increase during his time in office, it is clear that the citizens have a good office holder in Sheriff John D'Agostini.
Our Auditor Joe Harn is controversial and is often called a bully and a misogynist. I see Mr. Harn at a Bar more often then at his elected job. But the office is on lessor level than other critical offices and his personal behavior is not critical to doing the job he is elected to do. Unfortunately, he is often accused of being a bully that intentionally intimidates personnel at agencies which he is charged to disperse funds. Of a greater concern is that he is the official "Watchdog" for government excessive and improper payments but he has shown that he does not take the same watchdog attitude when it come to how much the taxpayers of the county are paying him. Recently the Board of Supervisors eliminated excessive payments to many elected office holders including Mr. Harn. The extra pay bonuses were indefensible and amounted to bonuses for getting reelected and nothing more. Mr. Harn tried to say that he was against the Bonuses he claimed to have stopped taking them two years ago. But his defense is an indictment of his failure to perform his duties as the County's watchdog against excess. Anyone that has seen him in action knows that when he thinks something is an improper waste of taxpayers money he is as aggressive as an angry pit bull. If he thought the payments were wrong we could expect him to lead the charge against them both on the job and in the press. This is his M.O. But when it came to tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses that went into his pocket, he was silent as a church mouse. Mr. Harn is up for reelection in 2014 and he has said publicly that he intends to run.
But perhaps the most concerning of our elected office holders is our District Attorney, Vern Pierson. Mr. Pierson is know to be a grand-stander in the name of justice but that is hardly a critique for someone elected to be a zealous prosecutor. The real criticism is that his prosecutions are politically motivated, not charging friends and overcharging enemies. This brings his judgement into question. His judgement has been questioned on a number of fronts but I will only give one as an illustration how some offices are harmed by the "off duty" action of the office holder. In this case, Mr. Pierson knowingly and intentionally put himself in a potential position of a conflict of interest. A potential that was realized just about 60 days ago.
Prior to becoming an El Dorado County elected office holder Mr. Pierson worked in the Amador DA's office. During his time there a controversy arose over an event that was promoted by the DA at which a serious accident occurred after the event. Some claimed the DA was wrong to promote an event with drinking but is was clear that ALL he did was promote the event as a worthy event but he had nothing to do with the event nor with what happened at the event.
Fast forward some years and now it is Vern Pierson as the DA of El Dorado County sending out promotions for another worthy community event but with the distinction, not only was he involved, he was listed as a "Celebrity Bartender." He was a server along with, Auditor Joe Harn, and former Sac Sheriff McGinnis. The invitation emailed by Vern Pierson read, "Join Radio Star and Sheriff John McGinnis, Ret., District Attorney Vern Pierson, Auditor Controller Joe Harn and others as they serve food and drink at..." His email called the event a, "Celebrity Bartender Fundraiser."
It was reported, but not confirmed, that El Dorado County Sheriff John D'Agostini was originally asked but declined explaining that it would not be right for him to serve drinks to someone he might later have to arrest for being under the influence.
But that was not a concern for our District Attorney, Vern Person. It was a great event for a great cause and many of his "political cronies" were there. Joe Harn was a campaign man for John McGinnis' failed Supervisor run before McGinnis ran for Sac sheriff. Joe, Vern, McGinnis, and many other Pols that cross-support each other were there. Former Republican Party leader Ken Steers was there having a great time. Too great it turns out. Mr. Steers is a well known campaign financier that supports both Joe harn and Vern Pierson. The monetary contributions from Mr. Steers to DA Vern Pierson are a matter of public record.
Not in attendance was Sheriff John D'Agostini. Although he believed the cause was worthy, he was at a Christian Law Enforcement event many miles away.
Meanwhile, back at the "Celebrity Bartender Fundraiser" things were going swimmingly until Mr. Steers left and was subsequently arrested for Drunk Driving by the CHP.
This is when Mr. Pierson's potential conflict of interest was realized. It is Mr. Pierson's job to prosecute his friend and campaign contributor, Ken Steers. Additionally it is the DA's job to investigate if a bartender or server had served him drinks when he was in a state apparent drunkenness, as it is criminal to continue to serve someone that is drunk already.
And who served drinks at the event? According to Vern's own invitation, it was He and his buddies Harn and McGinnis. Who actually served Mr Steers the drinks and was it too much? Well that has to be investigated by the DA, the same man that may be a prime suspect! Will he be aggressive at prosecuting the man that is a key player in his political campaigns?
This is a clear conflict of interest. One that caused our Sheriff to decline the invitation to be a "Celebrity Bartender." One that Mr. Person should have learned for his prior boss's experience.
Now we are left wondering if our DA will do his job, even if that means burning down his friends and key campaign supporters, or will he give them a pass?
What is clear is that our DA Vern Pierson has a "Judgement" issue.
As we head into an election year for the DA, it is fair to ask ourselves if the current office holder reflects our community standards. If his press releases about aggressive prosecution of Drunk Driving applies to friends and foes alike. Even if this is one of those cases to use the special grant money for complicated DUI prosecutions or should it be handed off to the State Attorney Generals office for prosecution since it is so clearly a conflict of interest for our DA to be investigating himself and his buddies?
Before we toast in a New Year, let us think about the tragic deaths that are caused by Drunk Driving every day and let us moderate our own drinking and the drinking of our friends that will be driving later.
As we look forward to the upcoming year, let us ask ourselves if those we have elected to represent us, really do represent us. If not, then there is an election coming.