Editorial: The Republic may be mess in El Dorado County, but it’s worth the effort
Think about the government shutdown last October, when the hostilities between Democrats and Republicans caused all “nonessential” federal services to close for two weeks. The shutdown furloughed millions of employees, from meat inspectors to policy analysts, and locked the public out of federal facilities and national parks.
The overall cost to the U.S. economy, the White House estimates, was as high as $6 billion.
A working democracy often is messy – and costly to maintain.
An expensive mess is an apt description of El Dorado County government at the moment. Elected officials aren’t just not getting along; they are enemy combatants trying to throw each other out of office or, in at least one case, into jail.
The latest salvo came when grand jurors looked closely at how county government was running and didn’t like what they saw. Not at all.
The El Dorado County grand jury interviewed current and past elected officials and department heads, considered complaints from citizens and perused the county charter, among other things. The stories they heard were a litany of how elected officials misbehaved – interfering with the day-to-day operations of the county, subverting others’ authority and generally making county government a miserable place to work.
In a June report, dramatically titled “ The El Dorado County Charter: A Prescription for Dysfunction,” the grand jury specifically called out one elected official – Auditor-Controller Joe Harn – for being “defamatory, disrespectful and disparaging.” It also dinged the members of the Board of Supervisors for micromanaging and getting in the way of the woman the board hired to run county government.
Fair criticism, but then the grand jury report concluded with a surprise ending: a recommendation that the county reduce the number of elected officials by four. Specifically, the four elected positions that are not required by state law, including and especially the one held by Harn.
Well, that is one way to curb the bitter infighting in county government. Another would be a direct hit from a meteor on Placerville, the county seat. We don’t favor either option.
It seems clear from the report that the biggest beef is with Harn, as it doesn’t name the other three people who hold the jobs in question: Recorder-Clerk William E. Schultz who was elected in 1994; Treasurer-Tax Collector C.L. Raffety, a CPA who has been in this position for nearly 30 years; and Surveyor Rich Briner, who is two years into his first term. They see this as a power grab. We see it more as an act of exasperation, but it’s still unwelcome...