Did supervisors dump ag ordinance to protect Gibson?
December 5, 2012
By CalCoastNews staff
The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting did not proceed as scheduled Tuesday.
After a late start to the meeting, Supervisor Adam Hill petitioned to move the 18th item on the agenda, the controversial agriculture cluster ordinance, to the beginning of the meeting. Hill made a surprising speech calling for the continuance of the agriculture ordinance to next year when it is unlikely the proposal will pass with Debbie Arnold on the board.
Recently, while lobbying his board peers to take action of the ordinance now, Hill said Arnold was not experienced enough to address the issue.
The complete turn-around had many observers questioning whether the board abandoned the agriculture cluster ordinance in order to shield Supervisor Bruce Gibson from public criticism over the handling of his affair with his legislative aide Cherie Aispuro. After Gibson admitted he had been having a long-term affair with Aispuro, county officials announced plans to offer Aispero a job with the county even though she is an at-will employee and not a civil servant, a move slated to cost the county $68,870 a year in salary plus full benefits.
Dozens of speakers arrived early to the board meeting Tuesday with plans to chastise Gibson during general public comment. However, after Hill changed the agenda, many left rather than wait through hours of public comment on the agriculture ordinance.
Once general public comment ensued, several speakers still spoke about Gibson’s affair and the resulting job created for Aispuro in the County Clerk’s Office. Some called for Gibson to resign, including former Congresswoman Andrea Seastrand, who said he violated the organization values of the county. Kevin Rice described Gibson as a “vile and despicable supervisor.”
But the majority of the approximately 30 people who arrived in the morning to comment on the affair and its financial cost did not do so, prompting many to question if the supervisors sacrificed the agriculture ordinance passage to mitigate public criticism of Gibson.
One week after Gibson said the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business would not succeed in its attempt to filibuster the agriculture cluster ordinance, he, as well as his colleagues, chose to postpone the item until next year when Debbie Arnold replaces Jim Patterson — and seemingly swings the board majority against the proposed ordinance changes. Hill, a supporter of Patterson who has been very critical of Arnold, even said the board should be fair to Arnold by taking on “a calmer and collegial tone.”
Patterson, who typically votes with Gibson and Hill, did not support the motion to move the agriculture cluster item to the beginning of the meeting, saying that doing so was unfair to the people waiting to speak during general public comment.
Several speakers who did not attend the meeting to specifically comment on the agriculture cluster ordinance criticized the board for its impromptu rearrangement of the meeting. Eric Greening questioned whether the board violated the Brown Act by rearranging the agenda without notice, and Julie Tacker said the process was undemocratic.
“I object to the way the agenda was shuffled, and I believe that was undemocratic and very non-transparent,” Tacker said.
In addition to shuffling the agenda, the supervisors approved a new emergency services position, which some believe was intended to provide permanent employment for Aispuro, who is working only temporarily in the clerk’s office while she remains an at-will employee of Gibson.
County Administrator Dan Buckshi said the position had nothing to do with the Gibson affair. As Gibson continues to use funds from his budget to pay Aispuro, he is operating without a legislative aide. If he chooses to hire a new aide, Aispuro will lose her job and will have to compete with other applicants to get a new position with the county.
County Counsel Rita Neal, who said during Tuesday’s meeting that Gibson did not violate any county policies, said Gibson is not actively seeking a new legislative aide.
The fact that Gibson is operating without a legislative aide also causes some to question whether the supervisor assistant position is actually necessary. They cost county taxpayers nearly $350,000 a year.