Hill blasts Mecham; then the two agree on vote
February 11, 2015
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
A week after San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Frank Mecham removed his fellow board member Adam Hill from a leadership position, Hill lashed out at Mecham during a discussion on water use regulations.
Despite receiving the verbal lashing, Mecham ultimately sided with Hill Tuesday. Mecham agreed to reconsider a vote he cast last week and possibly extend an ordinance that restricts water usage in North County.
Last week, Mecham volunteered to step down as chairman of the county board of supervisors and seat Supervisor Debbie Arnold as chair and Supervisor Lynn Compton as vice chair. The move unseated Hill as vice chair, which will likely cost him the chairmanship in 2016, his campaign year.
Also during last week’s meeting, Mecham voted with Arnold and Compton to let a water use ordinance expire. The ordinance, which is set to expire in August, prohibits residential or agricultural development in the Paso Robles basin unless developers or ranchers create conversation projects elsewhere in the area that preserve an equal amount of water.
In last week’s vote, Mecham, Arnold and Compton rejected not only an extension of the ordinance, but also a plan to implement it in the Los Osos and Nipomo Mesa groundwater basins. On Tuesday though, Mecham said he would like to reconsider the vote and that he is interested in extending the ordinance, but not making it permanent.
Minutes later, Hill, who supports an extension of the ordinance, chastised Mecham for his vote a week prior and referenced the bible in questioning Mecham’s conversion on the issue.
“I don’t know why this wasn’t talked about last week, why this has suddenly become a road to Damascus for Mr. Mecham,” Hill said. “Not really interested in that let’s see if we can cover up one supervisor’s ass.”
Following Hill’s comments and several warnings from county attorneys that the board was flirting with a Brown Act violation, Mecham withdrew his motion on reconsidering an extension of the ordinance.
The discussion on a reconsidering an ordinance extension lasted for about nine minutes after the conclusion of public comment Tuesday. The Brown Act, California’s open meeting law, allows the board to direct staff to place items on future agendas, but it prohibits general discussion on items that are not agendized.
After the nine-minute discussion, the board proceeded with its business. However, about nine minutes after that, Hill made a motion to place the water ordinance on a future agenda. Hill said there would be no limitations to the discussion.
Mecham then joined Hill and Gibson in agreeing to revisit the issue. Arnold and Compton dissented in the 3-2 vote.
Since Mecham removed Hill from his leadership role, Hill and Gibson have taken turns chastising him.
The day following the board realignment, Gibson confronted Mecham in his county office. Gibson then penned a commentary in the Tribune saying Mecham took “the easy way out” and failed to show courage when faced with pressure.
During last week’s meeting, Hill accused Mecham of partisanship.
Mecham often holds the swing vote on the board of supervisors. Both Hill and Gibson are liberal Democrats, and Arnold and Compton are conservative Republicans.
Mecham is a Republican, but he has often sided with Gibson and Hill on key votes.
Prior to announcing last week that he was stepping down as chair, many of Mecham’s constituents were criticizing him for cooperating with Gibson and Hill. Since the realignment, though, county residents have overwhelmingly praised him.
It is currently unclear when the water ordinance will return to the board of supervisors.