Hill ousted; Arnold, Compton take leadership
February 3, 2015
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
Amid allegations of sexism and a good old boys’ club, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Frank Mecham stepped down as board chairman in order to promote Supervisor Debbie Arnold to chair and Supervisor Lynn Compton to vice chair.
The move slates Compton to become board chairman in 2016. Hill previously was in position to claim the chairmanship next year.
Prior to making the restructuring recommendation, Mecham disputed allegations of sexism and a good old boy’s club. He said his proposal would restore an order to the rotation of chairmanships since Arnold represents district 5 and Compton serves district 4.
“I know how to fix this,” Mecham said before nominating Arnold and Compton. “I am fully ready to step down as chairman of the board.”
About 100 members of the public attended the afternoon hearing, many of whom spoke during public comment and applauded Mecham for his move. They also held signs in the audience supporting Arnold.
After public comment, the board voted 3-2, with Gibson and Hill dissenting, to move Arnold into the chairmanship and Compton into the vice chair position.
In addition to placing women in leadership roles, the restructuring of the board may shift power in the county away from liberals and into the hands of conservatives. Both Arnold and Compton are conservative Republicans, while Gibson and Hill are liberal Democrats.
Mecham is a Republican, but he has often sided with Gibson and Hill on key votes. Recently, some constituents criticized Mecham for his cooperation with Gibson and Hill.
On Jan. 5, Gibson presided over the final meeting of his most recent chairmanship. During the meeting, the board unanimously elected Mecham as chair. With Arnold dissenting, Hill, Gibson, Mecham and Compton voted to make Hill vice-chair, but the board violated California’s open meeting law amid the reorganization.
Prior to the reorganization vote, Gibson did not allow public comment, as required by the Ralph M. Brown Act. Additionally, the meeting agenda did not include public comment, and speaker slips were not available in the board chambers.
Gibson admitted responsibility for the error at a board meeting the following week. But, members of the public suggested that Gibson purposely eliminated public comment in order to place Hill in the vice-chair position without opposition.
The board then voted 3-2, with Gibson and Hill dissenting, to conduct the reorganization process a second time. Mecham said he voted in favor of a redo because he wanted to set a tone of inclusion and transparency.
On Tuesday, Gibson and Hill said respectively that they took offense and were insulted by allegations of gender bias.
“What we’re seeing here is partisanship, not gender bias,” Hill said.
From 2009 to 2012, Gibson and Hill aligned themselves with former Supervisor Jim Patterson to form a board majority. For much of the past two years, they worked with Caren Ray, whom Compton replaced in January.
Compton offered a second to Mecham’s restructuring motion Tuesday. Arnold said it was a tremendous honor to be nominated board chair.