San Simeon chair demeans Spanish speakers, threatens critics

March 14, 2022

San Simeon CSD Chair Gwen Kellas during a Zoom meeting

By KAREN VELIE

Controversial San Simeon Community Services District Chair Gwen Kellas said that Latinos who do not read or speak English cannot be on the board because they cannot be citizens, during a board meeting on Tuesday.

“To be a board member you have to be a registered voter and to be a registered voter you must be a citizen and to be a citizen you must be able to read and write and speak English,” she said.

There is no requirement that native-born Americans, who are automatically citizens, speak and write English.

It is not clear why Kellas apparently assumed that Spanish-only-speaking residents in the district would be non-citizen aliens. In any event, U.S. naturalization laws require that while most immigrants demonstrate proficiency in English, immigrants who are over 50 and have been permanent lawful residents of the United States for required periods do not have to meet the language requirement.

The language issue came up when a local resident asked before the meeting why district officials had not reached out to Latinos in the community to tell them about openings on the board.

In less than six months, three district board members have resigned their seats.

He asked the district to provide printed announcements of openings in Spanish. Some 66 percent of residents in the district are Latino.

Kellas said that she had posted openings online. If residents do not have Internet access, “it is personal and certainly not the district’s responsibility to provide.”

She said that the website provided access for Spanish speakers.

“I would just like to point out that our website can easily convert to Spanish,” Kellas said.

Federal agencies and recipients of federal funds have an obligation to make their services, including documents, available to people with limited English proficiency.

Kellas later suggested that the district should look into suing activists Julie Tacker and Henry Krzciuk for their complaints to the California Fair Political Practices Commission and other government agencies.

The Commission fined district General Manager Charles Grace $4,500 last year for the “inherent harm” he did to the community by sitting on both sides of the negotiating table. Grace negotiated a contract with a private company he owns, in 2016 in violation of state laws enacted to protect the public.

On Tuesday, Kellas voted to pay $49,246 in legal bills for Grace. She said that the California Fair Political Practices Commission had acted on “frivolous” complaints from Tacker and Krzciuk. She asked the board to consider an agenda item to recoup the district’s legal costs from the two.

“There has to some way that we can recoup the expenditures based on what several people have classified, with way more knowledge than I have, of what they refer to as “frivolous” charges. So I would like to add that to a future agenda,” she said.

But Tacker’s and Krzciuk” complaints led state and federal agencies to rescind $750,000 in grant funds. The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office filed a civil suit in Sept. 2021 alleging illegal business practices and false advertising against Grace and his private company, Grace Environmental Services, which was also initiated by a whistleblower. Tacker’s complaints regularly force the district to clean up Brown Act violations.


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SLO Friend

Doesn’t legal counsel have responsibility for letting the elected officials know when they are putting their district in danger, based on their behavior and comments. Based on previous articles by Ms. Velie, there is at least one other district that Mr. Minnery represents that also has electeds (Bob Vessely and Mary Matakovich) that have demeaned, bullied and harassed. Letting electeds know they have crosssed the line seems like it would be part of his job?


Jorge Estrada

Our government conducts business in English. Yes there are all kinds of other languages out there but I do not want to pay for the translations and or the extensive multi-language issues. If I want to live in the world of French, I’d move to France or Canada were there is a constant bilingual battle yet they do not address the many other languages that have moved there, the Pakistanian doctors who must speak English, etc. Remember Canada is a socialized government and many of their doctors come from other parts of the world and like Canadian wages by comparison to their native country.

I tend to agree with Gwen, becoming a naturalized citizen allows you to vote as it should be. My green card just allowed me residency, not a bias over citizenship. Then the next step to represent the citizenry, certainly is not a job for the aliens, or some native born who wandered out of a cave and doesn’t speak English.


injustice_to_bees

At this point in time, our politics are so corrosive and broken that the only people attracted to any political position are idiots, grifters or idiot-grifters. It doesn’t help when you population is 658.


R.Hodin

. . . or 330,149,796, for that matter


fish

unbelievable perhaps it’s time for the County to take charge.


kayaknut

The County supports CSDs, it takes work off their plates and put another level of bureaucracy between them and the people and gives them the ability to blame the CSDs for any failures allowing them to claim they have have clean hands. The County will never dissolve a CSD on their own, only if other agencies uncover continual failures and stolen money.


fish

D A filed charges lets see how that goes