Committee to review El Dorado County charter

Eric Jaramishian
Mountain Democrat

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Supervisors appointed five members to the El Dorado County Charter Review Committee and gave direction on subjects of focus for the committee to consider on June 15. 

Representing each of the five districts are Richard Ross, District 1; Cherie Raffety, District 2; Jim Mitrisin, District 3; Bill Carey, District 4; and Jeanne Harper, District 5.

Mindy Jackson will act as Carey’s alternate and Rachel Michelin will act as Raffety’s alternate. 

While appointing these individuals, topics of interest were discussed for consideration by the charter review: looking into adding a third term for supervisors, going from five to seven supervisors and to stagger election cycles for elected county department heads and consider term limits for those department heads.

Supervisors also considered looking into grand jury reports for topics, adding direction for Proposition 172 allocations and bringing Civil Service Commission rules into the charter.

Board Chair Lori Parlin said the Charter review Committee should consider the implementation of seven supervisorial districts instead of five, an idea she heard consistently during the county’s redistricting process, recognizing substantial increases in the West Slope population, especially in El Dorado Hills.

“By the time the next census rolls around in 10 years, the numbers I’m anticipating will grow enough on the West Slope to allow for the Tahoe Basin to fit into one supervisorial district,” Parlin said. “El Dorado Hills is already bulging and doesn’t seem to fit into one district and would easily fill up at most two.”

Parlin also recognized that Divide and south county communities would want to stay in their respective districts.

District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel said the cost to implement seven districts and community input should be considered to further explore Parlin’s idea but agreed the Charter Review Committee should look into it. 

District 1 Supervisor John Hidahl did not see a need for that particular change yet, stating the county has a less than 1%  growth rate and costs to expand the supervisor’s chambers and accompanying staff would be substantial, but he deferred to let the charter have the conversation.

Overall supervisors agreed it was worth having the discussion.

Hidahl suggested the committee focus on how the county utilizes Prop. 172 funds, which establishes a permanent statewide half-cent sales tax for support for local public safety functions, such as law enforcement and fire agencies in cities and counties.

Hidahl noted those funds have historically went to the county Sheriff’s Office, public defender and the District Attorney’s Office and not fire agencies. He said the Charter Review Committee should consider utilizing those funds to assist county fire service districts.

“I think it’s time to reconsider what happened many years ago because other fire agencies in other counties did receive those Prop. 172 funds and in El Dorado County that did not happen, recognizing the situation with a lot of our fire agencies that are struggling to make ends meet,” Hidahl said.

Parlin suggested bringing Prop. 172 conversations to the county ad hoc committee instead of the Charter Review Committee. 

Other supervisors agreed Prop. 172 discussions can be better directed through board policy.

“I think this is more of a budgetary conversation than a charter change,” Novasel said. “We control where our preferences are throughout the budgetary process and I think that is where it needs to stay.”

District 3 Supervisor Wendy Thomas considered having the committee look into setting the Board of Supervisors’ terms to three instead of two, emphasizing that the proposed rule would not extend to any current sitting supervisor.

“This is such a complex job and El Dorado County is a complex organization and if you don’t have experience in local government coming into this job, it makes (the job) even harder,” Thomas said. 

Thomas noted department head elections are all on the same election cycles and contemplated if those elections should be staggered. 

“That could have strong ramifications for our county if everyone in those departments were brand new. That could be challenging,” Thomas said.

Regarding the Civil Service Commission, which regulates the employment and working conditions of civil servants and promotes the values of public service, Thomas noted the charter calls for supervisors to nominate members for the Civil Service Commission. 

The appointments are then approved by supervisors. However, Thomas also noted the board follows a county ordinance where supervisors approve of a slate of nominees. She suggested that the ordinance practice be implemented into the charter. 

“There are unique qualifications to have an effective commission and I think it is better the way we are doing it now to have a slate of officers come forward rather than each of us make appointments,” Thomas said. 

The board voted unanimously to approve of the Charter Review Committee members and provided direction for the committee to consider each item of discussion except Prop. 172.

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