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Contentious vote has El Dorado County supervisors at odds

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A contentious vote earlier this week has the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors at odds.

After being on the losing side of a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, Board Chairman Brian Veerkamp on Thursday invoked emergency powers and overrode that decision much to the disgust of District V Supervisor Sue Novasel who said he is undermining the board’s ability to govern.

Veerkamp received a request in early October from state legislators asking for a county representative to attend a conference on Thursday, Oct. 29 in Red Bluff to discuss the “extended State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 Pandemic” according to a statement from Veerkamp.

“The board was unable to pass a majority vote on who the representative would be,” Veerkamp’s statement said. “Due to the importance of the issue that will be discussed, I believe it is imperative to have representation from our county.”

Novasel, who represents the Lake Tahoe region of the county, was strongly opposed to spending money to send a representative to what she felt was a political conference and railed against Veerkamp during the board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 20.

“It is clear from action taken in the board meeting that the board did not give Supervisor Veerkamp authorization to appoint a supervisor or anyone else to the ‘conference’ in question,” Novasel said Friday afternoon in a statement. “It is also clear that Supervisor Veerkamp’s claim, after losing the vote, is now using ’emergency powers’ is a gross over-reach of his powers as the chair and, in fact, is in direct violation of the vote taken on Tuesday. The chair blatantly disregarded the action of the board, which undermines the ability of the board to take actions for the governance of the county. … Attending a political conference is not an emergency for the chair or anyone else in the county.”

You can read Novasel’s full statement here.

The letter from state legislators, that can be viewed here, was signed by Republicans, District 1 Senator Brian Dahle, his wife and 1st District Assemblymember Megan Dahle, Assemblymembers James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley from the 3rd and 6th districts, respectively, and Jim Nielsen, District 4 Senator. 

Veerkamp during the meeting had an ally in Sheriff John D’Agostini who spoke up and agreed the county should send someone and was willing to attend. After the meeting Veerkamp asked the sheriff to attend and he agreed, according to his statement. Veerkamp said he was unable to attend due to “personal commitments” but said he would be at any follow up meetings.

Veerkamp in his statement, that can be read here, honed in on a sentence in the letter that the group wants to “seek common ground on topics such as the re-opening of the economy and our civic life, the re-opening of our schools, and actions in response to the State of California’s threat to withhold entitled funds of the counties.”

“As the Chair of the Board of Supervisors it is my responsibility to serve as the primary spokesperson during emergencies,” Veerkamp’s statement said. “Due to prior personal commitments, I am unable to participate in this critical discussion. … Taking into consideration the risk to the public’s health caused by COVID-19, it is essential we also take into consideration the public health impacts of keeping businesses and schools closed. To do so fully and have El Dorado County’s voice heard, it is imperative that we have a seat at the table of this conference.”

But most of the letter reads like a Republican rally against Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom and policies during the pandemic. 

“The governor has assumed broad powers during this open-ended emergency and through his Department of Public Health has instituted arbitrary and capricious rules that restrict and severely limit the ability of our citizens to pursue their livelihood,” said an excerpt from the letter. 

Novasel said she has served with Veerkamp for six years and has always appreciated his “rule of order and decorum” but hopes he will reconsider his decision which she says is on shaky legal ground.

“I find Supervisor Veerkamp’s actions in this issue sadly misaligned with a political event that has questionable legal grounds for use of taxpayer funds,” Novasel said. “It is my sincere hope that Supervisor Veerkamp will reconsider using county funds to send an elected official to a politically motivated event. Even more disturbing, the chair cannot change the will of the board because he disagrees with their actions. In any case, it needs to be stated clearly and precisely that the board of supervisors voted against allowing Supervisor Veerkamp to send a representative to this event by voting no. His actions defy the meaning of a county ‘emergency.’”


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