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Low turnout for charter meeting

Greg Risling

Slowly sifting through semantics about the local constitution, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors approved several recommendations on Tuesday and deferred others for better interpretation by county staff.

Much like the series of community meetings over the last five months, there were only a scant few who attended the board meeting in Placerville. The two-hour discussion focused on the county charter, an instrument that the local government has the option to use if the elected officials decide the state law is too broad.

“There is a dearth of the public here today,” said Chuck Egbert, spokesperson for the county’s employees association. “It’s unfortunate the public doesn’t follow this item. It probably affects people more than anything in their lives.”

Given a list of seven charter amendments, the board accepted three, will revisit another three and eliminated a local version of campaign finance reform. Voters will have the last say via the June election. A simple majority is needed to include new amendments or in some cases, varied language, to the charter.

The three proposed charter additions that will be on the June ballot include:

— Changing language to “adopt a uniform format that, as a minimum, shall provide for responses to findings and recommendations of reports of the grand jury” pursuant to the state’s penal code.

— Adding a section that requires a wide distribution of the grand jury’s final report.

— Refining a section that deals with voters’ approval of all benefit assessments.

County department heads will have until Feb. 24 to work out the kinks for the remaining proposals. They include revisions to a section dealing with officers of the court system; wording about the county’s contracts with independent agencies; and the financial disclosure of participation by county officials and employees in civic organizations.

The board tangled with current language that states disclosing membership in “non-county” organizations. Interpreting what that is exactly confused some supervisors.

“In my opinion all of the organizations we the county belong to all have to do with the county,” said John Upton, Lake Tahoe’s representative on the board. Upton is the president of the California State Association of Counties, a statewide group that represents 58 counties. To Upton, CSAC is a county organization.

The board’s definitive move of the day was voting down a campaign finance reform ordinance suggested by the League of Women Voters. The League wanted to post on-line reporting of campaign contributions but the supervisors hesitated in light of recent movement at the state level. Earlier this month a state judge suspended the state’s campaign finance reform law stating that set spending limits – $100 per person and $250 from a Political Action Committee – violated the First Amendment. Voters gave an approving stamp on the proposition because they believe limiting contributions would level the field. The Fair Political Practices Commission is appealing the judge’s decision.

“I think this issue is clearly being dealt with on the state level,” Upton said. “I don’t see us being successful at the local level with a (campaign finance reform) ordinance. We’d spend so much money in litigation and we’d probably lose.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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