The election for a seat on the El Dorado Irrigation District must be getting nearer because the political rhetoric is ratcheting up.
At the same time, one almost needs a scorecard to keep track of all the characters and groups coming and going in the election of two new board members to EID.
Earlier this month, a tempest in a teapot arose when a flyer advocating the election of one of those running for the EID board, Rich Englefield, went out using the return address of the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce.
While the chamber has its own Political Action Committee and had already endorsed Englefield, the mailer was sent out instead by a different PAC with the lengthy name of the El Dorado County Farmers Businesses and Homebuilders For Responsible Water Policy (EDCFBHFRWP).
One of the entities supporting EDCFBHFRWP is Parker Development Co.
Noted for building master planned communities like Serrano, the company is also a member of the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce.
The mailer then acquired a life of its own, drawing contrary opinions from county officials as well as criticism from Englefield’s opponent, Greg Prada.
Auditor-Controller Joe Harn called the flyer inappropriate, referencing Government Code Section 8314, subsection (a). That rule says, “It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer, including any state or local appointee, employee, or consultant, to use or permit other to use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.”
However, El Dorado County Counsel Ed Knapp took a different position. In an e-mail to the Mountain Democrat Knapp said, “In my view, Government Code Section 8314 does not allow the county to ‘permit’ a campaign activity on county property, but it does not restrict the activities of the Chamber of Commerce on property it rents. The county leases the 542 Main St. building to the Chamber of Commerce on a five-year lease. The chamber as the tenant can decide how it is going to use the building it rents, and once that building is rented out to the chamber, the county as landlord cannot control the day-to-day activities that take place there by the chamber. Section 8314 does not allow a county employee to ‘permit’ others to use county property for a campaign activity, but no one with the county ‘permitted’ the use of the 542 Main St. address as a return address — that was presumably done by someone with the chamber and 8314 does not govern the chamber.”
In response to the flyer brouhaha, Prada weighed in with his own e-mail to the Mountain Democrat.
In it he said, “(Richard) Englefield and (Dr. Dale) Coco played ball with Kirk Bone (director of Government Relations for Parker Development Co.) and for $34,000 of campaign contributions brokered by Bone, Parker potentially stands to gain a $35 million benefit on hook-up fees over time by getting Englefield and Coco elected … at the rate increase expense of EID ratepayers. Single-handedly, Parker/Bone brokered a 3-1 campaign funding advantage for Englefield and Bone … monies for signs, mailers and other things essential to a successful election campaign for which neither Englefield nor Coco put up one dime of their own money. Rest assured a far more accurate name than ‘Farmers’ for this PAC is the ‘Parker/Bone PAC’ … the money didn’t come from farmers or small businesses, but instead Parker Development and the Bone-controlled EDC Chamber whose biggest contributor is Parker Development.”
Asked about the flyer, Kirk Bone said it was the decision of Laurel Brent-Bumb, CEO of the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce, to use the chamber’s address on the flyer and not Parker’s.
He added that in-kind donations, but not cash, had been made to the campaigns of Coco and Englefield through farmers, businesses and builders PAC, mainly to cover telephone calling and mailers. As of Oct. 16, Parker had donated $35,000 to EDCFBHFRWP.
Brent-Bumb acknowledged that it was her idea to use the chamber’s address on the mailer, saying that since the chamber had already endorsed Coco and Englefield, she felt it was alright to use the chamber’s address on the mailer from farmers, businesses and builders PAC.