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Duran, Rockholm spar over union ties, experience, planes and garbage

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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In a knock-down-drag-out battle for the Roseville seat on the Placer County Board of Supervisors, incumbent Rocky Rockholm and challenger Jack Duran are duking it out over union involvement, political experience, garbage company ties and a pricey plane ride. Rockholm is critical of Duran for contributions from groups like the Sacramento Central Council of the AFL-CIO at a time when the county is sparring with its own employee union over salaries and benefits. “I don’t want to keep giving money away and unions want their money,” Rockholm said. “It’s kind of sad.” The implication is that Duran wouldn’t take a tough stance with taxpayer money at the bargaining table. Duran countered that Rockholm was in a meeting attempting to get the support of the Sacramento labor council 45 minutes before him. Duran would go on to receive the union’s endorsement. “It’s sour grapes,” Duran said. Both Duran and Rockholm have been leaders in labor organizations. But Rockholm said that the organization he spent eight years as president of – the Roseville Police Officers Association – can’t be construed as a labor union. And Duran is saying that Rockholm’s role as president was higher up in the union “food chain” than his position as shop steward. Rockholm, who was first elected supervisor four years ago after serving on the Roseville City Council, is citing his experience over Duran’s four years on the Roseville Joint Union High School board. Most pointedly, Rockholm said Tuesday that Duran has never been elected – a jab at his political credibility that Duran discounts as “kind of a silly issue.” The record shows Duran running and losing for a school board seat in 2004 and then running again in 2006. Three candidates were initially running for two seats and when one candidate was disqualified, he and the other candidate were appointed, Duran said. Duran expressed concern Tuesday about more than $20,000 in donations Rockholm has accepted from NorTech Waste and Norcal Waste while on the board of the Western Placer Waste Management Authority. NorTech Waste LLC was awarded a seven-year, $120 million contract renewal to operate the district’s Materials Recovery Facility. That contract is up next year. Duran said that with scandals involving local governments in San Bernardino and San Jose and companies tied to Norcal Waste Systems, the umbrella company involved with the Placer County facility, he questions Rockholm’s acceptance of the donations, particularly when the contract is up for renewal soon. But Rockholm said that he’s heard the innuendo before in the campaign four years ago against Pauline Roccucci, who is lined up on Duran’s side this election. “There’s no factual basis to bring my integrity into question,” Rockholm said. “What’s the basis for that? Have I done anything illegal? It’s not true and they can’t prove it. They ought to bring some factual evidence.” Rockholm continues to bristle about a chartered plane ride he took in the summer of 2008 while vacationing in Utah to attend a board meeting in Lake Tahoe and then fly back the same day. “I don’t understand why it’s a big deal,” Rockholm said. “That’s what’s they’re running their campaign on – a damn plane ride.” Rockholm maintained that CEO Tom Miller and then-Chairman Jim Holmes asked him to come back for the meeting to ensure a vote that would approve a three-lane plan for road improvements in the Tahoe area, which would preserve a $3.5 million county investment. Rockholm said that when he found out the cost he saved the amount as quickly as he could to reimburse the county. The bill came to just short of $10,000. Duran said the plane expenditure diminished the public’s confidence in Rockholm’s ability to oversee public funds. “It’s the little things in view that lead us to believe what is out of view,” he said. Duran said he will be leading by example, and it shows through. A good example would be when his opponent’s search through school district expense records found nothing to attack him on, he said. Election Day is June 8.