Jim Ruffalo: Time to clean up at Placer Co. Republican Central

Looking behind the scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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If the recalcitrant leadership of the Placer County Republican Central Committee thinks that stalling will wind up with everyone ignoring that foul odor wafting in from its leadership, they need to give that premise a second thought. To bring the Gentle Reader up to speed, the PCRCC has given the appearance that it has more sets of books than the local library. Charges on money laundering are not rare, and so many checks went back and forth among the various members that many times it appeared we were in the midst of a kite race. After several years of malodorous dealings inside the PCRCC, a few local elected officials stepped in, beginning with them issuing a letter seeking an open-book policy so that members could see for themselves what deal was made where and for whom. The most recent meeting of the PCRCC saw local state senators Doug LaMalfa and Ted Gaines show up and — in very certain terms — tell the committee’s board what was expected of the local political organization. According to several people present that night, both board president Geoff Atterberry and the real power — Tom Hudson — became very flustered. The upshot of that meeting was the two sides — let’s call them info-seekers and the junta — agreed with LaMalfa and Gaines that mediation was needed. Just such a meeting was than calendered for the following Monday. Guess what? That was canceled at the last moment, causing the more cynical of onlookers (guess who?) to claim that maybe the Central Committee needed more time to cook the books. Mark Spannagel, chief of staff for LaMalfa, confirmed the meeting schedule, and the last-minute cancellation, but added that the PCRCC is still expected to open its books and become transparent. “Nothing has changed,” he said, adding “Everything that was said in the letter remains on the table.” The PCRCC had darn well better clean up its collective act. Elections are coming (as usual) and it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the Grand Old Party to win at every level the way it used to. Of course, back then, the Central Committee was there to aid all Republicans, not just the ones who control the checkbook. Not quite right: Somehow, I mixed up a portion of a conversation with Placer County’s 3rd District Supervisor Jim Holmes. Last week, I wrote that the Newcastle Fire Protection District (NFPD) had decided not to ask local voters for an increase in the fire safety assessment. That was wrong and I could emulate our Commander in Chief and find someone else to blame. But as the venerable Ron Lichau has told me more than once, when you screw up, admit it! Anything else sounds like an excuse. Fortunately, several Gentle Readers e-mailed to alert me to the error, while others — including Holmes — hit the telephone lines to do likewise. One of those calls was from NFPD Board President Bob Stearns, so I’ll make another try at it. Stearns said the district’s recent mail-in survey showed 72 percent of the respondents were in favor of a rate hike. “With that info, we now move on to Phase II,” Stearns said, explaining that the next step would be a study to determine how the new money should be spent. “We’ll see how much will go to fund wage benefits and how much for building,” he said. Building might be a high priority, seeing as how a travel-trailer currently is being used to house firefighters because the brick-and-mortar building is dilapidated. Stearns said the current assessment averages around $70, and that the board would like to raise that to $150, but — as was written here last week — nobody knows what the state’s new rural firefighting tax will mean to the voters being asked for this increase. The board is also mulling paying some benefits for firefighters. According to Stearns, those firefighters currently make $8.50 an hour without benefits. Once the board gets its priorities lined, then Phase III kicks in where the question gets put before the owners. “The ballot will only go to parcel owners,” Stearns said. “That’s because that is who will pay the new assessment. It’s not fair (to the landowners) to have everybody vote when only they pay.” Jim Ruffalo’s column runs on Sundays. Reach him at