From the Left: Loyalty to crony led to disaster

By: Rob Haswell, guest columnist
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By Rob Haswell I’ve known for some time that Placer County Supervisor Bruce Kranz was warned about alleged land fraud violations by real estate agent Michelle Ollar-Burris before he appointed her to the powerful Planning Commission in early 2005. What I didn’t know until recently is what Kranz’s rationale would be for ignoring those warnings. As we all know by now, the disastrous decision by Kranz to put Ms. Ollar-Burris on the Planning Commission severely comprised the commission, forced Placer County to hire an independent investigator to sort out the mess at a cost of tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars, and has led to a civil lawsuit against Ms. Ollar-Burris in which the county declares that her illegal lot-splitting activities have cost the county — and by extension we Placer County taxpayers — $4.2 million in “special damages.” But here’s the real question: What did Bruce Kranz know and when did he know it? Well, that was partially answered recently when a regional newspaper covering the 5th Supervisorial Board of Supervisors race finally asked Kranz why he had appointed Ollar-Burris despite the obvious red flags. When asked, Kranz admitted he knew there were “questions” surrounding Ollar-Burris, but he was waiting to see if the County District Attorney would prosecute. So, that’s where Kranz draws the line, then. If a person isn’t under indictment or being actively prosecuted, then everything is fine with him. Here’s a second question that voters in the 5th District ought to be asking themselves. What possible rationale is there for a public servant to exercise such seriously flawed judgment, which has led to this costly and embarrassing mess? In a county with over 180,000 registered voters, you can’t tell me that Ollar-Burris was the only candidate for Planning Commissioner that Kranz could find. One possible answer is that Mr. Kranz, much like his mentor John Doolittle, values political loyalty above all else. And by loyalty, I mean money. It should surprise no one that Ms. Ollar-Burris was a major campaign contributor to 2004 Kranz’s election campaign, giving him thousands. Would Kranz have been so reluctant to pull the plug on Ms. Ollar-Burris if she hadn’t been a major political donor? Fair question. Is it any wonder that the Auburn Journal implored voters to consider voting for Jennifer Montgomery or Bob Houston on Tuesday? Anybody but Bruce Kranz. Rob Haswell is the Region 1 Director of the California Democratic Party. For unedited versions of From the Left and From the Right columns, see