Looking behind the Scenes: Raking the old muck around our supervisors

By: Jim Ruffalo
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Don’t bet the ranch on a Republican sweep this November, not while Placer County’s Republican Central Committee remains active. That stalwart unit, which seemingly spends most of its efforts on placing aggrandizement ahead of accomplishment, devoted part of its April 14 meeting to trying to save the political career of 1st District Supervisor Rocky Rockholm. On the surface, it seemed a good idea: getting the central committee to rubberstamp Rockholm in the upcoming race against Roseville’s Jack Duran. The committee rightly (pun alert) sees Rockholm as a rock-ribbed Republican deserving an endorsement, especially when he’ll face what it describes as a liberal Duran. My sources say all went according to the script until former committee chairman Ken Campbell apparently grew weary of 4th District Supervisor Kirk Uhler’s supportive speech. Or as Campbell put it in a later e-mail: “... I have never seen someone tell such an arrogant bold-faced lie as Kirk Uhler did.” Again, according to Campbell, the “lie” in question concerned Uhler’s claim that Rockholm knew nothing about Solar Power, Inc. Now, for those of you with short memories, Solar Power, Inc. is connected to that sun-powered generation operation over at DeWitt Center; you know the one where certain taxes went unpaid for the longest time, and despite its noticeable footprint, managed to get erected without an environmental impact report being required. So, if Rockholm knew nothing of the deal, which Uhler claimed, then Campbell wanted an explanation of the Sept. 18, 2007, board of supervisors minutes which showed Rockholm made the motion for the county to accept the contract for Uhler’s company. I put the question to Uhler’s office, which resulted in him calling me from Philadelphia to say “right vote, wrong company.” According to Uhler, that 2007 vote concerned the county entering into a power purchase agreement with Solar Power Partners (of Mill Valley), not with the aforementioned Solar Power Inc. (of Roseville). “Those two contracts are public documents and can be inspected at any time,” Uhler said, adding that the original vote on Solar Power, Inc. was in 2006, before he or Rockholm were on the board. But Campbell wasn’t done. He brought up that now legendary July 22, 2008, plane trip where the vacationing Rockholm boarded a privately chartered aircraft from Utah to fly to a board of supervisors meeting at Kings Beach. Apparently Rockholm’s vote was deemed crucial to defeat then-5th District Supervisor Bruce Kranz’s proposal to widen Highway 28 to four lanes. That flight cost $9,887, a fact so appalling to the 1st District supervisor that his conscience remained bothered all the way to November when he finally dashed off a personal check to the county to cover said costs. Campbell said Uhler defended the plane trip in his April 14 remarks, to which Uhler says he “supported staff’s reasoning that Rocky needed to be present to break what it felt would have been a 2-2 vote, but I was against the method (charter flight) of getting him there. “It’s my understanding that (County Chief Executive Officer) Tom Miller opted to charter a flight for Rocky, but what we should have done is have him drive to Salt Lake City (from Provo), take a Southwest flight to Reno, and have him driven to Kings Beach,” Uhler said. Campbell also unearthed that infamous Feb. 10, 2007, John Doolittle testimonial dinner at Washington, D.C. After what some may have thought to have been a successful effort to hide the financial evidence, the Journal’s June 1, 2009, edition had a story highlighting the menu and the $1,668 tab. That bill was placed on then-assistant CEO Rich Colwell’s personal credit card just long enough to be reimbursed from county coffers. The excuse at the time was that county business was being conducted at that Capitol Grille, but to this date nobody has produced either a printed agenda or recorded minutes, despite the fact that three seated county supervisors were in attendance. When I talked to Campbell Wednesday night, he insisted that he was blowing the whistle because Republicans should not repeat mistakes which led to the 2006 Democrat gains; namely where the electorate was having trouble figuring out which party had the more onerous elected officials. He claimed it wouldn’t help Republicans to back a candidate who displayed a pattern of what he called “unacceptable behavior as has Rockholm.” Actually, he was more provocative in closing his e-mail when he wrote: “The (supervisorial election) choice seems to be between bad and very bad. Unfortunately voters cannot just vote ‘none of the above’ and have the office go vacant ... no doubt no one would notice the office was vacant.” Reach Jim Ruffalo at