Point of View

Neil Derry
Posted: 01/12/2011 06:17:28 PM PST

How can I vote for someone who opposes nearly every substantive government reform measure I have pledged to support or fought to enact? What kind of message does it send to the people who elected me if I endorse a person who repeatedly worked to sabotage my efforts to fulfill promises made to these very same voters?

The people who elected me are tired of “go along to get along, business as usual” politics in San Bernardino County.

Supervisor Josie Gonzales, while exceedingly cordial and kind on a personal level, has repeatedly opposed my attempts to increase government transparency and accountability, advance governmental reforms and roll back lavish benefit packages for elected officials and judges. She has been openly hostile toward my efforts to establish an ethics commission and pass a Sunshine Ordinance that would ensure that the taxpayers of this county may view all credit card expenditures and other assorted expenses by their government.

Prior to my being elected, she voted herself a massive increase in health and retirement benefits – benefits that I promised to roll back and refused to accept. Upon taking office and fulfilling a promise to rescind those benefits, Ms. Gonzales begrudgingly voted to support my bill or face public embarrassment. However, she retaliated by attempting to cut my office budget in spite of the fact that my district dwarfs hers in area, number of unincorporated residents and topographical and geographical diversity that is subject to major natural disasters like snowstorms, flooding and wildfires.

My attempt to establish the ethics commission has been thwarted time and time again. She repeatedly opposed this reform. “We need an ethics commission like we need a hole in our head,” she said. And she called it “baby-sitting in disguise.”

She then disingenuously suggested that the county conduct workshops on the ethics commission to determine its viability. Not one substantive workshop was held.

Oppose, obstruct and stall. Repeat. This has been her modus operandi.

The Sunshine Ordinance was another example of her opposing serious governmental reforms. She admitted that she “didn’t like it – didn’t want it” and “fought” the passage of the ordinance at the Sept. 28, 2010, board meeting.

Additionally, she was a staunch supporter of former county administrative officer Mark Uffer. The Highland Community News reported that she offered “high praise” at the Democratic Luncheon Club, calling him “a good man (who) says it like it is.”

Unfortunately, Ms. Gonzales completely missed the warning signs and opposed Uffer’s ouster. It would later be revealed that Mr. Uffer failed to recognize and communicate a dangerous structural deficit that has exceeded $100 million due to unaccounted for pension liabilities.

Finally, I am deeply troubled by eyewitness accounts I have received attesting to Supervisor Gonzales and others receiving free medical services at the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center. Allegations suggested that co-payments were waived and that aliases may have been used to circumvent detection. The credibility of these accounts was such that I felt compelled to contact the proper authorities, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It must be emphatically stated that our justice system ensures that we are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

I hope that these allegations are cleared, but with this cloud looming, it would be imprudent for anyone potentially involved to be elevated in leadership.

Given the reputation this county has earned for corruption and unethical practices, I simply cannot endorse her for this position. It would be another giant step backward for this county if we were to witness the chairperson of the Board of Supervisors charged in such a scandal.

To read entire column, click here.