“It’s an attempt by a mid-level bureaucratic political whore to b***h-slap me in public because he doesn’t like the way I vote,” Rodoni said.

by Nathan Rushton, 10/4/2006

It was a seemingly innocuous agenda matter scheduled for Tuesday’s meeting of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to discuss who should represent the board at the Humboldt County Association of Governments.

Responsible for how state transportation funding is spent in the county, HCAOG’s eight-member board of directors — made up of a representative of each of the incorporated cities and the county — wields considerable power.

But fueled by the contentious issue of the Hoopa Valley tribe’s long-standing, but unsuccessful, efforts to become a member of the HCAOG board of directors, the supervisors’ meeting turned into a political struggle that threatened to disrupt the relative calm of the board, which has generally found agreement on almost every issue.

Board chair John Woolley said he scheduled the matter to seek clarification as to who should represent the board in light of HCAOG’s bylaws, which state it is the board’s chairperson who should fill that position.

What he got from 2nd District Supervisor Roger Rodoni, who has been the board’s delegate for 10 years, was a caustic charge that the matter was arranged by Woolley to get rid of him, which he described as a “low move” that would forever change the atmosphere of the board.

“It’s an attempt by a mid-level bureaucratic political whore to b***h-slap me in public because he doesn’t like the way I vote,” Rodoni said.

Woolley responded by saying that he wasn’t there to criticize Rodoni’s votes.

“I am just saying that this board took a stand and the representative — on the membership (issue) only — is looking at a different position right now,” Woolley said.

In January, the board unanimously approved, with Rodoni absent, to send a letter to HCAOG in support of its directors amending its bylaws to allow the Hoopa Valley tribe to gain a seat on HCAOG.

“I believe the issue of membership is really a board, not an individual, requirement,” Woolley said.

But Woolley said he had no intention of dictating to Rodoni or any other representative on the policies or issues facing the board, and “looking over that shoulder” of how a representative votes is not an effective use of government.

No action was taken to replace Rodoni.

First District Supervisor Jimmy Smith said he didn’t want to see the matter go sideways and asked that a subcommittee of Rodoni and 5th District Supervisor Jill Geist be formed to look at the issues and to come up with answers.

That motion was passed by a unanimous vote.

Smith said he hoped the HCAOG board would look at the matter more comprehensively and develop a strategy for establishing criteria that welcomes new members that meet the test.

Asked by Smith whether he would support the development of those criteria, Rodoni said that if the tribe came to the board as an equal, then it would be different.

“With the way it is right now, I would say no,” Rodoni said. “Those issues have not been addressed and those have not been settled to the point that everyone can agree.”

As sovereign nations, Rodoni said tribes don’t have to play by the same rules as other forms of elected governments.

In an interview following the meeting, HCAOG Executive Director Spencer Clifton said there has always been a political conflict over whether individuals representing a board can vote their conscience or if they should represent their board’s will.

But if each of the eight HCAOG directors had to go back to their respective boards for direction on each vote, Clifton said it would paralyze the agency.

Clifton said that when HCAOG’s charter was drafted, it was with the understanding that the board’s chair changed annually and that it allows the chair the flexibility to be the representative or to appoint a designee.

Although he said he doesn’t play favorites, Clifton said HCAOG has relied on representatives who have the transportation experience and background to make decisions and that the learning curve of bringing on a new member could occupy half of the time they serve.

“That is a significant issue for me,” Clifton said.

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