by Nathan Rushton, 1/3/2007

In her first meeting as board chair, 4th District Supervisor Bonnie Neely kicked off the newyYear by leading the five supervisors into a discussion on the year’s appointments to the board’s various commissions, committees and task forces.

While Neely readily offered up her seats on several key committees, including her seat on the county’s finance and budget committee and Workforce Investment Board, it was her desire to replace 2nd District Supervisor Roger Rodoni as the representative on the transportation funding agency Humboldt County Association of Governments that sparked some friction.

HCOAG, which is made up of the seven incorporated cities and the county, has been embroiled in ongoing turmoil over the Hoopa Valley Tribe’s nearly 10-year unsuccessful effort to gain a seat on HCAOG’s board of directors, which Rodoni has voted against in several votes last year despite the board’s 4-1 vote in favor of the tribe’s inclusion.

Because of the complex nature of HCAOG, Rodoni said changing the representative yearly would be putting the county at a disadvantage.

Rodoni also questioned the “wisdom of terminating his tenure” as the HCAOG’s representative, although he acknowledged that the ultimate choice was up to the board.

In offering a historical perspective, Rodoni said the 2nd District supervisor has usually represented the board on HCAOG, with the 1st District supervisor as the alternate, for one “simple reason”: that is where most of the county’s roads, as well as the majority of its transportation issues, lay.

“Supervisor Neely — on the other hand — represents primarily the city of Eureka,” Rodoni said. “I don’t recall too many county road miles, culverts, bridges or other problems that arise relative to interests of the county which occur in the 4th District.”

In voting on the tribal issues at HCAOG, McKinleyville resident David Elsebusch raised concerns that if Neely were to assume the HCAOG representative seat, she might be vulnerable to the perception of a conflict of interest for accepting a $25,000 campaign donation from the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe during her re-election bid.

Defending allegations that it was politics at play, Neely said her desire to be HCAOG’s representative was to be consistent with HCAOG’s charter, which states the “association shall consist of the chairperson of the Board of Supervisors and the mayor of each city.”

In an e-mail correspondence following Tuesday’s meeting, Neely addressed the conflict of interest issue and reiterated her pledge to bring back for the entire board’s consideration any new membership proposals hashed out at HCAOG.

“The tribe pursuing a seat on HCAOG is the Hoopa Valley Tribe,” Neely said. “I have not received a contribution from that tribe.”

Adding to 1st District Supervisor Jimmy Smith’s recommendation that the list of appointments be looked over thoroughly by staff to see whether some of the defunct committees needed to be eliminated permanently, 5th District Supervisor Jill Geist offered her suggestion that now is also a good time to examine the board’s representative seats on all of the various joint powers agencies, such as HCAOG.

The matter will be brought back before the board at its next meeting on Jan. 9.

In other business, the board unanimously voted to approve a resolution declaring a potential or existing water pollution problems in Orick that makes the unincorporated area more competitive for high-priority state infrastructure funding to deal with the failing on-site wastewater systems.

County health officials indicated that the failing systems could lead to the abandonment of commercial properties and residences if something such as a community sewer system isn’t implemented.

Orick had been targeted in the county’s abandoned redevelopment plan and was slated to receive funds for the development of an improved wastewater facility.

Karla Cummings, the administrative assistant for the Orick Community Services District, said the resolution wouldn’t force a moratorium on building.

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