“I believe this process was fundamentally flawed, and is one that has been obviously corrupted and politicized,” said Piepho. “I will oppose the recommendation.”
Rinehart was recommended by an independent panel earlier this month after public complaints and charges of nepotism were launched against David Piepho’s potential appointment. Piepho currently serves on the Discovery Bay Community Services District (CSD) board as well as the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), which oversees land boundary and annexation issues. His term on the CSD expires in December, and unless he secures another position with a special district, he’ll be forced to give up his seat on LAFCO.
“I really felt victimized by this process and believe it was flawed from the very start,” said David Piepho at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. “I would ask that you put off making a decision.”
When asked to comment on his LAFCO position, Piepho said only that “This isn’t about me; it’s about East County losing its (LAFCO) representation.”
Piepho claims the appointment process was flawed because the informational packet provided to the independent panel included highly negative letters from his political detractors containing erroneous information. The packet also included letters supporting Piepho.
Piepho also believes the supervisors’ order to form the independent panel specified that it be made up of trustees, and it ultimately included one trustee and two managers. After reviewing the transcript of that session, Board of Supervisors Chairman John Gioia said the intent of the supervisors was clear, and that managers were permissible.
Supervisor Piepho usually appoints directors to the BBKUCD, but recused herself from the process when her husband applied for the open seat. Gioia then took over the review of the applicants and was set to recommend David Piepho for the post. However, Gioia pulled the recommendation at the last minute, saying he wanted to ensure the appointment process had been properly followed.
The supervisors then called for an independent panel of cemetery district members from outside the county to interview applicants and make a recommendation. The opening was re-advertised and a total of eight applicants applied for the position.
Gioia and other supervisors said the situation – an appointment involving the family member of a sitting supervisor – was difficult.
“Democracy is often messy,” he said. “I will say that this (situation) puts the board in a most difficult position – one that we prefer not to be in. And I don’t disagree that there were some negative, false representations made and that’s unfortunate. But there were also 12 letters of support included in the (panel’s) package.”
The supervisors voted 4-1 to appoint Rinehart. Mary Piepho cast the dissenting vote. They also encouraged the board’s Public Protection Committee to complete work it has begun in order to develop a policy governing similar appointments in the future.
Following the Board of Supervisors meeting, Piepho said he was glad a decision had been made: “I am pleased that the board made an appointment and that the cemetery board can get back to the business of the district.”
Rinehart, who also attended the Board of Supervisors meeting, admitted it was a tough call. “Did the Board of Supervisors make the right decision?” asked Rinehart. “I think they made a difficult decision … But I’m looking forward to serving and I’m very impressed with the people on the cemetery board. They’re a very bright, sharp group. I’m happy to have been appointed.”
Rick Lemyre contributed to this story.