EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) — The campaign for a water district seat is generating controversy after a mailer was linked to a developer whose address happens to be a building owned by the county.
It’s not too often a little-watched race for the El Dorado Irrigation District makes news, but a flyer sent to voters’ homes this week is not only generating controversy, but it has one county leader calling it illegal.
The ad warns of skyrocketing water rates, and endorses irrigation district candidate Richard Englefield.
The mailer is paid for by the El Dorado County Farmers Businesses And Homebuilders For Responsible Water Policy.
CBS13 tracked down who is behind that political action committee. Documents with the state connect the group to area developer Parker Development Group.
But the address clearly listed on the ad is 542 Main Street in Placerville. That’s the Chamber of Commerce, which is housed in a county-owned building. The chamber is getting a steal of a deal, paying $1 a year for a five-year lease.
El Dorado County Auditor Joe Harn calls the PAC’s actions “inappropriate,” and cites state law saying its illegal to use public office space for anything campaign related.
“You’re not supposed to use an asset of the taxpayers for use in a campaign,” Harn said.
The PAC’s connection to the chamber, and the chamber’s arrangement with practically free county office space is unsettling to some voters.
“I see this whole election coming down to somebody trying to buy a couple of board seats to basically affect decisions on the board that are not going to be in the interest of the ratepayers,” said Darwin Throne, the president of the El Dorado Hills Tea Party Patriots.
“If they want to conduct political-influence campaigns, then they should get their own place to do it,” said ratepayer Ann Moore. “They should not take advantage of some county building.
The developer behind the PAC isn’t apologizing for funneling cash into the campaign.
It released a statement saying, “All of us are united in our commitment to protecting ratepayers from out-of-control water and sewer bills—a serious problem confronting El Dorado County ratepayers.”
The chamber director says she’s reaching out to the chamber’s attorneys for a legal opinion on the chamber’s close ties to the county, and what’s becoming a controversial campaign.
Neither candidate backed by the PAC was available for on-camera interviews.