Jessica Cejnar / Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020 @ 3:16 p.m. / Elections, Local Government

Del Norte CAO Denies Claims The County Used Public Funds To Promote Tax Measure; Jay Sarina Authorized Up to $40k For Measure R Information Effort

Update 5:19 p.m. Wednesday: Jeff L. McCaddon's name was misspelled.

County staff and elected officials are refuting claims they’re using public dollars and the local emergency alert system to promote Measure R.

County resident Jeff L. McCaddon levied that accusation against County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina and Emergency Services Manager Kymmie Scott.

In a Tuesday email to the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors, McCaddon said Sarina entered into a $40,000 contract to advertise Measure R, a proposed 1 percent sales tax increase for public safety. McCaddon further said that Scott used her department title to try to sway voters in favor of the tax increase.

“Our county’s financial resources must not be used to sway votes during an election,” McCaddon said. “Not only did the county use public funds to sway an election, but it was done surreptitiously. Mr. Sarina and whoever signed for the Board of Supervisors must be held accountable and reimburse the county the full amount paid for these advertisements.”

McHadden’s statement followed a Saturday Facebook post from Del Norte County District 1 Supervisor Roger Gitlin, who said the county initiated “an aggressive ROBO calling” in support of the proposed tax increase.

“My understanding is the Office of Emergency Services has launched this robo call campaign. An aggressive postcard campaign has also been launched,” Gitlin said on Facebook. “Emergency Services??? Is this a fire or flood issue this community faces? What is emergency about the County engaging in political activity?”

Spearheaded by Del Norte County, Measure R would generate about $1.2 million annually if successful. The generated revenue would be used for a variety of services paid for through the county’s general fund including repairing potholes and streets, maintaining emergency dispatch services and mitigating blight and public nuisances, according to a county-produced FAQ sheet.

Voters within Crescent City limits are being asked to weigh in on a similar 1 percent sales tax increase for public safety — Measure S. If both measures pass with a 50-percent-plus-one majority, sales tax countywide would increase to 8.5 percent.

On Tuesday, Sarina told the Wild Rivers Outpost that he signed a contract not to exceed $40,000 with Oakland-based Clifford Moss to disseminate information about Measure R. That included a phone call to voters via a third-party service the consultant chose, Sarina said. Del Norte County Community Alert System, an Everbridge service, was not used to disseminate that information, Sarina told the Outpost.

“We would never use the Everbridge system for such a thing for obvious reasons,” he said. “That’s an assumption and an allegation thrown out there that is completely false.”

Scott volunteered to provide information about Measure R on that phone call to voters as did Del Norte Ambulance owner Ron Sandler, Sarina said. The consultant also sent informational flyers to county residents, he said.

“It just lays out what the initiative is and what the funding could be used for,” Sarina told the Outpost.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Sarina reminded supervisors that he has spending authority up to $50,000 under government code. The information the consultant is disseminating came from Del Norte county counsel, he said.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission prohibits governmental agencies to advocate for the particular result of an election.

“The determination of whether a communication ‘expressly advocates’ is relatively straightforward and is based on whether it contains so called ‘magic words’ of advocacy such as: Vote For; Elect; Support Cast Your Ballot; Vote Against; Defeat; Reject; or Sign Petitions For,” the FPPC states.

In his Facebook post, Gitlin said he spent his own money on signs urging voters to reject Measures R and S. He said he isn’t required to open a committee if he spends less than $2,000 on his opposition effort.

“To date, I have spent well under that amount,” Gitlin said via Facebook. “The City and County quite obviously have more resources (ironic both ask for raised taxes) to outspend little ole (sic) me.”

On June 25 Gitlin opposed a 1 percent general sales tax measure, advocating instead for a sales tax specifically fort he Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office, which would have needed a 2/3rds majority vote to pass.

On Tuesday, District 3 Supervisor Chris Howard asked Sarina for clarification following McHadden’s comment.

“The statement that was read was not factual and whether our CAO or one of us clarifies that for the public at large in the audience — that needs to be clarified,” Howard said. “I don’t want to let comments like that stand that aren’t factual.”

Crescent City’s sales tax measure, Measure S, would generate $1.3 million if successful. That revenue will be used to build a hybrid fire department using paid staff and volunteers, ensure the Crescent City Police Department is fully staffed, pay for street repairs and help the Fred Endert Municipal Pool sustainably operate.

A committee advocating on behalf of Measure S, “Citizens to Keep Crescent City Safe and Strong” has raised $26,532 in cash contributions between July 1 and Oct. 17. That committee has spent $24,425 during that same time period.

A committee advocating for Measure R has not been established, according to Del Norte County Clerk Alissia Northrup.


Measure R Frequently Asked Questions


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