Board of Supervisors unanimously want Efren Carrillo to resign
Published: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 6:35 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 6:35 a.m.
In sharp and revealing comments, four Sonoma County supervisors took an unprecedented action on Tuesday and called for their colleague, Efren Carrillo, to resign in the wake of his trial on charges of peeking into the apartment of a female neighbor 10 months ago.
A standing room-only crowd packed the Board of Supervisors chambers for an emotionally charged hearing focused on whether the 33-year-old Carrillo is fit to continue representing the residents of his west county district, despite his acquittal in court last week.
His fellow board members said it was clear to them that he should step down, though Carrillo reiterated Tuesday that he has no plans to quit.
“You lurked, you trespassed, you tore (a window screen) and you terrorized a young woman,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, who publicly called for Carrillo's resignation a week ago. She made a forceful argument on Tuesday, saying Carrillo had undermined public trust and compromised his ability to hold elected office.
“You can't lead if people don't believe you have character and integrity,” she said.
Supervisor Mike McGuire, citing the harm he said Carrillo's prolonged legal case had done to the county, said there was a need to “close this damaging chapter in our history.”
“I believe the divide will deepen, and the difficulties will continue if resolution is not found,” McGuire said. “Which is why I regrettably have no other choice but to ask for Supervisor Carrillo's resignation.”
At the close of the three-hour hearing, Chairman David Rabbitt said the board — which lacks the power to remove Carrillo from office — would support a formal censure, a step it is set to take at its May 13 meeting. It may also consider a largely symbolic resolution calling for Carrillo's resignation.
Carrillo showed no emotion during the public hearing, which featured a increased number of sheriff's deputies on hand to monitor the packed proceedings.
Tuesday was the first Board of Supervisors meeting since Carrillo's acquittal by a Sonoma County jury on April 26 and the board's first public comments on his behavior since July 30, when Carrillo was in self-imposed treatment for alcoholism.
Carrillo, who was elected to a second term in 2012 and was once considered a rising star in local Democratic politics, led off the hearing by stating his determination to remain in an office that pays almost $136,000 a year.
“Those who demand that I give (up) the office, to which voters of the 5th District elected me, will be disappointed,” he said. “I have no intentions to resign.”
The comments prompted a mixture of applause, cheers and boos from the crowd.
Carrillo called his pre-dawn behavior that led to his July 13 arrest “a foolish and unfortunate act.” He said he had testified “honestly, forthrightfully and truthfully” at trial before he was acquitted by a jury of 10 women and two men.
He contrasted that legal process, including jury members with “no political agenda,” with the “political world” that he suggested was partly responsible for Tuesday's hearing.
“Ironically, it seems that my own testimony, my own honesty and candor, has largely provoked the recent firestorm that occasions this hearing today,” Carrillo said.
He took aim at “self-appointed public opinion leaders” seeking attention in the media. “Sometimes the loudest voices have axes to grind that have little or nothing to do with the subject at hand,” Carrillo said.
The comments drew a rebuke from Zane, the only other two-term member on the current board.
“This accusation that comes from you and some of your supporters of political opportunism is reprehensible,” she said. “We have nothing to gain to speak out and ask for your resignation.”
Carrillo was arrested by Santa Rosa police in his socks and underwear after the neighbor, identified only as Jane Doe, twice reported a man outside her apartment around 3:40 a.m.
At trial, Carrillo said he had been dropped off at home by his girlfriend and noticed a light on in the woman's kitchen. He said he went over to share beers with her in the hopes of having sex. He told police at the scene that he could not remember her name.
Expressing regrets for his actions, Carrillo said he will continue to fight alcoholism “for the rest of my life.”
“I am looking for ways to become a better person and be able to do my job in a better fashion,” he said before the other supervisors weighed in.
Nearly 50 people addressed the board Tuesday in a public meeting that was unusually personal and confrontational. Several supporters identified themselves as recovering alcoholics, while the sharpest critics said they or family members were victims of sex crimes.
At the outset, Rabbitt said supervisors cannot force Carrillo to resign, a decision he said was Carrillo's to make and, if a recall effort were launched, would ultimately be up to voters.
Zane, who said she had initially supported Carrillo after he completed five weeks in seclusion for alcohol treatment, noted that the trial had revealed the “sordid details” from the night of his arrest.
“That could have been my daughter,” Zane said, her voice strained by emotion.
“You're not the victim here. Jane Doe is the victim,” Zane said. “You are here because of your own doing. And so the question now remains: Will you be accountable for your own actions?”
Supervisor Susan Gorin, who sits immediately to Carrillo's left at the dais, said that elected officials must be “mentors, role models” and “beyond reproach.”
Describing the “hours, weeks, months” of distraction caused by Carrillo's arrest and trial, Gorin said it was “very difficult to do the work as a supervisor while this was playing out.”
Speaking directly to Carrillo, Gorin said he had many opportunities to confront his alcohol abuse and “inappropriate behavior with women.”
“As a woman, I find these actions reprehensible and offensive in so many ways,” Gorin said. “Women and girls should not have to be fearful of being out in public, being out at a bar or a club, walking the street, being in your home, living in your home.”
“You've let us down, you know that,” Gorin said, noting that Carrillo could have “chosen to resign and spare us this day.”
McGuire said Carrillo's legal troubles had done “too much damage” and “harmed our ability to be a cohesive and effective board.”
Rabbitt, speaking last, said some of Carrillo's trial testimony “made me scratch my head and made me shiver.” In a rambling and unscripted statement, Rabbitt said he “grew up around alcoholism” and said it was “not an excuse, but I know it is part of the equation.”
He said the board has wasted time and taxpayer money over Carrillo's situation, asserting that it has “really gotten in the way of county business.” If he were in Carrillo's position, Rabbitt said he “would have stepped away and taken care of my issues.”
“I don't know how you don't resign in this particular case,” he said.
Talk of a recall, which would have cost the county up to $230,000, has faded. But public comments at the hearing ran heavily against Carrillo, whose current term expires at the start of 2017.
Thomas Bonfigli of Sebastopol angrily denounced Carrillo's trial testimony, calling it “rife with inconsistencies” and said the supervisor should be censured.
Paul Andersen said he wants to “live in a world where women are respected” and told Carrillo “the only honorable thing you can do is resign.”
Antonia Jolivette, a Santa Rosa woman who said she was a sex crime victim, questioned how Carrillo could use alcohol as an excuse since Santa Rosa police did not consider him intoxicated.
Irene Dunham said that blaming alcohol is “a total farce” and that “alcoholism is not what creates sexual predators: These are two separate issues.”
Marsha Vas Dupre, a former Santa Rosa city councilwoman, said she refused accept Carrillo's apologies.
“I'm afraid of you,” she said. “If this desk was not here, you would punch me out.”
“You need to go away and stop being a distraction,” said Forestville resident Marni Wroth.
Ethnicity factored into some comments.
Ed Sheffield, describing himself as a longtime friend of Carrillo, said that “as a person of color, I am disappointed beyond outrage.” He said Carrillo had “fueled a misperception of minority men.”
“You've become another stereotype. You've become another cliche,” said Sheffield, who is district director for state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa.
Richard Sorensen Romero, a former Healdsburg planning commissioner, said to Carrillo: “The Chicano community, you embarrass us.”
Arielle Kubu-Jones, who also works for Evans, said she was speaking for herself in saying she had voted for Carrillo because she thought he was “a really good role model.”
Now, she said, he is not entitled to keep his job.
Maddy Hirshfield, an aide to Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, said her boss, who is termed out of office this year, supports the call for Carrillo's resignation.
“He's asking you to do the right thing,” said Hirshfield, who ran for the 5th District seat in 2008 along with Carrillo, Rue Furch and four others.
Furch attended Tuesday's hearing, as did Democratic power brokers Douglas Bosco and Eric Koenigshofer, who backed Carrillo's entry into politics. Bosco is a principal investor and general counsel for Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat.
Carrillo's supporters defended the politician.
Debra Newby of Monte Rio said Carrillo was “a good man” and complimented him for sitting stoically through the hearing.
She told Zane to “back off; he's my supervisor.”
Vesta Copestakes, publisher of the Sonoma County Gazette, recalled that Furch was faulted for failing to pay property taxes in the 2008 supervisorial campaign “and we ended up with Efren.”
“I am concerned that there is a lack of forgiveness,” Copestakes said.
Ann Maurice, a Sebastopol-area resident, said politicians have to be tough.
“What is tougher than having the courage for self-examination and change?” she said. “Efren, I know what you have done. People have recited your accomplishments. ... Your constituents are aware of them and we know you can and will do more.”
Marcos Suarez, a Windsor resident and past president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Sonoma County, said he was a friend of Carrillo and considers him a good public servant.
“He's been able to come forward and confront what he did. I feel that everybody deserves a second chance,” Suarez said.
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