Third District Supervisor Gail Marshall was served with a recall notice Tuesday morning because of a disagreement over saying the pledge of allegiance at a county committee meeting. County Sheriff Jim Thomas said he would run against her in the event of an election.
The notice, signed by 20 citizens from the 3rd District, accuses Marshall of violating her oath of office, ignoring the expressed will of county citizens by not preserving the communities of interest in the county, creating hostility between North and South County, and undermining the future of agriculture in the county.
If opponents gather around 9,000 signatures from 3rd District citizens, an election could be held by August 2002.
Thomas – who will step down from his position in spring 2003 – said he would run, but would not participate in the petitioning process. “If enough people sign [the petition] to put it on the ballot and at that time they request candidates, I would do it to give people a choice,” he said.
The GPAC Meeting
Marshall said the pledge dispute arose after the chair of the San Ynez Valley General Plan Advisory Committee, Joe Olla, contacted Marshall’s office about bringing a flag and leading the pledge at the Oct. 18 GPAC meeting. Marshall said she told Olla it was not appropriate without consulting the members of the committee, but that she would not usurp his position as chair.
“I never said that he could not bring the flag, nor did I forbid the recital of the pledge of allegiance,” Marshall said. “I expected that Mr. Olla, as chair of GPAC, would follow normal committee procedure and present the idea to committee members.”
Olla decided to begin the meeting with the pledge, which led to a confrontation between Marshall and approximately 20 citizens, including Thomas, who Marshall said came strictly because of the pledge issue.
Marshall fired Olla as chair of the committee. She said that while his term expired two years ago, county policy allows a committee member to serve until they are replaced.
“His term was up in 1999 – sometimes we’re not on it and terms expire and we don’t take action immediately. I hadn’t looked at it, but now I certainly have,” she said. “My personal issue with Mr. Olla is that he violated my trust … I’m appalled my political opponents have chosen to undermine my ability to do my work. I’m shocked that Sheriff Thomas would participate in such a disrespectful process.”
Thomas denied allegations that he attended the meeting for political reasons – he said he was there to support Olla, “an old and dear friend.” He said there was no reason for the GPAC committee to take a vote before they said the pledge.
“What’s disrespectful about saying the pledge of allegiance? People stood up and said it and there were two people who read statements about why they weren’t going to and that was fine,” he said.
The Recall Petition
Five days later, the same day Marshall was to hold a press conference to address the issue, she was served with the notice of intent to circle the recall petition. The petition was signed by 20 of her constituents, including four UCSB students, three of whom are in Associated Students.
“This was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Finance Board member Lee Gientke, who signed the petition. “At the very heart of it, Gail isn’t listening to her constituents and Gail isn’t listening to the rest of the county. … Yeah, it was a set up, but Gail should have been smart enough to smell a trap – it’s politics.”
Gientke said Marshall has repeatedly let down her constituents – by voting to exclude Isla Vista from the proposed city of Goleta last spring, as well as by ignoring a petition with over 5,000 signatures asking her to exclude I.V. and UCSB from the 3rd District. Also, Gientke said, Marshall has pushed through environmental regulations that hurt agricultural business and thereby her constituents in the North County.
“She’s already neglected her duties as supervisor – this process won’t have an effect on her job,” Gientke said.
Marshall defended her record in I.V.
“We’re out there working our hearts out, repaving the streets, putting in sidewalks where we can … no one can complain about our visibility and service,” Marshall said.
“They had to invent the issue of the flag and pledge as an excuse to begin the recall process,” she said. “What it all boils down to is that when we were going through the redistricting, I had pressure from the North County and republicans on A.S. to not include I.V. in the district. They did not go forward with the recall at that point, I think because it didn’t follow timelines in the process for their favor. When you look at it now, tentatively … the election could be held next August or September, which they want to do so part of my student constituents are unavailable.”
Gientke, however, contested that the timing was not planned. “I think we all just let our anger dissipate after the redistricting issue,” he said.