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Kelley snags $24,000 contract from Open Space district


Former Sonoma County Supervisor Paul Kelley will be paid $24,000 over the next eight months to provide consulting advice about agriculture for the county’s Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, which of late has come under criticism from farmers.

Paul Kelley.

Kelley, who retired in January 2011 after 16 years on the board, knows both the district and the farm community, district General Manager Bill Keene said this week.

At the district, “we don’t really have someone who has an agricultural background,” Keene said. In contrast, Kelley has “incredibly strong relationships with the agriculture community,” he said.

Kelley’s contract calls for him to help Keene develop strategy to work with the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, the wine industry and grape grower groups. He also will provide research on available state and federal grants and will help the district as it works with local and state groups on protecting California’s Williamson Act farm preservation program.

Farmers this year have faulted the district, saying it isn’t preserving enough farmland with the proceeds of a quarter-cent sales tax that voters first approved in 1990. And the Farm Bureau strongly opposed the district’s placement of a $1.5 million conservation easement along the Estero Americano with a proposed public trail. County supervisors approved that easement in March.

Keene dismissed the idea that Kelley’s job would be to mend fences with farmers.

“That’s ridiculous,” he said. “I don’t hire people to put out fires. I do that myself.”

Farm Bureau Executive Director Lex McCorvey said Tuesday evening he was unsure how Kelley would help the efforts of the district and the bureau to work together on farm issues.

“Is it really necessary?” McCorvey asked of the contract. “Apparently the Board (of Supervisors) must think it is. But I don’t know what the value is to the taxpayer of hiring an additional person.”

McCorvey acknowledged that the Farm Bureau had endorsed Kelley when he ran for office and found him “open and understanding” about agricultural issues. Even so, he declined to say whether or not the district should have hired him.

“That’s a question for the board,” he said. “Period.”

Farm Bureau President Joe Pozzi said he would continue to work to have “strong communication” with the district and county supervisors.

Kelley’s contract was signed last month and runs through Jan. 31, 2013. It’s maximum amount is limited to $24,000.

Kelley will be paid at the rate of $175 an hour for his consultations. He’ll also be reimbursed for expenses and paid $85 per hour for travel time.

Keene said the rate of pay is standard for such work and characterized it as at the “medium-high” end of the many outside contractors the district uses. While an outside biologist might be paid $100 to $125 an hour for a study, he said, the County Counsel’s office bills the district more than $200 an hour for its services and outside legal firms charge more than $300 an hour.

Kelley, 48, started his own consulting firm last year and said his clients already include a few water agencies in the state. He said he expects his work in the county to be mutually beneficial for farmers and the open space district.

“That’s part of what I’ve done for years,” he said.

Kelley said he not only picked prunes and apples as a young man, but his wife is a member of the family that owns the Robert Young Estate Winery.

Kelley’s contract is allowed under county policies for former officials, Keene said.

Such rules prohibit former board members and other officials from lobbying the county for pay for a full year after leaving office. Keene noted that Kelley has been out of office more than a year and said he won’t be lobbying the Board of Supervisors or other county officials.

16 Responses to “Kelley snags $24,000 contract from Open Space district”

  1. Dont lose your rights says:

    By Kevin DeAnna
    The author of “Eco-Tyranny: How the Left’s Green Agenda will Dismantle America” warns that the federal government has been collecting properties across the country for years, even now is working to control more and ultimately wants to block off any use by the American people.

    In a commentary published in Forbes, author Brian Sussman argues that every American is heir to an “unfathomable fortune” in natural resources on nationally owned land but is condemned to bankruptcy by a government that won’t let them use it.
    Sussman says it’s the deliberate policy of a government “beholden to the green agenda.”
    He reports that “the feds now own nearly 700 million acres of property” that contain huge amounts of natural resources the country could use in difficult economic times, including oil, natural gas, minerals, timber and water.
    Instead, the federal government has permanently removed these lands from economic development, deliberately harming the interests of the country to please environmentalists.
    Now, Sussman reports, “the Obama administration … seeks to sell low-valued federal land, void of natural resources, and purchase more lucrative private property to cobble together a colossal new federal estate, which will not only be off-limits to development of natural resources, but off-limits to you.”
    He continues: “According to the draft, the proposed treasured landscapes will exist ‘without the trappings of visitor centers and other man-made improvements.’”
    Sussman also writes that the Founding Fathers explicitly opposed any federal ownership of land, with Congress adopting a policy of redistributing land to the states even before the Articles of Confederation were adopted.
    In contrast, the federal government today has “national parks, forests, wildlife areas, marine sanctuaries, wetlands, refuges [and] national monuments and landscapes.” More importantly, under the 1906 Antiquities Act, the executive branch can unilaterally declare millions of acres off the market. Instead of protecting historical artifacts or Native American burial grounds, the law is being used to prevent states from utilizing needed resources.
    Such was the case with the Grand Staircase Escalante area set aside by Bill Clinton in Utah when he was president, protecting its landscapes, essentially forever, from most uses.
    Sussman’s column in Forbes hits as the Obama administration has been rocked by a scandal involving the Environmental Protection Agency’s former regional administrator, Al Armendariz, who bragged about wanting to “crucify” energy companies. Al Gore has also made recent headlines by condemning unnamed “talk radio hosts” who question man-made global warming.
    In an interview with WND, Sussman observed: “Being published in Forbes shows that the business community is becoming increasingly aware of the socialist motivations of modern environmentalism. This isn’t about partisan politics – if America is to survive, we have to be able to use our own resources to provide for our growing population. After all, they doesn’t belong to the government, they belong to us.”

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  2. David Keller says:

    Yet another appointment for Paul Kelley: the Supervisors recently reappointed him to be the County’s representative on the North Coast Rail Authority (NCRA), even tho’ he’s no longer holding elected office. How much is his per diem and travel allowances for attending these Board meetings up and down the North Coast. Where is the accountability for Sonoma County’s representative to NCRA? Answers, PD?

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  3. Donna Norton says:

    Yes, everyone’s first shocked reaction should rightfully be–The General Manager of the Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District says, “We don’t really have someone who has an agricultural background”– What?!

    Why is Bill Keene the General Manager of the District when he knows nothing about agricultural and has to spend taxpayers’ money to pay someone to give him advise on the subject?

    Call the District (707 565-7360), and the Board of Supervisors (707 565-2241), who also serve as Board of Directors for the District, and tell them you want your money back for the “consultant,” along with a new General Manager who can actually do the job.

    Some months ago at a District Citizens Advisory Committee meeting (the only group in the District that seems to actually communicate with the public), Keene advised them that the device that records their meetings was worn out and the District could not afford to replace it. It was mentioned that a simple, inexpensive recorder ($50 range) would be fine. Keene said the budget was just too tight. Yet he can find $24,000 to pay for a consultant because there’s no one in the District who knows about agriculture.

    Keene says Kelley isn’t a lobbyist. Well, he is–for the wine industry. Everyone knows it. But then, I guess Keene would have to hire a consultant to advise him of that.

    Please call the District (707 565-7360), and the Board of Supervisors (707 565-2241), and tell them you want your money back for the “agricultural consultant” and you want Bill Keene replaced.

    When Supervisors Kelley, Kerns, and Brown wanted John Barella to be able to divert his proposed Roblar Quarry haul road through adjoining Open Space land in order to save him money, Bill Keene OK’d it. Public outrage killed that proposal.

    When Supervisors Kelley, Kerns, and Brown wanted to help John Barella save money by providing Open Space land for his CA Tiger Salamander mitigation, Bill Keene OK’d it.

    Open Space Agreements are written “in perpetuity.” Most of us know what that means. Apparently Keene doesn’t. Because in order to comply with the Supervisors’ request to help Barella out, Keene simply said the District would suspend perpetuity for 20 years while the quarry was in operation, and then reinstate it. Voila! (Perhaps the District would be better served by investing in a dictionary for Keene rather than a consultant. And maybe Keene should look up the word “shill” after he gets “perpetuity” figured out.)

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  4. Skeptical says:

    @ Lisa
    It is Kelley with an “e.” Further, there was no special deal to spike his retirement — an ex county employee has to be 55 before he or she can begin to collect retirement benefits.
    @ Grapevine
    It was Copenhagen and not Amsterdam (dah!). And Mr. Kelley would never e-mail or say what you are accusing him of. All of you hate mongers, get your facts straight before you spew more lies.

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  5. GAJ says:

    Lisa Maldonado said:

    “It’s interesting that Supervisor Kelly who railed against workers pensions and wages ad nauseum when he was on the Board of Supervisors…”

    Too bad nobody listened to him; we would be in far better financial shape had people heeded his “railing.”

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  6. Skippy says:

    Wossup, bear?
    Disappointed that we didn’t defend his actions?
    Sorry we didn’t live down to your expectations.
    Better luck next time.

    “I am COUNTING on all you folks for an opinion on this!”

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  7. Lisa Maldonado says:

    It’s interesting that Supervisor Kelly who railed against workers pensions and wages ad nauseum when he was on the Board of Supervisors now feels differently about the pay scale and available monies for salaries when HE is the designated employee. No surprise here though since Mr Kelly also made sure that he got a special deal to spike his retirement benefits before he left office. I hope county workers will remind managers, administrators AND especially the Board of Supervisors that there always seems to be money available when one of the “Good Old Boys’ needs a job, while workers are given furloughs, take backs and the shaft. Not this year!

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  8. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Here we go with the BOS contracting out again when we already have workers assigned to do the job. I’m not getting this at all. Where is the money coming from for all this contracting out of professional services when the county has managers whose job descriptions have these duties included?

    Experience-you’re absolutely right. Lots of high paid retired management still being employed as temps in the county. They collect their padded retirement and get that temp work too. The county is extremely top heaving in management without them. One manager’s salary can cover 2 to 6 frontline workers. So it doesn’t make sense when we need rank and file workers to actually provide services directly to the citizens of Sonoma County.

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  9. Dont lose your rights says:

    The Government has been making massive “Land Grabs” in Sonoma County. The people are told this is being done to preserve our farm land. This is a lie! Our farm lands have been here since the beginning of time. The Government doesn’t need to “preserve” the land. Open Space Act is a guise for a much larger government program called Agenda 21. Agenda 21 is the feds way to take private property ownership away from the people. Eventually the Gov’t will own all the farmland and begin to lease back the land to the people. It is a way for the Gov’t to take more. In a private conversation during one of these “land grabs” with a Sonoma County official up for re-election, I told him that that there was a bigger picture and the bigger picture is that Gov’t is sticking a foot in the door to do what they want later down the road. He told me that’s exactly what we are doing. And ultimately there was nothing we could do about it. Wake up Sonoma County! You rights are being revoked faster than you think. NO FARMS = NO FOOD!

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  10. Missy says:

    How come no one on the Open Space & Ag Board knows nothing about Ag & Farmers???? Well?

    We should vote all these jerks out if they can’t do it on their own. It’s what we pay them $300,000 a year for.

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  11. Skippy says:

    The revolving door of Big Govt has become so institutionalized as to barely raise eyebrows. Endless Boards, Commissions, Panels, Committees,Districts, Agencies, Bureaus, and we pay every dime for all of them.
    When the Tea Party calls for slashing spending, Big Govt responds by closing libraries, parks and allowing the roads to go to hell. They never even consider reducing the number of lucrative positions from which they flit to and fro.
    Citizen govt in the American tradition requires us to toss off and ignore their edicts while eliminating their relevance.
    That is truly a constructive revolution; unlike the vulgar mob of leeches known as Occupy.
    Paul Kelley may be a swell guy, but he needs to get a job in the private sector producing wealth rather than consuming it at the teat of Big Govt.

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  12. Experience? Patronage? Cronyism? says:

    PD might want to do a story on the number of retired employees working as consultants, or extra help for the county. Many are double or even triple dippers – retired, drawing a pension, maybe two, and back on the county payroll. Seems like a closed loop that keeps recycling the same people with the same ideas through the system. Don’t want any of those new ideas infiltrating the system. Might lead to real change

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  13. Grapevines says:

    I guess Paul has a new house or car and wants Sonoma County to help him pay for it. When he was advocating taking that $24,000 dollar “JUNKET” (oops I shouldn’t call it that) fact finding trip to Amsterdam to hear the “Appointed One” speak along with Valerie Brown and her tag-alongs, I sent him an email saying that it was a waste of taxpayer money. He basically told me to kiss off or *&^% off, I forget which it was.

    Now it’s obvious that he has some dirt on “guess who?” and has snagged himself a plush position “advising Keene to develop strategy to work with the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, the wine industry and grape grower groups.”

    In other words, graft, greed, and corruption, the words that should be chiseled in stone above the hallowed BOARD OF STUPID-VISORS meeting room.

    Will somebody in this county recognize that we are being forced down the road to ruin, and stop electing these jerks that ignore common sense, logic, and all semblance of responsibility, and not vote for them?

    Makes me sick enough to my stomach to puke.

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  14. Steveguy says:

    Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District.

    THAT is the name, and they have NOBODY that knows Ag ?

    Oh my, we are doomed !

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  15. bear says:

    I am COUNTING on all you folks for an opinion on this!

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  16. David Keller says:

    Isn’t Supervisor Mike McGuire already both a member of the governing board of the Ag & Open Space District AND a member of a ranching family? Don’t we have a new, experienced, smart and effective Agricultural Commissioner, Tony Linegar? This cozy hiring of Paul Kelley by SCAPOSD looks like a slap in the face to both of them from some well-connected members of the ag businesses.

    Could the grape industry be feeling a loss of control there? Why are we really spending $24,000 of taxpayer money to bring Paul Kelley back into County government for 8 months? He likely already gets a pension as former supervisor. Doesn’t the Open Space District have other things they could use some expertise on, like overseeing land management of the properties it already owns or has easements on? like developing public access trails and policies?

    Why is Kelley still the county’s representative to the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA)? Based on past performance, I’m not expecting Kelley to be protecting public and environmental interests.

    Some segment of the farming community wants something from the Open Space District, and Paul Kelley has been hired to deliver, on taxpayer expense. The reporting on this story needs to dig deeper and let us know what is really going on.

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