By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Two influential labor coalitions Wednesday called for Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo to resign, saying he has displayed “a pattern of poor choices and bad behavior” that have brought “shame and discredit” on the county and that he can no longer effectively represent his district or residents countywide.
The call for Carrillo to step down is the first by entities with a major role in local politics.
Together, the North Bay Labor Council and the Sonoma, Lake & Mendocino Building and Construction Trades Council represent about 60,000 workers in public and private-sector unions and labor organizations across the region. Both coalitions endorsed Carrillo in 2012. They and their affiliated unions donated more than $13,000 dollars to his successful re-election campaign.
But conduct that led to his July 13 arrest on suspicion of burglary and prowling — behavior that his four fellow county supervisors condemned in a public meeting Tuesday — “have brought such shame and derision to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors that he can no longer fulfill his duties as required,” the groups said Wednesday in a written statement.
“While it is an unpleasant reality, the facts are such that Supervisor Carrillo has become a liability to the county instead of an asset,” the groups said. “We respectfully request that Supervisor Carrillo focus on resolving his personal issues and put the needs and best interests of the voters in District 5 and the County of Sonoma and its Board of Supervisors ahead of his own and resign his position.”
The stance — the result of membership votes taken by both groups according to one of their leaders — could trigger similar calls by other organizations that have backed Carrillo in the past. Some of his sharpest critics, including liberal Democratic activists, already have called for him to step down and vowed to press ahead with a recall should he not resign.
Jack Buckhorn, president of the North Bay Labor Council and secretary-treasurer of the tri-county Building Trades Council, said the two groups would wait until Carrillo’s Aug. 30 court date before making a decision to form or join any recall effort. They would have substantial financial resources at their disposal should they take that step.
The groups’ call also could put stronger pressure on the Sonoma County Democratic Party to take a position on Carrillo’s immediate future as an officeholder. A son of Mexican immigrants and a rising star in the state party, he was widely expected before his arrest to announce a bid next year for a seat in the state Legislature. Those rumors evaporated after his latest arrest, his second in 10 months.
Carrillo’s current legal woes notwithstanding, opposition from the two labor coalitions represents another formidable obstacle to any bid by the embattled supervisor to hold on to his county seat. He is next up for election in 2016.
One local political expert said he was surprised the call for Carrillo’s resignation had not happened sooner.
Now that it has, said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist, both it and the criticism from the Board of Supervisors could “provide political cover” to other supporters considering withdrawing their endorsement or calling for his resignation.
“The key development here is whether or not there is a domino effect with other groups,” McCuan said. “Does this open the door to subsequent groups rolling out an indictment of Carrillo before his court hearing?”
Carrillo’s July 13 arrest came after a pair of 911 calls from a woman in his west Santa Rosa neighborhood reporting that a man — later identified as the 32-year-old Carrillo, according to police — had tried to break into her home through a bedroom window.
Police, who arrested Carrillo in just his underwear and socks, have said the incident — which resulted in a torn screen on the woman’s bedroom window — had the marks of an attempt at some type of sexual assault.
Carrillo after his arrest issued a two-sentence statement calling his behavior “embarrassing,” saying it involved alcohol and that he was seeking professional treatment. His attorney, Chris Andrian, has suggested the young politician was hoping to share beers with the woman around 3 a.m., before his arrest.
Aside from an initial July 18 court appearance, Carrillo has since dropped out of public life, an absence that may extend to mid-August. Andrian and Carrillo’s political advisers say he is in a Northern California rehabilitation facility for help with a drinking problem.
The Sonoma County Democratic Party central committee is set to discuss Carrillo’s situation at its Aug. 13 meeting, said Stephen Gale, the party chairman.
“This would be a topic that would be up for discussion regardless of whether any other organization takes action,” Gale said. “I’m sure that we will be discussing these recent events in closed session. I can’t say what we either will or will not be doing.”
Buckhorn, the North Bay Labor Council president, when asked why the labor groups were pushing for Carrillo’s resignation before any decision by prosecutors to press charges, said the coalitions wanted to “take a leadership role.”
“We believe we have a responsibility to say what’s on the mind of our members, and we believe our members deserve full-time representation” on the county board, he said.
The Labor Council — the largest in the North Bay, including 65 affiliated unions and labor groups — has clashed with Carrillo in the past year, notably over a disputed policy that would have required union rules, benefits and oversight for all workers on large county construction projects. Last September, Carrillo voted with a three-member board majority to reject the blanket policy, citing disadvantages to some nonunion workers and overly complicated bidding on county projects.
Carrillo’s stance, on a key initiative for organized labor, nearly fueled a push for his recall in the aftermath of his Labor Day arrest last year outside a San Diego nightclub. Charges stemming from his involvement in a street brawl were later dropped.
“If those charges in San Diego (persisted), we would have gone ahead with a recall,” Buckhorn said.
He denied the latest challenge to Carrillo was purely political, citing recent support he said the supervisor had voiced for the union-rules policy, known as project-labor agreements.
“If it were all about politics, it would be smart for me to hope that this would blow over,” Buckhorn said. “But the seriousness of those (allegations) demands a response and for us to be leaders.”
The Labor Council’s largest affiliates include the Service Employees International Union and California Nurses Association — both of which abstained from the resignation votes, according to Buckhorn — the Teamsters, United Healthcare Workers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and International Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters.
The Sonoma, Lake & Mendocino Building and Construction Trades Council represents about 20 affiliated unions, including the Operating Engineers, Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association and Northern California Carpenters Regional Council.
(News Researcher Janet Balicki contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)