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Efren Carrillo critics, supporters face off at Monte Rio forum


Critics and supporters of Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo squared off Wednesday night in the first of three public meetings organized by his foes and focused mostly on whether the embattled west county supervisor should remain in office.

Most of those who spoke amid the crowd of about 40 people inside the Monte Rio Community Center were in favor of Carrillo stepping down or, if need be, his recall by voters. They said Carrillo had disgraced his elected office and lost their trust when he was arrested this summer in the early morning hours outside a Santa Rosa woman’s home.

Efren Carrillo.

Efren Carrillo.

“It’s very sad for me that we have someone like this as an elected leader,” Forestville resident Lois Stopple said.

Many of those in the audience were longtime political foes of Carrillo, who faces one misdemeanor charge of peeking in the July 13 incident. Others indicated they were newly minted critics. The event was hosted by a citizens group with members who have been vocal advocates of Carrillo’s ouster from office and the moderator was former Supervisor Ernie Carpenter, whom Carrillo beat in the last election.

Carpenter stressed that his role didn’t amount to an endorsement of the organizers, who have another meeting planned tonight in Sebastopol and a third in Santa Rosa next month.

“I’m not a convener,” Carpenter said. “I’m here to make sure we have peace.”

Though outnumbered, several Carrillo supporters made their presence and opinions known.

Guerneville resident Jim Rossi was the first in the audience to grab the microphone and he gave a spirited defense of the 32-year-old, second-term supervisor, calling him one of the brightest officials in local government. Carrillo’s resignation or recall would do the county and his 5th District a “disservice,” Rossi said.

“I’m not discounting the activity that he was involved in,” he said of the supervisor’s arrest on prowling and felony burglary allegations. “But we don’t want to put a big bull’s-eye on all of our public officials. Because they’re all fallible.”

Carrillo’s district director, Susan Upchurch, and Margarita Carrillo, his mother, both attended but did not speak.

The gathering spanned more than an hour and featured a largely open-ended discussion — derailed at times by several west county activists — about opinions of Carrillo’s arrest and what his constituents wanted to happen next.

Carrillo did not attend, saying again Wednesday that his ongoing legal case prevented him addressing his gathered critics and constituents.

“My decision to not attend the forum was specific to the items that they want to discuss,” he said. “At this time I don’t have the freedom to discuss that matter.”

The meeting came a day after Carrillo announced that he will resign his executive leadership post with a statewide organization that represents counties.

In a written statement, Carrillo said his decision rested largely on the shooting death last month of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy and the “community challenges” the tragedy had brought to light. Those issues will demand his focus in the next year, he said.

“Sonoma County and the Fifth District are my first priority,” he said in the statement.

Several sources who were at the annual meeting this week of the California State Association of Counties, however, questioned whether Carrillo had the support to remain on the organization’s board. One suggested he announced his move before that became clear in voting Wednesday.

Another source at the meeting said he thought Carrillo could have retained his seat had he sought to do so.

The sources spoke under condition of anonymity because of the sensitive political nature of the issue.

Carrillo was elected last year by fellow supervisors to serve as second vice president of CSAC in 2013. He was in line for the first vice president seat next year and, in 2015, the CSAC presidency.

The organization lobbies for county governments at the state Legislature, and before administrative agencies and the federal government.

Before July, Carrillo was seen by many as a rising star in the state Democratic Party. Bolstered by a commanding re-election victory, his eyes were on a seat in the state Legislature. His arrest scuttled those plans and led him to be passed over for a leadership post on Sonoma Clean Power, the new public electricity provider.

Stepping down from the CSAC post “wasn’t what I had planned,” he conceded Wednesday.

“I’m still going to be participating in some fashion on some committees or hopefully even on the CSAC board in the future,” he said by phone while en route to visit family members Wednesday and Thursday in the South Bay. “But at this point, the 5th District and county priorities, that is my steadfast commitment.”

At the meeting in Monte Rio, however, his strongest critics said he was unfit to remain in office.

“We do expect more of our politicians,” said Susan Keach, a Guerneville resident who identified herself as a county employee. “I, for one, would like to see him recalled.”

Others accused Carrillo of seeking political advantage by being unnecessarily tight-lipped about his case.

“There’s absolutely no reason he can’t come and talk to us tonight,” said Occidental resident Pieter Myers. “Don’t let anyone kid you; he’s hiding behind his lawyer’s coattails.”

Carrillo, asked earlier in the day for a response to that allegation, declined to comment.

At the end of the night, some at the meeting wondered if a decision on a next move would ever be made. It is now more than five months after Carrillo’s arrest, with his next court date set for Dec. 13. He has yet to enter a plea.

“Our discussion about emotional odds and ends isn’t going to lead anywhere,” said Leslie Warren of Guerneville. “At some point there has to be a very specific action, something focused and concrete.”

Organizers said they are still in listening mode.

“Tonight wasn’t for making a decision,” said Alice Chan, a Sebastopol resident and spokeswoman for the group Citizens for Accountability, which has organized the meetings.

A makeshift “ballot” asked attendees two ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions: whether they thought Carrillo should resign or be recalled. The results and speakers’ comments would be provided to Carrillo, organizers said.

“Tonight was for hearing how people felt, hearing their concerns and whether they think something ought to be done,” Chan said.

The Sebastopol meeting Thursday is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Grange Hall. The Santa Rosa meeting is 6:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Finley Center.

You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett.wilkison@pressdemocrat.com.

10 Responses to “Efren Carrillo critics, supporters face off at Monte Rio forum”

  1. Kay Tokerud says:

    Just like Michael Allen’s crimes caught up with him, Efren will never be able to shake off what he has done. The internet will see to that. I guess he’s just trying to finish his term and get that high salary a little longer. I doubt he will ever be able to win another election. His background is one of entitlement, his parents came here illegally, got a free house from Habitat for Humanity and he was elected as a 20 something. His crimes are definitely worse than Michael Allen’s, violent crimes are the worst crimes as people get hurt. White collar corruption is all around us and hopefully some, or many of them will be weeded out. We desperately need courageous whistle blowers who are willing to take the hit of retaliation from the wrongdoers. That is true patriotism.

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  2. Papa ESoCo says:

    Well, as a recipient of Carrillo’s “gift”, I am enjoying all the back and forth among the different factions; reading this forum has been an extraordinary learning experience. Always had some rather vague understanding of the corruption in the County, and of some of the “Power Brokers” behind it. Thank you, “Captain Underpants”, for helping to wake this voter up.

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  3. Laura Gonzalez says:

    @ Bonfigli “They also had a leader violating laws–much more serious violations…”

    Michael Allen’s violations were worse than what Efren Carrillo has been accused of? REALLY??? That statement only shows how you VISCERALLY HATE Michael Allen, even after he’s out of office.

    He recommended the Santa Rosa City Council update the general plan in a way that allowed for possible development of Sonoma County Water Agency property. He was fined $3k, $2k less than the maximum.

    That’s NO comparison to prying a screen back on a woman’s window, while standing outside her bedroom in his underwear and socks.

    Please leave your FEMINIST card at the door as you leave.

    BTW, I think it’s amusing he still has this power over you.

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  4. “Haters,” Mr. Webb?

    I continue to be absolutely amazed at just how freely yet unmellifluously that disparaging term flows from your brain to your keyboard and, ultimately, makes its way onto these comment boards.

    Funny how you like to turn things around, since it is I who detect a stunning amount of both anger and “hate” in your poorly worded, mispunctuated and grammatically incorrect posts.

    That you would resort to such a Gestapo tactic to label those of us in this community who wish to hold Efren Carrillo accountable for his reprehensible conduct which has brought nothing but dishonor, shame and disrepute to Sonoma County, as well as the Democratic Party, speaks volumes about just where your priorities – and your personal values – lie.

    Rather than attempting to give Efren even the most minimalistic amount of well-intentioned advice, you and others continue to vilify, disparage and attack those of us who have the courage to speak out.

    Rather than registering even the slightest complaint about his unacceptable conduct, you and many of Efren’s “friends” continue instead to enable him.

    If I were Efren, I’d be asking myself the question: With “friends” like these, why change at all?

    What I observed the other night was not “hostile thoughts and actions,” but several concerned citizens – many of whom I have never seen, let alone met – who bravely took to the mic and voiced their opinions and concerns in unmistakable language in an attempt to make their feelings regarding Efren’s two arrests in ten months, as well as the attendant reprehensible conduct which he displayed which led to those arrests, known.

    I applaud them heartily for doing so.

    No, Mr. Webb, I have lived in this county for my entire life — 52 years –am a fourth-generation resident of Sonoma County and am a LIFELONG resident of the Fifth District. And, guess what? I’m not going anywhere.

    Also, I am not in anyone’s back pocket – no matter how hard you try to put me there. Quite frankly, I don’t HAVE to be in ANYONE’s back pocket. Sorry if that disappoints you.

    Yes, Mr. Webb, there are those among us who value honor, responsibility, accountability and availability to constituents as essential prerequisites for any candidate who wishes to aspire to public office. And it goes without saying that those who are lucky enough to actually win an elected position should try to emulate those qualities without compromise once they are sworn into office.

    By the way, you might consider taking a beginning spelling and punctuation class, as your posts contain many unnecessary and irritating punctuation, grammatical and spelling errors.

    Have a great holiday, Mr. Webb.

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  5. @Bonfigli says:

    Uh huh.
    Except you ignore that there are two factions in Santa Rosa and two political machines and therefore two sets of power brokers. One set is the North Bay Labor Council and they are not headquartered on MacDonald Ave. They also had a leader violating laws–much more serious violations–in the recent past yet the same people who now are out raising hell over Carrillo and self righteously calling for a recall were busy doing a cover up for their guy Michael Allen. People do need to get involved but certainly not with the corrupt unions. A third group is needed here . One not interested in contacts related to public employees nor private garbage monopolies.

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  6. Sebastopol Marty says:

    Must of been a great love fest of all the Efren Haters in Sonoma County! No thanks !No dog and pony show for me by West County Progressives.Hope they all feel better after this venting of hostile thoughts and actions. Sorry Tom and Alice and Boss 3 more years than you can really get worked up!Hope you all have a great holiday.

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  7. @elephant says:

    Gorin didn’t have an endorsement but there’s no cause and effect or link as you are drawing because the PD under it’s prior owners had a policy of not making endorsements.

    And by the way, Gorin is the only supe to suggest that the solution to the shooting of a 13 year old kid in SR was to raise taxes. Seriously! Gorin is not exactly a problem solver on this issue.

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  8. Elephant:

    Well stated. But I have to add a few things.

    Perhaps Carrillo has given us all a “gift” by engaging in such reprehensible conduct and getting arrested twice. The Gift? Maybe now, the citizens of Sonoma County will take more time out of their lives to get involved in the political process and give candidates who aspire to higher political office the scrutiny and “going over,” as they used to say years ago, that they deserve.

    Let’s send a message to those in office that the fact that a recall of Carrillo is even being considered puts them ALL on notice that the kind of conduct which has been exhibited by Carrillo and his supreme arrogance and outright evasiveness in dealing with the subsequent public outcry will no longer be tolerated and that truth, responsiveness, responsibility, ethics personal conduct and accountability are going to be necessary prerequisites for future officer holders in this county.

    Despite what the “power-brokers” on McDonald Avenue want us to believe, in the end, it’s up to us, the voters, to make our voices heard and our feelings known during the campaigns – and, ultimately, at the ballot box.

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  9. Elephant says:

    Coral – There’s a reason for that. They generally can’t get a fair chance to get elected to office in Sonoma County.

    Those would would be selfless public servants get shafted in the media because those of the status quo that really runs this county behind the scenes don’t want them in office. Their accomplishments are disregarded and non-issues blown up into mountains. They get attacked by special interest groups with hidden agendas. And the press never goes after them.

    Meanwhile, those with less than stellar credentials (cough Carrillo cough) get their weaknesses hidden and rare accomplishments embellished. Anyone want proof? Susan Gorin is the ONLY person on the BoS who got elected without a Press Demo endorsement.

    And give me a thumbs down if the truth hurts.

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  10. Coral says:

    The pickens are mighty slim when it comes to selfless public servants who set a standard for others to follow.

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