By KAREN VELIE
San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill lashed out at Tuesday’s board meeting when he was told to end a discussion because it violated the Brown Act. Hill continued his rampage prompting Supervisor Debbie Arnold to cut off his microphone.
In response to a Tribune commentary that claimed the county elections office is making it harder for people to vote, penned by a political columnist who has worked for Hill, County Clerk Recorder Tommy Gong addressed allegations his office attempted to suppress voters.
In his column, Tom Fulks claims that Gong failed to implement state law, SB 450. The law requires elections officials forward ballots for other counties within eight days of the election, a change that Gong immediately implemented. SB 450 also provides county’s the option of requiring all mail-in ballot elections with vote centers.
Along with 14 other counties, Gong requested the option of implementing vote centers in 2018. However, after researching the requirements which included increased costs associated with infrastructure and manning polling stations for 10 days, Gong and nine of the 14 other county election officials opted not to implement the all mail-in ballot option in 2018.
“We are already at a 75 percent rate of vote by mail voters,” Gong said. “Voters can by all means request to be a permanent vote by mail voter. We have 138 polling places that we staff on election day, if you whittle that down to 20 then you have a much smaller percentage of those voters who show up on election day.”
Hill then accused Gong of having already made up his mind about the mail-in only ballot option.
In response, Gong asked the board to have the issue put on a future agenda to allow him time to examine the issue and create a report.
Hill continued to rebut, and County Counsel Rita Neal signaled to Arnold to stop the discussion. Neal then informed Hill that extending the conversation could result in a Brown Act violation.
Even so, Hill continued to argue his points while Arnold asked him to take a pause.
“You are being very disrespectful,” Arnold said.
“No, you are being reactionary,” Hill said.
“You are not being respectful of the process,” Arnold responded.
“This is not a Tea Party meeting, I am a colleague of yours. He started to speak, and I wanted… ,” Hill said before Arnold turned off his microphone.
Later in the meeting, the board voted unanimously to ask Gong to bring a discussion of the mail-in only ballot proposal back to the board of supervisors.