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Contra Costa mulls ban on appointing kin

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 at 2:08 pm in Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics.

Shall we call it David’s Law?

Contra Costa County supervisors Federal Glover and John Gioia are recommending a ban on the appointment of supervisors’ relatives to board-appointed panels. (See my colleague Matthias Gafni’s story here.)

The David is David Piepho, soon-to-be-former Discovery Bay Community Services District member and husband to Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho.

David sought — unsuccessfully, as it turned out — a board appointment to a small cemetery district board in East Contra Costa County, a post that would have allowed him to retain his post on the powerful Local Agency Formation Commission.

Given the highly charged political atmosphere around this appointment, it was highly unlikely that Mary Piepho’s colleagues on the board would have ever appointed her husband to the cemetery district.

And whether one agrees or disagrees with the wildly disparate assessments of David Piepho’s value as a public servant, it may seem unfair to penalize the relative of an elected official who wants a role in public service.

But as my mom used to say, “Life is not fair.”

On balance, a ban on the appointment of supervisors’ relatives to county boards is a good thing.

Government should and must take extraordinary care to avoid the appearance of favoritism.  There are many, many ways for the relatives of supervisors to serve one’s community beyond that of a county board seat.

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  • Reilleyfam

    That this is already not completely illegal is a disgrace. Nepotism is so out of control everywhere but should be allowed in govt. What someone does in their private business (however disgusting) is their own business but in govt it should never be allowed. Poor David being denied his passion to serve the people – Yeah Right!

  • John W

    A ban on appointing relatives does not unfairly deprive anybody of the opportunity to serve. They can always run for office, as Mary Piepho’s estranged brother has done successfully and as David Piepho previously did.

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    For the next BOS Meeting, I suggest the Inspirational Thought – “All’s fair in love and war.” -Francis Edward Smedley, 1818-1864

  • RF

    Maybe now John Gioia and Federal Glover can go back to telling me where I can and can’t smoke and how I should eat.

  • Common Tater

    Let’s grab the the horse’s mane for a dose of reality here. Are we being lead to believe that the Board of Supes was surprised that David Piepho was actually married to Mary Piepho? Did the Piepho family try to pull a “fast one” out of sight and under the table?

    NO and NO. Mary and David both acted honorably and with full disclosure. There were no hidden deals. There was no subterfuge. Nothing was done to “sneak this through.” It was discussed before the full Board of Supes, who then acted with astonishment that David was actually married to Mary. What hypocrites they are!

  • Danville Dave

    The Piephos got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Disgusting!

    The original “appointment” was buried in a zillion consent items and if not for the editorial no one would have been aware. Even worse, the original posting for the position did not have a deadline posted and at least one hopeful candidate was turned away BY MARY’S OFFICE!

    The Piephos had a plan that they did their best to keep quiet and they put the BOS in a tough position.

    The Piepho Plan failed – David Piepho is off LAFCO and Mary Piepho has shown her true stripes to the public, county staff, and BOS colleagues for what she is; honor and full disclosure are not part of it.

  • Johnnie

    Tater “tot” ~ Both David and Mary acted like foolish little children who whined not getting their way. The public display shown by them was so distasteful it cries for both of them to publically apologize for not only embarrassing the entire BOS but every person in East County too. They would have been better off just not speaking at all.

    The outcome of this issue sets the stage for future attempts at a free LAFCO seat. If David truly wants to help his wife and the community he can continue as a volunteer just like hundreds of others do. Of course, there may be no monetary gain or political power but if he is genuine this will not matter. We shall see.

  • ted ford

    I think it should be banned in Washington too. There were too many nepotism appointments in recent years: Mary Cheney at the State Department, Colin Powell’s son at the Federal Broadcasting outfit etc.

  • Common Tater

    “…appointment was buried” BS! It was in plain sight. The BOS are supposed to know the agenda AND the consent calendar. And their staff people are supposed to inform them of any issues which they did

    “a zillion consent items” – a bit of an exaggeration don’t you think?

    The Piephos are decent people. Honor and full disclosure are absolutely a major part of it. I guess such concepts are hard for some people to recognize.

  • John W

    Re #8 Ted Ford

    Good luck on that one!

    The two examples you mention — Michael Powell at the FCC and Mary Cheney at State — are especially egregious, in that they were highly influential positions handed out to people who lacked relevant credentials other than family connections. Powell really mucked things up at the FCC.

  • John W

    Oops! I think we both meant Liz Cheney. Also, I confess Liz did have some meaningful background for the job. I just can’t stand her politics. I stand by what I said in reference to Michael Powell.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Yeah, I hereby move for the posthumous impeachment of JFK for his appointment of his brother as Attorney General.

  • steve weir

    Ooops, # 12, No bills of attainder allowed, or bills of ex pose facto under the Constitution…Art. I, Sec. 9 (3)

    So, no bills after-the-fact-and no bills to punish an individual…

  • ted ford

    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/22/opinion/the-sons-also-rise.html?scp=1&sq=krugman+%2522elizabeth+cheney%2522&st=nyt

    This an interesting piece on nepotism during the GWB period. Both the Cheney girls got jobs, but that was just a small part of the picture

  • Common Tater

    Well dang! When I get to be president, I’ll be sure to ignore my friends and family and select only my enemies to all appointive positions.

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  • Johnnie

    The issue here is not so much the actual appointment of a family member, but the result of doing so. This appointment would have had no alternate affect if it was for a dependent advisory seat or council. Since it is an appointment to a special district that allows for a qualification of another seat (LAFCO) a totally different agency, the question is if there was intent to deceive in order to receive more than just the Cemetery seat. In this case it is obvious what the intent was. When the truth surfaced, the reaction by the people was extremely negative. I think if the Cemetery seat did not qualify David Piepho for the LAFCO seat, there would have been far less public criticism. The course of events chosen by David and Supervisor Mary Piepho leading to the review and following the review, created an embarrassment for both the Piepho’s and the Board of Supervisors. The end result was open, honest, and fair. We can thank the rest of the Board of Supervisors for acting on behalf of East County citizens. Finally, Yes, “David’s Law” or “David’s Policy” would be appropriate and a legacy for him. Not to be proud of, but it would clear the air for the future of which could be considered positive.