Supervisors rescind, redirect for new district maps at special meeting

OROVILLE — The Butte County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting Monday in light of concerns of possible Brown Act violations from its previous Nov. 22 special meeting regarding redistricting.

During the Nov. 22 meeting, Supervisor Doug Teeter motioned to throw out two proposed maps, one from outside firm Redistricting Partners and one publicly made one, in favor of having the consultant recreate some new maps for the board to consider. The action was approved 3-2 with supervisors Debra Lucero and Tami Ritter voting against the motion.

Because the vote was not planned in the meeting’s agenda, the county administration opted to hold an additional special meeting on Monday to give the supervisors a chance to rescind the decision and vote on it again, this time with a public notice for the vote.

“At the conclusion of the meeting, a number of actions were taken by the board with one of the actions being direction given to the consultant to create new maps,” said the related agenda report. “The board used a motion and vote to take this action instead of simply providing direction to staff, which would have been a cleaner action. While staff does not believe this to be a de facto Brown Act violation, out of a desire to be as transparent as possible, the action is being (put on the agenda).”

After some discussion, the board unanimously voted to allow Teeter to rescind the vote. Once the item was walked back, the board again voted 3-2 in favor of the now scheduled action as it had previously.

The conditions within the motion made by Teeter read as follows: “Two valley districts (a north and a south), a city split in Chico that includes school district lines, a split in Oroville that utilizes the Feather River, that Forest Ranch and Cohasset stay together, Cohasset and Forest Ranch may or may not be in the same district as the town of Paradise, north of the city of Oroville/Feather River shall be included in the town of Paradise District, consider public comment that has been received (including not dividing up Mechoopda), Chico may be divided up into four districts, Oroville may be divided into three districts and the district that the town of Paradise resides in may be underpopulated similar to what has been considered previously.”

Coming up with a new district map has been a rocky process. Concerns of Brown Act and Fair Maps Act violations, as well as accusations of gerrymandering, have been frequently discussed publicly and among the board during the meetings.

Local attorney Jim McCabe has been at the forefront of the accusations against the board and issued a letter to the county before Monday’s meeting.

The letter listed the actions McCabe believes to be in conflict with the Fair Maps Act.

“The discussion at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, November 22 made it apparent that several supervisors are operating under a misunderstanding of the California Fair Maps Act, and are inclined to adopt maps that would obviously fail to meet its requirements,” McCabe said in his letter.

Supervisor and board Chair Bill Connelly expressed his frustration with the accusations and told those who pushed back on Map 69836, a map proposed by Teeter, should be ashamed of themselves.

“Somehow, I have to listen to people at every meeting saying that the Chico districts are more important than the people in Berry Creek and Clipper Mills,” Connelly said.

Teeter had previously stated that he would be willing to defend the proposed map in court should it come to that.

“Our legislature makes laws interpretable,” Teeter said. “Unfortunately, sometimes it takes court cases to define what that is and I just want to throw that out there.”

Lucero asked Chief Administrative Officer Andy Pickett who would be responsible for an illegal map should one be produced using Teeter’s criteria to which Pickett said the county would be responsible.

There has yet to be a definitive case in regards to the relatively new Fair Maps Act, so there is still little in the way of precedent.

Lucero also said she was concerned about the cost to the county should litigation ensue.

“I think it’s a waste of taxpayer funds to move forward in this manner,” Lucero said. “I wish we were honoring public participation. When you have 500 comments and as much participation as we’ve had in the process disregarded by the board, it’s disappointing. Why should people participate if participation isn’t honored?”

The Butte County Board of Supervisors meets at 9 a.m. most second and third Tuesdays of the month at its chambers located at 25 County Center Drive, Suite 205 in Oroville. Meetings are free and open to the public. Those who are not fully vaccinated are required to wear a mask while in the building.

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