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Politics, not as usual, at BoCC meeting

This year’s county commissioner races are heating up, with allegations of rumors being spread and questions about the propriety of a commissioner running for reelection while serving as chair of the board.

Comments from audience members at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of County Commissioners addressed rumors revolving around the current election season for two members of the board.

Two commissioner offices are up for grabs in this fall’s election, with incumbent Democrat Clifford Lucero vying against Independent Mike Hayward for the District 2 office and Republican Steve Wadley running unopposed for re-election in District 1.

The remarks came during the public comment period at the beginning of the BoCC’s regular Tuesday meeting.

Jennifer Burck was first up to the mic during the public comment section, asking Wadley if he had been spreading rumors about Hayward.

After County Attorney Todd Starr cautioned the board against addressing the comment in the forum of the BoCC meeting (where, he said, individual commissioners do not exist and the board acts as a whole), Burck then addressed Whiting, noting that she had heard Whiting was the “driving force” behind the Hayward campaign.

In response to a question by Whiting, staff said members of the board could address rumors as a whole, but cautioned against addressing specific rumors at the time.

Though Whiting did not address the rumors at the meeting, he provided SUN staff with a written statement he had prepared to read at the meeting, in which he wrote, “I had a feeling this question might come up.

“But I don’t want to spend too much time on it.

“I have heard that rumor, among others:

“I also know who is spreading them.

“I immediately spoke with Clifford. Weeks ago.

“I informed Clifford that the rumors were false,

“And he told me that they had not originated from him. Case closed.

“I know and respect both Mike and Clifford.

“I am not supporting or helping either candidate for County Commissioner.”

Whiting’s statement continued with a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln that calls rumors “lies” and says “Rumor-mongers like these folks are liars, and cowards.”

In response to the comments made at the meeting, Wadley too offered a comment to SUN staff, extending an offer to meet with Burck to discuss the allegations made.

“I’m happy to meet with her and see what was said. I don’t recall saying anything and I don’t know what she’s talking about,” Wadley said. “It’s obvious, given both her questions, it has to do with the contested commissioner race.”

Hayward, however, told SUN staff that he was approached by an elected official he declined to name and was told that he should rethink running for commissioner, with Hayward adding that the elected official said Hayward would be seen as “Michael’s lackey.”

“It’s really sophomoric,” Hayward said.

Hayward said the rumors of Whiting’s involvement are not true and that, while he was probably one of Whiting’s biggest contributors, Whiting has distanced himself from Hayward’s campaign.

Next up to the mic on Tuesday was Vivian Rader, who asked if there had been a reorganization of the board due to Lucero’s running for re-election while sitting as chair of the BoCC.

Lucero responded that he wouldn’t comment on the matter, while Starr noted that the board was required to reorganize in January, and that he saw no conflict of interest with Lucero taking on both roles.

In an interview with SUN staff, Lucero said he was elected as board chair by the board and will continue in the post until next January, when the board is again reorganized.

Lucero added that he believes he is doing a, “good job and works hard.”

Lucero also chimed in on the topics of rumors, saying, “It’s an election year, and rumors are rumors … It’s going to be interesting, let’s put it that way.”

randi@pagosasun.com

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