Free Lance Editorial: Investigation needed into allegations over fire contract

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Hollister Councilman Doug Emerson has alleged that he and a city employee were threatened by political consultant Rick Rivas that his brother, Supervisor Robert Rivas, might flip his vote and oppose a $1.1 million annual fire contract with the city unless Emerson did a political favor – namely, prompt cancellation of a San Juan town hall meeting held in April over the matter.

Emerson says he refused. In fact, Supervisor Rivas did change his vote, denying Hollister the contract. That allegation, if proven, could potentially involve serious liability. Charges of political corruption erode trust in government by an already cynical public. For the unnamed city employee, refusing to cooperate could result in a contract loss, possibly costing the person his or her livelihood.

These charges throw a dark cloud over the contract selection process and the Anthony Botelho-Arturo Medina race for supervisor. Rick and Robert Rivas are campaigning for Medina, and Emerson claims the political favor involved the demand to cancel a public meeting that theoretically could have boosted Botelho’s favorability.

Say “San Benito County,” and too many old-timers in Northern California – based on our history – immediately think of political corruption. More than a few of the problems we suffer today are attributable to the old notion – real or perceived – that former, local politicians in a then-small and close-knit community were out for personal power and wealth at the public’s expense. We cannot go there again, and that is why these allegations must be taken seriously and investigated promptly and thoroughly.

We call on the Hollister City Council to demand a full investigation by the appropriate authorities and a formal pledge by the board of supervisors for full cooperation.

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