Again and again, Registrar John Hodges said no. Then the Board
of Supervisors said no right back.
Hollister – Again and again, Registrar John Hodges said no. Then the Board of Supervisors said no right back.

The feud between the longtime official and his counterparts reached a temporary stalemate at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Hodges rejected supervisors’ requests to delay the hiring of two consultants for the November election – one being his son – to shop for the best deal. And the board followed up by postponing Hodges’ request for funding of up to $10,000 for a lawyer. He may sue the county, he says, because supervisors are trying to strip him of his authority over elections.

The end result: A lot of arguing and criticism during an hour-plus discussion in open session.

Hodges eventually got his two contracts approved, as supervisors acknowledged time is running out before the Nov. 2 election. The county hired Hodges’ son to oversee computer technology for the election and Sequoia Pacific to handle printing of ballots.

In the end, Hodges wouldn’t budge – and agree to solicit open bids for the two contracts – because he said he’s worried about time with only 48 days before the election. His office is under fire and under pressure to have a smooth election after being sued by the federal government for lacking resources for Spanish-speaking voters in the March election.

“They wanted to put a show on for the audience and the camera,” Hodges said of supervisors after the meeting. “That’s all they wanted to do.”

On several occasions during Tuesday’s meeting, supervisors asked Hodges if he could return in two weeks with quotes from other contractors – to show he made that effort. The two contracts total $165,000.

“That’s a lot of money,” Supervisor Ruth Kesler said.

Hodges said no each time. Aside from the time issue, he said both his son and the printing company – because of their expertise – would be hard to replace before Nov. 2.

“I’ve never had this problem before,” Hodges told supervisors. “I’ve been doing this for the last 20 years.”

Just a week ago, supervisors put off approval of the same two contracts because they wanted Hodges to explore the market. Hodges not only disregarded the request, but he also placed the two items right back on Tuesday’s agenda.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Hodges acknowledged he should have been upfront with supervisors that he had indeed obtained quotes for one of the consulting contracts. The subject matter caused much of the meeting’s debate.

After both the county’s head lawyer and administrator Susan Lyons advised them that Hodges had valid points about a shrinking calendar, supervisors approved the contracts. That was after a round of questioning and criticism of the registrar from three of four supervisors in attendance.

“We have asked for something, but we have been ignored,” Supervisor Bob Cruz said.

Supervisor Richard Scagliotti was absent. Supervisor Reb Monaco supported both of Hodges’ agenda items – including his request for money to pay a lawyer – from the outset of the meeting.

Supervisors Cruz, Kesler and Pat Loe initially indicated they wouldn’t approve the contracts without evidence that Hodges sought other contractors for the services. They at first rejected the contracts when Monaco motioned for its approval without the caveat about showing quotes.

“You’re telling us, ‘Trust me.'” Cruz told Hodges. “You’re standing before us saying, ‘Trust me. I know what I’m talking about.'”

But the board changed its mind and approved the $15,000 contract with Hodges’ son, computer specialist Mike Hodges. They also approved a $150,000 contract with Sequoia Pacific.

Supervisors agreed to hire the two consultants on the condition that Hodges could show he attempted to get cost quotes from other contractors. After Hodges returned minutes later with quotes he obtained, the board approved the items.

The eventual approval didn’t come without obvious frustration on the part of Cruz, Kesler and Loe.

Cruz, who leaves office at the year’s end, questioned why Hodges didn’t say anything about the quotes before the debate ensued. Cruz also took the opportunity to question Hodges’ prior statement that there hadn’t been any printing errors during the March election.

Cruz pointed out three examples of mistakes, including the printing company sending absentee ballots to voters before candidates’ statements arrived in the mail. Theoretically, that means some people may have voted without being fully informed.

After the board approved those two contracts, supervisors moved on to discuss Hodges’ request to obtain funding for a private attorney. Hodges didn’t think County Counsel Karen Forcum could represent him because she also serves the board.

“That’s affecting my job,” Hodges said, referring to the board’s future consideration of a resolution to pursue removal of his registrar title. “And you expect county counsel to do this, when she’s working for you?”

But in this particular case, supervisors are represented by their own outside attorney, so Forcum would be free to act as Hodges’ lawyer, the county counsel said during the meeting. She also said a deputy county counsel could be Hodges’ attorney

Still, Loe asked that supervisors postpone considering Hodges’ funding request, calling it premature because the board hadn’t voted on the resolution to pursue removing his authority.

“You really stirred up a hornet’s nest Mr. Hodges,” Kesler said.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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