“What people are looking for is common sense, and someone who values the people and history of Solvang,” said former S.B. County sheriff Jim Thomas after announcing his intent to run for Solvang City Council should Chris Djernaes be removed from office in a forthcoming recall election.
Thomas, who has lived in the valley since 1990, retired as Santa Barbara County Sheriff in 2002. He has remained politically active since then, running unsuccessfully for county supervisor in 2002 and for sheriff again in 2006. Recently, he worked with Exxon as a consultant on the AERA East Cat Canyon Oil Field Redevelopment Project.
This time around, Thomas is hoping to replace Councilmember Chris Djernaes, who was presented with a recall notice Tuesday night. Official paperwork was filed Wednesday afternoon according to City Manager Xenia Bradford.
“He has failed to maintain the essence of Solvang,” Thomas said, adding that he thinks Mayor Ryan Toussaint and Djernaes are trying to take away the charm of the community: “Carousels, Ferris wheels, street fairs … That’s not Solvang as I see it.”
Thomas specifically cited the project proposed by developer Ed St. George that would have removed the much-beloved Veteran’s Hall and replaced it with a European-style plaza. The proposal met with some serious outrage, even sparking a rally protesting against it. In response, St.George has revised his project, presenting a new proposal that would leave the Veteran’s Hall untouched.
Djernaes failed to respond to a request for comment regarding the recall as of Friday.
While Djernaes and Mayor Toussaint have butted heads in the past regarding etiquette and behavior during meetings, they both have voiced support for St. George’s original proposal, with Djernaes even apologizing to St. George after the public outcry against his proposal.
The recall effort cites what it claims are Djernaes’s repeated disregard for public opinion, his disrespect for city staff, and his “blatant disregard for Ralph M. Brown Act,” California’s law governing open meetings.
The recall notice also states, “Djernaes’s failures to be respectful and civil include, but are not limited to, his obvious disdain of constituents; mockery of speakers at City Council meetings; blatant disregard for the wishes of the voters; disrespectful remarks directed toward both current and former City Council members; frequent defamation of organizations and individuals; and bullying and harassment of a number employees of the city of Solvang both inside and outside of City Council meetings.”
At a June meeting, Mayor Toussaint was forced to repeatedly tell Djernaes “You need to stop,” while Djernaes continued to argue with a resident. The resident replied quickly, “See, this is why you’re getting recalled.” Additionally, he was heard apparently referring to residents’ comments as “nonsense.”
This is not Djernaes’s first official reprimand. In August of last year, Djernaes was chastised by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office for seeking the source of a complaint regarding a violation of open meeting policies.
“I don’t see why it’s not possible,” Lam Johnstone, the organizer of the citizen-led effort said. “I have never seen this place so angry. I mean, they’re fed up.”
The recall election is slated to occur in tandem with the November ballot.
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