Efren Carrillo's return to work exposes challenges

  • Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, third from right, talks during a Roseland Annexation Subcommittee meeting at Santa Rosa City Hall on Thursday, May 8, 2014. Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, third from left, offered harsh comments concerning Carrillo's behavior and called for his resignation at last Tuesday's board of supervisors meeting.
    (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Two days after Shirlee Zane publicly excoriated Efren Carrillo and called for his resignation, the two Sonoma County supervisors sat across from each other Thursday at Santa Rosa City Hall, barely making eye contact.

At Tuesday's standing-room-only Board of Supervisors meeting, Zane told Carrillo he had "disqualified" himself from leadership because of his recent legal troubles and "ongoing disrespect and disregard for women."

Yet on Thursday, Zane and Carrillo sat an arm's length from each other in the Santa Rosa mayor's conference room for a meeting on the potential city annexation of county-governed Roseland. One of the few times they acknowledged each other was when they inadvertently started speaking at the same time.

"Go ahead," Carrillo said to Zane.

Thursday's meeting highlighted the unprecedented challenge the county's five supervisors face to conduct the public's business in a toxic atmosphere following Carrillo's trial on charges of peeking into the apartment of a female neighbor 10months ago.

Carrillo was acquitted April 28 on attempted peeking charges by a Sonoma County jury. In his testimony, he attributed his behavior to a mix of arrogance, alcoholism and his desire to have sex with a neighbor he barely knew.

His sharpest critics say he's unfit for elected office, and in lieu of his resignation are clamoring for the board to limit his role, including Carrillo's high-profile appointment to Sonoma Clean Power, the county's new public electricity supplier.

"This is one of the worst situations our county has faced in a long time, because it really is potentially disruptive to Efren, and the district, and the whole process of conducting business," said Cloverdale Mayor Carol Russell, one of several local officials who called on Carrillo to resign after the trial. "It puts a tremendous strain not only on supervisors, but on staff members as well."

Carrillo has steadfastly maintained he has no plans to give up his post.

"I was elected by the voters of the 5th District," he said. "Until they tell me otherwise, I'm not resigning."

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