Starting this week, half the governing board overseeing the launch of Sonoma County's public power agency will consist of elected officials based in Santa Rosa.
The shakeup, driven by moves to fill Sonoma Clean Power's expanded eight-person board, will retain two Santa Rosa-based county supervisors — Shirlee Zane and Susan Gorin — and add two Santa Rosa city council members.
The central role Santa Rosa played recently in deliberations about the agency partly fueled the county's nominations, said David Rabbitt, the Board of Supervisors chairman, who chose Zane and Gorin for the county's two regular seats.
"I want to make sure we're all working well together, and I think we are," Rabbitt said of the power board.
Also set to be seated at the power agency's Thursday meeting are representatives from Cotati, Sebastopol and Sonoma.
On the sidelines, however — bypassed for any county role on the power agency board, regular or alternate — is embattled Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who has dropped out of public business since his July 13 arrest on suspicion of burglary and prowling.
The 32-year-old west county supervisor, whose case is in the hands of prosecutors, is undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse, according to his lawyer and advisers, and could be away from his job until mid-August. He has been a passionate advocate for the power venture, envisioned as a competitive and greener alternative to PG&E, the region's main electricity supplier.
Yet Carrillo now faces at best a marginal role guiding its launch, his first significant omission from county business and likely a bruising one because he had been highly involved in the initiative's formal development, starting with a county study three years ago.
With the legal cloud hanging over Carrillo — his next court date is Aug. 30 — and his extended absence from county business, Rabbitt said he had no other choice.
"While there might be other work that can wait, in this particular case, there is a need to have some consistency going forward as soon as possible," Rabbitt said. "It's not meant to be punitive. It's really meant to do what's best for Sonoma Clean Power."
In what could be an emotionally charged moment Tuesday, Rabbitt has planned to make a statement about Carrillo's arrest at the beginning of the Board of Supervisors meeting, the first since June.
"You can't just start the meeting and pretend everything is the same," Rabbitt said. "It's not.
"Going forward, I just want to say that this happened. It's not OK — it's tragic all around — and now we need to get to work," he said.
In the meantime, Zane and Gorin said they were pleased to have a significant say in the power agency's launch.
Zane acknowledged in greater detail Friday her behind-the-scenes role in arranging a last-ditch deal three weeks ago that paved the way for Santa Rosa's participation.
"We were strategizing over the weekend," she said, about a settlement that evolved in a July 7 meeting between power agency staff and Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley.
"I was being a real advocate for the program and letting (Santa Rosa council members) know that I would do everything in my power to have them join us," Zane said.
Gorin, who in June stepped down from the power board to make way for Windsor Vice Mayor Bruce Okrepkie, acknowledged the various factors at work in her abrupt return.