, Mountain Democrat
From page A5 | December 29, 2014 |


Last Tuesday, Kirk Smith accused the Board of Supervisors of putting the cart before the horse by moving prematurely on a contentious courthouse land swap with the Briggs Family Trust prior to the state completing its EIR. Other proposed courthouse site alternatives exist; however, your supervisors have a clairvoyant crystal ball allowing them to magically predict the outcome of the state’s future site selection. Supervisor Ron Briggs recused himself while whining he has nothing to do with his father’s Ray Lawyer Commercial Subdivision, where the county/state plans to build a courthouse. Ron let most of his speculative parcels surrounding the future courthouse go into foreclosure last year. Both Briggs have their houses up for sale; Ron’s is in foreclosure.

Why would the county split off a portion of the jail property at 300 Forni and swap it prematurely with an inferior, lower-value, landlocked parcel deep in the proposed Briggs subdivision? That’s a secret backroom decision made by the board recently in closed session with Ron. With John Briggs’ land option quickly expiring on Dec. 18 and his son, Supervisor Ron Briggs, soon exiting the board, the Briggs family is desperate for a government-funded bailout that doesn’t raise too much public scrutiny — a deal with no apparent dollars passing hands on the surface.

The public was easily bamboozled by an agenda item with no millions attached to it disguised as “Boring Land Swap” — yawn! Then Board Chair Norma “Cha Cha Cha” Santiago strategically sized up the small crowd and sneakily changed the hearing time of this contentious agenda item from its scheduled 4 p.m. afternoon time to 9:30 in the morning, 6.5 hours earlier, thereby short circuiting any detractors planning to show up and speak against this shady deal at 4 p.m. Santiago was previously scolded in a letter from the State AOC on Oct. 7, 2010 for favoring only one courthouse site — the Briggs site.

By swapping for a landlocked lot at the back of Briggs subdivision, the county/state is now committing to spending millions of your tax dollars to build the massive subdivision infrastructure, frontage and off-site improvements benefitting John Briggs’ subdivision, as well as tens of millions of Highway 50 and Forni Road improvements, something Briggs couldn’t afford on his own. When the county has completed building the infrastructure, Briggs will merely record his final map, sell his six remaining commercial lots and reap the multimillion dollar reward — thank you taxpayers!

It becomes a massive transfer of taxpayer wealth from the county/state into John Briggs’ pockets. The devil is in the details as the millions being spent come later, as referenced in the county’s Aug. 28, 2012, letter to the state Office of the Courts where the county discusses spending millions of dollars on the road and infrastructure to build the Briggs Subdivision.

Sue Taylor accused the board of the Courthouse project being driven by recently fired CAO Terri Daly and how the board illegally approved the extension of the Briggs land option last year without the necessary four-fifths vote. She also accused the county of not following its own development rules and allowing 85 percent of the site to be graded, causing massive visual blight not addressed in the county and state’s EIR.

The county is prematurely pushing one project alternative in the EIR to benefit the Briggs family and Smith accused the board of having the final verdict before the trial. The site has no approved site plan, no EIR, nor financing approval from the state, and the site must still be approved by several state agencies. The county should have waited for a complete EIR.

To summarize a previous speech given by Mr. Smith to the board, “You knew it was wrong and you did it anyway.” Taxpayers should not be funding a Briggs family bailout. We know what happens when you build a courthouse on a poor and morally corrupt foundation.

Diamond Springs

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