Fact 1 – Readers, see if you agree with me that Mr. Ellsworth secretly violated this part of his oath of office when he raised his right hand to promise all of us -- and himself that, “ … I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.”
To help you, read this excerpt from a letter from Spring Mountain Hotel LLC, the owner of the Las Alcobas Hotel in St. Helena detailing efforts by Ellsworth to try to interfere with the business relationship between the hotel and the Seventh-day Adventist Church regarding their arrangement on parking for hotel guests in the Church parking lot:
“It is therefore disheartening to learn that Geoff Ellsworth, an elected member of City Council, has recently taken active and intentional steps to interfere with the hotel’s personal and legal relationships with the Church. In particular, we have learned from a representative of the Church that Councilmember Ellsworth recently placed numerous calls to the Church and visited the Church in an attempt to terminate the hotel’s existing parking agreement and force the Church to discontinue working with the hotel.”
Spring Mountain Hotel went on to say, “This is not only an attempt by Councilmember Ellsworth to damage the hotel’s reputation and underlying economic viability, but also a clear violation of the ethical and administrative duties applicable to all elected officials under law“.
Fact 2 - Mr. Ellsworth violated my trust in him to take proper action as a member of the City Council. The City of St. Helena has a bond with that hotel -- just as it does with every other legally-permitted business in town. They jumped through hoops to warrant our approval and support . It was early on that we started to anticipate the fruit of our partnership when we estimated some Transit Occupancy Tax revenues from our partner, Las Alcobas.
Fact 3 - As a St. Helena business manager for over 40 years I would have little trust in our government’s promises with Ellsworth seated as Mayor. His action in this matter is certainly “anti-business.”
Fact 4 - Ironically, some years ago, as friends, when he was getting active in town issues, Geoff and I agreed to disagree on some things. We met in Dolci to try to figure out what that meant to each of us. I remember saying to him as we parted, “Geoff, it’s not a good idea to stick your finger in the eyes of our cash cows.”
Editor's Note: Geoff Ellsworth sent the following response:
Two weeks ago, an investigator from the state Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) in Sacramento informed me that a St. Helena resident, who is a donor and supporter of Mayor Galbraith's, filed a complaint against me for allegedly violating state Political Reform laws.
After reviewing my response and working with our city clerk to ensure all of my reporting obligations have been met, the investigator quickly informed me the complaint was rejected.
On Thursday, Oct. 4, I received an email chain referring to a June 2017 complaint, this one to our city attorney, recently circulated by Mayor Galbraith's supporters, including the person who filed the frivolous and rejected FPPC complaint.
This one alleges that by trying to resolve parking, traffic and safety issues on Highway 29 & Elmhurst, I intentionally sought to damage economic viability of the Los Alcobas Hotel and that I have violated my ethical and administrative duties.
The assertion that I attempted to terminate the hotel's parking agreement and force the church to discontinue working with the hotel is also false. I had reached out to the church at the behest of neighbors with concerns about safety and traffic impacts surrounding the parking plan, and to gain information about the church's plans to address the concerns.
In conversations with the City Attorney in the summer of 2017 regarding Mr. Bajwa's letter, it was clear this matter would best be addressed by a Council subcommittee, which has made recommendations to address those issues. The subcommittee was made up of Paul Dohring and Peter White.
So I caution readers to consider the sources of the attacks and the branding of me as "anti-business".
If I am elected mayor, I will continue to support local businesses, I will continue to seek to lower water rates for small businesses and residents by ensuring large industrial users pay their fair share and I will try to ease - not exacerbate - our traffic and housing affordability problems by being smart about the projects we review and the conditions we place on approvals.
And I will not allow the majority of well-meaning people in St. Helena -- residents and business leaders alike -- to be bullied by those few concerned only with their own self-interests without consideration of the impacts to our community.