Monday Nov 17 2008
Supe pays for charter plane trip
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Rockholm reimbursing county for $9,887 flight
Roseville-area Supervisor Rocky Rockholm has decided to reimburse Placer County the $9,887 cost of a charter flight he took from Utah and back to take part in a July meeting in Kings Beach. The flight had originally been billed to the county. The July 22 roundtrip flight between Provo, Utah and Truckee was criticized late last month by Wally Reemelin, president of government watchdog group the League of Placer County Taxpayers. Reemelin said he had heard about the charter flight from several people and received a copy of the bill, which was on a Board of Supervisors Office aide’s county credit card. The expenditure has never been taken up in open session. Rockholm had initially defended the flight, saying he was acting in the county’s best interests, sacrificed part of his vacation to attend the meeting, and was acting on the instructions of CEO Tom Miller and board Chairman Jim Holmes. He submitted a check for the full amount of the Stratos Jet Charter Services twin-prop plane ride late last week. Rockholm said he returned July 22 to take part in a board vote on a plan to reduce traffic to three lanes from four on Highway 28 through Kings Beach. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency board had voted 7-6 in June in favor of the four-lane alternative and Rockholm favored the three-lane plan. With all supervisors present, the board voted 4-1 in favor of approving the three-lane option. The meeting also saw Supervisor Bruce Kranz, the eastern Placer County district representative, removed from his appointment to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency on a 4-1 vote. Kranz had said he would vote against the three-lane plan at any future meetings of the Tahoe panel. Next year, Rockholm will serve as chairman of the board. He said with tough budget decisions to be made, he didn’t want to have his time at the helm clouded by the charter flight issue. Rockholm, who receives $30,000 yearly as county supervisor, said it hurt to take the large sum of money out of his personal savings. No campaign funds will be used to make up the expenditure, he said. “I thought about this and prayed with my wife over it,” Rockholm said. “In the end, I don’t need distractions if I have to make tough decisions.” Reemelin greeted Rockholm’s announcement — which came in the form of a letter to Placer County residents — with guarded satisfaction. “We thought it was the wrong thing to do,” Reemelin said. “And it was interesting that it was all unnecessary because Kirk (Uhler, Granite Bay supervisor) voted for three lanes.” Reemelin said he found it unusual that Rockholm would show so much interest in an issue so far removed from his South Placer district. “He’s representing his constituents,” Reemelin said. “How many care if there’s a three- or four-lane road in Tahoe?” Rockholm said that part of the reason he took an interest in the Kings Beach road issue was because he was raised in the community. “People knew what I was talking about when I said I could remember eating at Jimboy’s, which was in front of the Buckhorn Saloon back in 1956,” he said. In his letter to residents, Rockholm said that the Kings Beach meeting took place while he was on a pre-arranged family vacation. “It was the most significant infrastructure, cost and quality-of-life issue affecting the residents in 25 years,” Rockholm said. “The county and I believed that the issue warranted a full board to vote on such a major local issue, and I still believe that today.” Rockholm, a retired Roseville police officer, said that after finding out the cost of the flight, he realized the best thing to do would be to pay the amount back. “We have done a good job here in Placer County managing the challenges of a difficult economy — but that was a large amount of taxpayer money to spend on this kind of trip, regardless of the importance to Kings Beach and its residents,” he said. Rockholm said in an interview that he continues to learn “on the job” as a supervisor and feels he’s doing the right thing by reimbursing the county. “At the end of the day, I believe it will make me a better supervisor,” he said. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment at Auburnjournal.com.