Two Nevada County District 3 supervisor candidates accused each other of mishandling events around the Dorsey Drive interchange project and traded other barbs and allegations in separate interviews with The Union.
Incumbent Terry Lamphier, seeking re-election to a second term in the June 3 election, said his challenger, Grass Valley Mayor Dan Miller, used public monies that were supposed to be for street and sidewalk repairs to finance the interchange project that will ultimately benefit a private developer.
“I have a problem with how Dan does business,” Lamphier said in a videotaped interview with the Union that accompanies this article. “He is just for the big guys, not for the community at large.”
Miller, however, said Lamphier never raised any questions about anything in the entire project until after Miller announced his candidacy for the county seat and that Lamphier’s spin does not reflect the reality of what was actually happening.
He said the interchange idea, in discussion for 40 years, leveraged monies that were in danger of being confiscated by the state to build what will be one of the most important transportation improvements in western Nevada County.
“This was all done in full public view,” Miller said in his videotaped interview. “If Mr. Lamphier would have been engaged, he would have seen it, but he was not.”
Miller, 66, a four-term Grass Valley city councilman and a small business owner, repeatedly emphasized his strong ties and dedication to the community and his abilities to partner with others as his reason for challenging Lamphier, whom he criticized as a poor communicator.
“I’ve been elected to city council four times because people trust me,” said Miller, who is a registered Republican but who says he is socially moderate and fiscally conservative. “They know where I stand and they know I’ll be honest and fair. And my record proves that to be true.”
He said Lamphier was “bitter” because he ran for Grass Valley City Council, but was never elected and was “fired” from the Grass Valley Planning Commission.
“It all comes down to representation, relationships,” said Miller in explaining his motivation in running for the county office. “What my record is and what I think I can accomplish and what the incumbent can’t — and has not.”
Lamphier was critical of what he alleged was misuse of public funds by Miller — not only at Dorsey Drive, but also in connection with a development around Nevada County Airport.
“This is the guy who used taxpayers’ money to sue the (Nevada County) Airport Commission on behalf of private developers?” said Lamphier, 65, a licensed contractor and a registered Democrat. “He didn’t seem to have a problem with that.”
Miller said a lawsuit was filed because it was necessary in order to establish parameters for making runway improvements required for safety issues around the airport.
“Not one dime of taxpayers’ money was used for that lawsuit,” Miller said. “The lawsuit was paid for by the Getty Trust, which owns Loma Rica Ranch.”
He said the project was also important because it will allow for a sewer system to businesses in the airport area.
Lamphier disagreed with Miller’s assessment of his accomplishments in office.
Lamphier said he has achieved numerous successes in bringing together residents and resources, such as extending a state bill for cottage industries into Nevada County.
The bill, which allows people to run a business selling home-cooked food out of their homes, stimulated the creation of between eight and 12 new county businesses, Lamphier said.
Lamphier said he also helped win a $50,000 grant for a feasibility study on building a biomass generator similar to one in place in Truckee.
Both candidates for the nonpartisan county position agree that attracting and creating better-paying jobs is the No. 1 priority in District 3. The supervisor’s position pays about $39,000 annually plus $2,000 more for the person who is appointed chair.
“This community is characterized by boom and bust cycles — that’s not a healthy way,” said Lamphier, who said he supports “sustainable economic development” and “smart growth.”
“We have a declining population, we have an aging population,” Miller said. “And we have a junior college sitting in the middle of District 3 that provides us with an educated workforce, but we don’t have any jobs for them.”
Both men are engaged in supporting high-speed Internet access, exploring biomass opportunities and in protecting District 3 natural resources, such as Empire Mine State Historic Park.
Both candidates support access to medical marijuana for people who are ill. Miller said he opposes legalizing marijuana for recreational use; Lamphier said he would support recreational use if strict controls could be put in place to prevent access for children and if the county could recoup tax dollars.
On campaign financing, Lamphier has already publicly responded to allegations of conflict of interest regarding a $5,000 contribution he received in September 2013 from Carol Young, developer of Rincon del Rio, an active senior community planned for South County.
As reported in The Union and as reiterated by Lamphier in the videotaped interviews, the county supervisors voted to approve the project in April 2013, five months before the contribution.
Lamphier said he voted in favor of the project because developers added features to make it what Lamphier said was “smart growth” — solar energy, river access, infrastructure and improvements.
Last summer, neighbors filed a lawsuit against the county seeking to stop the project; the lawsuit was settled in November, and the development is going forward.
According to Nevada County Counsel Alison Barratt-Green, the suit was negotiated by lawyers and the supervisors were not involved in any significant way.
Miller, in his videotaped interview, said he received the same offer but was not comfortable with the idea of accepting a $5,000 contribution from Young because it would make him feel “tainted” if he were elected supervisor and the project came before him later for modifications.
“I wouldn’t want to feel obligated,” he said.
Miller said Young mentioned the offer in passing at a barbecue on Sept. 29, but she never followed through.
Miller said he didn’t respond at the time but decided later that he wouldn’t accept it. He said he passed along the message that he would not accept the contribution through an “intermediary.”
Young, contacted in a follow-up phone call, said she didn’t recall making a contribution offer to Miller. She said she contributed money to the Nevada County Contractors Association political action committee and that they were free to make any campaign contributions they deemed appropriate from that amount.
According to Barbara Bashall, executive director for the Nevada County Contractors Association, Young contributed $7,500 to the political action committee, of which $5,000 went to District 4 Supervisor Hank Weston’s re-election campaign.
The committee did not make any contributions to Miller’s campaign, but they did host a fundraiser for Miller and are considering running some newspaper ads for him, Bashall said.
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.