Charges of ‘smear’ don’t change truth |

Charges of ‘smear’ don’t change truth

On Friday, Sept. 24, The Union published a lengthy editorial outlining why it believed Bruce Conklin’s role in the North Star House project – both before and after he left office as Nevada County supervisor in 2003 – was improper.

The reason we felt the need to do so is that Conklin, who is running again for the Board of Supervisors from District 3, not only denies any appearance of conflict of interests, but has said he is proud of orchestrating a grant of more than a half-million dollars for the Nevada County Land Trust in a hastily scheduled Christmas Eve board meeting, and then within weeks accepting a job managing the project – for which he was paid at least $66,000.

Since then, critics have responded by claiming The Union is engaged in a smear campaign because it doesn’t want Conklin elected. He is anti-growth, they say, and the newspaper is pro-growth.

However, if The Union wanted to criticize Conklin for his views on growth in Nevada County, it would do so explicitly. The truth is, no candidate in this county can run on a platform of unfettered housing development; Conklin stands out only in his chutzpah in claiming to be the sole candidate who can moderate growth.

No, Bruce Conklin isn’t the victim here. Nor is the Nevada County Land Trust, in spite of its president’s assertions that The Union is being unfair in its pursuit of answers to legitimate questions. The real victims, rather, are the citizens of Nevada County and North Star House architect Julia Morgan.

The Union editorialized in early 2003 that this sorry episode eroded the public’s trust in government. Further evidence in recent weeks has only reinforced that belief. (All of The Union’s stories and editorials are fully documented, despite critics’ statements that “they aren’t true.” Many can be found at

We are concerned that – despite encouragement from Dryden Wilson’s lawyer that the Auburn man’s estate be used for preserving open spaces in Nevada County – the Land Trust was restricted to using the money for Conklin’s pet cause, the North Star House, although the trust’s mission is for “protection and enhancement of trails, parks and open space.”

We are concerned the trust hired a controversial political figure such as Conklin as a project manager, even though the trust’s job description called for someone who would “adhere to the apolitical, non-adversarial philosophy of the Nevada County Land Trust.”

We are concerned about evidence that Conklin’s project management may jeopardize the true historic preservation of a home designed in 1905 by Morgan, California’s first woman architect.

We are concerned at the belief of many citizens that this behavior is acceptable because there is no actual evidence – so far – of illegal collusion, or because Bruce Conklin’s heart was in the right place, or because the cause was noble.

On behalf of the people of Nevada County and out of respect for Dryden Wilson and his truly generous gift, The Union will continue to press for a full accounting of every dollar of the $508,000 spent on the North Star House project.

There is a word for what Conklin and the Land Trust did: “cronyism.” Accusations of “smear” can never challenge The Union’s belief that cronyism is as wrong in Nevada County as it is in Chicago’s Cook County, no matter which end of the political spectrum engages in it.

It is for this reason that The Union does not believe Bruce Conklin deserves to be returned to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.

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