Calaveras County Planning Commissioner Kelly Wooster, who has been under fire for a comment in which he suggested that “people from Mexico” are an “invasive species,” will stay on the commission, the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors decided Thursday.
Some county residents as well as the powerful California Latino Legislative Caucus had called for Wooster’s removal over the comment at the March 3 commission meeting.
Technically, the board of supervisors took “no action” according to a report by board Chairman Cliff Edson after the board emerged from an almost two-hour closed session. Wooster was not even named on the agenda for the special meeting, which was called only just a little more than 24 hours ahead of its start at 9 a.m. Thursday.
But everyone in the room, including several Wooster supporters, knew that he was the subject of a meeting on the possible discipline or dismissal of an employee. California law allows public elected bodies to go behind closed doors to discuss certain personnel matters, including the discipline or dismissal of employees.
Several of Wooster’s supporters, including fellow commission member David Tunno, spoke during a public comment period before the board withdrew into its closed session. No one spoke in favor of removing Wooster.
Tunno said during the public comment period that Wooster’s knowledge of legal issues and fine reasoning have had an enormous impact on improving the draft general plan that the commission has considered in recent months. He said he believes those who oppose Wooster’s philosophy on land use “see an opportunity to change the composition of the commission to suit them.” He called the uproar over Wooster’s comments a “PC lynching,” a reference to the term “politically correct.”
“I ask that you not cause a precipitous drop in the average IQ of the commission by removing our best asset,” Tunno said to the board.
Mokelumne Hill resident Antonie Worster also praised Wooster’s contributes on the commission. “He’s had some very brilliant ideas.”
Vicky Reinke, chairwoman of the Calaveras County Republican Party, said she does not believe that Wooster’s comment was racist. And she warned about election year hysteria influencing local politics. “If you remove him based on what is going on, who will be next?” she asked.
Although Edson reported that the board took no action, he also read aloud a proclamation that he said the board drafted to address Wooster’s comment. Edson said the proclamation will be considered for approval at the next board of supervisors meeting on Tuesday.
The proclamation says that Calaveras County “welcomes” all people without regard to age, sex, race or ethnicity. It also says that the Board of Supervisors “recognizes that Commissioner Wooster’s comment was inappropriate and should not have been said.”
Edson went on to read an analysis that noted that Wooster apologized and that, in the board’s view, his service record has been otherwise exemplary. The proclamation states that the board “will retain” Wooster. It also says the board will take “additional steps” to address intolerance including sensitivity training for county personnel and appointees.
The proclamation won applause from the Wooster supporters who were present.