To hear Deanne Dalrymple tell it, Oakdale farmers Louis Brichetto and Bob Frobose are a couple of bullying “frauds” who are opposed to the attempted recall of Linda Santos from the Oakdale Irrigation District (OID) Board of Directors for purely personal reasons—Frobose because he’s Santos’ business partner and friend and Brichetto because he hopes Santos will help him obtain OID surface water for his out-of-district almond orchards.
Dalrymple, an Oakdale businesswoman, made or implied these claims when she spoke at last Friday’s specially scheduled OID board meeting, called for the sole purpose of reversing a vote taken on the regularly scheduled meeting held Tuesday, March 21.
That meeting, the board voted 4-1 to investigate allegations that people who signed petitions calling for the recall of Santos were told the petitions were protests against sending OID surface water south. Bob Frobose presented the board with evidence of false pretenses and four people offered public testimony that they had been duped into signing the petition.
At Friday’s meeting, two more people claimed they had been lied to by people hired to gather signatures. One district resident, Mike Moon, said that when he asked what the petition was really about, the man with the petition “turned bright red” because he knew he had misrepresented the petition. Moon said his partner had already mistakenly signed the petition because he’d been misled about its purpose.
Dalrymple claimed that she’d been told by someone at the Registrar of Voters that people gathering signatures “can say anything” and that it’s up to people who sign the petitions to know what they’re signing. “It says ‘Recall of Linda Santos’ right at the top of the petition,” she said. She added that petitioners had collected 660 signatures, and that many people couldn’t possibly have been fooled.
Bob Frobose, who along with Louis Brichetto is involved in a lawsuit against OID on an unrelated matter, has an altogether different take on the recall.
“They were having trouble getting enough signatures and for about three weeks the recall came to a halt. Then they suddenly started getting signatures again by telling people the petition was against sending water south. They intentionally confused people,” he said Friday.
Frobose says he sent OID Attorney Fred Silva evidence to compel OID to investigate the recall and on Tuesday the board agreed to look into the matter. However, by Friday board members Steve Webb and Gary Osmundsen had changed their minds. Frobose said he was especially puzzled because he had emailed even more evidence to Silva on Wednesday. “There’s more than enough evidence to compel an investigation,” said Frobose Friday.
But for at least the last three years, OID’s default position has been to treat any claims by Frobose or Brichetto as anathema, evidence notwithstanding. Board members have even barred Santos and fellow board member Gail Altieri from some closed sessions because of suspicion they might agree with Frobose and Brichetto on issues involving board policy. Hence, the vote Tuesday was a surprise to most everyone, and especially Bob Frobose.
“I didn’t really expect the 4-1 vote,” said Frobose, “even though there was plenty of evidence.” Frobose said Friday’s reversal was an outcome he’d actually expected Tuesday, but added that the board should have been made aware of the additional evidence in support of an investigation.
Citizen commentary at OID board meetings has gotten increasingly contentious and personal, and last Friday Deanne Dalrymple even likened Frobose to a stubborn dog with a bone he couldn’t let go. But if anything emerged as a hard fact from OID’s two meetings last week, it’s that some people signed the recall petition because they were lied to. That fact should concern anyone with proper regard for the democratic process, regardless of their position on the recall.
About The Author
Eric Caine formerly taught in the Humanities Department at Merced College.
He was an original Community Columnist at the Modesto Bee, and
wrote for The Bee for over twelve years.