Bad Blood

Supervisors don’t hide their disagreements

By Howard Schmidt
May 2023

Many matters before the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors result in unanimous consent. But the current five-member board sometimes finds itself divided.

The board is nonpartisan, but observers expect Phil Serna to position himself on the left of issues, while Sue Frost anchors the right. Patrick Kennedy is seen as a reliable liberal. Rich Desmond and Pat Hume are considered moderates.

Within those ideological perspectives, cracks occur.

Earlier this year, the supervisors were asked to declare an end to the COVID-19 emergency. The request came from the county’s public health officer based on guidance from California’s Department of Public Health. The federal government is calling the pandemic quits, too.

The board could have adopted the declaration without fanfare.

But two supervisors couldn’t resist expressing views about the crisis that disrupted so many lives and killed more than 3,600 local residents.

Frost, a frequent critic of measures imposed in the pandemic, voiced disdain about events since 2020. She called it a “catastrophic crime against humanity.”

During lockdowns, Frost teamed with then-Sheriff Scott Jones at a gathering attended by opponents of the health emergency. Jones expressed reluctance to use law enforcement to enforce the lockdown. Frost, a former nurse, also voiced concerns about the need to vaccinate.

When the supervisors were asked to declare the pandemic over, Frost said vaccine shots did more “damage” than the disease itself.

Serna couldn’t let that pass without challenge.

Declaring he “believed in science,” Serna challenged Frost’s “bogus info.” He praised county health professionals for actions in the emergency, and claimed many more lives could have been lost.

The rest of the board stayed quiet.

In a brief silence between Serna and Frost, Hume ended the tense exchange by acknowledging it was time to say “bye” to the pandemic.

The vote was unanimous.

Other divisions surfaced when the board was asked to adopt a resolution honoring “Transgender Visibility Week” that called for the county to work “towards equity and representation to improve the lives of transgender individuals.”

Serna made the proposal and listed it as a consent item for action. Consent typically means unanimous approval, but Frost asked the clerk to record her as the lone “no” vote.

Customarily for resolutions dealing with special occasions, all board members appear together to present the adopted resolution. Not this time.

Frost stayed in her seat as her four colleagues joined the presentation.

That raises the question, has there really ever been collegiality among these board members?

Howard Schmidt worked on federal, state and local levels of government, including 16 years for Sacramento County. He can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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