Los Osos CSD election error could be a $70,000 mistake — and lead to a new vote

County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong is apologizing and taking “full responsibility” for a clerical error that has upended a newly filled seat on the Los Osos Community Services District Board of Directors and may result in a new election for that spot.

Gong said his office is working to correct the mistake that allowed Christine Womack to run unopposed for a two-year term on the board, a seat that should have been voted upon for a four-year term.

Because she was listed as running unopposed, Womack was appointed by the county Board of Supervisors on Nov. 6 at Gong’s recommendation. She was slated to fill a vacancy created caused by the departure of Jon-Erik Storm, who left this spring to deal with a family health matter.

To remedy the situation, the Board of Supervisors will consider rescinding Womack’s recent appointment at its Tuesday meeting.

Gong told The Tribune in a phone conversation that the Los Osos CSD Board of Directors then would decide whether to appoint a director to fill the two-year term that would last until the 2020 election or hold a special election on Nov. 5, 2019, the next established state election date eligible to hold the vote. Gong said a mail-in special election isn’t allowed under election procedures.

Gong said that the error won’t affect the race for two four-year seats, led by Chuck Cesena with 33.8 percent and Matthew D. Fourcroy with 28.2 percent, as of the latest tally on Friday. They are trailed by Stephen M. Best with 27.6 percent and Craig Baltimore with 10.1 percent. Whoever wins those two seats officially will assume the roles. Only 66 votes separate Fourcroy and Best as of Friday.

Christine Womack Courtesy photo

Gong “roughly” estimated that a special election in November 2019 could cost between $50,000 and $70,000, which would be borne by the county if held.

“I take full, personal responsibility for the error of misclassifying one of three Los Osos CSD’s seat as a two-year term when it should have been classified as a four-year term,” Gong said in a press release. “I recognize the impact and the gravity of the mistake and I deeply regret it.”

Gong told The Tribune that the CSD did nothing in its communications with the county that would have confused the issue.

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Chuck Cesena, left, is solidly ahead in the race for one of two seats on the Los Osos Community Services District, but candidates Matthew Fourcroy and Stephen Best were within 66 votes of taking a second seat as of Friday, with ballots still being counted. Courtesy photos

Gong said he reviewed the paperwork, and it was simply a clerical error for which steps will be taken to change procedures and prevent the situation from happening again.

However the next steps transpire, Gong said Los Osos CSD will remain on a cycle of electing three four-year candidates in 2022.

“While we can’t undo the mistake, we can correct it and ensure it doesn’t happen again,” Gong said in a statement. “I apologize to the Board of Supervisors and the Los Osos Community Services District: its board, staff, candidates and voters of the community.”

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