In its briefest meeting in two years, Solvang City Council members Monday evening passed a resolution which officially brought an end to Chris Djernaes’ tumultuous term and recognized former Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Thomas as his successor.
During the 10-minute meeting, City Manager Xenia Bradford announced she had received official results of the Nov. 3 election last week. They showed 2,878 (87 percent) of the 3,312 votes cast on the recall issue supported Djernaes’ ouster. Thirteen percent (434) votes were opposed.
The council voted 3-1 to accept the results, with outgoing Councilman Daniel Johnson dissenting and Djernaes absent.
Thomas, who bested candidate Jamie Baker 2,282 votes to 876, was sworn into office, and quickly stepped up to the dais.
Djernaes handily won his seat in 2018 and fulfilled campaign promises including bringing to task city administrators and contractors. While sitting on the council, Djernaes was an outspoken advocate for a city administration restructuring which resulted in the replacement of the city manager and city attorney. Under his tenure, the council also dissolved long-standing contracts with the Solvang Conference and Visitors Bureau and restructured its relationship with the Solvang Chamber of Commerce.
The recall was instigated by citizens who, among other things, claimed Djernaes disregarded the Ralph M. Brown Act — the state law requiring governments to do the public’s business in public — and violated the council’s code of ethics, as well as ignored the will of the voters.
City Attorney Chip Wullbrandt told the council Monday that the Secretary of State’s handbook on local agency recalls requires potential recallees have the opportunity to respond to allegations.
“It mentions that very few recalls go past that point because typically the recallee, on hearing concerns of citizens who elected them, will at least make an effort to correct their ways or explain their ways, and in this instance … the recallee sort of doubled down on that activity that the citizens had complained about,” Wullbrandt said.
The petition also cited Djernaes' support for developing the 7.1-acre Old Lumberyard parcel as well as repeated incidents lacking common courtesy, perceived acts of mockery and disdain for citizens, defamation, bullying and harassment.
Djernaes regularly focused on his laptop or cell phone during council meeting public comments directed his way, practiced name calling and propelled heated discussions on a variety of topics from budget struggles to horse-drawn carriage licensure. He walked out of a summer council meeting after a 10-minute diatribe, then returned the following meeting to say he’d fight the recall to the end.
Djernaes claimed the recall effort outspent him and used unfair tactics in the campaign. He claimed supporters vandalized his car and his campaign signs and “a small army of people ran around saying all this crap.”
The council will next convene for a special meeting Dec. 7. The new council members will be sworn in Dec. 14 including Mayor-elect Charlie Uhrig and council members-elect Clau Orona and Mark Infanti.
In this Series
- 15 updates
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.