Bid to recall Sonoma County prosecutor qualifies for ballot
SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) — A recall campaign against Sonoma County’s district attorney that is being bankrolled by a wealthy developer she prosecuted over his company’s actions during a deadly 2017 wildfire has enough verified signatures to qualify for the ballot, officials said.
Developer Bill Gallaher has spent nearly $800,000 as the lone donor to recall District Attorney Jill Ravitch, according to the latest campaign finance reports, the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa reported Wednesday.
Gallaher launched the recall effort in October 2020, a week after Ravitch announced she would retire when her term ends in 2022. He says she is unfit for elected office.
“We launched the recall campaign against Jill Ravitch because it is critical that we have steady, competent leadership overseeing public safety in our county,” Gallaher said in a statement. He did not respond to an interview request.
Ravitch and her supporters say the recall is Gallaher’s bid for political vengeance.
Prosecutors accused Gallaher’s development company, Oakmont Senior Living, and two affiliated companies of abandoning about 100 residents with no means to evacuate themselves during the Tubbs fire in 2017.
The civil complaint also accused the companies of failing to prepare staff to evacuate residents during emergencies and not notifying relatives about the status of their loved ones during the fire.
“At the end of the day, this recall attempt is about one simple fact: Bill Gallaher is mad we held his business accountable,” Ravitch told the newspaper.
Recall supporters gathered more than the required 30,056 valid signatures, and an election could be held as soon as mid-September. It will cost taxpayers at least $600,000, Sonoma County Registrar of Voters Deva Proto said.
The campaign has cited a range of complaints that Gallaher and others have made about Ravitch’s decisions as the county’s top prosecutor, including issues of inequality, injustice and fire safety failures.
Ravitch called those suggestions unfounded and said she was prepared for a smear campaign full of “lies and half truths.”
The recall campaign began less than two months after one of the Oakmont Senior Living affiliates paid $500,000 to settle the case.
In 2018, Gallaher’s firm reached a separate settlement with the state over similar allegations stemming from an investigation of actions by managers and staff at two of the facilities in Santa Rosa during the fire.
Oakmont Senior Living officials acknowledged staff members at the two care homes abandoned elderly and infirm residents as the flames closed in on the pair of facilities, leaving relatives and emergency responders to rush in and evacuate those left behind.