Nguyen Criticizes Nelson for Political Aide’s Commission Appointment

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County commission appointments usually happen quietly.

But that wasn’t the case this week, when county supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson nominated his top political aide, Denis Bilodeau, for such a slot.

Supervisor Janet Nguyen publicly took issue with his appointment to the Housing & Community Development Commission on Tuesday, saying a similar effort she made was snubbed.

Nguyen said after the vote that she’s “very supportive” of Bilodeau but “I’m just uncomfortable with the general idea of appointing board staff to commissions or [committees], as this has never been our practice here and could create some issues.”

“A few years ago I planned to appoint one of my staff to a commission, but I was informed by two of my colleagues that I should not do so, because other county staff might inadvertently perceive the viewpoints of board staff to be the same as the viewpoints of the supervisor they work for,” she continued.

“Since then we have never made it a practice to appoint board staff to county commissions or committees,” Nguyen said.

She asked to be recorded as abstaining from the vote.

“So noted,” Nelson replied.

The rest of Nguyen’s colleagues were apparently comfortable with having Bilodeau serve on the commission. He was appointed 4-0.

Bilodeau is a well-known figure in local political circles.

In addition to working as Nelson’s chief of staff, Bilodeau is a city councilman in Orange and a board member for the Orange County Water District.

Before the vote, Nelson said Bilodeau volunteered for the commission post.

“Housing and working on this homeless issue … is very important in our district,” Nelson added.

Orange County’s affordable housing programs are largely centered on vouchers that low-income people can use to subsidize their rents.

Those rental subsidies, often called Section 8 vouchers, are described by the federal government as helping “very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.”

It’s unclear from the county Housing Authority’s website whether the county is currently accepting applications.

In recent years, the gaps between application periods have lasted up to seven years.

The 11-member Housing Commission advises the county on its affordable housing and homeless prevention efforts as well as projects under the state’s now-defunct redevelopment program.

Bilodeau would serve on the commission until the end of June 2015.

The next Housing Commission meeting is scheduled for March 27 at 10 a.m. at the county Hall of Administration. The agenda should be available here a few days before the meeting.

Please contact Nick Gerda directly at ngerda@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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