Capitol Alert

Ag board member’s appointment moves forward despite conflict claim

Richie Ross, a political consultant and lobbyist who advises the United Farm Workers union, is shown here in his Sacramento office on May 28, 2003.
Richie Ross, a political consultant and lobbyist who advises the United Farm Workers union, is shown here in his Sacramento office on May 28, 2003. Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

Senate Democrats on Monday moved forward with the reappointment of Genevieve Shiroma to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, despite opposition from Republicans and growers who objected to her ties to a farmworker union lobbyist.

Shiroma, of Sacramento, paid Richie Ross, a Democratic campaign consultant who lobbies for the United Farm Workers union, for work on campaigns for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District board of directors. Agriculture interests embroiled in a longstanding dispute between the UFW and Gerawan Farming in Fresno County sought to block her reappointment, highlighting the connection to Ross in a social media campaign.

“Is this not a conflict of interest in your opinion?” Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, asked Shiroma at a confirmation hearing.

Shiroma said her campaign activities for the utility district and her role on the Agricultural Labor Relations Board “are separate and do not overlap.”

The Senate Rules Committee voted 3-2 along partisan lines to approve Shiroma’s reappointment, which will now be taken up on the Senate floor. Gov. Jerry Brown, a fourth-term Democrat, announced her reappointment in January.

Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, said the accusation that the UFW exerts undo influence on Shiroma or the agriculture board is “ironic,” given the influence that the Western Growers association, among other industry groups, wields at the Capitol.

“It feels a little like throwing rocks at glass houses,” she said.

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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