Second Recall Launched Against Bruce Gibson

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

February 1, 2024

San Luis Obispo County Dist. 2 voters have filed a second Notice to Recall County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, after the County Clerk-Recorder ended their first bid when they failed to meet deadlines set for the process.

The second notice was filed Nov. 28 and Marlea Harmon signed the affidavit attesting that’s she’d personally served Gibson with the recall notice at the County Government Center.

In the Notice the recall proponents claim Gibson has abused his authority in several ways:

• He got rid of “effective County Administrator Wade Horton, and replaced him with a crony and political contributor” who subsequently left office amid allegations of improper conduct towards women;

• Turned his back on the Dist. 2 voters “by spearheading repeal of the 2021 redistricting maps to return to 2011 boundaries that do not comply with the 2019 Fair Maps Act “but ensure his safe re-election.”

• Gibson “exhibited contempt for property owners who live on fixed incomes and rely on the protections of Proposition 13;

• He favored the interests of Sacramento over San Luis Obispo County voters;

• He violated the Brown Act on multiple occasions obfuscating transparency and suppressing public comment;

• He has been silent about the bribery and extortion and corruption of deceased Supervisor and political ally, Adam Hill, as well as: the County’s mushrooming County Employee Pension debt, totaling nearly $12 billion; and,

• Gibson worked hard to hand special interests control over water rights harming the County’s small farmers.

This is a screen shot of the home page of a website dedicated to the recall of Dist. 2 County Supervisor Bruce Gibson.

Those claims are nearly identical to the first set of claims filed last October adding just the part about the Interim County CAO being run out of office “amid allegations of improper conduct towards women.”

That issue references the sudden firing of Interim CAO, John Nilon last November after he was accused of acting inappropriately with women in his office. “After an investigation of improper conduct toward women in violation of the County’s policy against discrimination and harassment,” reads a Nov. 17, 2023 new release from the County Counsel’s Office.

Supervisors discussed the allegations against Nilon in Closed Session on Nov. 14 and he turned in his resignation the next day, and under his contract he actually gave a 30-day notice. 

But after a Nov. 17 Closed Session discussion, he was immediately terminated.

Board Chairman at the time, Dist. 1 Supervisor John Peschong, said, “Our policy is clear and adherence to it is mandatory by all employees. The County has a zero-tolerance policy for any violations.” 

“The County,” he continued, “is committed to providing a work environment where everyone is treated with respect and professionalism. We expect all employees to adhere to the policy and expect our CAO to exhibit the best judgment when dealing with employees in the workplace.”

Peschong is no longer board chairman and Gibson is currently serving in that capacity.

In Gibson’s immediate response to this second Notice to Recall he again claimed the recall effort was illegitimate.

“This is an illegitimate use of a lawful public process but I’m not surprised these highly-partisan, election-denying activists would try this again, given their track record,” he said.

He lists four arguments against the recall:

• They Gerrymandered the district and lost anyway;

• After I won, they demanded a recount and failed;

• They then refused to fully pay the County Elections Office for that failure, and still haven’t paid;

• They failed again at their first ill-considered recall attempt; and,

• They continue to peddle debunked election fraud conspiracy theories.

He goes on to claim that the recall is being led by two of the candidates he defeated in 2022. “Two of the candidates I defeated in 2022 are fronting this effort,” Gibson’s response reads. “Their spokesman in that election promised a dirty campaign against me, and these allegations are more of the same. This petition notice is full of distortions and lies, exactly like the losing campaign they ran against me in 2022.”

He called the recall petitioners “a small group of MAGA fanatics” that were peddling falsehoods, “and are abusing the Constitutional process. It’s just what they do.”

With the renewed effort at recalling the now fifth-term Supervisor, County Clerk-Recorder, Elaina Cano issued a new timeline for the recall to follow. Cano halted the first recall effort when the petitioners failed to meet deadlines for filing paperwork.

The process is well along already as several early deadlines have already passed and presumably been met this time.

Indeed, the process is already entered the 120-day signature gathering period, which Cano has set a May 2 deadline to turn in sufficient signatures of registered voters to qualify for the next available ballot, which would be November’s General Election. That’s the same election Cano had designated for the first recall if it had succeeded in qualifying. 

And if Dist. 2 voters are concerned for their Supervisor’s future, there’s good reason to be because the recall petition, as well as any recall vote that makes the ballot, won’t be decided by the current Dist. 2 voters.

In 2022, Gibson ran for his fifth term in office under a new Supervisorial District Map, which had been approved in 2021 by the Board of Supervisors. 

That 2021 map dramatically changed the district boundaries, and Gibson’s safe district on the North Coast was carved up to remove Los Osos and Morro Bay from the district and include Atascadero, part of Templeton and San Miguel in the new boundary. 

Morro Bay was moved into a new Dist. 3 along with about half of SLO and Los Osos was moved into a new, rather oddly shaped Dist. 5 that included Nipomo, and the southern and eastern edges of the County. 

That map meant the traditional Dist. 2 towns of Morro Bay, Los Osos, Cayucos, Cambria and the west side of SLO were no longer together. It also took away the right to vote for Supervisor in 2022 from Los Osos, Morro Bay and a large portion of SLO.

Nevertheless, Gibson won the Primary in a crowded field and took the runoff in November 2022, winning by just 13 votes. A call for a recount was started but soon ended when the County wanted to charge the proponents over $30,000 to do the recount.

Nevertheless, Cano tried to charge them anyway and the matter is likely headed to court.

Also, in Dist. 3, appointed incumbent Dawn Ortiz-Legg, who was appointed to the seat by the Governor following the 2020 suicide of Supervisor Adam Hill, faced voters in the old Dist. 3 that included Pismo Beach, Avila Beach, Grover Beach and part of SLO. Hill had won re-election in March 2020 so Ortiz-Legg had to run using the old District boundaries.

So the voters of the new Dist. 3 under the 2021 map didn’t get to vote for Ortiz-Legg or one of her opponents but were scheduled to vote in Dist. 3 this year, when the seat naturally comes up for election.

But the second map change in 2023 took that vote away too and now, Ortiz-Leg, who is back running in the old district boundaries, is unopposed and will get a walk-over win to a full 4-year term. So too will Dist. 1 Supervisor John Peschong, but there are two people vying for the Dist. 5 seat, after incumbent Debbie Arnold decided not to run again.

After the 2022 Elections, the Supervisors, with a new liberal majority, immediately moved to overturn the 2021 redistricting map, even though it had already been used for an election cycle, which they won, and return to the old district boundaries.

That political shell game meant that the towns in the 2021 Dist. 3 and 5 — Morro Bay, Los Osos and SLO — had their right to vote for County Supervisor taken away a second time, this time in order to overturn what the Board majority admitted was “Gerrymandering,” a confession that Gibson has repeated with his response to the recall notice.

However, under State Election Laws, the voters in that 2022 Dist. 2 election — including Atascadero, Templeton and San Miguel — who elected Gibson, are the only people who can sign the recall petition, giving them the potential to shape the Board and possibly flip the majority.

And if this petition drive is successful, they will also be the ones who decide Gibson’s fate. This even though he no longer represents the majority of those voters.

Voters in Cayucos and Cambria can also sign the petitions and will vote in a recall, as they were part of the 2021 Dist. 2 map.

Recall proponents have a website with information posted on it, see: for information.

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