The county’s director of Emergency Management took his family on an ill-advised trip to a closed beach this weekend, and worse yet, posted the photos to Facebook to ensure maximum public outrage.
"All Sonoma County parks are closed until further notice" declares the County of Sonoma regional parks website in large font at the top of the page, in light of last weekend’s swarmed beaches along northern California coastal parks that flouted mandatory social distancing measures. Sonoma County director of Emergency Management Christopher Godley was surely aware of this, considering it’s an order that “he himself had recommended,” as KSRO reports. But he and his family visited one of those shuttered parks anyway on Saturday, then very unwisely posted photos of the encounter to Facebook according to a report in the Press Democrat. “Road tripping up the coast. Beautiful drive and nice views. Family beach time together. Grateful for fresh air and the ocean,” he reportedly wrote in the self-kompromat social media post.
The pitchforks have come out for Godley since the Press Democrat broke the news late Sunday afternoon. “I own this,” Godley told the paper. “It was a day off for my family. Any reasoning or justification is going to sound thin.”
Making things all the more awkward, Godley appeared on the “KSRO Liveline” on Sonoma County's News Talk radio station on Sunday, some five or six hours before the news broke, to discuss the very restrictions he and his family just violated. In a somewhat telling remark, he told the station, “In many ways, it’s not just the logistics of living apart, but the psychology that we’re going to have to address long-term to remain a healthy and whole community.”
The incriminating post is no longer on Facebook, and for that matter, Godley’s Facebook account now appears to either be deleted or no longer public. But the reputational damage is done, and has sparked a debate in that coastal county up north over privilege and public accountability.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” said county supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose district includes that coastal park. “In county government, we need to lead by example. We can’t possibly expect the community to hold themselves accountable if we don’t hold ourselves accountable as well.”
Yet one of her fellow supervisors is taking the unusual stance that people in such positions deserve the opportunity to flout their own rules. “I want my top people who are responding to this crisis to be of sound mind, body and health,” Supervisor David Rabbitt told the Press Democrat. “And if that means going to the coast to feel better, I’m all for it.”
In two years on the job, Godley has historically maintained an excellent reputation thanks to his efforts in the massive horrible floods of 2019, and the Kincade Fire last October that coincided with PG&E blackouts. The guy’s shown steady competence at dealing with disasters that Mother Nature created, now the region will see how he does with disasters of his own making.
Image: Stepheng3 via Wikimedia Commons