By Raiza Giorgi
After a months long campaign to oust Solvang Councilman Chris Djernaes, the voters of Solvang decided to do just that and replace him with former Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Thomas.
“Former member Chris Djernaes has only just seen what we, the people of Solvang, can do. Our next step is to inform the FPP of income and expenditures…That will be fun,” said Lam Johnstone, leader of the recall effort.
The unofficial results as of Wednesday morning of all precincts reporting were 2,372 in favor and 356 who voted against the recall as his term would have been up in 2022. The voters had to also replace Djernaes, and Thomas garnered 1,851 votes and Jaime Baker garnered 753 votes, according to Santa Barbara County Elections.
The recall effort stated in their filing paperwork that Djernaes’ actions and statements have shown “a blatant disregard for the Ralph M. Brown (Open Meetings) Act and the council’s protocols regarding simple rules of common courtesy.”
When City Council actions led to allegations of Brown Act violations and an investigation by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, Djernaes pressed prosecutors about who had reported the alleged violations, prompting a warning from the office. He is also still the subject of an investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for allegedly failing to report a personal loan in his campaign-related forms. As Noozhawk and the Santa Ynez Valley Starreported in January, Djernaes, whose full name is Niels Christian Djernaes, failed to report a personal loan on paperwork he submitted to the FPPC. Djernaes claims he was cleared, however the FPPC has not verified he has been cleared.
In a letter to Solvang officials, Deputy District Attorney Casey Nelson said people have “a fundamental right to complain about, and to, their government. They also have a right to be free from reprisals for doing so.”
Djernaes also walked off the dias earlier this year when a decision to renew the license for the Solvang Trolley was approved. During many council meetings when the public commented on various topics Djernaes could be seen laughing, rolling his eyes and/or not paying attention and on his phone or laptop, which prompted the public to ask him to pay attention.
Solvang voters also voted in Charlie Uhrig as the new Mayor of Solvang, who took 1,623 votes to current Councilwoman Karen Waite who only got 1,202 votes. Current Mayor Ryan Toussaint did not file for reelection after only serving one term.
The two council members elected were Mark Infanti who gained the most votes of 1,356 and Solvang Trolley owner Clau Orona who got 1,181 votes.
Official election results will be posted in the coming days.