Screenshot of Bongio from the Humboldt County Planning Commission’s Aug. 18 meeting.


Embattled Humboldt County Planning Commissioner Alan Bongio says he will step down from his longtime chair position at Thursday’s meeting, acquiescing to a recent request from the Board of Supervisors in response to racist remarks Bongio made during an August 18 hearing.

Reached by phone this afternoon, Bongio was terse, but he confirmed that he plans to step down and hand over control of the meeting to Vice Chair Noah Levy, the commission’s Third District representative. Bongio said he doesn’t know what the process will be to select the commission’s next full-time chair.

Bongio downplayed the drama of this latest turn in an ongoing controversy. “There’s not gonna be any big fireworks,” he said.

The agenda for Thursday night’s meeting includes a draft letter of apology to three Wiyot-area tribes — namely, the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria, the Blue Lake Rancheria and the Wiyot Tribe — for Bongio’s August 15 comments, which the letter calls “inappropriate” as well as “insensitive, racist, and biased.”

“The comments added to past injury and injustices resulting from governmental actions,” the draft letter continues. “We as the Humboldt County Planning Commission recognize we did nothing to address the problem in the moment and so are all responsible. We understand this has damaged the relationship between the Planning Commission and the Wiyot people.”

At the August 15 hearing, which concerned permit violations by local business owner and developer Travis Schneider, Bongio accused the local tribes of playing games and manipulating negotiations in talks about potential damage done to a designated archaeological site and tribal cultural resource on Schneider’s property. He made several derisive comments about “the Indians” and accused two of the tribes of reneging on an agreement, adding, “I have a different term for it but, you know, whatever.”

The Board of Supervisors formally censured Bongio by unanimous vote last month, and First District Supervisor Rex Bohn, who appointed Bongio to the Planning Commission nearly a decade ago, said that county staff had arranged for Bongio to participate in diversity, equity and inclusion training.

In today’s brief phone conversation, Bongio said he has read the draft letter and is prepared to talk about it Thursday evening. “We’ll have a discussion and if everyone agrees [with it] we’ll sign it,” he said.

Asked if he has any personal opinions about the language of the draft apology, Bongio offered a one-word reply: “No.”


DOCUMENT: Draft Apology Letter to Tribes