Santa Rosa councilmember living in South America, officials left confused, frustrated

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- One North Bay city is dealing with something unprecedented, not to mention slightly bizarre. A Santa Rosa City Council member continues to serve her city while living in South America. Her absence is beginning to cause problems.

There's been someone missing on the Santa Rosa City Council. Julie Combs hasn't been there in person, she has been calling into meetings, but sometimes the calls get dropped.

"Councilmember Combs are you still with us? I think I heard her drop off the line," said one councilmember at a recent meeting.

One reason for the spotty calls could be that Combs is calling in from her part-time home in Ecuador, more than 3,000 miles away. People are starting to notice.

"I have major concerns when a city council member is living outside the city, county and country in Ecuador," said a speaker before City Council.

Councilman Ernesto Olivares says a vote on affordable housing projects had been postponed on Tuesday because it required Combs to be physically present.

"I'm hearing is that she's vacated her home and is out of the country, these items require our full attention," said Olivares.

Former Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley says by law combs can be away for 30 days at a time. But the job is more than Tuesday night meetings.

"You can call into the meeting but when It comes down to other required tasks, it can't be done, you have to be here to serve effectively," said Bartley.

Combs says she's still a resident of Santa Rosa. She posted a message on her facebook page saying:

"So much conversation about my personal life-- I own two homes, my primary is in Santa Rosa. My husband has had a medical issue for over a year that has greatly affected our situation he and I are currently at our second home here in Ecuador. "

Several neighbors say Combs moved out of her home last month, it's now for sale.

Combs also said on Facebook she's looking for a more affordable place to live in the area. She adds she will have more to say at the council meeting on November 19th.

Some locals don't know what to think.

"Especially with what's going on, fires, evacuations, power failures, you need to be here to see what people are thinking and experiencing," said Tracy Hinman who lives in Santa Rosa.

The city attorney will be investigating concerns about Combs' residency.

ABC7 News made repeated attempts to contact Julie Combs in South America but have not heard back.
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