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For more than two weeks since Jan. 12, and Shasta County Supervisor Leonard Moty’s surprise motion during the board of supervisors meeting, there has been keen anticipation to learn the answer to two questions: Would a majority of the board vote to censure supervisors Patrick Jones and Les Baugh for their misbehavior on Jan. 5 and 6, or not? Would Baugh and Jones’ unlawful actions cause them to suffer the consequences of board censure, and with it the public acknowledgment of their peers’ formal disapproval?
During Tuesday’s board meeting it appeared that most people were under the mistaken impression that the censure vote would take place that day, and by “people” that includes the supervisors, local media, and dozens of members of the public who delivered many hours’ worth of live and recorded comments both for and against censure, as well as scores of emails.
Shasta County Counsel Rubin E. Cruse was perhaps one of the few people who didn’t expect a censure vote Tuesday. More about that in a second.
Members of the public and supervisors alike spoke passionately for and against censure with various reasons offered by both sides.
One group of citizens applauded Baugh and Jones, and defended them as heroes and patriots. They were not in favor of the pair being censured Tuesday.
“Sometimes you have to break the law to make a point,” said one speaker during Tuesday’s public comment period in support of Baugh and Jones.
Yet other speakers described Baugh and Jones as bullies and common criminals who disregarded the rule of law.
“They’re throwing tantrums like petulant children,” said a woman in favor of Baugh and Jones’ censure. “Those who usurp the rules must be held accountable.”
The cliffhanger motion first arose during the Jan. 12 board meeting where Supervisor Moty expressed his disapproval of Baugh and Jones’ decision on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 to defy a 3-2 Dec. 15 board resolution that had voted to close board chambers for in-person meetings because of a rise in Covid-19 cases.
On Jan. 5, Baugh used his county security pass to enter the chambers and then open the doors for fellow rule-breaker and colleague Jones, as well as members of the public and media.
What made the pair’s public disregard of the Dec. 15 board resolution even more noteworthy was Jan. 5 was Jones’ first day in office as a supervisor since his November election ousted incumbent Steve Morgan, one of the trio of Dec. 15 votes that had previously carried the majority rule for the closed-chambers ruling.
Then, as if the Jan. 5 act of defiance wasn’t audacious enough, Supervisor Jones did a repeat performance the following day during a special Jan. 6 meeting that ironically was scheduled to vote on the repeal of the Dec. 15 resolution. The vote passed in a 3-2 vote.
With Supervisor Morgan voted out, on Jan. 5 Supervisor Chair Joe Chimenti suggested the matter be revisited with a motion to repeal the Dec. 12 closed-chamber resolution. Jones and Baugh were happy to join Chimenti with yes votes to approve the resolution repeal with a 3-2 vote. Supervisors Leonard Moty and Mary Rickert delivered the two dissenting votes.
But an even bigger issue for Supervisor Moty was his belief that Baugh and Jones’ actions of defying a closed-chamber board resolution were wrong, and deserved serious consequences. He recommended the pair be formally reprimanded with censure, and that a board vote be taken during the next board meeting. Supervisor Mary Rickert agreed, and seconded Moty’s motion.
“I’ve had a number of people who have continued to contact me and ask me how we could allow two board members to overrule the will of the board in December, prior to any kind of vote to change, to open up our board chambers,” Moty explained prior to his Jan. 12 motion.
“And so I agree. If we allow two supervisors to overrule the majority of the board, then why do we even have board meetings, and why do we even have votes?”
With that, on Jan. 12 Moty asked county counsel Cruse to put an item on the Jan. 26 agenda to consider censure of Baugh and Jones, and other related actions that counsel deemed appropriate and available options for board members.
But despite all the anticipation, when the time arrived during Tuesday’s meeting to address the topic of censure, confusion reared its head. County counsel Rubin E. Cruse arrived to the meeting armed with a wealth of information about censure, and myriad board options regarding censure, as well as related variations available for the board to vote on another day.
Another day?! That’s right. Cruse said the censure vote would not happen that day.
It was as if someone invited you to a Jan. 26 dinner and you arrived in anticipation of a particular meal, but instead of a meal, your host showed you a menu of what you could have for a future meal. Not what you had in mind.
As such, Cruse served his expansive menu of four censure options, also provided in a memo to staff and supervisors.
• No. 1 is a resolution that censures the county supervisor.
• No. 2 is a resolution that does not censure the county supervisor, but still expresses the board’s disapproval of that county supervisor’s conduct.
• No. 3 is the removal of a county supervisor from an officer position, such as chair or vice chair.
• No. 4 is the removal of a county supervisor from any committees to which the county supervisor is assigned, or reassigned to other duties.
• No. 5 is referral to the Grand Jury for possible removal from office by accusation.
“The board may be able to exercise any one particular option, or a combination pending on the circumstances,” Cruse said. “So, for example, the board could censure a county supervisor and remove county assignments.”
Cruse added that although censure is the expression of the opinion of the majority of the board, should it happen, that action doesn’t prevent the censured supervisors from performing official duties. A censured supervisor, said Cruse, would still have the ability to vote, and to speak before the board and to the public.
“In short, he keeps the full range of rights and prerogatives that come with having been publicly elected,” Cruse said.
Cruse said consideration of the censure would occur in open session, and that any supervisor subject to the resolution would be served with a copy of the resolution and board report before the meeting. Furthermore, on the day of the meeting, the supervisor(s) would have the opportunity to present a response. Any resolution would require approval by a majority vote of the board, which, by the way, would also include votes offered by the supervisors under consideration for censure.
Meaning, Baugh and Jones would have a vote in the matter of their own potential censures.
Cruse’s presentation of the censure information resulted in some back-and-forth communication between Cruse and Moty as the county counsel and supervisor respectively clarified their positions.
“I was pretty sure my motion at the last meeting was to put an item on the agenda for consideration of censure, or some other action that would be appropriate,” Moty said. “So, I thought I made a motion that we could take action today. You’re telling me that’s not true?”
Cruse looked embarrassed. Moty looked exasperated.
“I do apologize to Supervisor Moty if I misunderstood the direction of the board,” Cruse said. “As I understood, it was to place this item on the agenda, providing the information to, again, look at censure or some other action as deemed appropriate, and then understanding what that action might be, to then follow the process for doing that.”
“Seems like a waste of two weeks,” Moty said. “I think unfortunately you missed the mark on what was the intent of the motion two weeks ago.”
Tuesday, Moty explained in further detail why he believed supervisors Baugh and Jones deserved to be censured.
“Quite frankly, this board operates by a rule of law or rule of majority,” Moty said.
“That’s what provides the decorum for us to act civilly at our meetings, and either we can live by that, or we don’t. And I will say that as a former law enforcement, like you are, Chair, you know that society has established rules and laws, and that’s how our democracy works, by following those rules and laws. Otherwise, we have anarchy.”
As a point of example, Moty said that although he personally wasn’t in favor of repealing the Dec. 15 resolution, he could live with that vote, because it was a decision made by the majority. On the contrary, he took exception to the actions of Baugh and Jones, who broke the rules they didn’t agree with, rules that had been voted in place by a majority of their elected colleagues.
“That is my reason for requesting censure, because if we don’t follow the rules – the majority of this board – then Chair, you will have no control of our meetings. You will have no control of the board, and chaos.”
Jones apologized for “wasting” the public’s time with the issue of censure, as if the topic was a trivial matter.
“It’s a little bit of dirty laundry and it’s unfortunate,” Jones said, before slinging some mud about what he viewed as Moty’s more sinister, personal motives for requesting a censure, volunteering that the two men didn’t like one another, and had a long, unfriendly history.
Jones said that his run for office was based upon a campaign to reopen the county.
“Once I was elected, I went on the radio and I said that I will not take part in virtual meetings, and I will try to open the boardroom the best that I could, which is what I did,” he said, speaking as if he alone deserved total credit for the chamber’s reopening.
Supervisor Rickert was as perplexed by the lack of the censure vote Tuesday as Moty.
“I understood it was a censure specifically for Supervisors Baugh and Jones,” Rickert said. “And the news media picked it up as that, too. So, that’s what’s confusing to me, too.”
She took exception to some of the morning’s speakers who’d accused Moty and Rickert, who’d both favored virtual meetings during the height of the pandemic, as not wanting to hear from the public. Rickert reiterated why she’d voted to close the chambers to in-person board meetings in the first place, a drastic action taken almost nine months after the first state pandemic mandates, when the North State’s Covid-19 cases had risen dramatically.
“Right now we’re in an unprecedented time in terms of our numbers of cases in Shasta County,” Rickert said.
“And, most importantly, the Administrative Center has been an outbreak site. Do you know reckless that is? Do you know how you’re putting all the employees in that building at risk? They use the same restroom as the people that come to board chambers. And I want to ask you, how many people showed up at the meeting today? We are making a decision for 20-plus people that have shown up? This isn’t hundreds of thousands of people that want to show up. I received many, many, many messages – close to 100 comments from people – saying they want the board chambers closed.”
Rickert added that the same people who implored supervisors to keep the chambers closed during the worst of the pandemic also urged Rickert to vote for Baugh and Jones’ censure. She spoke of the 129 lives lost to date in Shasta County. (Note: Since Rickert spoke Tuesday, Shasta County has reported nine new Covid-related deaths.)
“I refuse to be part of reckless behavior,” Rickert said. “Because once a life is gone, it’s gone from this earth forever.”
Once again, Supervisor Chair Joe Chimenti proved himself adept at walking the precarious tightrope as the Malcom-in-the-Middle board member. Ever since the board’s majority Jan. 6 decision to follow Chimenti’s wishes to repeal the resolution that closed the board chambers to in-person meetings, he’s joined Baugh and Jones on the dais for in-person meetings.
As board chair, Chimenti shows respect and patience for even the most disagreeable members of the chamber’s audience, some of whom are the epitome of incivility, sometimes shouting threats and accusations at supervisors and county staff alike. Chimenti, who, like Supervisor Moty, once served in law enforcement, seems unscathed by even the harshest public statements hurled his way, even by those who promise recall.
Tuesday, Chimenti again prefaced his statements by stipulating that he does take the coronavirus seriously, that he is aware that lives are lost to the virus, and he does believe that adherence to safe practices will ultimately help slow the spread of the virus.
Having said that, he jogged people’s memory that he cast the lone dissenting vote on Dec. 15 when the board’s 3-2 decision closed board chambers to public meetings.
“I have always felt that this is an essential business and should be open to the public with modifications, and you’re looking at some of the modifications now,” Chimenti said, referring, for example, to the lectern’s plexiglass screen.
Chimenti’s next words may or may not have hinted at his true opinions regarding Baugh and Jones’ blatant disregard for a vote they disagreed with, because Chimenti stopped short of specifics.
“However, the vote was 3 to 2,” Chimenti continued with regard to the Dec. 15 vote. “In my mind, 3 to 2 means just that, although I wanted something one way and I didn’t get it, and I’m adult enough to accept that, because that’s how the system works.”
Baugh builds his case
As confusing and frustrating as it was to many on both sides of the issue who’d expected the censure vote to be over and done with by the end of Tuesday’s meeting, in some ways Cruse’s research and new information offered more options and opportunities, something Supervisor Baugh lost no time in working in his favor.
Baugh forged ahead, adopting his familiar Eddie Haskell, golly-gee-whiz talent for posing a seemingly obscure question, wrapped up neatly with an implied threat.
“Thank you, Mr. Cruse. I appreciate your detailing of what we’re talking about here today,” Baugh said. “I don’t think you mentioned, and if you did I was daydreaming here as I was looking at your beautiful face on the screen, but the conversation today is not limited to the two supervisors that have been discussed in advance. Is that correct?”
Cruse said, yes, that was correct.
“So, for example, I could choose to offer my own censure motion against Supervisor Moty, or against Supervisor Rickert,” asked Baugh. ” Is that correct?”
Cruse said yes, that was also correct, but such an item would need to be put on the agenda.
By far, as usual, Baugh had the most to say Tuesday. Primarily he justified his actions on Jan. 5 with references to God, the Constitution, and his good standing as an elected leader.
He recited the events of the morning of Jan. 5 much as someone might on a witness stand, there to defend an unjust charge leveled against him.
Bit by bit, Baugh built his case, combined with a deft combination of detachment and wonderment that so many members of the public ended up inside the chambers (despite a resolution that banned in-person meetings).
Gosh, all Baugh’d done was publicize on social media his intention to participate in the board’s virtual meeting inside the board chambers. Golly, nothing wrong with that. (And he’d be right about that, because there isn’t anything wrong with supervisors and staff being inside the board chambers. The resolution specified no public meetings, and didn’t ban supervisors from being inside the chambers.)
Then, what the heck, all Baugh did next was show up early to the chambers, take his usual seat on the dais and open his laptop.
“There was nothing that was illegal about that,” Baugh said, which again, was a true statement.
” … I made myself ready for the meeting. I was in here quite early. I looked outside and I saw a lot of members of the public gathering, including media, which we have always allowed in our chambers, regardless of any reason. So I saw people out there. I saw Mr. Jones, an elected representative of the people without the ability to come in, and I understood he wanted to come in.”
After that, things snowballed. The public arrived, and quickly filled the chambers. And next came the media.
“I allowed the media in,” Baugh said. “They did not have a meeting here. They stepped up to the podium with their own phones and connected. There was no microphone. There was no use of any of our technology. They got out their own phone and they called into the number as anybody else could. So there has been nothing wrong. If you want to say it’s wrong to protest, then I want you to go back to my history on this board of supervisors.”
The fact is, as much as Baugh may feign innocence and ignorance about how and why the public inexplicably flooded the board chambers on Jan. 5, it’s apparent that Baugh, Jones and their followers had planned the chamber invasion for many days prior to the meetings on social media. Both supervisors let their Facebook friends know that they’d be inside the off-limits board chambers, and they invited everyone to join them. As is the way with Facebook, those messages were shared and reshared.
In the case of Elissa McEuen, a regular mouthpiece for some of the most aggressive public speakers, she posted videos that made it obvious that everyone knew what Baugh and Jones had planned, such as in one Facebook Live excerpt in which she “reminds” people of the next day’s meeting.
In her Facebook video she also shares the expectation that “some supervisors” will open the chambers, with full understanding that the chambers were closed.
Riddle me this, friends. How do you think media – like yours truly and staff photographer Steve DuBois and others – got the word about that Jan. 5 meeting? Likewise, where do you think McEuen and friends got the idea that “some supervisors” would be at the board chambers on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6?
The answer is simple: Social media, orchestrated by Baugh, Jones and friends.
For example, check out McEuen’s Jan. 4 Facebook Live post.
” … I’m just hopping on for a minute to remind you tomorrow, Tuesday, January 5th at 8:45 a.m., we’re going to be meeting at 1450 Court Street for the Board of Supervisors meeting for Shasta County. So we’re going to be meeting at the boardroom because last meeting, they passed a resolution to lock, not only us out of the boardroom, the public, but also the supervisors.
So we’re going tomorrow and we anticipate some supervisors showing up opening the boardrooms, opening the chambers for us, and we will be celebrating the seating of Patrick Henry Jones. He’s our new supervisor for District 4. So come and celebrate that with us … “
Likewise, on the day of the Jan. 5 meeting, McEuen once again turned to her Facebook Live post, this time with coffee beverage in hand (also not allowed inside chambers, but that’s teeny tiny taters in the grand scheme of things these days) outside the board chambers. She excitedly reported the good news. The chamber doors were open! Plus, supervisors Baugh and Jones were inside!
Just as the meeting began, Baugh can be heard speaking in the background, words that earned him cheers and applause from his adoring crowd. McEuen lowered her voice and whispered the backstory, how at the last board meeting supervisors passed a resolution that said the public wouldn’t be allowed inside the chambers.
McEuen spoke the truth about the situation that morning (except the part that claimed supervisors weren’t allowed in the chambers, which is not the case). However, perhaps before Baugh delivered his sanctimonious statements of innocence at Tuesday’s board meeting, he should have first checked with McEuen and dozens of others who’d posted their knowledge far and wide of how complicit Baugh and Jones were in the events of Jan. 5 and 6, and how the pair incited the public to join in the duo’s defiance of a board resolution.
Had Baugh done so, his message on Jan. 26 might have contained one iota of credibility.
The truth, and nothing but the truth
At one point during Tuesday’s long meeting, Baugh self-righteously proclaimed there’d be no shame in being censured. In fact, with a laugh he turned to Jones and expressed an opinion that most rational people, anyone with a shred of humility, might find stunning.
“If we are to be censored today, I’m going to have a badge mate,” Baugh said. “It says I proudly am censured, because I represent the people of Shasta County.”
That line got applause from the few handfuls of people in the audience.
Baugh and Jones, the most deserving supervisors
Just because Baugh and Jones feel no remorse for their actions doesn’t mean they are blameless, or that they shouldn’t face consequences.
If Baugh and Jones truly feel that it would be a badge of honor to be censured, then it’s a no-brainer decision for supervisors Moty, Chimenti and Rickert. For Pete’s sake, folks, why cheat Baugh and Jones of such an honor? Please, give them what they so rightfully want and deserve. Censure them both. Please.
But wait. Perhaps there’s a censure solution that can exceed Jones and Baugh’s wildest dreams and expectations. Because of county counsel Cruse’s additional information about censure, we have learned that censure can extend well past its textbook definition as a garden-variety show of disapproval. Yawn.
Thanks to Cruse, we are now aware of additional options, realities that Baugh and Jones may not have anticipated; ones they may not welcome as a badge of any kind.
At the last board meeting, after all the public comments and all the supervisors had spoken about censure, Chair Chimenti asked Supervisor Moty to repeat his previous motion, so the item could be place on the board’s next agenda.
“My motion is to sanction supervisors Baugh and Jones for disregarding the rule put in place by the board on Dec. 15 to not open up the chambers to the public,” Moty said.
Supervisor Rickert seconded Moty’s motion. A roll call was taken for the motion. It passed 3 -2. Baugh and Jones were the two dissenting votes.
That vote to consider censure of two supervisors will take place during the next board meeting, Tues. Feb 2. Then, supervisors Moty, Rickert and Chimenti have an opportunity to demonstrate their belief that elected leaders are not above the law.
It’s now common knowledge that Baugh and Jones do not take censure-level No. 1 seriously. What’s more, they view such an action by their peers as a joke; a badge of honor. That leaves the other supervisors little choice than to select a censure option that will not just get Baugh and Jones’ attention, but of anyone else’s who thinks they can pick and choose which rules apply to them, and which ones don’t.
Therefore, Baugh and Jones’ mindsets also eliminate censure-options No. 1 through No. 4 as viable means of discipline.
That begs the question: What consequences are worthy of two men who think so highly of themselves and their own desires and wishes that they openly disrespect the rule of law?
Supervisors Moty, Rickert and Chimenti have a rare and weighty opportunity to send not just a clear message that elected leaders are held to a higher standard, but to cast a meaningful vote that delivers real consequences to those who mock and abuse those elevated standards.
Consequently, censure-option No. 5 – a referral to the Grand Jury for possible removal from office by accusation – is the only viable alternative for this particular pair of supervisors.
To vote for anything less will only embolden potentially worse actions by not just these two supervisors in question, but future leaders who believe they are above the very laws they were elected to uphold.