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Supervisor Recall Reality Check: Fact or Fiction?

While there’s a mounting, messy statewide movement afoot to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom, here in Shasta County there are abundant threats to also recall some Shasta County Supervisors. And when I say some, I mean that of the five supervisors, the North State recallers have all but one supervisor in their sights for the chopping block. The only one spared from the threat of recall is gun-shop manager Patrick Henry Jones of District 4.

To those beating the recall drum, Jones is the only true patriot on the board, the newly censured supervisor who commemorated his first day as an elected supervisor by violating his fellow board member’s recent 3-2 resolution to keep chambers closed due to COVID-19.

District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones.

The summertime planting of the recall seed

Summertime 2020 was when the first public threats surfaced from angry citizens who vowed to recall Shasta County Board of Supervisors, ticked off at county leaders who were complying with state COVID-19 mandates.

One of the leaders of the recall pack was Carlos Zapata of Palo Cedro, a former Marine and current owner of the Palomino Room in Red Bluff.

Zapata was one of the first to openly entertain illusions of supervisor grandeur after his blistering rebuke of supervisors in August went viral and made him a small-pond celebrity. (Feel free to skip the video if you’ve already watched it numerous times, or if you’d like to keep a lid on  your blood pressure.)

 

Soon after, Zapata openly challenged District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert on Facebook.

Then he floated a trial balloon of sorts on Facebook among his growing base of adoring fans and friends about whether he could count on people’s support, and if they’d be willing to “write in” his name for Rickert’s seat in the November election.

Frankly, that in itself was cringeworthy, and kind of embarrassing, because Rickert, as well as her fellow supervisor Leonard Moty of District 2, had just been re-elected in March of 2020, which meant neither supervisor was listed on the November 2020 ballot, and therefore, there was no way for Zapata to be a write-in candidate during that election. In fact, unless there’s a super speedy recall, both Rickert and Moty’s supervisor seats are safe until the 2024 election cycle. This was pointed out by someone on one of Zapata’s Facebook pages, which resulted in, once again, the idea of recall.

Zapata’s recall confusion continued, exacerbated by this red-white-and-blue Facebook flier announcing Zapata’s fledging campaign, no doubt posted by a well-meaning supporter.

The “Zapata for Shasta City Council” poster was catchy enough, but unfortunately, it was bass ackward, for a few reasons. First, there is no Shasta City. However, there is the City of Shasta Lake – not to be confused with Shasta Lake (the lake), or Shasta (the town), or Mount Shasta (the mountain) or Mt. Shasta (the city).

And, of course, there’s a Shasta County, and its elected members of the Shasta County Board of Supervisors.

But Zapata forged on with not just the notion of a recall, but that he would be the one elected to replace Rickert.

Does he imagine that some magic act will erase from people’s memories all the aggressive statements and violent rhetoric and sexist remarks and virtual bullying? Online is forever, and screen grabs are eternal.

He’s made quite a show of asking me to interview him. I’ve declined, for a number of reasons, but in part because of statements like this:

Gotta give Zapata an A for effort, because in September he posted a video in which he asked for people’s feedback about Supervisor Rickert’s board seat, and the concept of a write-in.

Most of his followers got the hint.

 

Write in! Do it! Drain the swamp! Get that spot, man! Mary needs to go, man. That’s just a sample of his friends and supporters’ reactions.

Zapata’s fictional campaign aside, other folks expressed their recall ideas on the Facebook page, “Recall Shasta County”, with a sooner-than-later concept, specifically, in early 2021, which would be just about now.

The problem with that “early 2021” election idea is there is no Shasta County 2021 election scheduled. I wonder if Zapata knows that.

“Recall Shasta County” exists for those who want the majority of Shasta County Supervisors removed, specifically District 1 Supervisor Joe Chimenti, District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty, District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert and District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh.

A color-coded map illustrates Shasta County’s five supervisor districts. Geographically they differ widely by size, but by population each district contains roughly 20,000 registered voters. Shasta County currently has 111,866 registered voters.

Recall Shasta County’s ultimate goal is to open Shasta County to pre-COVID status, with the assumption that the recall would dump the COVID-compliant supervisors and fill their empty seats with new supervisors committed to shunning public health mandates and partying like it’s 2019.

The page expounds upon its purpose:

In 2020 the Shasta Co. Board of Supervisors (BOS) earned their political demise by NOT representing the citizens during the COVID 19 false pandemic. After numerous pleas, letters, data and fact, the BOS ignored the voters!

To date, 194 people follow this page. In July it slated March 1 as when the recall ball would begin rolling in earnest.

For a credibility check, the primary person behind the Recall Shasta County page is none other than Richard Gallardo, perhaps best known for his failed citizen’s arrest of supervisors and county staff at an October BOS meeting. His dramatic performance (egged on by District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh) resulted in not a single citizen’s arrest. Instead, he was escorted from board chambers by two deputies (back when deputies were on the premises for all board meetings).

Shasta County Sheriff deputies escort Richard Gallardo from the supervisor chambers after his failed attempt at a citizen’s arrest of supervisors and county staff.

For the full flavor of Gallardo’s street cred’ and distinct style, below is a video of him speaking before the supervisors in September.

As always, keepin’ it classy.

 

Gallardo is also affiliated with yet another Facebook page, Shasta County Citizen Journalist, primarily overseen by people who are not real journalists (the tip-off is the “citizen” part – no offense to citizens), such as the insult-hurling woman who shows up at supervisor meetings and refers to face coverings as face diapers, and who attempts to impersonate a journalist.

Mostly recently she, Gallardo and others have shown up at various vaccine clinic sites with cameras and microphones, decked out in yellow vests adorned with homemade press passes. There, they’ve made pests of themselves, disturbing the peace and arguing with healthcare providers and members of the public who are there for vaccines.

Dr. Karen Ramstrom, the county’s chief health officer, tactfully referred to them as unexpected “visitors” recently, which to me is akin to referring to Charles Manson as a “gentleman”.

Lately, the Shasta County Citizen Journalist page has found itself in hot water with Rubin Cruse, Shasta County Counsel, for unauthorized use of Shasta County’s official seal as its Facebook profile image. Cruse told Shasta County Citizen Journalist to cease and desist from using the county seal.

(Cruse may also want to check out the “Recall Shasta County” page for a similar violation since the two pages are pretty much carbon copies.)

At any rate, the information about the unauthorized use of the seal came from Gallardo himself, who complained about it and then a posted a copy of Cruse’s letter on Facebook.

But Zapata’s not the only colorful character who’s expressed interest in a board seat. Enter Vladislav Davidzon, who’s needled Supervisor Chimenti for months with threats that Davidzon would “take” Chimenti’s seat if Chimenti didn’t start voting more along the lines of Davidzon’s liking.

Davidzon is a relative North-State newcomer, known for yelling at supervisors (and one local television reporter) during supervisor meetings and for spamming countless email and social media recipients with unwanted messages that mock the pandemic and urge people to defy state mandates. Worse yet, he sometimes acts as a horrible troll who inserts cruel comments on Facebook pages of people he’s never met who’ve lost loved ones to the coronavirus. He’s also gained a reputation for flooding the county with inordinate amounts of record requests, in excess of thousands of pages.

Vladislav Davidzon photo by Steve DuBois.

Yet another name that’s been thrown into the ring as a potential contender to fill a recalled Shasta County supervisor seat is Elissa McEuen.

Elissa McEuen bullhorns her speech through the closed supervisor chamber doors, directly in front of the county sign that explains the new state mandated COVID-19 meeting rules. Source: Screen grab video from Redding Patriots Facebook page.

She’s infamously earned the nickname the “bull-horn” lady, but predictably she’s yet another rude regular at the Board of Supervisors public comment period where she, like many of those who fill the chambers, yells insults and threats at supervisors and refuses to comply with social distancing and face-covering requests inside the chambers (both of which are required during the meetings). Even so, she’s one of the first to bitterly complain about mandated shutdowns when Shasta County COVID-19 cases climb. She lives in District 5, Supervisor Les Baugh’s region, and the two appear to be rabblerousing buddies.

She’s also simpatico with Sheriff Eric Magrini.

Sheriff Eric Magrini and protester Elissa McEuen chat during the meeting break. Source: Redding Patriots Facebook page video screen grab.

Early on in the pandemic, unbelievable Sheriff Magrini made no bones about his refusal to implement even one iota of enforcement in the face of even the most egregious public health violations, such as the Mother’s Day Cottonwood Rodeo when large gatherings were banned.

Back to Baugh. Believe it or not, despite all the shenanigans he’s pulled, such as his militia-barber haircut stunt during the early shutdowns, and inviting the public to trespass into closed board chambers, which resulted in his censure for his fellow supervisors in a 3-2 vote, inexplicably Baugh’s also in the recallers’ crosshairs for removal from the board.

That’s perplexing, because he’s openly defied most of the state COVID-19 public health mandates, which one might assume the recallers would appreciate and reward.

And that’s part of what I find most frightening about this Shasta County Board of Supervisor recall effort: If someone as extreme and COVID-flaunting, as rule-breaking, as reckless and non-team-playing as Supervisor Baugh is considered by the extremist recallers as unfit for a seat on the Shasta County Board of Supervisors, then we’re in big trouble.

Or maybe Baugh has given his blessing to the recallers to remove him along with Moty, Chimenti and Rickert. Baugh has disclosed on Facebook frank details about some of his health problems that arose last year. Maybe he’s ready to leave, rather than wait until his term expires in 2022. That could explain why he declined what should have been his turn as the board chair last month, passing it on to Chimenti instead.

Some rumors say that Baugh’s friend Baron Browning, a member of the Anderson City Council, would like Baugh’s board seat. Other rumors say that Baugh’s wife, Susie Baugh, also an Anderson City Council member, wouldn’t mind trading in her Anderson gig for a Shasta County Board seat.

Either way, it’s stunning to hear people like Zapata and Davidzon speak so naively in terms of simply “taking” a supervisor’s board seat, seemingly oblivious to the facts, as if they’re ordering a pizza.

Fact No. 1: A word about the money, honey.

Among the recallers’ many claims include boasts that they have teams of lawyers at the ready and lots of money to finance the expensive proposition of simultaneously recalling four supervisors in four different districts in one special recall election.

Rumor has it that Reverge Anselmo, the former Shasta County businessman who clashed with the county over his restaurant venue, the same man who contributed $100,000 to Jones’ campaign, might help fund the recall. Other rumors say that if not rich-guy Anselmo to bankroll the recall, there are many others with money to burn and an axe to grind to fund the cause.

Assembly Bill 571 that passed last year and went into effect last month limits campaign contributions to $4,900 per campaign. That means large contributions — like Anselmo’s for $100,000, or the Redding Rancheria’s for $20,000, both to Jones’ campaign — are a thing of the past with regard to regular elections. However, unfortunately, the bill lists recalls as among its exemptions. (Wednesday a.m. update: This paragraph was revised to include clarification that it appears AB 571 exempts recalls from finance limitations. Stay tuned.)

Fact No. 2: Maybe this is a simple case of crazy is as crazy does, because for some crazy reason many of these recallers are under the highly mistaken idea that if “their” recall is “successful” — if four supervisors are recalled — that those recallers can just walk right in, sit right down and claim their seats, like an available pony on a merry-go-round. They act as if it’s like a kids’ checker game, where, if you knock a piece off the board you’re allowed to jump in and invade that square.

Pity the recallers for their inevitable rude awakening. The fact is that a recall will open the floodgates to any number of citizens who wish to throw their hats in the ring and add their names to the ballot. They could very well be people who strongly opposed the recall, perhaps even those outraged by the recall, who add their names to the candidates’ queue so the recallers will surely fail at their plan to stack the board with people who disregard public health mandates.

Wouldn’t that be rich, if the recall ended up with an election in which voters selected four new supervisors who were actually far, far to the left of conservative patriot Jones?

Fact No. 3: Consider a recall’s additional unintended consequences, such as the targeted supervisors’ reactions. Perhaps they’re fed up to their eyeballs with being verbally abused, bullied and harassed in person, in emails, in letters and in telephone calls. What if the prospect of a recall is the last straw? What if it inspires the tapped-out supervisors to throw in the towel before the recall machine gets underway? They’ve certainly had enough notice, and plenty of time to think about it.

Actually, it would be more surprising if some supervisors didn’t resign. And who could blame them? It’s anyone’s guess how they’ve endured so much public incivility for so long. The appalling level of disrespect, disregard and threats they’ve encountered is mind-boggling and unacceptable.

In that case, the very recallers who thought they were being so clever to clear the way for their fellow non-compliant patriots to infiltrate the board would face the domino effect set in motion by a supervisor’s resignation.

Here’s the best part: The fact is, when a supervisor resigns, that empty seat is filled by the governor, not a supervisor wanna-be. In that case, you can bet that California’s governor would select people more inclined to comply with his pandemic mandates — most likely Democrats — even though the board positions are non-partisan. Talk about backfiring. Ouch.

Final fact:  To ignore all the previous facts, and plow ahead for a completed, “successful” recall, myriad planets must line up just right. For one thing, all these disparate recallers – the yellers, the screamers, the grandstanders, the conspiracy theorists, the macho men, the science-deniers, the militia members, the pretend journalists, the Bible thumpers, the State of Jefferson believers, the COVID-deniers and tin-hat folks – must cooperate and follow complex recall directions, 40 pages full of directions, to be exact.

They must file the correct papers in precisely the correct order along a strict precarious deadline. They must collect a minimum of about 4,000 valid signatures — per district — of verified Shasta County registered voters, and for good measure, they should collect another 2,000 more, in anticipation of errors. Collectively, that means a minimum of about 20,000 signatures in all.

Recallers must dot all the i’s, and cross all the t’s. The word counts and margins must be perfect. They must follow complex, explicit instructions to ensure they meet all the conditions of the recall. If not done correctly, the recall cannot move forward. They may be required to resubmit some parts. They may run out of time.

Extraordinarily difficult? Mission accomplished.

According to Cathy Darling Allen, Shasta County Clerk/Registrar of Voters, the recall process is intentionally difficult.

“The recall process is hard, and that’s by design,” she said. “It should be hard to overturn the will of the voters.”

According to the Recall Shasta County Facebook page, the action should begin around March 1.

Total recall? More like total failure.

I’ll put on the popcorn. Feel free to join me. This should be interesting.

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(Editor’s note: An earlier version cited the wrong district for Jones. That has been corrected. Additional edits and revisions have been made to this column for clarification. Apologies for any confusion.)

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.

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