On a scale of 1 to 10 – 1 being totally tranquil, and 10 being fully freaked out – how would you rate your stress level if you learned that the FBI had seized the cellphone of a high-profile person you’d recently called or texted?
That’s the position some Redding election-deniers and voter-fraud conspiracy theorists find themselves in this week. Some North State self-described patriots facilitated travel to Redding for Dr. Douglas Frank – the darling of the country’s 2020 election-deniers – for a Tuesday-evening “Election Task Force” presentation at a Redding church.
According to the Washington Post, FBI agents served Frank with a warrant and order to hand over his cellphone as he stepped off a plane at an Ohio airport. Perhaps this happened on his return trip from Redding. Either way, the incident occurred just hours after federal agents also confiscated the cellphone that belonged to MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, Frank’s fellow election-conspiracy-theorist pal.
According to the Daily Beast, the men’s phones were taken as part of a federal investigation into an alleged breach of Colorado voting machines last year by conspiracy theorists.
Tuesday, Redding was just another stop for Frank. Since last year he’s crisscrossed the country on his quest to educate like-minded folks about election fraud, voting machine hacking, stolen elections, and his theory that county clerks are aware of election fraud on their watch; they just don’t want to admit it. His assorted bowties lend credibility to his professory look.
Frank’s presence in Redding was a major coup for North State ultra-conservatives and die-hard patriots who still believe former President Donald Trump was cheated out of the 2020 presidency.
Tuesday morning — before Frank’s $20-per-person evening shindig; before Frank’s FBI encounter — he stopped by the Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting where he joined North State citizens intent on speaking their minds for the allowed 3 minutes each during the public comment period. On this day, he sported a special stars-and-stripes bowtie.
Tuesday’s BOS meeting was even more shitshowy than usual, for a few reasons. First, as has been the case month after month, the public comment period was mostly monopolized by many, many, many, MANY election-complainers, election-deniers and election-doubters.
At some point, one must question the IQ of humans who continue to wail and gnash their teeth at supervisors meetings about federal, state and county elections in front of supervisors who have zero control or authority over any elections. These election malcontents have been told this, of course.
And that there gets y’all the textbook definition of willful ignorance.
Because the Shasta County Board of Supervisors has no say-so over elections, these never-ending rants and rages about elections at county meetings make about as much sense as complaining to the DMV about yellow jackets. Can you imagine DMV clerks tolerating a nano-second of yellow-jacket complaints? No ma’am, no sir. Of course not. Likewise, it’s mind-boggling that the supervisors allow – and even seem to encourage – untold hours wasted on public comments about not just elections, but many other issues beyond their power and jurisdiction, oh, like COVID vaccines, state public health guidelines, home-schooling, hospital regulations and businesses that require employees wear face masks.
Sometimes, these anything-goes supervisors meetings have lasted as long as eight hours. Some speakers treat the board chamber’s lectern as their combo social life/private therapy outlet. It’s not unusual to hear a regular speaker say something like, “I hadn’t planned to speak today, and I’m not even sure what I wanted to say, but I thought I’d come up here anyway …”
Oh, please don’t.
Multiple moments like those over the last two years have contributed to the reason why I watch most of the meetings virtually. Yes, I do miss not seeing the audience, because for me, supervisors meetings are like baseball games, where often the real action is in the stands. However, I do like watching the meetings online because it allows me to scream at my computer, and say things like, “Are you kidding me?”
Deep digression. Sorry.
Back to Tuesday, where the next fly in the meeting’s ointment came in the form of butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth Patty Plumb, who’s perfected the art of wrapping threats in a pretty American flag, topped with the Holy Bible. My favorite Patty Plumb quote is, “We’ve got the First Amendment, and if that doesn’t work, we’ve always got the Second Amendment.”
From the lectern on Tuesday Patty began her comment with a prayer to Jesus; eyes closed, hand raised, I guess in worship.
Plumb’s prayer was studded with words like truth, justice, fraud, audits, the Constitution, our county’s crimes, and good people rising up, with God leading the way, in the name of Jesus.
If the raucous cheers were any indication of approval, this Patty Plumb quote seemed a crowd favorite:
“So we’re going to have to decide how we’re going to do this. And I believe that we can; this is an amazing opportunity. We are making history. You have no idea who’s watching us right now. Nationwide, Shasta County is being watched by amazing heroes right now, and I believe that California is going to benefit from the efforts of Shasta County because we have conscience here. There’s godly residents that live in this place that are going to rise up and do the right thing when no one’s looking because we have integrity. So this is our opportunity.”
By opportunity, Plumb elaborated, using military terms to bolster the magnitude of her proposal.
“It’s up to us to say, ‘This is our Tiananmen Square,’ ” Plumb said, extending her arms wide. “We’re going in front of the tanks and saying, ‘No more’ to the machine, and if you run this over, that’ll be known, too. But this is it: No more electronic voting machines!”
She ended her remarks by holding up a flier that advertised Dr. Douglas Frank’s presentation later that night.
After that came one of the most jarring parts of the meeting. I mean, other than when Baugh said, apropos of nothing, out of clear blue sky: And that’s why Leonard Moty was recalled. Because he didn’t listen to the people.
Those words were mean, unprofessional and inappropriate, especially from a typical board chair. But from Baugh? That’s just about right.
No doubt, at that very moment, some person — or perhaps many people, watching the meeting virtually from the privacy of their homes and offices — yelled at the computer: “No! Wrong, Les! The reason Leonard Moty was recalled was because of destructive people like you, and Red, White and Blueprint, and Patrick Jones, people who spread lies that were widely promoted thanks tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of advertising, funded by the son-of-a-billionaire! That’s why Leonard Moty was recalled.”
At least that’s what I imagined some people might say.
Baugh’s statement about Moty was especially rich, coming from the guy who vowed on his first day as chair after Moty’s departure — when Baugh promised he’d listen, and would never comment or interrupt speakers, because that was their time, not his. That’s a laugh. Baugh now routinely corrects speakers, puts them on the spot, badgers them, asserts his unsolicited opinions, or sets the record straight, especially for people he obviously dislikes.
Anyway, back to the most glaringly egregious part of Tuesday’s meeting; when it was Dr. Douglas Frank’s turn to speak for 3 minutes. The man talked fast, but not quickly enough to fit in 12 pages’ worth of bars, graphs and charts in a few minutes.
Frank’s time blew by, and he complained it wasn’t enough time. He said everyone should come out and hear him speak that night.
That’s when supervisor Jones pulled a fast one.
Jones’s tricky move played out at the end of Frank’s 3-minute comment period. Before Frank left the lectern, Jones quickly proceeded to pepper Frank with one follow-up question, and another, and another, and another, and ANOTHER after another — until it was obvious to everyone: Jones’ leading questions ultimately allowed Frank to give a 20-minute presentation.
One must see this 20-minute exchange between Jones and Frank to fully believe it. Click here on this Rumble link to watch the whole thing. It’s following the conclusion of Patty Plumb’s message, which includes the Tiananmen Square reference.
All the while, Jones drawled out his please-God-make-him-stop questions for more than 20 minutes. Meanwhile, chair Baugh just sat there upon his chair, seemingly pleased and transfixed by the Jones-Frank volley; his small gavel lying impotently silent upon the dais, powerless to shut that nonsense down.
Jones’ antics weren’t lost on many citizens in the audience, some of whom called him out on what seemed a deliberate plan.
Baugh blanched at criticisms by speakers who saw Jones’ stunt as a blatant violation of the spirit and intent of the public-comment period. A defensive Baugh later delivered an excruciatingly long-winded Les-doth-protest-too-much speech that dragged on for several minutes during which he justified Jones’ Q&A session, a soliloquy best summarized as: I’m the chair, and I can let people talk as long as I want.
Rickert to the rescue
Supervisor Mary Rickert made productive use of those insufferable 20 minutes, which then led to her own questions. First, she asked Frank if he was compensated for his work, such as coming to Shasta County to speak. Frank said his payment was a plane ticket to Redding.
Next, Rickert said that she’d Googled Douglas Frank (yes, from the dais) and that she’d learned a few things.
“Here’s a quote from an article,” Rickert said. “It says, ‘At the core of how our democracy works is that we have to trust election results,’ said Justin Grimmer, a political science professor at Stanford University — and he’s referring to you,” Rickert added.
She went on to quote more of Grimmer’s article: “Luckily the theory – ‘meaning your theory’ – is so crazy that I think the only people who really want to believe or really really want to see some conspiracy in the world, would be persuaded.”
Rickert continued to direct her comments to Frank. “Nevertheless, I think there’s a real danger here. Not everyone is supportive of you. We have professors from Stanford University that question your theory …”
Frank interrupted: “I had a scholarship there for physics.”
[The audience guffaws and applauds.]
Rickert continued: “I’m just saying that I understand, but I’m just saying that if you Google …”
Frank interrupted with a sarcastic laugh: “Yeah yeah, I’m a conspiracy theorist!”
[More audience laughter.]
Rickert kept going. “I just want to say that to be fair and balanced, that not everyone in this country is …”
Frank interrupted: “Can I make a comment to that?”
Jones interrupted: “And we know Google is 100-percent accurate!”
[The audience erupts in hoots of laughter.]
Over the sound of whoops and cheers, Rickert raised her voice and said she wasn’t finished speaking.
Chair Baugh finally came alive and asked that the supervisor (Jones) refrain from interrupting another supervisor (Rickert).
Frank apologized and said he hadn’t meant to interrupt, and asked if he could make another comment, to which Baugh said no.
But the audience wasn’t finished with Rickert. A comment by Ron Plumb (Patty’s husband) triggered a string of pointed arguments against Rickert that resulted in a number of audience members –mainly women — taking Rickert to task throughout the meeting.
Ron Plumb opened with a Samuel Adams quote: “It doesn’t take a majority to prevail, but rather an irate tireless minority keen on setting brush fires of freedom in the minds of men.”
With that, Plumb stared at the supervisors’ dais from left to right. One by one Plumb asked if anyone up there had the qualifications to analyze the election process. He asked without waiting for their answers.
“Do you, Joe? No. Tim, do you, are you an expert? No? Les?” asked Plumb, to which Baugh replied, “Never claimed to be.”
Plumb continued. “Right. Patrick? No. So, it would behoove us, as a board, as a general oversight board, supposedly …”
Rickert said something from the dais, but her mic wasn’t on, but Plumb appeared to have heard her, and answered in a way that made it apparent that Rickert had asked why Plumb hadn’t asked her the same question as Chimenti, Garman, Baugh and Jones.
“Oh, excuse me Mary,” Plumb said.
Rickert’s response triggered loud boos and yells of, “oh come on!” from the audience.
“That’s OK, Rickert said. I’m used to it. I’m a female in Shasta County [more boos and shouts] and we get discounted all the …”
Ron: “Oh that’s …”
Baugh asked the audience to stop interrupting.
Ron said, “Excuse me, I apologize. I’m very sorry. I was raised by a woman who flew B-17s in World War 2, so I respect strong women. And I give them their place.”
After that, Plumb, like his wife, made some religious references.
“Every one of you are being seen by God,” he said. “Every word you say, every thought you speak, we are naked before God.”
“You work for us,” Plumb said to the supervisors. “We hired you by voting you in. We will take you out by voting you out and we will not forget the things that you’ve done.”
Yet more speakers dissed the elections department. At least two commenters made reference to David and Goliath, and slaying the giant, metaphorically speaking, of course.
Nathan Blaze was one of a few speakers who contradicted the election-deniers. He also addressed the frequent religious references.
“So, I guess we let grifters talk for 20 minutes now,” Blaze asked. “Is that a new rule? No? OK.”
Blaze said although he’d grown up in Christian schools, and was exposed to religion throughout his life, he took exception to the frequent religious references.
“If you want to worship your God and praise him, you should be free to do so, but not in a tax-funded government building,” Blaze said.
“There is a separation of church and state that was set up by the framers who you folks so frequently like to quote. I am sick and tired of people using the government podium as their own personal pulpit. This place is not a church, it’s not your prayer group, it’s not your Facebook page. It’s a government building with the sole purpose of accomplishing government work.”
As an aside, Blaze, who’s a stand-up comedian, concluded with, “Hail Satan.” It didn’t appear the majority of audience members appreciated Blaze’s humor.
Another speaker, Robert Sid, defended County Clerk Darling Allen, whom he described as a “dutiful, honest public servant” — and her staff. Sid said he was upset by some of the rhetoric he’d heard that day.
“I feel this meeting is out of order,” Sid said. “You’re comparing a violent fascist attack, namely Tiananmen Square, to our Shasta County elections process. Really, I cannot believe you’re allowing cracked-pot conspiracy theories to spread.”
Another man joined Sid in standing up for Darling Allen. He also voiced his disapproval of what he saw as Jones manipulating the public comment period to promote someone who shared Jones’ views and criticisms of the elections department.
“Supervisor Jones, you have wasted at least 20 minutes of my public time to ask what appeared to be pre-fed, set-up questions to promote the fake conspiracy theories of Shasta County.”
And so the meeting went with yet more speakers blasting Darling Allen and the elections department with accusations of fraud, cheating, and outright criminal behavior.
Some female speakers took Rickert on, and criticized her earlier comments about Rickert’s experience as a woman who was sometimes overlooked or underestimated. In a rather bizarre exchange, one woman, who appeared to be well into middle-age, discredited Rickert’s assertions of discrimination, and then talked about how Rickert looked to be about the woman’s mother’s age, had she still been alive.
“What does that mean?” asked an obviously incredulous Rickert.
“I don’t know your age,” the woman responded. “I’m just assuming, you know, if you’ve been overlooked, then I have to assume that you’re beyond my generation.”
Chalk it up to another day on the Shasta County Board of Supervisors dais, where Rickert is often singled out for being a woman; mocked as a mother, and called out and subjected to public shaming, ghosting and correction; sometimes by supervisors Baugh and Jones, sometimes by the public.
Rickert was undaunted. She responded to the woman by saying she didn’t know how old the woman thought Rickert was, but yes, in Rickert’s life she had experienced discrimination, both on the dais as a supervisor, as well as in her youth.
“This is not the first time I’ve been overlooked,” Rickert said in reference to Ron Plumb’s exclusion when he questioned all the male supervisors and omitted Rickert.
“I don’t know how old you think I am, but in 1969 I was not allowed to be a member of the Future Farmers of America, because I was a girl. And I was put down constantly because I was a female, because it was an all-male organization,” Rickert said.
“I went to the state convention where I lobbied to get girls into Future Farmers of America. I have fought for women’s rights in my own way. I work in an agricultural industry, and yes, there have been lots of times where someone will call my husband — and we work side by side in our business — and they’ll say, ‘oh, well, you’re just the wife’. That’s my life experience and I’m entitled to have my personal life experience as a board member. And I have, trust me, been put down as a female. I don’t know if I was excluded because I was a female on purpose, or if it was a mistake, but I’m used to that kind of treatment. It does happen to me pretty regularly.”
A dumb idea plus a dumb motion equals a dumb outcome
I wonder if supervisors Baugh, Garman and Jones felt as dumb as they looked Tuesday when agenda item R5 popped up regarding discussing the trio’s request for Darling Allen to preserve the 2020 election materials.
Dumb move No. 1 happened at the Aug. 30 meeting, when the trouble-making board majority asked Darling Allen to preserve the documents in the first place. The reason that was dumb move No. 1 was the supervisors’ request basically asked Darling Allen to break the law and ignore her oath that ordered her to destroy or recycle the election materials after 22 months.
Dumb move No. 2 was that not only did board chair Baugh not consult on Aug. 30 with county counsel — sitting mere feet from Baugh — but when acting CEO Minturn volunteered his legal understanding of the matter — that supervisors had no authority over the county clerk — Baugh tore into Minturn and basically said butt out.
Dumb move No. 3 was the fact that the ballot-preservation group, led by Patty Plumb, had 22 solid months to sue Shasta County for those documents if they’d really wanted them, but they didn’t. Instead, they lollygagged around for months as the clock ticked away.
To quote the saying taped to the refrigerator when my kids were growing up, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”
Finally, Tuesday, it felt like humble-pie theater to hear counsel Rubin Cruse read the codes that banned Darling Allen from preserving the 2020 election documents, baring some criminal act or a court order. If Baugh had only asked Cruse’s legal opinion on Aug. 30, everyone could have avoided this massive waste of time, energy and angst. In short, from the start, the board majority’s desire for Darling Allen to preserve the 2020 election documents was an impossible, illegal request.
Tuesday, Baugh summarized the Aug. 30 motion, with a revisionist nod to legal considerations.
“This board made a request — not backed by law — but we made a simple request that those materials be preserved so that we could have this discussion today.”
Discussion? What’s the point to discuss something that’s literally none of their business? What’s the point in discussing something that’s impossible?
For the sake of formality, Cruse read aloud elections code section 17 301: “After the count is completed, the registrar must seal and maintain the packages of voted, spoiled, canceled and unused ballots along with identification envelopes for vote by mail ballots and provisional ballots for federal elections. These ballot packages must be kept unopened for 22 months. After 22 months have passed, the ballot packages must be destroyed or recycled.”
Cruse mentioned exemptions: if the vote is contested, if there’s a criminal prosecution, or if there’s a court order.
Still, after hearing the facts, Jones couldn’t leave it alone. He asked how much time the registrar had after the 22-month mark. When Cruse replied that it’s most likely a “reasonable amount of time” scenario, Jones pressed for a definition of exactly how long a reasonable amount of time is.
At last, after Darling Allen had sat in the audience for hours where she endured nasty looks, and a steady stream of angry, suspicious citizens who accused her of everything from voter fraud to outright cheating — finally, it was Darling Allen’s turn to speak.
At the lectern, Darling Allen’s usual friendly, easy-going countenance was replaced by a somber facial expression and a flat, emotionless voice.
Darling Allen explained that she knew of at least one county that had already complied with the law and had destroyed the 2020 elections materials, and she imagined that many other counties had, too.
“My point in relaying that is that there is no way at this point to do an audit, or forensic audit, or a deep dive or any other proposed “reviews” that are outside of the law in the state of California – that’s no longer true or possible,” she said. “We can no longer do that any more in California because those ballots in that one county no longer exist.”
She pointed out that 22 months had passed since the 2020 election, when there was plenty of time for citizens to sue the county to attempt preservation of the 2020 election materials. She cited the example of the Mill Fire that started on September 2, and yet six days later — by September 8 — an engaged, motivated community had already filed a lawsuit.
“Six days,” Darling Allen said as she raised her arms in a shrug. “Six days. That’s all I’ve got.”
Supervisor Garman thanked Darling Allen for “Sticking around all day” and then asked Darling Allen a dumbfoundingly absurd question: If the board chose to request that Darling Allen keep the 2020 election records for six months, would she do it?
“Is that something you’d be interested in doing,” asked Garman, who must have been napping during Cruse’s legal explanations. “Or would you just keep them for six months on your own – without our – that we don’t have to make that decision?”
Darling Allen looked dazed as she began with, “we don’t have” — perhaps starting to explain for the umpteenth time that she and her staff had no legal option – baring a court order – other than to destroy the documents. She looked down, shook her head and uttered a single word.
One of the last speakers to address the topic of elections, Susanne Baremore, had much to say about all the complaints and criticisms about the elections office: none of the issues could be resolved in the board of supervisors’ chambers.
“They need to be lobbying their state legislature, their governor, whoever they want to talk to at the state,” Baremore said. “Folks are not listening. So many of the questions today were the same as two weeks ago and all the times before that and they’ve been asked and answered.”
Speaking of answers, remember Justin Grimmer, the Stanford University political science professor Rickert quoted, whose research refuted Frank’s election claims? For the sake of balance, perhaps Grimmer could stop by a supervisor’s meeting some time to share his thoughts about election issues. He could speak for three minutes, and then from the dais Rickert could have her list of questions at the ready, one after the other.
Oh, how happy Baugh would be.