By now, everybody who follows the news in Shasta County knows the newly elected MAGA school board majority at Gateway Unified School District summarily fired its superintendent last Tuesday. After being sworn in the week before, new board members Cherrill Clifford and Lindsi Haynes joined Elias Haynes (Lindsi’s husband) in a 3-2 vote to dismiss superintendent Jim Harrell without cause, a contentious decision that already appears headed for court.
The new MAGA Gateway majority voted to axe Harrell over the vociferous objections of an overflow crowd of 250 teachers and parents who overwhelmingly supported keeping the superintendent on the job. The crowd was so threatening, the startled Haynes were unable to respond to a roll-call vote and admit they’d fired Harrell; Clifford responded for them, in a move I likened to a mother hen protecting her young brood.
As it turns out, I got the species wrong. Clifford, who is 80 years old, is no mother hen. She’s the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse who conned her young accomplices into naming her chair.
This instantly became clear after a search of Clifford’s social media activity from 2011 to 2017 revealed homophobic Christian nationalist rants and raves of a board chair who’s opposed to public and charter schools because they’re both “full of the same politically correct nonsense.”
Clifford ran for the Shasta County District 4 Supervisor seat in the 2012 primary election, the same position now held by Patrick Jones. Clifford’s major campaign donor? None other than Reverge Anselmo, then embroiled in a years-long battle with the Shasta County Department of Resource Management because he attempted to build a 1500-acre ranch/winery resort near Shingletown without securing the proper permits.
Anselmo donated $5000 to Clifford’s campaign, which was then considered a large sum; he has since donated more than $1 million to rightwing political causes in Shasta County. In February 2012, Clifford defended her political benefactor’s inability to follow the law, posting “Let Freedom ring on Anselmo’s own land and let it ring for the rest of Shasta County too!”
Anselmo got clobbered by Shasta County in court, but Tea Party member Clifford was ahead of her time. Much as candidate Donald Trump convinced working-class people the real estate mogul was on their side in 2016, Clifford claimed multimillionaire Anselmo’s problems were akin to the common man’s.
“If somebody who’s as well-off as he is financially having all these problems, you can imagine how the little guy is feeling forced to give in many, many times,” she said in a 2012 Record Searchlight article. “It doesn’t matter what the issue, water, land, job creation or even law enforcement, the No. 1 deterrent to me seems to be giving precedent to unreasonable environmental concerns.”
After finishing last in the five-way race for the District 4 seat, Clifford let her Jesus freak flag fly for the next several years in a social media crusade that specifically targeted the LGBTQ community. In December 2012, she took to Facebook to complain about “gay science.”
“Gay science liars …. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There are two kinds of people in the world, those who adopt a philosophy/religion that condones the evil they wish to do and those who have the courage to admit doing wrong without trying to redefine what constitutes God’s right and wrong. To sin is human. But, one does not have to be so cowardly as to deny God’s morality to cope with their sin.”
It’s the old “hate the sin, love the sinner” canard minus the love. The following spring, Clifford complained about the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network’s annual “Day of Silence” protest, in which participating college and high school students remain silent for a day in recognition of the bullying many LGBTQ students endure but are too afraid to report.
“Mama Don’t let your kids go to public schools,” she posted. “There is no way to fight the huge amount of propaganda being fed to them. Most of it parents never even know is happening.”
In the summer of 2013, Clifford hit upon what would be a recurring theme in her Facebook posts: “The same-sex movement has never been about civil rights. It is purely anti-Christian movement.”
In a post one year later she elaborated further: “It has never been about civil rights, calling themselves ‘married’ or about health care. It has always been about forcing others to bow to them instead of God. It is same-sex sharia law and they will brutalize anyone who does not go along. This is only going to get more cruel.”
Crueler than the 1999 Matson-Mowder slayings by Christian zealots from her own messianic tribe? Hardly, but Shasta County knows where these kinds of beliefs lead. Clifford can’t be trusted to think rationally when it comes to equal rights for members of the LGBTQ community. Like most ultraconservatives, she’s a snowflake who’s positively triggered every time she sees the rainbow flag.
“Does anyone care that, as a Christian, this flag offends me?” Clifford posted in June 2015.
For Clifford, LGBT stands for “letting go of Biblical truth.” In her mind, “Charter schools are Trojan horses that carry within some of the same anti-Christian sentiments of public schools. The parents of these schools are already successfully indoctrinated into common core and mythological separation of church & state thinking.”
There’s only one way to escape the gay woke mind virus in Clifford’s view: “Our Dept. of Education wants America’s children to be pro-same-sex. HOMESCHOOL your kids!”
Reading through Clifford’s paranoid homophobic social media posts, I had to keep reminding myself she’s the board chair for a public school district serving 2100 students and not some third-rate itinerate hate preacher.
According to the most recent polling data from Gallup, 7 percent of adult Americans identify as LGBTQ. If we apply that figure to Gateway’s student population, that means potentially 150 students are now being treated as second-class citizens by Gateway Unified School District Board of Trustees chair Cherrill Clifford.
Clifford did not respond to detailed questions about the beliefs expressed in her social media posts.
Did Rich Gallardo Brandish a Taser at Board Meeting?
Local rightwing provocateur Rich Gallardo apparently has trouble keeping his weapon in his pants. He was dismissed in August 2017 from his Redding-area-based Cal Fire job as a fire engineer for brandishing a gun at work. The fact that getting a concealed carry permit is easier than getting a driver’s license in Shasta County isn’t good enough for Gallardo. He wants the public to see his weapon.
Since 2019, Gallardo and State of Jefferson head Mark Baird have been seeking an injunction against the state of California to permit open carry of firearms while the debate about the constitutionality of the state’s open carry law plays out in court.
They’ve been denied at almost every step along the way, but the case remains active and awaits a decision on what historical evidence for gun control measures will be considered in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bruen decision this past summer.
Now it appears Gallardo has exposed himself once again. By the time I arrived home after the Gateway USD board meeting, reports that militia members had attended the meeting and that one of them had brandished a taser or a stun gun were circulating on social media. I arrived at the meeting at 5:45 and stayed for the duration. I noticed Gallardo talking on a walkie-talkie, but I didn’t see anyone with a weapon.
The next morning, someone posted the following in the comments section on my coverage of the meeting:
“You forgot the part where Gallardo brought a taser to the meeting as well as pepper spray and the cops had to show up to deal with him. And I saw the taser with my own eyes when I first got there and he was showing his buddy how it worked.”
I responded with my email address and asked readers who may have witnessed this event to contact me. Two readers who asked for anonymity claimed to have witnessed the event.
Reader No. 1:
“When I got to the district meeting it was about 5:35. As I was walking up to the district office where the meeting was held I heard the noise of a taser and looked up to see Gallardo holding it and showing it off to [Authur] Gorman, I believe is his name, and then putting it in his front pocket of his pants. Then I heard him say how he has pepper spray and will be waiting in the parking lot for when this lynch mob starts. He was talking the entire time as if all of this was a joke and was very antagonistic. Maybe an hour later I was standing more inside the door and heard the taser again. I’m not sure why it was out. A staff member was notified I believe and then maybe 10 minutes later RPD was outside, this had happened during the time of the closed session.”
Reader No. 2:
“He didn’t have a taser, it was a stun gun, and yes he used it outside the board room. I heard it making the “ crack crack crack” sound. It was after 6 pm. One of our district admin called the police and I believe they told him to remove it from the property. I believe he was doing that to scare people. I am sure you saw him walking around the board room with his secret service style bodyguard trying to intimidate people.”
According to the open carry lawsuit, “Richard Gallardo is an individual of unquestionably good moral character.” Anyone who’s observed Gallardo in action during the past three years is qualified to object to that statement.
This is a man walking around with a constant chip on his shoulder, daring the world to knock it off.
Gallardo thinks the U.S. Supreme Court’s Trumpian majority is on his side, but according to the state of California, Bruen still allows the state to limit the open carrying of firearms to “ordinary, law-abiding citizens.”
Gallardo hasn’t violated any laws we know of—yet—but he sure the heck isn’t “ordinary” by any stretch of the imagination. Who else attempts the false arrest of the entire board of supervisors? Who yells medical disinformation at people standing in line for vaccinations and calls it citizen journalism? Who can’t seem to keep his weapon in his pants?
That’s why the best news I’ve heard all week concerns the passage of SB 1100, which will give legislative bodies including boards of supervisors, city councils, and school boards, more authority to remove individuals who disrupt public meetings. The new law states:
“SB 1100 amends the Brown Act to provide that the presiding member of a legislative body may have an individual removed for disrupting a meeting of the body. Before removing any person, the person must be warned that their behavior is disruptive, and that continued disruption may result in the person’s removal (however, no prior warning is required if the person is engaging in use of force or threatening to use force against anyone). Behavior is otherwise ‘disruptive’ if it disrupts or impedes the orderly conduct of the meeting.”
Sounds fair enough to me.