193

Political Magician or Puppeteer? Trickster Supervisor Performs Contract-Breaching Agenda Stunt

Photo by Doni Chamberlain.

A word of advice to any organization or anyone who may one day find themselves with hat in hand before the Shasta County Board of Supervisors or any at-will county employee who wishes to remain employed: Stay on the good side of Patrick Jones, chair of Shasta County Board of Supervisors.

This tip comes because Jones, who manages his family’s gun shop, has a history of holding unrelenting grudges that make the Hatfield and McCoy feuds look like something out of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Jones has a reputation for sticking to his – uh guns – no matter what. One thing is for certain: He’s predictably unpredictable.

For example, back when Jones was a Redding city council member and the Sundial Bridge was in its infancy, Jones was so vocal about his dislike of the Sundial Bridge concept that he vowed to never walk across it.

Original cartoon by Phil Fountain.

A Sacramento Bee story quoted Jones and his disdain for the bridge:

“We’re a working-class town, and that money could have and should have been spent on much more needed essentials, which is what government is all about – core responsibilities instead of making a cultural statement,” Jones said. “We created an artistic statement that I don’t think is conducive to the hard-working mentality of the folks raised and born here in the city of Redding. … It was very flamboyant.”

Talk about flamboyant! There was the time when Jones dressed up like George Washington as a passenger on a stars-and-stripes adorned boat across the Sacramento River. That stunt allowed Jones to make good on his promise to cross the Sacramento River without putting so much as a single buckled shoe upon the Sundial Bridge. His destination once he reached shore? A Tea Party rally.

Other memorable Jones performances include the time a former Redding City Council colleague talked Jones into breaking his vow to never cross the Sundial Bridge — for one day only — for a veterans fundraiser. The video, published on Redding.com, is grainy, but you get the idea as an entourage of beaming folks joined Jones in all his glory  for his first and last trek across that bridge.

One of Jones’ earliest public vows as a new supervisor was that no matter what the project, benefit or gift, if it involved the McConnell Foundation in any way, he’d vote against it. It wouldn’t matter if it was a cancer cure, a homelessness solution, a brand-spanking-new jail, or the secret to staying awake during long meetings. If McConnell had the solution for all those things and more, Jones would still vote against them. Luckily, for most of Jones’ early years as a supervisor, the dais contained at least three rational board members (all Republicans, btw) who were grateful for the foundation’s generosity.

The thing about many of Jones’ vows is they often start as personal, but as a supervisor he takes his grudges to a public level that can have negative repercussions for the very people he’s supposed to be representing. Case in point was the McConnell Foundation’s efforts to share desperately needed water with the Jones Valley area – Jones’ district, if I’m not mistaken. Jones voted against it. Imagine that; voting against constituents getting access to more water, because Jones hates the McConnell Foundation. This is a guy who can maintain a grudge without ever disclosing the reason behind the grudge. It’s anyone’s guess. We will probably never know.

We do know some things about Jones, such as his love for not just stunts, but costumes, too. Examples abound, from his George Washington boat-ride get-up, and his Daniel Boonesque fringed leather tunic he wore for Red, White and Blueprint’s first fundraiser, to even his wild, wild west campaign posters that depict Jones standing in front of a waving American flag (with a slice of Shasta Dam peaking from behind), as a steely-eyed Jones grips a rifle while staring into the camera.

In the last few years of Shasta County’s political unrest and insanity, we’ve adapted to Jones’ style as we’ve tracked him through his various supervisory stunts and exploits. There was the time when he volunteered to be filmed while taking a polygraph test (he passed). And when he breached closed Shasta County Supervisors board chambers multiple times, and later was proud of his resulting censurship. And I’ll never forget how he organized a circus of an unauthorized one-supervisor outdoor party, complete with a humongous TV screen, and massive speakers powered by a noisy generator stuck in a county flower bed.

For Jones, his piece de resistance was when he contacted a number of local media companies (no, not ANC) for an “urgent” announcement about then-Shasta County CEO Matt Pontes. The announcement was really more along the lines of blackmail than breaking news. Paraphrasing: “Matt Pontes, I dug up some dirt about you from a closed case when you were a dumb young man, and either you quit or I’ll release it to the press.” Jones released the information anyway. In effect, Jones’ mission was accomplished, but Shasta County lost when Pontes quit rather than stick around to suffer more abuse.

There’s a reason for dredging up past examples of Jones’ various stunts. It appears that Jones was up to his old tricks during the Jan.10 Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting; a particularly noteworthy day as it was the first official meeting for new supervisors District 5’s Chris Kelstrom, and District 1’s Kevin Crye.

The R4 Switcheroo

Getting down to Jan. 10 supervisor business. The first indication that a seemingly  innocent item known as R4 was a potential source of trouble occurred when Jones casually mentioned during the meeting that they’d skip R4 and return to it later. Actually, Jones triggered his agenda sleight of hand the Friday prior to the Jan. 10 meeting when he shifted R4 from the consent calendar and to the general calendar. Nothing to see here, folks.

Take the following actions

There’s a fair amount of legalese in board agendas, but in the case of R4 on Jan. 10, it’s worth it to wade through chapter and verse to uncover every informational nugget. Case in point, former consent item R4. The most salient segment is highlighted for you:

(1) Receive presentations regarding architectural and engineering services for the “Shasta County Jail Inmate Transportation and Courtroom Repurposing Project,” Contract No. 610590 (Project);

(2) find the architectural and engineering services for the Project exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) pursuant to State CEQA Guidelines section 15061(b)(3), and not subject to CEQA pursuant to State CEQA Guidelines section 15060(c)(2);

(3) approve an agreement with Nichols-Melburg & Rossetto, AIA & Associates, Inc., for architectural and engineering services for the Project; and

(4) consider providing additional or alternative direction to staff.

No Additional General Fund Impact Simple Majority Vote

NMR going, going, gone

With the sleight of hand of an experienced magician, Jones quickly pulled the rug out from under county staff in general, and the Redding architecture firm Nichols Melburg & Rossetto in particular. As noted above, R4 was all about moving forward with the Shasta County Jail Inmate Transportation and Courtroom Repurposing Project.

Despite the fact that county staff had already selected Nichols Melburg & Rossetto through a formal process to perform design work, inexplicably there were two architectural firms at the lectern — NMR and DLR Group. Each firm provided an 8-minute presentation about the project, almost like an audition. Seeing DLR Group’s presentation was similar to as if an engaged woman browsed on Tinder the morning of her wedding for a hook-up.

Both firms’ presentations were fine, but that’s not the point. The point is that NMR had already negotiated a contract with the county. It made zero sense for the Omaha-based DLR Group to give a presentation. NMR’s negotiations and contract with the county were already well under way, and listed on the Jan. 10 consent calendar for assumed approval.

Jones’ switcheroo happened in stages. First, it was craftily set in place by Jones late in the week prior to the Jan. 10 meeting when he shifted R4 from the consent calendar to the regular calendar. Next came the two architectural firms’ presentations, which at first blush seemed a colossal waste of DLR Group’s time, since county staff  had already chosen NMR.

During the Jan. 10 meeting the supervisors engaged in some lively discussions about the jail options, locations and funding. In a stunning verbal volley between Chair Jones and Vice Chair Garman, Jones was clearly the puppet master, while Garman appeared the confused puppet.

Whose motion was it really?

As if the Jan. 10 meeting couldn’t feel more off kilter, major weirdness reared its head when Jones called upon Garman, who’d apparently indicated he had something to say. The coup de gras was one of the most bizarre motions ever to grace the Shasta County Board of Supervisors dais. With Jones’ OK, Garman launched into a soliloquy that mentioned everything and yet nothing, with parroted phrases that sounded like a compilation of rehashed words spoken during the meeting by various supervisors and public speakers.

Garman: “Thank you, Chairman Jones. I think we discussed this today because we gave direction back in August to have this conversation and let the sheriff do his workshops. But I do believe there’s no way possible to fund a thousand beds off site. It’s just all the dollars that would go into that would be unbelievable. So I’m supportive of doing something here in downtown. Nobody wants it downtown. But I believe that’s the only fiscally responsible thing to do and we have to tackle this issue. It’s gone on way too long. it’s time, it’s time to actually do something.”

All worded out, Garman paused and looked expectantly at Jones. What followed was a suggestion of a motion led by Jones, picked up briefly by Garman, nudged along by Jones who all but said the entire motion that was ostensibly Garman’s, but was really presented by Jones.

Jones: “Are you going to put that in the form of a …”

Garman: “I’ll put it in a motion …”

Jones: “… to direct staff to look at all funding possibilities …and start the …”

Garman: “…start the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) …”

Jones: “… and start the CEQA for the downtown location …”

Garman: “…that’s my motion.”

Jones: “All right, so we have a motion on the table …”

Kelstrom: “I’ll second it.”

Jones: “And we have a second from Supervisor Kelstrom, and I’ll bring it back for more discussion.”

More jail discussion

Rickert, the lone supervisor who’s consistently expressed the strongest objections to a downtown jail site, tried another line of reasoning.

“I just want to know, if we are going to pour money into an adjacent facility next to an old facility that we’re going to have to condemn in five to 10 years,” Rickert said. “Is that long-term thinking?”

Alas, Jones’ sights are on short-term goals, at least when it comes to a jail plan. In fact, Jones said he felt a sense of urgency to move forward with a downtown jail project. He said that although an off-site jail location would be desirable, it’s outside the county’s financial ability.

“I believe that moving forward on a downtown site is something that’s within our grasp,” Jones said. “I think it’s undisputed that the downtown location can be done cheaper than anywhere else at an off-site location. That is a fact.”

Kelstrom added his “two cents” and said that one concept he learned from some of the jail presentations is the possibility of building the project in stages. “You know, maybe do a wing for incarceration and then eventually do a wing for mental health services,” Kelstrom explained.

Kelstrom added that the downtown jail plan also had room for expansion, much like the “wagon wheel of justice” concept, especially when looking ahead to when the old courthouse is removed.

With a chuckle, supervisor Crye started by going on the offense.

“This is the problem with government!” Crye said.

Crye then quoted something he’d said last year during his campaign.

“I said that if we’re going to look at a 500 million dollar/ half a billion dollar expansion, let’s just see if we can get the New York Yankees to move here as well,” he said. “We’re looking at something that we couldn’t afford a year ago and we still can’t afford it today.”

Rickert interjected her belief that the jail project needed more in-depth exploration. “This is a serious decision that’s going to impact generations,” Rickert said. “We’ve had several people here today talking about the importance of people receiving services; rehabilitation services, and mental health services.”

She spoke of a desire for programs to help reduce recidivism to deal with the revolving door of incarcerated people. She added that she wanted more public input, perhaps by offering night meetings. “I’ve had several people say they’re very opposed to expanding (jail functions) in the downtown area,” Rickert said. “I think we need to consider those voices.”

Crye piped up and assured Rickert that people did talk; they voted for him and Supervisor Kelstrom. He talked about boots on the ground, rolled-up sleeves and streamlined services. He said people should spend less time talking and more time doing. Plus, Crye, someone never shy about tooting his own horn, boasted that of all the supervisors, he’s spent the most time with the groups that organize meals for the unhoused each weekend.

Rickert took exception to Crye’s more-work less-talk speech. She reminded the supervisors of the amount of time she and former Supervisor Joe Chimenti invested on the proposed navigation center, a facility Rickert said could have been in place four years ago, but it was ultimately rejected.

The guys – Jones, Garman, Crye and Kelstrom — were in a full-speed-ahead mode with regard to getting jail plans in place asap, while Rickert kept pumping the brakes with questions about creative funding sources for the best long-range plans.

County counsel clarification

The jail discussions ping-ponged back and forth. In a break between volleys, county counsel Rubin Cruse schooled the supervisors regarding the Jones/Garman motion.

Cruse patiently directed his comments to the “maker of the motion” and the motion’s second, to provide staff clarification with regard to supervisor’s reference to “look at the downtown location.”

“I believe the maker’s referring to the downtown location using Option A at the existing jail that was explained by staff back at the August 16, 2022 meeting; with modifications to accommodate the transportation construction project that was also explained at that same meeting,” Cruse said.

Garman’s response was brief. “Yes, that’s correct.”

Supervisors reject staff recommendation

Public Works Director Al Cathey provided some history about R4, and how county staff followed supervisors’ earlier request for staff to start the process of evaluating and reviewing potential firms to hire for the architectural/engineering design work related to the jail project. He explained that when the county is hiring architects and engineers for government work, state law requires that selections are based upon qualifications, not cost. While Cathey said that ultimately, although both firms provided good proposals, county staff selected Nichols, Melburg and Rossetto.

“NMR rated higher than the second (DLR Group),” Cathey said. “NMR, at least for what we were doing here was rated higher by the rating committee.”

Once NMR had been notified that they’d been selected for the jail project, the wheels were in motion and everyone was pointing in the same direction. Cathey said county staff had informed DLR Group that it had not been selected, and also included DLR Group of an appeal process, if the firm wished. Cathey said DLR chose not to appeal staff’s selection of NMR.

 R4 pulled by Jones

Jones explained that he’d removed R4 from the consent calendar where it was previously known as consent item No. 22, and then he moved it to the meeting’s regular calendar.

R4’s original placement in the consent calendar made it official that NMR had already begun the contract process, and was in the home stretch. But it was a sad tale of push-me pull-you twin R4s.

Jones asked the supervisors if they had any questions for the architects who’d just made their presentations. After a moment of silence, Garman directed a question to one of the DLR Group presenters. This seemed odd, given staff had already selected NMR. Garman’s question tipped his hand regarding the upcoming vote.

“Yeah, I have a question,” Garman said. “When could you start a project like this?”

The DLR Group representative seemed taken aback, and repeated Garman’s question.

“When would I start a project like this? Um …”

Garman rushed in with a follow-up question, and asked if the firm could start right away; as if hiring someone to shampoo wall-to-wall carpets.

“Oh, oh, when could we start? Definitely right away,” the DLR presenter replied.

With that, Chair Jones’ next words stunned county staff who’d done exactly as the board had asked with regard to reviewing, evaluating and selecting the best candidate for the jail project. But it’s unlikely that anyone was more surprised and confused as the Redding-based NMR staff. They’d seen in black and white the agenda that spelled out that they were the chosen firm.

“So I guess I’ll jump right in here,” Jones said. “I guess for me, I have had experience with NMR. I was at City Hall for eight years, and we did have an issue with NMR on the design of the building, and a design flaw. It was costly, and it just started to make me think, on a specific project like this, one that’s extremely specific, that we might want to take a look at a company that specialized in this. And to me, DLR has considerable more experience. I think both companies are capable of doing the job; I have no doubt. The question here is who is going to do the best job for us? And I believe specifically on this type of structure, I believe it’s DLR. And that’s why I pulled it off (the consent calendar), and in fact I’ll go as far as to make a motion that we recommend and accept and approve an agreement with DLR for the project.”

::Crickets::

Sidebar: Notice that Jones was the only supervisor to provide opinions during the board meeting about why he was voting for DLR instead of NMR. Notice that none of the supervisors weighed in with their thoughts for or against NMR or DLR, almost as if the majority of them could take them or leave them, or that their minds were collectively convinced about DLR beforehand. This begs a potentially damning Brown Act question: Prior to the Jan. 10, 2023 meeting, did Crye, Kelstrom, Jones and Garman discuss how they’d vote?

I single those four out because when ANC contacted the supervisors with questions about R4, NMR and the DLR Group, Supervisor Ricket volunteered that she’d had no conversations before the Jan. 10 meeting with her four fellow supervisors about anything related to the DLR Group.

In particular, the exchange between Garman and Jones where Jones was the puppet master and Garman the puppet appeared especially suspicious, and had a rehearsed quality to it, almost as if Garman had been coached about making a motion. But when the time came to give birth to his motion, Garman floundered, so Jones stepped in as a motion-making midwife, easing Garman through an uncomfortable process.

“Any seconds out there?” Jones asked with a laugh about his motion.

Garman said he’d second Jones’ motion.

Before Jones took his motion to a vote, Counsel Cruse interjected a few words. He said that that particular action was not on the agenda for a contract for DLR Group.

“But, you can give staff direction to commence negotiations with DLR and to bring such a contract back for the board’s approval,” Cruse said.

Jones apologized, and said that because he pulled R4 off the consent calendar, he’d asked (staff) that DLR be on the agenda for consideration.

Jones said he would amend his motion to consider adopting alternative direction to staff to select DLR for this project. He asked Kelstrom if he would second the motion, to which Kelstrom agreed.

Kelstrom then lobbed a number of questions to the DLR representative about everything from costs, staffing and specifics, to design, bed counts and a possible future presentation in the board chambers.

When the questions petered out, Jones reminded supervisors that he’d made a motion to direct staff to select DLR and have a contract ready for the next agenda, and that it had been seconded. He was ready for the roll-call vote, taken in this order: Crye, Kelstrom, Jones, Garman and Rickert.

The motion passed 5-0.

If the DLR Group felt as if it had won the lottery, surely NMR felt like the biggest losers, and for no good reason.

Why ask for staff direction and then ignored it?

A News Cafe reached out to to the offices of Nichols, Melburg & Rossetto for comment, but the firm was unable to provide a spokesperson to answer questions at this time.

A News Cafe also emailed all five supervisors questions about why they voted contrary to staff recommendations. Chair Jones, and supervisors Rickert and Garman responded to the email. Supervisors Crye and Kelstrom did not.

Below are Jones, Rickert and Garman’s complete, unedited responses to A News Cafe’s questions regarding why they voted the way they did.

Shasta County District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones.

District 4 Supervisor/Chair Patrick Jones: “I, as Chair pulled it (R4 from the consent calendar) for the board to make the final decision. I have had some past problems with NMR and wanted to see if they were the best company for this project. It you watched the meeting than I think you could tell the better firm was DLR. Sorry you are not clear.”

A News Cafe’s follow-up question asked Jones for specific examples of problems he’d experienced with NMR: 

“Mold on the third floor for starters. (City Hall). There are other things too but I just thought it would be the right for the new board to here from both groups so they could make up their own minds.”

District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert

District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert: “I also was perplexed as to the process. I was surprised that there was a second firm presenting as they were not listed on the agenda. I should have asked questions during the board meeting, but felt it would be more appropriate to do more research after the meeting to get adequate background before delving into what happened at the board meeting. I have heard from members of the public who are also concerned about this process, and how it played out. I plan to bring this agenda item up again and request that as a board, we re-visit the item. Another reason behind my decision to join the other supervisors in a yes vote was this was the new board’s first meeting, and I decided to choose my battles. I knew that if I voted no, I’d be the only supervisor to do so. I didn’t want to begin the first meeting in opposition to the other board members.”

District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman.

District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman: “Chair Jones let me know he was pulling the item on the Friday before. My decision to motion for DLR was based on the presentation. I also believe healthy competition is a good thing and that it brings out the best in everyone. It’s nice to have different options available. I have had some conversations with staff.

Thanks for the inquiry, Tim.”

Where does this leave county staff?

This new board is a wild card played in the vast unknown landscape called Shasta County government. It may be too soon to tell, but newcomers Kelstrom and Crye, who campaigned as anti-government outliers, have tipped the power balance to the far, far right. If this R4 vote isn’t just a one-off, then we may be in for yet another bumpy road ahead.

Accusations of mold aside (not to mention Jones’ potentially libelous assertions of NMR design flaws), Jones provided vague answers about his true reasons for rejecting NMR and embracing DLR Group; the very firm county staff did not choose. (By the way, in the event that mold was present in an NMR-designed space, that’s a contractor issue, not an architect’s.)

So many questions: What message does it send county staff who’ve complied with supervisors’ directives, only to have their work rejected? How could those staff members not feel irrelevant, disrespected and undervalued? What incentive would any sane county employee have to stay under those circumstances? No place is this more true than here in Shasta County, where we’ve watched in horror the exodus of some the county’s key leaders; either by firing, blackmail, intimidation or because they’re backed in a corner with two choices: jump or wait to be pushed.

But one of the greatest uncertainties of all is not knowing the nature of Shasta County’s pair of new board members. Will they prove to be independent thinkers, or Patrick’s puppets?

A few more meetings, a few more motions, a few more votes and we may have our final answer.

If you appreciate journalist Doni Chamberlain’s reporting and commentary, please consider supporting ANC. Thank you!

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's 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's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
193 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments