Hurled profanity. Pounded lecterns. Delivered death threats. Raised fists. Jeers. Yells. Sneers. Bullhorns. Bullying. Crude props and signs. Sarcasm. Ridicule. Hissing. Booing. Shouting. Mockery.
Those words and worse describe the state of incivility and chaos found inside the Shasta County Board of Supervisors chambers during the last three years’ of political upheaval and unrest.
Despite blatant examples of human depravity, personal verbal attacks and over-the-top rudeness exhibited at board meetings, with one exception, no speaker was ever ordered from the room for disturbing the meeting. Not even New California devotee Patty Plumb was asked to leave after she’d turned to the audience and proclaimed, “You uncircumcized Philistines!”
No, here in Shasta County, almost anything goes during board meetings. Bring. It. On.
In fact, the level of open hostility and unbridled anger exhibited by citizens — and some male supervisors, too — has been so unbearable that District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert often says it’s not a place she’d want her grandkids to visit.
It’s not unusual for the lack of decorum inside Shasta County’s board chambers to render the meetings unsuitable for children; or even rational adults unaccustomed to public proceedings that more closely resemble scenes from Lord of the Flies than official governance.
During the public comment period Tuesday, something unexpected happened. Alex Bielecki, a regular speaker known for unhinged, disjointed statements — some of which caused former Supervisor Les Baugh to ban Bielecki from the meetings — rambled on about an agenda item regarding tiny houses.
As always, rather than direct his statements to the supervisors, as is expected, Bielecki turned his body and attention toward the audience and spoke scattershot at great length with no point in sight.
“I’m tellin’ ya straight up, I’m not a fool,” Bielecki said.
That’s when he used the n-word to say what else he wasn’t; besides a fool.
Some audience members gasped and yelled out in shock and disbelief. “Oh!”
Undeterred, Bielecki droned on.
Meanwhile, seemingly unfazed, District 4 Supervisor/board chair Patrick Jones did nothing.
Jones did not pick up his gavel to stop Bielecki. Jones did not utter a word of correction or admonition. Crickets.
However, from the front row of the chambers Bielecki was loudly interrupted by 34-year-old Redding resident Nathan Blaze, an Air Force veteran; notably the only African American in the room.
“Shut the hell up!” shouted Blaze. “Shut up! Shut the hell up!”
That got Jones’ attention. He took action, picked up his gavel and repeatedly rapped it sharply on the wood dais.
“From the chamber …” a scowling Jones began.
Undeterred, Blaze continued yelling at Bielecki. “Get the hell out of here, you racist piece of shit!”
Jones slammed the gavel harder.
“We will have order in this room, Nathan!” Jones said.
Seemingly oblivious, Bielecki resumed speaking for a few more seconds until Blaze once again shouted to Bielecki.
But Bielecki wasn’t as oblivious as he appeared. This time, when Blaze repeated his order for Bielecki to leave, Bielecki yelled back for Blaze to shut up, followed by an isolated middle finger thrust toward Blaze.
Again, Jones ignored the n-word-using, bird-flipping Bielecki, and instead turned his attention to Blaze, someone who’s been frankly critical of Jones in the past.
Jones slammed the gavel harder still.
“Nathan, if you’re gonna continue to break out we’re gonna ask you to leave,” Jones said.
From the opposite side of the front row from Blaze’s seat, respected Redding senior citizen and philanthropist Steve Woodrum joined Blaze and spoke up, too.
“It’s not just him!” Woodrum shouted toward Jones.
In a raised voice, Jones said that everyone needed to be quiet. He then lowered his voice and thanked the audience when the room fell to a hush.
This time, when Bielecki continued speaking, Blaze left his seat and exited the chambers.
A few minutes later, District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman expressed his disapproval and shock over the language used earlier by a public speaker. Garman said racism “sucks” and there was no place for it in this day and age. He apologized to everyone in the room on his behalf, and said hopefully his supervisor colleagues agreed.
The only other colleague to agree with Garman’s anti-racism sentiments was Supervisor Rickert, who recently sponsored a supervisors’ code-of-conduct resolution that failed in a 3-2 vote.
Side note: What kind of a supervisor votes against a code-of-conduct resolution that fosters civility and decorum? We have the answer. All together now: supervisors Patrick Jones, Chris Kelstrom and Kevin Crye, that’s who.
Rickert voiced her disdain for the racist language, and her desire for decorum to return to the board chambers.
Rickert said supervisors should monitor decorum, language and behavior during the meetings, and if someone says or does something inappropriate, the person’s microphone should be immediately turned off, and the person removed from the chambers.
From the dais Rickert attempted to lighten the moment, and addressed the county’s recently hired CEO David Rickert (no relation) who was sitting in the audience, observing the board meeting in person before he’s sworn in soon.
With a smile, Supervisor Rickert asked CEO Rickert to please not judge everyone in the chambers by what he’d seen so far.
Supervisor Rickert’s words were met with hearty applause from the audience.
A few minutes later Jones delivered a patronizing correction to Rickert, complete with Jones’plaining about California state law and the California Constitution under the First Amendment.
In effect, Jones’ explanation defended Bielecki’s right to use the n-word during the public-comment period.
He said California law entitled people to be loud, rude and profane.
“This is all established law in the state of California, and it’s a guaranteed right to you under the Constitution of the United States,” Jones said.
The part of the law about which Jones appears ignorant was pointed out by Tom O’Mara, a North State civil rights expert.
O’Mara cited California Penal Code 415:
“Any of the following persons shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than 90 days, a fine of not more than four hundred dollars ($400), or both such imprisonment and fine:
(1) Any person who unlawfully fights in a public place or challenges another person in a public place to fight.
(2) Any person who maliciously and willfully disturbs another person by loud and unreasonable noise.
(3) Any person who uses offensive words in a public place which are inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction.”
“I believe use of the n-word at the BOS meeting clearly meets criteria No 3, above,” O’Mara said.
The wrong man stays, the right man goes
After schooling Rickert in the Constitution and the First Amendment right to free speech, Jones proceeded to explain what was not allowed in the board chambers.
“You cannot disrupt this meeting,” Jones said. “Any loud outbursts from the chamber floor is a disruption of the meeting which is not allowed, and I will ask you to leave if you do so.”
Blaze, who’d since returned to the chambers, spoke up and challenged Jones.
“So saying the n-word’s OK …” Blaze began, but was cut off by an incensed Jones who yelled into the microphone.
“Nathan! You are doing it again!”
An undaunted Blaze forged ahead to complete his interrupted statement, as Jones simultaneously slammed the gavel and attempted to outshout Blaze.
“So saying the n-wor .. — I don’t care — Patrick Jones,” Blaze said as Jones broke in again. “So saying the n-word is OK, but you’re saying that what I’m doing right now is …”
With that, Jones ordered one of the deputies to escort Blaze from the chambers.
“If he touches me I will sue you,” Blaze said.
The tall, affable deputy, who’s stood as silent sentry for probably thousands of hours’ of board meetings, told Jones he would not remove Blaze because he’d done nothing wrong.
That deputy deserves accolades for standing up to Jones, for knowing the rules and speaking the truth, even to the board chair who happens to be a literal gun dealer. No doubt that deputy is aware that traditionally, Shasta County Sheriffs reserve the use of having deputies physically remove someone from the chambers for illegal or dangerous behavior.
Were Blaze’s actions illegal or dangerous? No.
Even so, Jones ordered one of the private security guards to remove Blaze from the chambers.
The private security guard stood in front of Blaze.
“I have to leave?” Blaze asked. “For what reason?”
“You’re leaving,” the somber-faced security guard said. “The board requested you leave.”
Jones’ amplified voice boomed over the speakers.
“You’re disrupting the meeting and I’m asking you to leave,” Jones said.
Blaze complied with the security guard’s request to stand. By now, the grim-faced tall deputy nodded slightly to Blaze, who picked up his things before speaking again.
“All right, siding with racism,” Blaze said. “That’s what Patrick Jones is.”
“Moving on,” Jones said, as if nothing involving racism, hate speech, double standards and discrimination had just occurred, all orchestrated by Jones.
Here’s the rub: Had Jones immediately taken disciplinary measures the moment the n-word fell from Bielecki’s racist mouth, that would have been the end of it. There would have been no need for Blaze to take charge of the ignorant man, because Jones, as chair, would have seized the moment and banished Bielecki from the board chambers for as long a period of time Jones wished.
What made the whole thing even more sickening was that as Blaze left the chambers, Supervisor Kevin Crye shook his head, laughed and grinned like a trained monkey at a stoic interim CEO Mary Williams who looks like she’s counting the days until she no longer must sit beside King Leer.
Blazing legal recourse
Following his removal from the board chambers, Blaze had time to process and summarize what happened earlier, and plan his legal recourse.
“I’m an African-American United States Air Force veteran who was treated this way the day after Memorial Day,” Blaze said.
“I will be contacting the ACLU, the NAACP, the Shasta County Grand Jury, as well as Shasta County itself. I feel I was blatantly and publicly discriminated against by a MAGA politician who has a history of displaying his distain for me and my activism. I hope to one day soon see Patrick Jones in court and to receive justice for what transpired today.”
Reasons for banishment
Until Tuesday’s expulsion of Blaze from the chambers, the most recent time in this reporter’s memory when a citizen was removed from board chambers by deputies was Oct. 6, 2020. Supervisor Rickert was the chair. Supervisor Leonard Moty hadn’t been recalled. Shasta County’s insanity was in its infancy.
The trouble started when far-right “citizen journalist” and Second Amendment resolution author Richard Gallardo attempted to perform a mass citizen’s arrest on the entire board, county counsel and CEO.
Gallardo’s plan failed. He was escorted from the chambers by a pair of deputies.
Most reasonable people would watch the video above and agree that then-chair Rickert’s decision to expel Gallardo from the chambers made sense and was justified.
Things haven’t been right inside those board chambers ever since. After that Gallardo citizen’s arrest-attempt meeting, county turmoil mounted. Board meetings became increasingly scary places where subsequent board chair Joe Chimenti’s passive, hide-the-gavel leadership style was to never wield his authority to enlist help from deputies inside the chambers to keep the peace and maintain decorum.
Gradually, the board meetings devolved into circus-tent crapshoots, where Jones was the lawless ringleader. With Jones in charge, he ruled meetings more like a dictator than a board chair.
He and his sidekick Crye regularly needle and gaslight Supervisor Rickert.
He allows his friends and fans to speak many minutes beyond the allotted comment time, yet immediately cuts off those he dislikes; people like Blaze, about whom Jones once described from the dais as a domestic terrorist, which right there resembles not just language unbecoming of a supervisor, but possibly slanderous.
Jones rules with an iron fist when it comes to dishing out harsh justice to those he deems rule-breakers; people like Blaze who get under Jones’ skin.
Even so, Double-Standard Jones breaks rules with abandon himself. His first week as a supervisor – Jan. 6 2021 Eve — he breached the board chambers, all for the theater of it during a state-mandated COVID shutdown of public meetings. Raise your hand if you’d classify that as disruptive.
He participated in a slickly produced after-hours break-in of the board chambers where he was filmed removing plastic shields place in the chambers as a protection during a pandemic, all for a Red, White and Blueprint episode.
He told lies about about former Supervisor Moty, and then arranged a lie-detector test with his hand-selected technician to administer the test as “proof” of his truthfulness.
And when death threats and a COVID spike caused the supervisors meeting to be virtual, Jones threw a party outside the board chambers with a huge-screen TV. Donuts, pizza, Recall Moty signs.
While covering that circus, keepin’-it-classy Jones told me three different times to go home.
“Go home, Doni.”
Most of all, Jones uses his board position as a supervisorial ATM for his personal gain.
He voted against the Tierra Robles Palo Cedro development, not because he took to heart constituents’ safety concerns, but because of the property’s close proximity to one of his favorite shooting ranges.
Here’s an excerpt from that story:
… For the second time in the evening, District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones mentioned a personal reason for his opposition to Tierra Robles. In a word: guns. It seems one portion of the Tierra Robles open-space area flanks the Redding Gun Club, of which Jones is a past president. In response to the developer’s solution to build a wall between the gun club and the Tierra Robles development’s open space, Jones was adamant. “So you know, that doesn’t work,” he said. “Once the new owner comes in and the shooting starts, the complaining begins.”
For this topic, Jones spoke not as a supervisor, but as a Redding Gun Club member. He also bragged a bit about being a top shooter, and a Nevada state shooting champion at a gun club that no longer exists. Jones said that gun clubs always butt heads with citizens who live nearby, and the gun clubs always lose.
“If this project moves forward, the range will ultimately shut down,” Jones said. “There’s no question.”
In a rather rich moment, Jones said that aside from the gun-range issue, and fire dangers and potential water shortages, it was imperative that the supervisors “listen to the people”.
“To me, it’s pretty clear that this project is not wanted in this area.”
Interesting choice of words from the supervisor who ignored hundreds of citizens’ pleas over many months with pleas to not fire Shasta County Health Officer Karen Ramstrom.
With that, Jones made the motion to deny the Tierra Robles project and its related proposed zoning amendments …
Jones sponsored a bizarre shipping container zone change, not because a citizen requested it, but don’t cha know those cargo containers come in handy at — where else? – shooting ranges, silly wabbit.
In all fairness, let’s pause and list all the special projects and specific citizen concerns Jones has taken on, just for his people, nothing to do with guns or pigs, and that includes his precious Second Amendment resolution, which is, of course, all about guns. Conflict of interest much?
My list is complete. Zero. That’s how many instances I found where Jones went to bat on something meaningful for his people that didn’t directly benefit Patrick Henry Jones.
Ethics seem optional for Jones, and we’re not just talking about three breached board chamber events. When he learned of an expunged legal issue from former CEO Matt Pontes’ youthful past, Pontes said Jones suggested Pontes should resign, or the legal little skeleton would come out of the closet. In the end, Jones leaked the story to major local media anyway (no, not ANC). Pontes buckled under the pressure and left.
Most recently ANC heard that Assistant CEO Eric Magrini was out on a leave of absence. When ANC sought official comment from the county, we received the answer that Magrini still worked for the county. No reply to the question about a leave of absence. However, lo and behold, the local paper published a story that quoted a “county official” who confirmed Magrini was in fact away on a leave of absence. Later in that same story Supervisor Patrick Jones was quoted on another matter. See how Jones changes hats to fit his need?
Plus, he’s taken grudge-holding to an Olympic level. His grudges include vows to sabotage or never work with any organizations or individuals who’ve somehow bruised Jones’ delicate ego enough to end up on his eternal shit list; even if those grudges end up costing the county more money, or if the grudges mean that citizens are robbed of better services, oh like water during a drought.
Organizations such the McConnell Foundation and the architectural firm Nichols, Melburg and Rossetto come to mind.
Finally, individuals such as Nathan Blaze come to mind, a chef and satirist who brazenly calls Jones out on the lies, deceit and bullying.
What Jones allowed to happen in the board chambers Tuesday was reprehensible and deliberate. He allowed a twisted man to hold court and use language so forbidden that it’s classified with a letter of the alphabet: the n-word.
And when Patrick did nothing to stop the man, then Blaze, the only African American person in the chambers, did something. He said something. He was loud. He was clear. He was angry, and he had every right to be.
And then Jones added salt to the wound by allowing the n-word-speaker to not just continue talking, but Jones allowed the same man to return to the lectern to speak again.
Later, Jeff Gorder, a leader of the Recall Kevin Crye project, took Jones to task over the n-word incident.
Gorder said he was appalled that Jones did not gavel down the speaker. He said not all language is protected, such as words that can incite violent reactions.
The audience applauded. Jones laughed.
“You think that’s funny?” Gorder said. “You are something. That’s not funny. I’m appalled. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Gorder was right. Jones is something; a sorry excuse for a supervisor.
Meanwhile, our new CEO will soon assume his position upon the dais. Let’s hope he’s smart, strong and courageous enough to stand up to Crye, Kelstrom and Jones. For that, he’ll need all the help he can get: thoughts, prayers, wishbones, a rabbit’s foot, and a squeaky clean background record all the way back to his paperboy days.
For good measure Rickert might consider buying a gun from Jones’ family gun shop. Maybe skip the rabbit’s foot, and buy a whole pig for good luck.
And if Shasta County wins the lucky jackpot, Jones will spend three months in jail; plenty of time for the board to handle the Second Amendment resolution and shooting range votes without him.