Shasta County’s Board of Supervisors finally laid to rest Tuesday a festering dispute with Dominion Voting Systems by unanimously approving a payment of $171,618.05 to terminate its contract.
Early termination of the county’s seven-year contract with Dominion for ballot preparation and vote tally software, licenses, and equipment was originally sought on Jan. 24 by a 3-2 vote of the county’s governing board.
However, a previously scheduled special election to fill a vacant council seat for the City of Shasta Lake required the county’s Election Department to retain and use the equipment through May 8, explained Cathy Darling Allen, Shasta County’s elected Registrar of Voters and County Clerk.
“This agreement resolves the outstanding amounts due Dominion and the cost to return the equipment to Dominion,” she explained.
Per terms of its lease agreement with Dominion, Shasta County was billed $266,048.69 in January for the entire 2023 contract year. An invoice for that amount was received by the county on Jan. 20, yet no payment was ever issued, the termination agreement states.
Instead, Shasta County sought to terminate the contract nearly two years before the contract’s Dec. 31, 2025, expiration date, and further requested Dominion remove all of its leased equipment.
In an effort to resolve the dispute, both parties agreed to compromise and settle all claims past and future, the termination agreement states.
“In full satisfaction of any amounts that Dominion may claim,” Shasta County agreed to pay $93,117.05 within five days as partial payment of the unpaid invoice for services as well as an additional advance payment of $78,501 for removal and shipping of the leased equipment, according to documentation obtained by A News Cafe.
On its part, Dominion will remove its equipment within 45 days of receiving the county’s payment at a mutually convenient date.
Until then, Shasta County Election Department personnel must keep the equipment secure, prepare an inventory, format all equipment to remove any software, then pack, palletize, wrap, and otherwise prepare the equipment for shipment using supplies and instructions provided by Dominion.
Per California Elections Code, Shasta County will be able to retain its own election results data, Darling Allen noted.
Neither party admits any liability and each party agrees to release the other party from any future claims based on facts currently known, the agreement states.
Acrimony on both sides of the voting machine issue continued to color public statements sprinkled throughout the nearly four-hour public meeting that started at 9 a.m. in the county board’s chambers in downtown Redding.
“This is a sad day and time for America,” said Christian Gardinier. “We have a former president who is being indicted for acts of treason, but he is finally getting his day in court,” Gardinier said, referring to Donald Trump, who pleaded “not guilty” in a Miami courtroom Tuesday to 31 felony counts of hoarding classified documents and refusing demands to return them.
“Meanwhile, several of you continue to propagate lies about election fraud,” Gardinier said, later identifying those he accused as supervisors Kevin Crye, Chris Kelstrom, and board chair Patrick Jones.
“Shasta County will not stand for this neo-electioneering conspiracy,” stated Gardinier, who later was ejected from the board chambers when Jones silenced Gardinier’s podium microphone and then gave Gardinier three verbal warnings to stop talking before finally ordering private security officers to escort Gardinier from the room.
Gardinier’s ejection was the second time in three meetings for Jones to take such action, having previously ordered Nathan Blaze Pinkney removed from the board’s chambers on May 30 after Pinkney, who is Black, complained when, Alex Bielecki, who is White, used a racial epithet.
After Gardinier’s ejection, numerous speakers continued to denounce Cathy Darling Allen for “playing the victim” and “refusing to work with supervisors” on putting together a workable program for hand-counting ballots instead of relying on machines.
“It’s clear we have a lot of corruption in this county,” stated Rick Hutchinson, although he produced no evidence to back up his opinion even as he equated statements directed against Jones, Crye, and Kelstrom to the “persecution of Donald Trump, who I still consider as president because the (2020) election was stolen from him.”
Laura Hobbs, the next member of the public to speak, declared the California Secretary of State’s proposed regulations to allow hand counting of ballots as a “threat to Shasta County’s sovereignty.”
“We want local control of our own elections,” Hobbs said.
Another speaker, Lori Bridgeford, thanked the board “for canceling the voting machines” and going to a hand count.
“We all want a free and fair election system. Now let’s eliminate all 14 of the county’s ballot drop boxes, get rid of mail-in ballots and have more controlled receipt of ballots,” Bridgeford continued.
“Cathy Darling Allen should be terminated, or just allow her to resign,” Bridgeford said, then quickly added, “I am paying attention to all of the elected officials and others who got jabbed,” apparently referring to anyone who received the COVID vaccine.
Comments such as these ultimately prompted Supervisor Tim Garman to speak out.
“I don’t agree with this whole process. There is no (election) cheating in Shasta County,” Garman said.
Once again, District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert was clear in her criticism of supervisors Jones, Crye and Kelstrom’s January decision to cancel Shasta County’s Dominion machine contract.
“I’m so disappointed the majority of this board has led this county to a place of being disenfranchised as voters at a huge financial cost to the taxpayers, ” Supervisor Rickert said following Tuesday’s board meeting.
“Terminating Dominion voting machines will be their legacy, and will take years for this county to recover. We have become the laughing stock of the country, and we will pay dearly by not being able to recruit talented professionals and a qualified workforce to this area.”
In other business, four members of the county board certified the Teamsters Local No. 137 as the employee organization for the mid-management bargaining unit of county employees after Supervisor Kelstrom recused and exited the room since he was a former member of the labor union.
Upon Kelstrom’s return to the meeting, the five-member board unanimously adopted a one-year salary resolution capping any pay increases for Deputy Sheriff and Correctional Officer personnel at the county’s “last and best” offer made prior to both sides declaring impasse during labor negotiations.
The resolution eliminates a $3 per hour “Specialty Assignment” stipend for detention service employees and bumps the base pay for those employees by the same amount as well as adding a 2.5 percent pay increase to the base salary as well.
Longevity pay benefits were also adjusted to provide a 2 percent pay increase for most employees with a minimum of three years of service; a 4 percent longevity pay increase for those with at least 10 years of service; and a 5 percent longevity pay increase with those with at least 15 years of service, as long as employees at each step continue to meet or exceed evaluation standards.
After the vote to approve, chair Jones closed the public meeting and recessed the board to a lunch break and then at least 90 minutes of closed-session business.
Following the closed-session meeting, Shasta County Counsel Jim Ross announced reportable action; that supervisors had voted unanimously to not offer employment to the latest health officer candidate.