Without citing specific evidence, District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye called for an outside criminal attorney to look into why Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett did not follow through on a criminal prosecution of Pacific Gas & Electric following the 2020 Zogg Fire.
Crye also questioned, as did several of his supporters during public comments, why a non-profit organization on which Bridgett serves as board secretary received $7 million of the $50 million civil trial settlement.
“We need to hire someone we can trust,” Crye said while making a motion to take action on a topic not included on the Shasta County Board of Supervisors’ agenda for the Aug. 1 meeting.
Perhaps it is merely a coincidence. Perhaps it’s karma. However, these events in Shasta County coincide with breaking news of indictments and charges levied against Donald Trump regarding the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol fomented allegedly by the former president, the New York Times reported today.
Crye’s motion, seconded by board chair and District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones, failed on a 2 – 2 vote with District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman and District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert voting no.
District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Prior to his motion, Crye spent nearly 15 minutes making his case, complete with video excepts of DA Bridgett’s lengthy presentation July 25 to board members on the results of a civil case her office prosecuted against the utility company and how the settlement payment was distributed.
Crye also read aloud excerpts from various reports on Zogg Fire’s cause as well as court transcripts explaining why a criminal case was dropped and a civil case initiated instead, all topics Bridgett covered in much more detail during her presentation made at the board’s request.
Similar questions were raised at the previous board meeting, but apparently Crye was not satisfied with the answers he received then.
“I spent probably between 30 and 40 hours reading all these reports and watching videos, including another six to eight hours last night,” Crye said in an attempt to justify his motion.
“I even spent several hours talking to my corporate attorney, who really doesn’t understand criminal law all that much,” Crye said.
“Instead of coming into a public meeting and taking up all of this time, have you ever sat down with the DA and asked her about all of this?” Rickert asked Crye several times during discussion regarding the appropriateness of the motion and whether the county Board of Supervisors even had the authority to question the actions a duly elected District Attorney.
Crye eventually admitted that no, he had not contacted District Attorney Bridgett with questions related to the Zogg Fire case.
When contacted Tuesday by A News Cafe, DA Stephanie Bridgett made the following statement:
“I’m happy the community is interested in the outcome of the Zogg Fire case. My office has worked tirelessly over the last two years to bring this case to a resolution that is beneficial to the community and those that lost their lives,” Bridgett’s written response states.
“This judgment results in approximately 74 percent of the money going to our local fire and police departments for the protection of our community from catastrophic fires and arsonists. The remaining funds go to civil penalties and honoring the four deceased victims by providing funds to organizations of their families’ choosing.
“It’s disappointing to hear that Supervisor Crye believes our relationship is such that he could not call me to discuss this judgment. As I told him when he was elected, I look forward to working together to make our community safer.
“I can assure the community that during the seven-day preliminary hearing, all evidence was presented regarding the defective tree and PG&E’s failure to remove it. After hearing witnesses testify, the Honorable Judge (Bradley L.) Boeckman found sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.
“As I stated in my press conference (immediately following completion of the case), I disagree with the subsequent reviewing judge who believed there was insufficient evidence of the defective tree presented at the preliminary hearing,” Bridgett stated.
Boeckman was a judge for the Superior Court of Shasta County from 1995 until he retired in September 2015 as the court’s longest-serving judge. He continued to serve Shasta County as a temporary judge when needed and issued his findings on the Zogg Fire in that capacity.
“The resolution of this case was in the best interest of Shasta County,” Bridgett concluded.
A News Cafe has previously reported that members of the Red, White and Blueprint group and others who supported the elections of Crye, Kelstrom and Garman to the county board have repeatedly hounded Shasta County Clerk and Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen and DA Bridgett since the candidates supported by the Make America Great Again (MAGA) pro-Trump group failed in its attempt to unseat the two incumbents.
More recently, the same group added to its head-spike shopping list the position of Shasta County Sheriff and Coroner, appointed after Patrick Jones and others forced Shasta County’s previous Chief Executive Officer Matt Pontes to resign after digging up sealed court documents of a youthful indiscretion Pontes made while a teenager, and subsequently accusing then-Sheriff/Coroner Eric Magrini of as-yet unknown transgressions contained in an investigation report and personnel action file that has been ordered released due to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Watchers and witnesses to Tuesday’s board of supervisors meetings could hear the war drums beating when several MAGA faithful trooped to the podium during a nearly hour-long public comment period.
“The corruption in our county courts and the Shasta County District Attorney’s office is appalling,” claimed Robert Gibbs, who identified himself as publisher of ShastaCountyWars.com
“I’ve filed several lawsuits regarding excessive use of force in the jail including depravation of my own rights when I was kept as a political prisoner in the Shasta County Jail for three and a half years,” Gibbs stated.
“I am very serious, very credible,” he continued.
“That is why I am asking you supervisors to take a vote to forward my complaints to the (California) State Attorney General,” Gibbs said as he waved aloft several manila file folders stuffed with papers.
As his three-minute speaking slot expired without any response, Gibbs could be heard over the podium microphone uttering, “I guess official corruption is apparently not very important here!”
When it was her turn to speak, Margaret Hanson asked about the Zogg Mine civil case settlement, mirroring some of Crye’s points.
“Why does DA Bridgett get to distribute the money? And why did the Children’s Legacy Fund, on which she sits as a board member, get $7 million. I’m asking for forensic audits of every department in the county,” Hanson said.
Shasta County Counsel Matthew McOmber answered that same question posed by Crye last week when he stated it was well within DA Bridgett’s purview and responsibility as an elected official and the county’s top law enforcement official to do so.
“The topic for today is public fear,” announced Alex Bielecki, notorious for his previous utterance of the N-word to describe a person of color during a previous public comment statement.
“Where has all the money been going since the pandemic? (California) Governor Gavin Newsom hasn’t sent up any money for our fires or anything else,” Bielecki said, warming to his favorite racist topic.
“… The violence continues, We still have a war with Mexico. They keep sending their people up here smuggling drugs, growing marijuana illegally and using 10 people to beat people up,” he said before the buzzer ended his time in the spotlight.
Other speakers echoed Crye’s suspicions regarding the Zogg Fire settlement.
“Why wasn’t PG&E held criminally responsible for the Zogg Fire that killed four people and destroyed all those houses and outbuildings?” asked Monique Welin.
In other meeting highlights, Supervisors Crye and Jones rejected Supervisor Mary Rickert’s motion that the board receive Brown Act training, just as they and their fellow ultra-conservative board member Kelstrom rejected Rickert’s recent call for the board’s adoption of an official Code of Conduct.
The board majority has made the men’s beliefs abundantly clear that they require no additional training, information, education, professional guidance or input to adequately govern and protect Shasta County.
Editor’s note: This story was revised for clarity on Aug. 1 at 5:20 p.m.