It may be the greatest rags-to-riches story in Shasta County’s political history. In just two short years of public life, District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye has gone from declaring no reportable income on his campaign finance forms to purchasing, with cash, a $750,000 luxury home in one of Redding’s toniest gated communities.
According to the Shasta County Recorder and multiple real estate listing services, Crye and his wife purchased the upscale Stanford Hills home from the Lori and Steve Meischke Revocable Trust Agreement on August 14 for $750,000. According to the documents, the Cryes paid the three-quarters of a million dollars asking price in full, without the benefit of a mortgage or selling their District 4 home, purchased with a bank loan for $315,000 in 2014.
Crye famously moved to a rental condo in Salt Creek Heights when he declared his candidacy for the District 1 seat in November 2021. With the purchase of the new home, Crye can say he’s finally arrived in District 1 for real—just in time to face a recall election next March, brought on by constituents angered by his wildly uninformed vote to terminate the county’s contract with Dominion Voting Systems in January and a slew of bad decisions he’s made since then.
It’s been a whirlwind journey for Crye, a former ill-tempered high school basketball coach who in the decade before he ran for office struggled to keep his various sporting enterprises afloat. In 2012 Crye filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Klamath Falls, Ore., discharging $120,000 in unsecured debt after his companies West Coast Outfitters, Upper Hand Athletics, and Basin Basketball Academy ran aground.
As recently as November 2021, Shasta County placed a tax lien on one of Crye’s present companies, Ninja Coalition Inc. As already stated, that same month Crye declared his candidacy for District 1, claiming he had no income to report. It was difficult to avoid the conclusion that Crye was in desperate need of that $50,000+ supervisor salary.
That was just two short years ago and now the supervisor is purchasing a $750,000 luxury home with cash. What accounts for Crye’s rapid reversal of fortune?
It’s quite simple, really. Crye has risen to infamy and affluence by simultaneously bashing state government COVID mandates on one hand while raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in state COVID education grants with the other, via his Ninja Coalition band of sports and promotional companies.
These ventures are Ninja Coalition HQ INC, Crye’s gym at the Shasta Mall; Axios LLC, the Alaska-based manufacturer of Endless Rope exercise machines for which Crye serves as CEO; Valor Talent Group, Crye’s stable of American Ninja warriors and other celebrity athletes; and Ninja Coalition INC, Crye’s event-promotion company.
After claiming he had no financial interests when he filed to run for office in 2021, Crye filed a revised Form 700 statement of economic interests when he assumed office in January. In that document Crye claimed he makes more than $100,000 per year from each of the four companies.
Going from zero declared income to $400,000+ in two years may sound like quite the leap, but it’s entirely feasible considering the rich vein of state government ore Crye has tapped into. As A News Café reported in March:
“Crye and his traveling circus of Ninja warriors, former Olympic athletes, lesser-known musicians, a magician, a Christian filmmaker, and other almost-famous celebrities aren’t dipping their beaks in the dark pools of private equity publicly touted by their ringmaster. They’re drilling into the far more lucrative field of government grants and programs, such as the Extended Learning Opportunity Program, one of the state’s responses to learning loss resulting from COVID-19 pandemic mandates.”
ELOP kicked off in the 2021-22 school year, and Crye was among the first to climb aboard locally. The state proposes to spend $5 billion through the 2024-25 school year on “learning opportunities that take place outside of normal school hours,” including programs before and after school, during winter and spring breaks, and summer school.
ELOP is the funding source for the $340,000 contract the Gateway Unified School District board of trustees awarded earlier this year to Crye’s Ninja Coalition Inc., operating under the fictitious business name California Adventure Camps. Crye has similar contracts, ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, with school districts throughout California, many more than are presently listed on his Form 700 financial disclosure statements.
“Privately I’m working with 40 school districts across the state,” Crye bragged at the town hall he held earlier this year, omitting the fact that he’s taking in potentially millions in state taxpayer funding. He claims he now has 50 to 60 full-time and part-time employees.
“I work with 12 [school districts] in Shasta County. I work with every single school district in Siskiyou County and shortly everyone in Tehama.”
At the very same town hall Crye, with no apparent sense of irony, belittled citizens and business owners who depend on the government to fix social and economic problems while espousing the virtues of free enterprise and Christian charity.
“The only way it’s going to get better is if business owners start leaning in privately and stop waiting for the government to fix the problem,” Crye said at one point. Commenting about the homeless and the mentally ill, he added, “I don’t think it’s the government’s job to do a lot of this stuff … I think it’s [up to] churches and private citizens.”
Of course, being a raging hypocrite isn’t necessarily against the law; some folks might even say it’s a prerequisite for entering the modern political arena. And there’s nothing wrong with making an honest dollar, even if taxpayers are footing the bill.
Nevertheless, Crye’s sudden financial success and his penchant for pursuing new business connections while on duty as county supervisor has raised eyebrows even among his ultraconservative supporters. Conservative activist Dolores Lucero has filed several complaints against Crye with the California Fair Political Practices Commission alleging that Crye has violated the conflict of interest provisions of Government Code Section 1090 and has failed to declare all of his economic interests on his Form 700.
Lucero has made a mission out of Crye, appearing at nearly every board meeting to lay out her case against the District 1 supervisor during the public comment section. She brings the receipts, documents obtained through public records searches, and other sources that flash across the screen during her brief appearances. Crye normally doesn’t respond to Lucero’s presentations, but at last week’s board meeting, he made an exception.
As Lucero finished her three-minute speech, Crye notified board chair Patrick Jones that he intended to respond. He then read from an Aug. 11 letter both he and Lucero received from the FPPC:
“This letter is in response to the sworn complaint you submitted to the Enforcement Division of the Fair Political Practices Commission regarding the above-named individual. After review of the complaint and information provided, the Enforcement Division will not pursue an enforcement action in this matter.”
The case is closed, Crye insisted.
“I have no jurisdiction in the state of California or any other school district entity so there’s never been a conflict,” Crye said. “This letter was sent to myself and Ms. Lucero August 11 so anytime she comes up here and talks about some conflict of interest, that’s been debunked. So, there you go.”
Except the conflict of interest charges haven’t been debunked. The FPPC is currently investigating Lucero’s allegations that Crye is violating state conflict of interest laws and is not fully disclosing his economic interests. These cases remain open which can be verified on the FPPC’s website. A News Café has a copy of the Aug. 11 letter and has confirmed that it refers to a separate case filed by Lucero that was dismissed.
(Editor’s Note: After this story was published, the FPPC provided information indicating Lucero’s conflict of interest and Form 700 complaints against Crye have been merged into a single case. This case remains open and under investigation. In a July 20 letter to Lucero and Crye, the FPPC said, “Specifically, we have opened a case to review for potential violations related to the respondent’s statements of economic interests Form 700s.)
Crye didn’t offer the complaint number on the Aug. 11 letter and oddly asked the audience not to file a Freedom of Information Act request, just ask his office for a copy. Whether Crye was aware he has two cases pending with the FPPC is unknown because he refused to answer any of the questions A News Café submitted to him by email. Here’s the list of questions:
1. Did you pay $750,000 cash for the home? Did you sell your other home?
2. What is the source of this money? Is it the Expanded Learning Opportunity Program?
3. Isn’t it hypocritical to constantly bash state government when that’s the source of your apparently lucrative livelihood?
3. Do you plan to amend your Form 700 to reflect this new acquisition?
4. At the last BOS meeting, you said the FPPC has declined to take action on the conflict of interest complaint filed by Dolores Lucero. Do you stand by that claim?
5. Are you aware that the FPPC is still reviewing Lucero’s conflict of interest complaint, as well as her complaint about improper filing of your Form 700?
6. If you are aware of her active complaints, why did you claim they’ve all been debunked at the last board meeting?
While Crye didn’t answer any of these questions, he did offer a somewhat cryptic general response.
“My family’s home where my young children and my wife and I live is none of your business,” he wrote. “I have multiple companies. Which of course, are none of your business.”
Obviously, Crye has yet to come to terms with his status as a public figure. When an elected official who originally stated he had no economic interests suddenly drops $750,000 cash on a new luxury home, that’s news. When the FPPC opens a case to investigate a complaint, that’s news. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t run for office in Shasta County.
Crye did attempt to explain his rags-to-riches story.
“Research Dave Ramsey,” he said. “Then you’ll understand why you and I are probably worlds apart.”
Apparently Crye follows Ramsey, the popular radio host and financial guru who advises listeners to reduce their financial liabilities through the “debt snowball method.”
While Ramsey is perhaps due some of the credit for Crye’s recent financial success, California taxpayers are his greatest benefactors. Crye might want to tone down his anti-state government rhetoric. It’s never wise to bite the hand that feeds you.