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Allegations of Elder Abuse, Sexism and Ageism Precede County Charter Deliberations Tuesday

A verbal altercation between Judy Salter, 75, of Redding, and Shasta County’s District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye, 49, at the close of last week’s board of supervisors meeting dominated public comment time with numerous people either taking jabs at Crye or showing support for Salter during the Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting Nov. 7.

One of the first to address Salter’s allegations against Crye was former Redding Mayor Victoria “Missy” McArthur. She described someone who tells Judy Salter that she is too old to be involved in politics and needs to just go away, as “ageist and sexist”. 

McArthur pointed out that Salter was a recent recipient of the Redding Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year award.

“She is a shining star in the Redding universe,” McArthur said.

An official biography maintained online by Congress states:

“Judy E. Salter, 75, is the former President and CEO of Turtle Bay Exploration Park, a $70 million cultural and educational complex on the Sacramento River in Redding.

“Ms. Salter has served widely on numerous arts, literacy, and social policy boards. She continues to consult with community organizations on fundraising, board development, and strategic planning,” the Congressional biography continues.

Salter approached the lectern and explained what happened between her and Crye after the previous meeting. She said her intent was to say something positive with regard to the discussion about a possible county charter. She added that she told Crye she wasn’t opposed to a charter county. Rather, she was concerned about the way the amendment was being presented.

Salter said that when Crye asked why she hadn’t met with him last year during his campaign, she responded that she was a strong supporter of Erin Resner, and was contributing to her campaign, and working on her campaign, so she believed a meeting with him during his campaign would be a waste of both of their time.

“He told me my time was up, that I was too old to be doing this; what was I? 70?” Salter recalled.

“I was kind of flattered because I’m actually 75. But it was time for me to step back and let other people do these things; get involved. Well, when he did that, he undermined my experience, my knowledge, and he also perpetrated a very harmful stereotype about older individuals. I mean, look at this room. There are a lot of us that are older than 55. We’re valuable. Age should never be a barrier in participating in politics, or any other aspect of public life.”

She told Crye that his words indicated a need on the board for a more respectful political environment, one that values diversity and experience.

Her comments were greeted with a long round of applause from supportive members of the public, some of whom stood and applauded.

Supervisor Rickert noted that Salter had worked in Washington, D.C.

“There is not a single person in this room that has the political knowledge and expertise and experience as Judy Salter,” Rickert said, a comment that was followed by enthusiastic audience applause.

Crye said he wanted to “piggyback” on Rickert’s comment.

“The longer that this goes until March, you’re gonna continue to see stuff come forward, and it’s gonna be political move after political move after political move,” Crye said.

“Cuz Ms. Salter, you know that was not the conversation, and you want to politicize it, and that’s OK.”

Crye’s comments to Salter were met with a chorus from chambers of, “Liar! Liar! Liar!”

Chair Jones banged the gavel and ordered quiet on the floor.

Jones then transitioned to his own comments about the Salters. He said he had a lot to say about the Salters and the McConnell Foundation, and was “privy” to a lot of information. But before Jones could proceed, Crye interrupted the chair and suggested Jones refrain from going there, and return to public comment.

When Eric Silberstein began his public comment, he first turned toward the audience and addressed Salter personally.

“Judy Salter, you are a treasure, just a treasure,” Silberstein said with a smile.

His smile disappeared when he turned his attention to Crye.

“Kevin Crye, you’re a liar, just a liar,” Silberstein said. “Time and time again we hear it, we see it, your face gets red. It’s a tell …We know you’re guilty, and you’re a liar.”

In the middle of a steady stream of speakers who blaster Crye and praised Salter, District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman apologized to Salter from the dais on behalf of the entire board. Garman then made a motion to bring back the call for a Code of Conduct, which District 3 Supervisor Rickert has requested and been denied by the board majority for months.

Supervisor Rickert seconded Garman’s motion.

Supervisor Crye said he would not “entertain more false accusations, more things said just to sensationalize something,” and then turned on Garman and said Garman was the only supervisor to use profanity and commit an FPPC violation by wearing a recall Kevin Crye shirt.

“So if it satisfies Supervisor Garman, and your needs for political grandstanding, let’s just get it over with and talk about it,” Crye said.

Chair Jones interjected that he hoped supervisors would not be judged by private conversations, because he’s had many conversations with Lee Salter — Judy Salter’s husband, the former McConnell Foundation CEO.

With that, the Code of Conduct vote was taken. Crye voted yes, District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom voted no — “because it’s virtue signaling” — Garman voted yes, and Rickert voted “absolutely yes”. The motion passed 3 -2, and public comment continued.

Finally, when yet another speaker blasted Crye for his mistreatment of Salter, Crye said he’d address the incident in his board report later.

He never did.

Charter County headed for the ballot

Board chairman Patrick Jones moved the meeting forward to official business.

Under the guise of self-determination, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to place an ordinance on the March 5, 2024, presidential primary election ballot in an effort to change the county’s organization from a General Law County to a Charter County.

After substantial public comment and some additional discussion by all five county supervisors, the agenda item passed with Jones, joining with Crye and Kelstrom in the majority.

Voting against the County Charter ordinance were supervisors Rickert and Garman.

If approved by a simple majority of voters in March, the ordinance will take effect Jan. 1, 2025, assuming it is also accepted and duly filed by the California Secretary of State, wording contained in the ordinance states.

The board’s proposal to form a Charter County is the direct result of the board’s previously stated fears that Governor Gavin Newsom will appoint a replacement for Crye if voters are successful in recalling the supervisor in March.

Shasta County was established in 1850 as a General Law County, as are 43 other counties in California. Only 14 of the state’s 58 counties are Charter Counties.

According to the online Encyclopedia of American Politics, “A chartered city, county, or municipality is one that possesses a unique set of laws that forms the legal foundation of its local system of government. The legal document that articulates these laws is called a charter.

“Charters act in relation to a county, city, village or town the same way that a state constitution acts in relation to a state or a federal constitution acts in relation to a nation. They define the powers and functions of elected officials as well as the organization and procedures of local government.”

On the other hand, General Law Counties, as Shasta County is now, follow the laws of the State of California.

Basic provisions for the government of California counties are contained in the California Constitution and the California Government Code, according to the County Supervisors Resource Guide published by the California State Association of Counties.

A county is the largest political subdivision of the state having corporate and police powers. It is vested by the state legislature with the powers necessary to provide for the health and welfare of the people within its borders. The specific organizational structure of a county in California will vary from county to county.

California’s 44 general law counties must adhere to the “general laws” approved by the Legislature and the governor.

General law counties must follow state statutes that dictate the number, appointment, and election procedures for county officials.

General law counties must also adhere to state laws which specify that county employees must perform most county functions and restrict counties’ ability to contract out for services, the guide states in “An Introduction to California Counties.”

General law counties have some flexibility with regard to supervisors’ salaries, the appointment of a county administrator, the election or appointment of other officers, the number and types of employees, and other matters, the guide continues.

By comparison, the guide states:

“California’s 14 Charter Counties — Alameda, Butte, El Dorado, Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange, Placer, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Tehama — have opted for a governing structure that allows for greater local control.

By adopting and amending a charter (a mini-constitution), county voters can take advantage of constitutional discretion over the county’s governing board, officers, and employees.

For example, charter counties can:

  • Increase the number of county supervisors and elect them at-large
  • Appoint fewer county officers and specify their duties
  • Contract out for any service (subject to certain state contracting rules)
  • Specify a process to fill a Supervisor vacancy

However, Charter Counties gain no additional regulatory powers or revenue flexibility, the guide continues.

“A county may adopt, amend, or repeal a charter with majority vote approval. A new charter or the amendment or repeal of an existing charter may be proposed by the Board of Supervisors, a charter commission, or an initiative petition.

The provisions of a charter are the law of the state and have the force and effect of legislative enactments.

Over time, the California Legislature has granted general law counties more structural autonomy, making the adoption of a county charter less attractive and advantageous.

Moreover, neither General Law nor Charter Counties have the broad powers of self-government and revenue-raising that cities in California possess,” the guide continues.

So far, Shasta County Supervisors have chosen to forego a complete description of all the structural changes possible except to include just three paragraphs titled “Vacancies on the Board of Supervisors” which provide a Charter County with a local method for filling vacancies on the Board of Supervisors.

In the absence of such a provision, the state’s Governor would appoint a successor.

Hence, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors (BOS) is proposing the following wording they hope will be acceptable to voters:

“In the event of a vacancy on the BOS, the proposed charter would grant the BOS authority to either appoint a replacement by a majority vote of the seated members, call a special election to fill the vacancy or leave the seat vacant until the end of the seat term. Currently, in the event of a vacancy on the board, a replacement would be appointed by the California Governor.

Therefore, the proposed ordinance states that “whenever a vacancy occurs in the office of supervisor on the Shasta County Board of Supervisors, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors may fill the vacancy by appointment or call a special election. If the Board appoints the replacement, the appointee shall be from among the qualified electors of the Supervisorial District in which such vacancy exists and shall hold office until the election and qualification of his or her successor,” states a press release on the board’s action written by David Maung, Public Information Officer for the county.

“The decision to bring this Charter County proposal to the voters highlights the commitment of the Shasta County Board of Supervisors to maintain local autonomy and ensure that the voices of Shasta County residents are central in the decision-making process,” the release states in part.

“With this Charter, the county aims to safeguard its ability to appoint a representative who understands the unique needs and challenges of Shasta County,” Maung’s release continues.

The document ends with an entreaty encouraging all Shasta County residents to take part in the upcoming March 5, 2024, presidential primary election and vote on the Charter County proposal.

“The outcome will have a lasting impact on the future of local representation and governance,” Muang’s release concludes.

Citizens elections advisory committee undergoes another name change

After tackling the Charter County issue, supervisors then turned to once gain renaming a citizens advisory committee on election matters as the Shasta County Elections Commission and granting its members, one appointed by each of the five Supervisors, with “greater authority, to the maximum extent allowed and permissible by applicable law, to advise and make recommendations to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors on elections in Shasta County.

As a General Law County, such powers and authority are almost exclusively given to the elected Registrar of Voters, which in Shasta County is currently a combined position with the added duties of the County Clerk.

Cathy Darling Allen was reelected to the County Clerk/Registrar of Voters position for a fifth time on June 7, 2022, with a 68.36 percent majority or 33,828 of the total 49,485 ballots cast. Her challenger, Bob Holsinger, received 31.64 percent or 15,657 votes.

Darling Allen is one of several county elected officials who are repeatedly castigated and maligned verbally by right-wing political extremists during board of supervisors meetings, primarily by members of the public, but sometimes even by board chair Jones and supervisor Crye.

Unproven allegations of election fraud prompted three of the five supervisors to prematurely pull the plug on Shasta County’s lease with Dominion Voting Systems for ballot preparation, ballot marking, ballot validation, and ballot tabulation beginning in April in an attempt to move the county into hand counting all ballots.

However, California legislators and the Secretary of State made parallel moves to block hand counting, creating very specific guidelines for when hand-counting all ballots might be allowed, and with the passage of Assembly Bill 969 in September, the California Governor signed the legislation into law in October under an emergency measure rider attached to the bill that allowed it to take effect immediately.

Some observers of county politics, including Judy Salter, have suggested the recent push to a Charter County is being promulgated and pushed forward in an attempt to turn the County Clerk/Registrar of Voters position into an appointed, rather than elected, position.

Bolstering those fears was another agenda item to recast a previously authorized Citizens Election Advisory Committee as the Shasta County Elections Commission, and provide the five appointed commissioners with a budget of $44,526 taken from county reserve funds for the remainder of the fiscal year so they could hire outside legal counsel more familiar with the California Election Code in an attempt to oversee operations by the Registrar of Voters/County Clerk.

The vote to establish the Elections Commission was 3-2 with Supervisors Jones, Crye, and Chris Kelstrom of District 5, in the majority. Supervisors Rickert, and Garman voted against establishing a commission, with Rickert describing it as “adding another layer of unneeded bureaucracy” and Garman saying it is “board overreach taking power away from the public voters.”

When considering a budget for the Elections Commission, a matter that required a 4-1 vote, the three in favor of the commission quickly realized they needed to convince at least one of their opponents to join sides with them.

Following a heated discussion on the growing amount — more than $16 million so far this year, according to Garman — spent on outside legal help, the board eventually compromised and unanimously agreed to reduce the Elections Commission’s budget by almost half when Rickert made a motion to do just that.

Air Resources presentation unites supervisors

The board’s rare show of unity was also evident following a presentation from the California Air Resources Board regarding new regulations coming down from both Sacramento and Washington, DC, to push farmers, long-haul truckers, delivery services, and other large vehicle fleet owners to start moving toward purchases of Zero Emission Vehicles and Near Zero Emission Vehicles in the near future.

Electric trucks won’t be able to operate in the mountain areas of Shasta County and “even if they could, there are no charging stations for them” in the outlying areas, supervisors Jones, Rickert, Kelstrom, Garman and Crye said almost in unison.

“Welcome to Shasta County,” Jones wryly said to the hapless state official after the presentation which was for information purposes only and did not require any formal action. The official arrived at the board chambers nearly an hour late for what was supposed to be a 10 a.m. appearance.

Several audience members noted the mellowness of unity in the board chambers, a marked change from the chaos that usually overtakes board meetings.

“I can’t believe I agree with Patrick Jones,” said Jenny Nowain.

“There must be something in the water,” noted Terry Rapoza, recently returned from a visit to several southern California counties “where we were able to get rid of their ROVs,” Rapoza said, referring to the elimination of Registrar of Voters in this county.

With no further business to attend, chair Jones gaveled the meeting into adjournment after more than five hours.

If you appreciate veteran journalist George Winship’s news reporting, please consider a contribution to A News Cafe. Thank you.

George Winship

George Winship is a long-time Shasta County resident with a wide range of professional and community experience. After earning a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon, he joined the Redding Record Searchlight as an award-winning reporter, and was the paper’s first business editor. He worked as a district field representative for Senator Maurice Johannessen, and later became editor of the Anderson Valley Post. Winship is a former Shasta County Grand Jury member. He owns and operates The Village Wordsmith, where he edits and rewrites clients’ book manuscripts, and works as a researcher and freelance feature writer. He can be reached at gwinship@shasta.com.

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