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Rumors Swirl as Hard-right Board Majority Foments Secrets, Lies, and a Legacy of Banished County Counsels

Shasta County Board of Supervisors participate in yet another special meeting regarding appointing a new county counsel Monday. Photo by Doni Chamberlain.

Once upon a time — before Shasta County was overtaken in January by an ultra-right board majority — the words “special Board of Supervisors meeting” meant something, well, special, outside regular supervisors meetings.

Yesterday was the board of supervisors eighth “special” board meeting since February. If that number doesn’t seem especially striking, compare the board’s eight special 2023 meetings (so far) with previous years. In the eight years prior to 2023, there have been eight special board of supervisors meetings combined: one in 2022, two in 2021, one in 2020, none in 2019, one in 2018, two in 2017, none in 2016 or 2015, and two in 2014.

Granted, it takes many special meetings for an extremist board majority to systematically destroy a county, deflate employees’ morale, hire and appoint substandard people, dump the Dominion voting machines, embrace a hand-count ballot system, push for a charter county and blast through county counsels so quickly that most of their names and photos never appeared on the county website.

Special meetings that involve special closed sessions – away from public scrutiny and transparency – are especially handy for times like Monday’s special meeting, called to consider yet another county counsel candidate, a mere 24 hours before the supervisors’ regularly scheduled board meeting.

The front end of yesterday’s special meeting lasted about 11 minutes before the supervisors went into closed session to interview someone who could – pending a background check and other required employment formalities — become the county’s fifth county counsel since April.

The first part of the meeting’s 11-minute duration included two citizens who spoke during the public comment period, Joshua Brown and Christian Gardinier, each of whom addressed the county-counsel revolving door that’s been in play since April.

Brown referred to the hiring of a new county counsel as an “absurd” process.

Joshua Brown chastises the board majority Monday at the supervisors special meeting. Photo by Doni Chamberlain.

“You have not insured domestic tranquility; you’ve done the opposite,” Brown said. “Nobody wants to work for you.”

Gardinier expressed similar sentiments, and beseeched the board majority to stop the “nonsense”.

Christian Gardinier, a frequent speaker at supervisors meetings, delivers a blistering assessment of the board majority’s actions with regard to keeping seeking and keeping county counsels. Photo by Doni Chamberlain.

Gardinier suggested that the supervisors keep Gretchen Stuhr, the current interim county counsel, assuming she wanted to stay.

“Otherwise, you will continue what seems to be a troubled history of removing county employees, including county counsels,” Gardinier said, adding a description of board majority’s “extreme right agenda” and “white nationalist confederacy” that embraces the State of Jefferson movement and attacks the First Amendment.

“Citizens need stable — not partisan — government,” he said.

Before Chair Patrick Jones could adjourn the meeting so the supervisors could scurry off into behind closed doors Dist. 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert said she had some questions, specifically, how many county counsel candidates there were, a number that all the supervisors obviously knew, yet Jones seemed unwilling to disclose that number to the public. That, or perhaps Jones resents answering any of Supervisor Rickert’s questions.

Supervisor Rickert: “So we are down to one candidate?

Chair Jones: “I do not know for sure.”

Dist. 2 Supervisor Kevin Crye piped in: “We had three, correct?”

Supervisor Rickert: “We had three, and now we have one.”

Chair Jones: “Whether it’s one, two or three, we do have an appointment at 10.”

Supervisor Rickert: “This has happened before; we get close to interviewing, and then people drop out at the last minute.”

Rickert pointed to a pattern.

“We’re having a hard time attracting people,” she said.

With that, Jones adjourned the meeting so supervisors could interview the one remaining county counsel candidate. Before going into the closed session, an exasperated looking Supervisor Rickert literally threw her hands in the air out of frustration regarding her previous line of questioning to Jones about the number of prospective board county counsel interviewees.

“I’m trying to show transparency so you guys know what’s going on,” Supervisor Rickert said to some reporters.

Less than two hours later the supervisors returned to the dais. Chair Jones announced that the board had extended an offer of employment to the county counsel applicant, pending the successful completion of the standard employment vetting process.

Supervisor Rickert was not at liberty to disclose the county-counsel applicant’s name, but she did share some thoughts about the process in general.

Dist. 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert.

“I was disappointed we didn’t have more than one candidate, but to me it’s another tell-tale sign about what’s going on here in Shasta County,” Rickert said. “We’re having a hard time attracting good people for these jobs.”

Although for now, the prospective county counsel’s identity is unknown. what is known is that the newest county counsel will follow a rapid succession of accepted-then-rejected county counsels.

Long-time lead county counsel Rubin Cruse retired in April. He was replaced by James Ross, who left abruptly in July, followed by interim county counsel Matt McOmber, replaced by interim county counsel Gretchen Stuhr, whose position as lead county counsel will conclude upon the hiring of the board’s newest county counsel.

Stuhr’s departure after barely two months as interim county counsel is perplexing because a Sept. 27 board resolution said Stuhr had demonstrated that she possessed the “qualifications necessary to capably serve as an Interim County Counsel”.

What happened between Sept. 27 and yesterday to change the supervisors’ minds about Stuhr?

What characteristics are the ultra-conservative board members looking for in a county counsel that were absent in Ross, McOmber and Stuhr?

For Cryeing out loud!

Over the months since Crye became Supervisor in January, a gradual power shift has taken place where Crye seems to have taken control of the reins from Chair Jones, whose passions revolve around how the board seat can benefit him, whether getting his property zoned for a shooting range and/or cargo containers, or holding a grudge against the McConnell Foundation, an organization Jones so despises that he vowed his first week in office to never vote for anything affiliated with the foundation .

Crye is a frequent author of significant agenda items, such as the concept of Shasta County as a charter county, and Jones seems content to let Crye have his way on the board.

Dist. 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye speaks via Facebook Live Sunday.

During Crye’s Facebook Live presentation Sunday, he discussed board of supervisors matters, including specifics regarding the Dec. 5 meeting and its “massive” agenda packet.

He used the opportunity to take some jabs at local media, too.

“Let’s face it, the media is just a steamin’ pile of garbage,” he said. “Everything’s biased. You can’t fact-check anything. Most of our local media has just become sensationalized propaganda … It’s basically like MAD magazine with some people’s real names.”

Item R-6 is buried far, far down in the agenda: Elect the 2024 Board of Supervisors’ Chair and Vice-Chair.

This is another colossal waste of time, since the automatic rotation has Vice Chair Tim Garman slated as the next Chair.

But no. Not so in the land of Crye, where the Dist. 1 Supervisor takes what he wants, even if it’s not his turn; even if what he desires belongs to someone else.

In this Facebook Live video, Crye nonchalantly mentions R6, as if it’s just a benign agenda item. It’s not benign. The board chair decides who has control of the board’s operations; the decorum, the tone and – such in the case of how Chair Jones selectively enforces rules to favor his followers — the chair has the ultimate power over the meeting’s proceedings.

In a common Crye tactic, he credits (blames) others for a decision that will benefit him. In this case, he shared something “interesting” that the third- floor staff — specifically the clerk of the board — called him about his item.

“They said, ‘Hey, we’d like you to come in, we assume — we think — you’re going to be chair next year, and I said, ‘Well, that’s news to me. I thought we’d talk about that in open session.’ And they said, ‘Well, we would like to get some things moving, as there are appointments that need to be made, and we’d like to set the schedule, so.’ Basically, against my will – not against my will, I wound up going in and talking about the schedule, but I did say, ‘Hey, I would love to hear about other supervisors’ schedules.’ ”

Then Crye went off on a tangent about schedules, about board meeting frequency, and other things unrelated to the topic of selecting a board chair. And the board’s budget. More public involvement.

Squirrel!

Finally, he got back to the topic of selecting a chair. He said he didn’t know how the vote would go, but he found it interesting.

“And I’ll be honest, in talking about this and thinking about it — and I made this clear a long time ago – that I will probably only vote for myself to be chair, going forward.”

Then he praised Jones for doing a “pretty good job – especially considering the hand Jones was dealt, with out of control meetings and people trying to “destroy county government” and bring it to an absolute halt, so he supported Chair Jones, but not other supervisors who “fan the flames” and make things worse.

At last.

“If I become chair, if I get that honor,” Crye reiterated what he’d supposedly campaigned on: transparency, local control, corruption, and, of course, children’s needs are at the top of his list.

No further mention of his potential out-of-turn appointment as board chair. Will anyone be surprised if Crye leaps over Vice Chair Garman and assumes the throne as chair?

Also during his Facebook Live program, Crye mentioned the then-upcoming interview with a prospective county counsel contender, and acknowledged that the county had been through quite a few county counsels, including interim county counsels.

“Now it’s time to find the permanent one,” Crye said, adding that while he couldn’t speak for all the supervisors, he’d done quite a bit of recruiting to locate the ideal person, leaving the impression that Monday’s interview subject was a Crye recruit, much as former CEO candidate Chriss Street was also a Crye recruit.

Speaking of the CEO, one weighty agenda item in today’s board packet will decide whether new county CEO David Rickert (no relation to Supervisor Rickert) — who’s been on the job for scarcely six months — will receive a raise.

Considering Shasta County’s tumultuous governance since January, and considering the fact that CEO Rickert hasn’t exactly amassed a laundry list of grand accomplishments to warrant a raise this soon, initially it’s a puzzle to read the wording of this item and wonder why Rickert is worthy of a raise now, so early in the game. However, some potential enlightened pieces fall into place with one particular detail: Kevin Crye sponsored the item. Crye proposes that first, Rickert’s current employment contract be terminated and then second Rickert could have a new contract that would reflect his higher wages.

Considering that Crye has a history of buttering up people he believes can do something for him, it’s important to look at how Crye sucks up to CEO Rickert and ask the question: What does Crye want from Rickert? What can Rickert do for Crye? But perhaps the better question is what can Crye and his fellow ultra-right supervisors do to Rickert that might ensure Rickert’s compliance with the board’s powerful trio who could fire Rickert faster than you could say, “U-Haul moving van”.

From the moment of CEO Rickert’s arrival, Crye has obsequiously fawned over the CEO, spreading the accolades so thick that one can almost hear audience members’ eyes rolling in the board chambers. During meetings, almost from the start, Crye scoots his chair beside CEO Rickert — often following a public speaker’s comments about Crye — as Crye leans over toward with a laugh, grin and whispers.

Kevin Crye frequently whispers to CEO David Rickert during meetings, accompanied by laughs and grins. Photo by Doni Chamberlain

In response, Rickert often responds in kind with a laugh, a nod or his own smile.

Bad optics, fellas. It leaves the public wondering the contents of Crye and CEO Rickert’s private discussions during a public board meeting.

Shasta County CEO David Rickert.

CEO Rickert responded to A News Cafe’s questions about this matter. He replied, “My conversations with Supervisors are to advise on issues or to provide information on questions.”

Fair enough, especially if supervisors Chris Kelstrom, Patrick Jones, Tim Garman and Mary Rickert receive the same kinds of special attention and advice.

A News Cafe also asked Rickert about the topic of a charter county, something Crye wants dearly, much as Crye’s hand-picked CEO candidate Street was a big believer in charter counties, too. Following the supervisors’ vote that would put the issue of a charter county on the ballot, Crye boasted on his podcast about Rickert’s praise of Crye.

A News Cafe asked Rickert for clarification about Crye’s version of his story about what Rickert said to him in private. Here’s Rickert’s response:

“I did congratulate Supervisor Crye on his successful effort to get the Charter County Ordinance ready for vote and getting it passed. A lot of staff time went into research on this issue including County Counsel. He is a new Supervisor and this was one of his legislative goals. I try to have positive dialog with all of the Supervisors.”

That begs another question from A News Cafe: Does Rickert support Shasta County becoming a charter county?

Rickert responded that he did not have a “public position on the topic of charter counties”.

Because Rickert didn’t just come out and say whether he was or was not for charter counties, the public is left in the dark about CEO Rickert’s private position on the topic of charter counties.

We will eventually find out.

‘Somebody’ duped Reverge Anselmo

Poor, poor rich man, made a fool by some liars. How humiliating for Anselmo.

Perhaps you’d heard that Connecticut son-of-a-billionaire Reverge Anselmo recently dumped more than $250,000 in local extremists’ campaigns.

Connecticut son-of-a-billionaire Reverge Anselmo has donated $1 million to local conservative causes.

What you may not have known is the back story about why Anselmo gave that money at this particular moment. What inspired him?

The truth came to light when Anselmo wrote an email last week to KRCR reporter/anchor Mike Mangas following Mangas’s story about Anselmo’s quarter-of-a-million-dollar donation.

Anselmo wanted to set the record straight:

Here’s where things get even more interesting: Mangas fact-checked Anselmo’s claims that Kathleen Kennedy had donated $300,000 to recall Crye, and that Judy and Lee Salter had donated $100,000 for the same cause.

Mangas shared the reactions: Laughter and disbelief. Absolutely not true. Not a shred of truth. Anselmo was hoodwinked by a Shasta County patriot. Ouch.

Somebody’s busted. And by somebody, we’re speaking of the culprit who contacted Anselmo and told the pair of whoppers related to Kathleen Kennedy and the Salters. The lie worked. Anselmo believed the Kennedy/Salter lies and forked over the cash.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall to see Anselmo’s reactions when he realizes he’d been played by people he’d trusted, all for the money. Do they think he’s stupid, or what?

Someone’s lie to Anselmo cost him $250,000. We can guess the identity of a potential “somebody” who lied to Anselmo. It’s someone local, and someone who’d benefit — even indirectly — from Anselmo’s money. But most of all, the liar is someone who has a relationship/friendship with Anselmo. We know Jones has been pals with Anselmo for many years. We also know that during Crye’s campaign he flew out to see Anselmo; you know, just to chat.

Along the same lines, another recently debunked rumor regarding Anselmo was that Jones’ opponent, Dist. 4 candidate Matt Plummer, accepted campaign money from Anselmo. Plummer was contacted for comment. Like Kathleen Kennedy and the Salters, Plummer denied the rumor. Plummer said he had not accepted money from Reverge Anselmo.

So, there you go.

It’s time to get ready for today’s Board of Supervisors meeting and its monster packet. This could be a long one. Bring, water, knitting and snacks.

If we’re lucky, there will be a moratorium on special meetings, at least until the end of 2023.

That would be one of the most special things of all.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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