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Shasta County Elections Appointee Reaches Breaking Point, Resigns, Agrees With Calls to Disband Panel

Dawn Duckett, appearing at the Shasta County Elections Commission meeting on Feb. 26, 2024, has resigned from the panel. She quit because she said the commission is not living up to its original intent and it’s become a waste of time for her. Copyrighted photo by Mike Chapman for A News Cafe.

The Shasta County saga over elections has taken another turn.

One disgruntled member of the Shasta County Elections Commission has abruptly resigned while the county supervisor who appointed her is now calling that same panel a sham.

Commissioner Dawn Duckett of Cottonwood used a Facebook post Tuesday to announce her resignation from the elections commission, saying it’s a waste of time and has created confusion and mistrust.

Duckett wasn’t at the commission’s Monday meeting, whose absence she’d announced in advance, because she and her husband were on a riverboat cruise of the lower Mississippi River.

In an exclusive interview with A News Cafe, Duckett said she caught that meeting online and then saw the Board of Supervisors broadcast the next day before announcing Tuesday night that she was done.

“I’ve been watching the meetings on my vacation, and it just hit a tipping point,” Duckett said Wednesday from Louisiana in between a plantation tour and pig roast.

“I texted (District 2 Supervisor) Tim Garman and said, ‘I think it’s time for me to resign.’ And I heard him make the motion to disband the commission and I thought, ‘Now’s as good a time as any.’ I’ve been thinking about it for a little while now,” she said.

The elections commission survived Garman’s push to eliminate the panel, but the supervisor has since piled on more criticism and made a pronouncement about his future.

Meanwhile, one of Duckett’s like-minded election commissioners has vowed to stay on while describing Shasta County as being “in a very dark place.”

Controversial radio ad

The turmoil, nothing new when it comes to Shasta County’s extreme and divisive politics, comes against the backdrop of a shady ad broadcast on a Redding radio station that some see as election interference.

Duckett cited the radio commercial that sought confidential information as one of her reasons to call it quits.

“After this recent development with that radio ad, I just felt the need to distance myself from that group of people,” she said.

The KQMS radio advertisement that was “voiced by commission member Bev Gray and funded by Supervisor Patrick Jones has led the California Secretary of State’s Office to request a local investigation,” the station reported.

In the pre-Election Day ad, evidently seeking voter fraud, Gray asks residents to respond who might’ve received errant ballots. For example, the ad’s backers apparently wanted to know about ballots that were sent to people who’ve died, mailed to the wrong address or where multiple ballots were received.

Those discrepancies should be forwarded to the county’s election office, not shared with a private party.

A News Cafe previously reported Jones’ denial of any affiliation with the radio spot other than to accompany Gray to the recording studio.

No faith in commission

In her resignation post, Duckett said serving as a volunteer on the commission was no longer worth it.

“It has become apparent that it is not a valuable use of my time (anyone else’s, for that matter) and continued service on the commission would be counter to the needs of the community,” she wrote.

The Board of Supervisors created the five-member commission in December. Duckett was Garman’s representative while Supervisor Mary Rickert chose Susanne Baremore. Duckett’s and Baremore’s common-sense and fact-based views have mostly been in the minority.

Dawn Duckett, second from left, is no longer with the Shasta County Elections Commission. The official county photo shows other commissioners, from left to right, Susanne Baremore, vice chair Lisa Michaud, chairwoman Ronnean Lund and Bev Gray. Courtesy of Shasta County

Meanwhile, Chairwoman Ronnean Lund was chosen by Supervisor Chris Kelstrom.

Ronnean Lund, chairwoman of the Shasta County Elections Commission, runs the panel’s meeting on Feb. 26, 2024. Copyrighted photo by Mike Chapman for A News Cafe

Lisa Michaud was tapped by Supervisor Kevin Crye, and Gray was Jones’ pick. That trio of commissioners have parroted the election-integrity denying views of the supervisors who appointed them. That board trio famously ditched the county’s Dominion Voting System although the county later adopted another machine-counting process per state law.

Duckett said she believed the idea of creating the commission was to build the community’s trust in local elections, but it veered from its original purpose.

“It has become very apparent to me that the commission has not only failed to live up to that original intent but has caused a great deal of confusion and had created additional mistrust in our community,” Duckett said. “I feel strongly that the commission is a waste of county resources and should be disbanded and abolished immediately.”

Duckett and Baremore were outnumbered as fellow commissioners voted 3-2 in February to send a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors to adopt a local ordinance requiring hand-counted ballots at precincts using paper pollbooks

The suggestion, along with another for greater drop-box security that Duckett did support, was on the board’s Tuesday agenda as non-voting items.

Apparently, it doesn’t matter that the hand-counting of ballots as proposed is against the law. Gov. Gavin Newsom in October signed legislation that requires the use of voting machines to determine election outcomes in races that have over 1,000 registered voters.

Duckett, a retired county fiscal manager, said she hoped she could bring her expertise and sanity to the commission to bring about change through collaborations with the Registrar of Voters Office.

“It started to become very apparent to me that there was little to no collaboration with the ROV’s office. I didn’t see they were moving in the direction of effectuating changes that we could do at the local level that wouldn’t break state laws,” she said.

No replacement for now

Garman on Wednesday applauded Duckett for her contributions.

“Dawn did amazing work there. She tried very hard to bring some peace and calm to that board and it went nothing but the other way. It’s sad,” he said.

At this time, Garman said he doesn’t plan to appoint someone to take her place. He doesn’t want to put a new person in the same position.

Shasta County District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman takes a noon break from budget hearings on June 7, 2023, while wearing a T-shirt supporting the recall of fellow supervisor Kevin Crye. Garman incited the fury of some fellow county Republicans for wearing the shirt. Copyrighted photo by Mike Chapman for A News Cafe

“The reason being is I just don’t feel like it’s going to be fair to an individual to appoint them to a board and they’re going to be asked to go along with breaking the law,” Garman said, pointing to the state-approved Assembly Bill 969 that favors machine tallies over hand counting of ballots.

Garman made the motion at Tuesday’s board meeting to consider disbanding the elections commission at a future meeting. Supervisor Rickert seconded the motion, but it lost with Garman and Rickert in the minority.

“I got out-voted 3-2. I don’t ever expect to gain support for that, although it should be disbanded,” he said.

Can’t get any crazier?

Garman said it seems to him that far-right supporters of a hand count want a local ordinance that defies the law so state officials will be drawn in to suing the county.

“That’s what they’re pushing. That’s what we’re paying counsel, to find some loophole. That’s the other problem I have with this elections commission,” Garman said Wednesday. “Like I said yesterday, it’s a sham and we are spending a lot of money on something we cannot change.”

Garman said if the state eventually sues the county, it’s going to cost a lot of money.

“In the end, we are not going to prevail in that lawsuit,” Garman said.

“We’re supposed to be good stewards of the county’s money and we continue to just throw it away. There are things that we should be spending money on, but this is not one of them,” he said.

Tight races in the March 5 election, the Kevin Crye recall and the specter of recounts have Garman wondering what’s next.

“I keep thinking it can’t get any crazier, then it does,” Garman said. “I guess you just sit back with some popcorn to stay tuned.”

Garman sat out the recent election for District 2 because he no longer lives within the district’s boundaries. He’ll still remain in his current board seat until the end of the year.

Need more political intrigue? Garman said he’s eyeing a comeback in 2026 by running for the District 5 supervisor’s post now held by Kelstrom.

Democracy ‘against the ropes’

Shasta County Elections Commissioner Susanne Baremore listens during the panel’s Feb. 26, 2024, meeting. She complimented Dawn Duckett for serving on the panel and observed Shasta County is “in a very dark place in terms of county governance.” Copyrighted photo by Mike Chapman for A News Cafe

Baremore, who was trailing in her Board of Supervisors race for District 2, said she’s disappointed fellow commissioner Duckett left but understands her sentiment.

“She was a very strong, well-informed voice of reason, but I completely understand her reluctance to continue dealing with the chaos and the poor quality of work that the commission has been turning out,” she said.

Baremore, a field representative for the California School Boards Association, said she’s committed to remain on the elections commission and stand up for the integrity of the county’s elections department.

She said she realized that in serving as a commissioner, she probably wasn’t going to sway the panel’s majority.

“I took an interest in being on this commission recognizing that I was not likely to change hearts or minds about community opinions like voter fraud. But it is such an important part of our democracy that I felt that it’s important for someone to just leave facts at the feet of this commission,” Baremore said.

“I’m gravely concerned about how this Board of Supervisors and the commission in this spurious work is putting democracy in Shasta County against the ropes,” Baremore said.

“We hear a lot of fancy words from people around town who wear flags and call themselves patriots,” she said. “One of the most patriotic things I think we can do as citizens is have safe, fair, accurate and transparent voting, and that’s being obfuscated by people who do not understand how the process works.”

Baremore states that Shasta County employs some of the very best elections professionals in the U.S., referring to longtime County Clerk and Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen, who’s retiring in May to recover from heart failure, her assistant, Joanna Francescut, and their staff.

“People are mistreating them and disrespecting them in ways that it’s a wonder these people have stuck around,” she said.

Baremore said she’s sticking it out for the sake of democracy and to make sure future generations have a historical record.

“I feel like we’re in a very dark place in terms of county governance in Shasta County right now. I want to make sure that our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren have information historically to reflect upon as to what happened at this point in time,” Baremore said.

Editor’s note: A request for comment from the other three elections commissioners that was sent through the county website went unanswered.

Mike Chapman

Michael Chapman is a longtime journalist and photographer in the North State. He worked more than 30 years in various editorial positions for the Redding Record Searchlight and also covered Northern California as a newspaper reporter for the Siskiyou Daily News in Yreka and the Times-Standard in Eureka, and as a correspondent for the Sacramento Bee.

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