UPDATE: CEO Claims Ignorance of Attorney General’s Letter Until May 3

The plot thickens with additional questions about the Attorney General’s Jan. 29 letter to District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones, specifically, when exactly did David Rickert — Shasta County’s CEO — learn of the bombshell letter, how, and from whom.

A News Cafe published an earlier story that characterized CEO Rickert as in the loop — along with at least two Shasta County supervisors — regarding the letter from the Attorney General that exonerated Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett of unfounded accusations regarding the Zogg Fire settlement.

Not only did the supervisors hide the fact that they received a response from the Attorney General that found the DA blameless. Suddenly, the letters no longer exist. It’s worth noting that it’s illegal for public officials to destroy public documents. And yet here we are.

We know the letter (and letters, if there were copies made) are MIA because according to former Shasta County Public Defender Jeff Gorder, when he requested a copy of the AG letter that was sent to Jones, the Clerk of the Board informed Gorder that the County no longer has the original, or a copy of the original Attorney General’s letter.

Consequently, the only remaining copy of that original letter is the copy the Attorney General emailed to Bridgett when she inquired about the status of the letter, which Bridgett then forwarded to the County.

It’s a mystery. Chair Jones received the Attorney General’s original Jan. 29, letter, which Jones reportedly copied and gave to Crye. Did Jones and Crye believe, like toddlers who close their eyes and believe they’re now invisible, that destroying the AG’s evidence of Bridgett’s exoneration would somehow void the undesirable information?

CEO Rickert, better late?

Finally, to this important update: In an email from CEO Rickert to A News Cafe, the county’s CEO shared an email he sent to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors that explained his recollections regarding when he was first aware of the Jan. 29 letter, and how he came to know of its existence.

You can read the entire thread of email exchanges here between A News Cafe, the supervisors and the CEO, beginning May 3. Also included is the Attorney General letter that A News Cafe included in its records request to the CEO and board of supervisors.

Basically, CEO Rickert now claims he was in the dark about the AG’s winter letter until earlier this month, in the spring.

It’s good to know, but golly, what took so long?

According to CEO Rickert, he was first enlightened about the letter on May 3, a few minutes before the workday’s end on a Friday. CEO Rickert said District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye mentioned the letter during a phone call on a day when Rickert was not in the office.

“Letter From Attorney General” was the subject of CEO Rickert’s Wed., May 15 email to the supervisors to set the record straight, with the level of importance listed as “high”.

Among the points in Rickert’s letter to the supervisors was his mention of A News Cafe’s May 3 request for information regarding the letter.

Here is the email Rickert wrote to the supervisors at 9:47 a.m. on May 15:

Dear Supervisors,

At the May 14th County Board meeting, the Board requested that I report what knowledge I had regarding a letter from Attorney General Rob Bonta dated January 29th, 2024. My first recollection of the existence of this letter was from a phone conversation I had with Chairman Crye on May 3 at 4:57 p.m. I was out of the office that day, but Chairman Crye contacted me to be updated on a number of county items. During this call he asked me if I was aware of a letter to Supervisor Jones from Attorney General Bonta. I told him I was unaware of a letter. I told him I would look into it Monday (May 6).

On Monday I had in my email inbox a request regarding said letter from Doni Chamberlain with the letter attached (please see below). The email dated May 3 was my first contact with the letter. I do not recall any conversation regarding said letter with Supervisor Jones. Please let me know if you require additional information.


David J. Rickert

Questions unanswered

In CEO Rickert’s email to supervisors, he referred to this reporter’s May 3 request for information regarding the CEO and supervisors’ knowledge of the Attorney General’s letter.

CEO Rickert received ANC’s request, as did all five Shasta County supervisors. However, CEO Rickert ignored ANC’s request for information about the AG’s letter, as did supervisors Crye, Jones and District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom.

With these updated timeline details regarding CEO Rickert’s statement to the board pertaining to the AG letter, ANC’s May 3 story that suggested CEO Rickert had knowledge of the AG letter has been revised, and a correction written. We regret any confusion caused by this error.

All this confusion could have been avoided. There’s a reason why CEO Rickert was implicated in the concealment of the AG’s letter: During a supervisors meeting and discussion of the subject, Crye said, “CEO Rickert or Patrick told me first about it, and I remember asking what the next step should be.”

With those words, both CEO Rickert and Jones were implicated. Later, Jones implicated Crye, several times in a few seconds.

Of those six individuals contacted by ANC for information about the AG letter, only District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert and District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman responded. Their statements were published in the May 3 story the same day as ANC’s request for information.

Had CEO Rickert responded, he would have been on the record and off the hook regarding early knowledge of the Attorney General’s letter sent to Jones, which was subsequently concealed by Jones and Crye (and possibly Kelstrom).

The topic of CEO Rickert’s email of explanation to the board about his knowledge of the AG letter came to light during a recent supervisors meeting when CEO Rickert referred to the email he’d sent to the supervisors regarding the subject that’s put the CEO in the crosshairs of controversy and discovery.

That information triggered yet another request to CEO Rickert from A News Cafe about the content of CEO Rickert’s letter to the board members. This time, CEO Rickert responded, and shared the message he’d emailed to the supervisors.

But before CEO Rickert emailed the board members, confusion reigned as supervisors Crye and Jones scrambled in simultaneous CYA moves that involved finger-pointing, butt-covering and tossing fellow supervisors under the bus.

Because Kelstrom did not respond to ANC’s request for information regarding the AG letter, it’s still unknown whether Jones told Kelstrom about the letter the moment Jones received it. Because Jones and Kelstrom have been friends since they were kids, it’s a fair assumption that Jones did disclose the letter to Kelstrom. Who knows? Kelstrom and Jones know, that’s for sure.

Pass the buck, point the fingers

Crye bit his fingernails as Jones attempted to make it sound rational that he concealed a letter he’d received as a response from the Attorney General regarding the board majority’s attempts to gut the District Attorney over her handling of the Zogg Fire settlement.

Part of Jones’ explanation included mentioning no less than five times in various ways Crye’s awareness of the AG letter.

Crye then held up a stack of papers to illustrate how much mail he receives.

“As the chair, we get a ton of letters,” he said. Then Crye did an abrupt, textbook chaff-and-redirect move about vaccines and other unrelated statements, so classic that it would have given the Behavior Panel guys a new chaff-and-redirect poster child.

Crye is lousy at deception, despite having lots of practice. Even before Crye took office, he’s been a pants-on-fire whopper-teller of epic proportions, which contributed to citizens’ efforts to recall Crye. He beat the recall by just 50 votes.

Last year, District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye stalled, stumbled and stammered when District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert attempted to learn the identities of those who’d created the blistering letter about Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett that was sent to the Attorney General.

Crye eventually sang an entirely different tune the next time Supervisor Rickert pressed Crye with similar questions, because that time, a more confident Crye claimed full credit for crafting the entire letter.

Since the AG letter has become public, there has been an outcry from citizens who articulated why the letter’s concealment was not just a big deal, but possibly illegal. Speakers included Benjamin Nowain, and Dawn Duckett, the latter of whom elicited laughs within the chambers — even from the dais — when she said she was two clicks from going “full on Dolores” — a clear reference to Dolores Lucero, a vocal critic of the board majority, and Jones in particular, with whom Lucero was in a relationship for several years.

Legal consequences?

As retired Shasta County Public Defender Jeff Gorder stated in a recent letter to the CEO and supervisors, there are laws that address punishment for destroying public documents.

Gorder concluded: “Supervisors Crye and Jones made the Zogg Fire settlement a matter of intense public scrutiny and portrayed themselves as the public servants who were bringing to light the potential corruption of the D.A. with regard to the settlement. The fact that they chose not to reveal the existence of the letter that exonerated the D.A. before the March 5 election must be investigated to determine the reason why that decision was made. The only reasonable course of action seems to be the appointment of an outside investigator to look into this issue.”

As reasonable a course of action it would seem to follow Gorder’s suggestion and appoint an outside investigator, CEO Rickert has taken the lead on looking into the matter, along with help from the new county counsel, Joseph Larmour. Think of the money saved, CEO Rickert said. And think of how much more quickly an inhouse investigation would go, CEO Rickert pointed out.

Both valid points.

However, can CEO Rickert be fair and objective? Can CEO Rickert find possible fault in Jones and Crye, despite the realization that the board majority could kick CEO Rickert to the curb, ala Karen Ramstrom, or blackmailed out, like former CEO Matt Pontes? And in the event that CEO Rickert is fired by the board majority, will Crye quickly fill a sudden CEO vacancy with Crye’s pal Chriss Street?

Likewise, can County Counsel Joseph Larmour put aside the fact that Supervisor Crye recruited Larmour — “poached him” — from Yuba County? Can Larmour forget the fact that he was in a relationship with one of Crye’s  upper level Ninja Coalition managers? Will Larmour’s ultimate allegiance be to Shasta County citizens, or Crye?

Other questions remain: Why didn’t CEO Rickert respond to ANC’s request for information sooner?

Why, when Crye implicated CEO Rickert during a board meeting, didn’t CEO Rickert immediately set the record straight with just a few words?

“You’re mistaken, Chair Crye,” CEO Rickert could have said. “I knew nothing about the letter until you mentioned it on May 3.”

Why did Rickert wait so long to release information about his knowledge of the AG’s letter?

What other important county mail, correspondence or information will never see the light of day? Most of all, had the AG’s letter been made public sooner, could Crye have been recalled after all?

Add that to the growing pile of concealed information Shasta County citizens may never know. Until it’s too late.


Are you a regular reader of A News Cafe? Do you appreciate journalist Doni Chamberlain’s reporting, and the work of other dedicated ANC team members? Then please help support this site. Please. Thank you.

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 Guardian, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate, Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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