Supervisors Hold Meeting Remotely, Jones Gathers Crowd Outside Chambers

The last Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting before the recall election in two weeks was rife with recriminations and a general awkward tension. The chambers were closed to the public, which had ostensibly been because of the current surge in Covid cases, most notably among county workers. However, during the meeting another reason was made more clear. Recent death threats against multiple board members lent to the decision to close the meeting, with supervisors and staff joining via Zoom, and public comments received by telephone. Suspicions about the legitimacy of the lockout were accelerated prior to and during the meeting by Les Baugh and Patrick Jones, both of whom were incensed by the fact that their key cards would not open the doors. Baugh said he had no intention of violating the closure, but Jones had repeatedly stated that he would. Last January, as the other three supervisors conducted a meeting remotely in accordance with Covid guidelines, Jones and Baugh attended in person and even opened the chambers to the public. On Tuesday four of the supervisors attended remotely, but Patrick Jones logged in from right outside the chamber doors, where a large crowd of recall proponents gathered. County Executive Officer Matt Pontes acknowledged that it was he who made the move to change the lock codes, and he noted that he should have done a better job of notifying the board. As far as the death threats, Les Baugh insisted that Sheriff Michael Johnson go on record to comment on rumors that a suspect or suspects had been identified. Various vague threats have been made, but the threats against Baugh were quite specific. Baugh made public a message from someone saying they would “Carve him like a pumpkin”. Baugh asked the sheriff if he could get additional law enforcement protection in light of the threats.

Amid all the other distractions, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to provide up to $15,000 hiring bonuses to newly hired deputies and $5,000 to correctional deputies. The board also approved a reward system that would pay existing deputies $1000 if they can entice deputies from other counties. The sheriff’s office is experiencing a personnel crisis that’s gotten very expensive, with around a Million Dollars in overtime paid just so far this fiscal year.