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CA Natural Resources pushes, again, for control over Siskiyou rivers

California Rivers, California water, Klamath River & Dams, Salmon and fish, Scott River & Valley, Siskiyou County, State gov

PNP comment: Look at the out-of-area dictators, who want to tell Siskiyou County and its residents how we should live. — Editor Liz Bowen

Additional comment by Rex Cozallio, landowner below Irongate dam near Hornbrook, CA:

I was extremely agitated and disheartened to become aware of this proposition that would severely impact our region submitted in February by a non resident assemblywoman  out of GLENDALE, California ‘sponsored’ (paid for) by ‘Friends of the River’, and ‘supported’ by 23 more profiting ‘non-profits’ and NO OPPOSITION!  This relentless onslaught, mounting countless paid for attacks with the ever-expanding objective of effectively confiscating vested private and public property without compensation or  impacted regional input, must end.  Quickly and quietly shoved through lobbied ‘legislative process’, their obvious and successful theory is that a certain portion will sneak through before sufficient public awareness, further empowering the unelected policy-driven bureaucratic power base permitting public oppression and the further social/economic division of classes.  This ‘provision’ adds an incredible, ridiculous, and impossible-to-survive complete and unimpeded REWILDING of the affected regional rivers, particularly the Klamath, Scott, and Shasta.  It not only prescribes unrestricted ‘natural’ accretion and avulsion of riparian property, it discretionarily restricts ANY use of riparian areas within a QUARTER OF A MILE of EACH side of the rivers.

In searching for the legislation last night, the ONLY reference I could find that wasn’t an unrelated 2013 Bill of the same number, was the sponsoring ‘Friends of the River’ website.  A link within that led to the Assembly woman’s promotional page.  From multiple calls I found out the Bill I heard about last night is in Natural Resource committee ‘hearings’ TODAY.  The only other ‘opportunity’ to publically ‘respond’ will be at the next as yet unscheduled or posted Administrative/Budgetary hearing.

After talking to the ‘legislative analyst’ Michael Jered about the unnotified and most impacted regions in opposition, I was admonished on several fronts.  Unequivocally saying that failing to access the information was my and the local representatives’ fault since it was submitted in February, and that I should take up any complaints with them, he graciously allowed that I may write a letter of opposition which he could ‘place in the file’, even though it would not be acknowledged, but would be ‘available’ in the event someone ‘wanted to read it’.

He also said I could have certainly gone to Sacramento to testify to the Committee ‘if I wanted’, but of course that ‘would not be possible for today’ and any failure to go to legis.ca.gov to inform myself was ‘my problem’, and that is ‘just the way the process works’.

Telling him it did not show up on a search of that site, he assured me that it was there and I just wasn’t doing it right.  Insisting I was wrong, he went to the legis site and said ‘just look at the 2015-2016 legislation’,  at which point he hesitated and said ‘oh, I guess they haven’t posted the years legislation yet’ (in March, and this is the first he knew?).

If you wish to call him, his number is 916-319-2092, but it appears the only way to impact the progression now is to actively push to somehow track it AFTER it no doubt passes through Committee today, the point at which we would likely have been the most able to rescind.

All the Best,

Rex Cozzalio


CA ab975..please read time sensitive, hearing date March 20th

Date of Hearing: March 20, 2017


Cristina Garcia, Chair

ABPCA Bill Id:AB 975 (

Author:Friedman) – As Introduced Ver:February 16, 2017

SUBJECT:  Natural resources:  wild and scenic rivers

SUMMARY:  Adds “historical, cultural, geological, ecological, hydrological (i.e., unique source, direction, or quantity of water flows), botanical or other values” to the values that certain rivers possess and the state should preserve.  Expands the area protected in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System (System) from immediately adjacent to the river segment to within a quarter mile of the river.

EXISTING LAW, pursuant to the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (Act):

  • Declares that it is the policy of the state that certain rivers that possess extraordinary scenic, recreational, fishery, or wildlife values be preserved in their “free-flowing” state, together with their immediate environments, for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the state. Declares that such use of these rivers is the highest and most beneficial use and is a reasonable and beneficial use of water.

  • Defines “free-flowing” as existing or flowing without artificial impoundment, diversion, or other modification of the river. (The presence of low dams, diversion works, and other minor structures does not automatically bar a river’s inclusion within the System.)

  • Requires that those rivers or segments of rivers included in the System be classified as one of the following:

    1. Wild rivers, which are those rivers or segments of rivers that are free of impoundments and generally inaccessible except by trail, with watersheds or shorelines essentially primitive and waters unpolluted;

  1. Scenic rivers, which are those rivers or segments of rivers that are free of impoundments, with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped but accessible in places by roads; or

  1. Recreational rivers, which are those rivers or segments of rivers that are readily accessible by road or railroad, may have some development along their shorelines, and may have undergone some impoundment or diversion in the past.

  • Designates several California rivers and segments thereof as components of the System.

  • Requires the Natural Resources Agency (NRA) to be responsible for coordinating the activities of state agencies whose activities affect the rivers in the System with those of other state, local, and federal agencies with jurisdiction over matters that may affect the rivers.




  • Author’s statement:

AB 975 brings the California Wild and Scenic Rivers System more in line with the federal system, improving state management of rivers that enjoy dual state-federal designation, and allowing for the protection of existing and future state rivers that possess additional values beyond those currently mentioned in the Act.

  • The Act. The Act was passed in 1972 to preserve designated rivers possessing extraordinary scenic, recreation, fishery, or wildlife values.  With its initial passage, the System protected segments of the Smith River and tributaries, Klamath River and tributaries, Scott River, Salmon River, Trinity River, Eel River, Van Duzen River, and American River.  The System was subsequently expanded by the Legislature to include the East Carson and West Walker Rivers in 1989, the South Yuba River in 1999, the Albion River and Gualala Rivers in 2003, and Cache Creek in 2005.  In addition, segments of the McCloud River, Deer Creek, and Mill Creek were protected under the Act in 1989 and 1995 respectively, although these segments were not formally designated as components of the System.

The Act provides a number of legal protections for rivers included within the System, beginning with the following legislative declaration:

It is the policy of the State of California that certain rivers which possess extraordinary scenic, recreational, fishery, or wildlife values shall be preserved in their free-flowing state, together with their immediate environments, for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the state.  The Legislature declares that such use of these rivers is the highest and most beneficial use and is a reasonable and beneficial use of water within the meaning of Section 2 of Article X of the California Constitution.

The Act defines “free-flowing” as “existing or flowing without artificial impoundment, diversion, or other modification of the river.”  The existence of minor structures, or even major dams located upstream or downstream of a specific segment, does not preclude a river from designation.  Several rivers, such as the Klamath, Trinity, Eel, and Lower American, are included in the System despite substantial flow modifications by existing upstream dams and impoundments.

No dam, reservoir, diversion, or other water impoundment facility may be constructed on any river segment included in the System.  However, there are exemptions, which include temporary flood storage facilities on the Eel River and temporary recreational impoundments on river segments with a history of such impoundments.  NRA cannot authorize these temporary recreational impoundments without first making a number of findings.

A cornerstone of the Act is the non-degradation clause, which prohibits new projects and activities from adversely affecting the free-flowing condition and natural character of river segments included in the System.

The Act was patterned after the 1968 National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (Federal Act).  The state and federal Acts share similar criteria and definitions in regard to the purpose of protecting rivers, the identification of free flowing rivers and extraordinary or outstanding values suitable for protection, establishing a study process to include rivers in the system, as well as an identical classification system.  The primary purpose of both the state and federal Acts is to prohibit new water impoundments on designated rivers.

  • Consistency with the Federal Act. The state Act differs from the Federal Act in that it does not recognize as many river values.  The additional values in the Federal Act include historical, cultural, geologic, and “other similar” values.  Federal agencies have interpreted “similar” values to include ecological, botanical, and hydrological.  When NRA studied the East Carson and West Walker Rivers they found them to have extraordinary hydrological values.  However, that value is not in the Act.  AB 975 adds the additional values considered by Federal agencies, but it also adds “other” values.  This differs from the Federal Act because it is vague compared to “other similar” values.  The author and committee may wish to consider amending the bill to reflect the Federal Act by using “other similar” values.

The Federal Act also creates protections within a quarter mile of a river in the system.  The state Act defines immediate environments to be immediately adjacent to the river, and defines river to include up to the first line of permanently established riparian vegetation.  AB 975 would align the state Act with the Federal Act by defining immediate environments to include within quarter mile of segments of the river.  This change would have the effect of directing state and local governments to act in a manner that protects the additional immediate environment.  In addition, AB 975 would provide more consistent direction for rivers in the federal System that the state manages.

  • Previous legislation.

AB 142 (Bigelow), Chapter 661, Statutes of 2015, requires, prior to the designation of the Mokelumne River, the NRA to conduct a study analyzing the suitability or non-suitability of the Mokelumne River, its tributaries, or portions of the river for addition to the System.

SB 1199 (Hancock, 2014) would have designated a 37-mile portion of the Mokelumne River in Calaveras and Amador Counties in the Sierra Nevada as a wild and scenic river.  SB 1199 was held in the Assembly Appropriation Committee.

SB 904 (Chesbro), Chapter 545, Statutes of 2004, requires state agencies to protect the free-flowing character and extraordinary values of designated rivers and to clarify that Special Treatment Areas under the Forest Practices Rules are applied to rivers classified as recreational or scenic as well as those classified as wild.



American Rivers
American Whitewater
Butte Environmental Council
California Water Impact Network
California Sportfishing Protection Alliance
California Outdoors
California Wilderness Coalition
Coast Action Group
Defenders of Wildlife
Foothill Conservancy
Friends of the Eel River

Friends of the River
KIER Associates
Merced River Conservation Committee
Natural Resources Defense Council
Northcoast Environmental Center
Northern California Council International Federation of Fly Fishers
North Fork American River Alliance
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations
Sacramento River Preservation Trust
Safe Alternatives For Our Forest Environment
Sierra Club California
South Yuba River Citizens League

Two individuals


None on file

Analysis Prepared by:   Michael Jarred / NAT. RES. /

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Update on State of Jefferson —


Mark Baird, spokesman for the State of Jefferson movement, will be sharing information on the “lack of representation” lawsuit with the Siskiyou Co. Supervisors at their meeting on March 21, 2017. Time is 10 a.m.

Attend if you would like to know where the lawsuit stands and what the next step is likely to be.

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Off Road Vehicle project will be discussed at Yreka Tea Party 1-3-17

Ray Haupt, Siskiyou County, TEA Party

Yreka Tea Party Patriots

Meeting for Tuesday, Jan. 3rd 2017

6:30 PM at the Covenant Chapel Church

200 Greenhorn Rd.   Yreka 


Ray Haupt, County Supervisor Dist. 5


Voices of Concern Citizens

ORV (Off Road Vehicle) Ordinance

“Friend or Foe, Get Up to Speed”

Learn how this proposed County Ordinance could impact your property, lively hood and tranquility”

Free….no membership.  Doors open at 6PM, come early to socialize with  like minded people.


Contact Louise @ 530-842-5443

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Siskiyou Co. Dist. 1 Supervisor Brandon Criss responds to ORV concerns

Brandon Criss, Siskiyou County

Dear Constituent:

I read your email and your Facebook post.

First this isn’t about “me” this is in regards to a proposal affecting the county and it would be wrong for me to take this personal.

I appreciate you reaching out to me and asking about what was going on.  My answers to your questions are below.   It gives the background on this issue.

With that said, I’ll make a quick comment about your quote in the post, “Don’t see any of your short roads under the proposal for off road vehicle use. This is NOT okay!”

Yesterday I called a friend up to tell her about the meeting subject for next Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting.  She told me as well that a person or people were saying that this doesn’t affect any roads on my family’s ranch so that is why I support it.

First, it would be unethical for me to just worry about what effects “me” personally and disregard the public.  It’s not been my past practice nor will I ever have that mindset.

Secondly, that statement is false, over 5 miles of the proposed roads run through my family’s ranch in 3 different locations.  One route’s location is a stone’s throw away from my home where I raise my family.

I just want to set the record straight regarding the personal charges on this issue, but as I said this isn’t about “me”, but the issue.

Now in regards to the issue, I’ll share some background information.

-On 2/4/14 the Siskiyou County Off Road Riders (SCORR) mentioned during public comment time at our meeting that they are thinking about routes for off highway vehicles and had proposed suggestions.

-On 7/1/14 SCORR came back before the Board of Supervisors with further details on their plan.  There were people that attended the meeting who supported the concept and staff relayed to the Board that some constituents contacted them with both support and concerns over the concept.  The Board discussed positive aspects to the concept and concerns that needed to be addressed.

-On 1/19/16 County Departments along with SCORR presented an update of where things stood.  To quote the minutes exactly “Discussion followed regarding the areas involved, the cost, safety, education and the staff to support the effort.”  The minutes also show, “It was the consensus of the Board to have this issue return in June 2016 for a decision.”

-June came along, but with more pressing county issues the county was dealing with, SCORR was kind enough not to pressure us and remained patient as this issue was delayed.  What would have happened is the county would come up with a proposal for which routes to use, the costs of doing this, the safety concerns, the benefits of doing this.  The State of California also has to be consulted and give their approval.  The Board will have a 1st reading for an ordinance that must be published.  The Board would then need to approve the 1st reading.  Then the next reading must be published and there the Board can approve it as county policy.

Something like this can’t be rushed.

-On November 5th at a Townhall in Copco a constituent presented me a petition opposing any Off Highway Vehicle Ordinance.  In order to share this petition with my fellow Supervisors, I needed to schedule it for discussion at a Supervisor’s meeting according to the Brown Act.  That date is Dec. 6th.  I notified SCORR and I notified the person who handed me the petition against the OHV last Monday giving both parties a 1 week plus 1 day notice that this would be on the agenda.  The intent here was to give enough time.

The December 6th meeting is not a meeting where we can adopt the OHV ordinance, in fact there is no OHV ordinance even on the agenda to be voted up or down.  As I explained above, there are other hoops that must be jumped through.  My intent for this meeting is clear in the agenda worksheet that you read along with the map you referred to regarding the roads.  My worksheet states quote:

“Discussion and possible action regarding Siskiyou County Off Highway Vehicle Ordinance.  As a follow up to the January 2016 Board discussion regarding staff, we will provide an update of progress to develop an Off-Highway Vehicle Ordinance and discuss community concerns raised in the attached citizen petition. “

My intent is to give an opportunity for proponents and opponents to discuss this before the Board.  Personally I think this will be an informative meeting for not just the Board members, but the proponents of the concept as well as the opponents of the concept.

All the best,

Brandon Criss


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Siskiyou County: Off road vehicle discussion at the Board of Supervisors 12-6-16

Agriculture - California, Siskiyou County



Discussion and possible direction re a progress update concerning a proposal to develop an Off-Highway Vehicle Ordinance to allow OHV travel on unauthorized public roads and various community concerns presented in a citizen petition.

PNP comment:  During the Scott Valley Protect Our Water meeting on Dec. 1, 2016, Ray Haupt, Dist. 5 Siskiyou Co. Supervisor, thanked Jerry Bacigalupi for bringing this possible county ordinance to his attention as there had been no discussions among the supervisors about it. Ray has received other concerns  from farmers and ranchers regarding the expansion of these designated routes onto their private property. He has received complaints about the proposal expanding mixed-road use becoming another uncontrollable nuisance to private property owners adjacent to these proposed designated county roads.

After investigation, Ray talked to county counsel and the county administrator about possible liabilities regarding mixed use of county and state roads for  ORV. He has asked if the studies, processes and CEQA analysis’ have been done? They have not.

As a result, Ray told us the agenda item will not be the reading of the new ordinance, as first thought, but will be a discussion item.

Donna Bacagalupi voiced her frustration over the proposed map of combined use and proposed roads and trails that would  be available to ATVs and motorcycles near and crossing their property.

It looks like this proposed ordinance by an off-road vehicle group was not well thought out and the environmental and property rights impacts have not been taken into consideration.

Private property rights supporters said they will attend the meeting and voice their concerns.

Agriculture: Farmers and ranchers that use ATVs, motorcycles and slow-moving vehicles are able to use the county and state roads, if they have the triangle slow-moving sign on the back of their vehicle, so the proposed expansion of mixed-use of roads does not affect them. They are already exempt.

— Editor Liz Bowen



1 Comment

Joint discussion to be held for county farmers and ranchers 11-18-16

Agriculture, Property rights, Ranch life, Siskiyou County, Water rights

Hello All,

After several responses, it looks like the afternoon of November 18th will work best for most folks. The meeting will be held on November 18th at 3:00 pm at the County Administrative Office located at 1312 Fairlane, Yreka, CA 96097.  An agenda will be provided at the meeting, but the following topics will be discussed:

  • The importance of getting Siskiyou water users together, what our goals should be, and who else should be included

  • Current actions/issues concerning agriculture in Siskiyou County and the Shasta, Scott and Klamath Rivers

  • Upcoming meetings, events and/or actions that Siskiyou water users should be aware of

  • Getting the message out regarding all the activities and projects performed by Siskiyou water users to improve irrigation, river and stream systems, and fisheries habitat

  • The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

  • How this group should develop and move forward (how to ensure water and agriculture security in Siskiyou County)

If you have any questions, please contact me. Also, if you think there are other people who would be interested in attending this meeting, or should be involved, please feel free let me know.

Thank you,

Elizabeth Nielsen

Natural Resources Policy Specialist

County of Siskiyou

1312 Fairlane

Yreka, CA 96097

(530) 842-8012

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Siskiyou Co: Emergency Services will hold practice drill on 11-17-16

Siskiyou County

 Nov. 14, 2016

Siskiyou Office of Emergency Services

Yreka, CA- On November 17, 2016 the Siskiyou County Public Health and Siskiyou County Office of Emergency Services in cooperation with local law enforcement, fire personnel, emergency medical services and medical hospitals in and outside our county, will be holding an emergency preparedness exercise in Montague off Scobie Street.  The event will take place from approximately 09:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Those in the area of Scobie Street should not be alarmed if you see helicopters and a large number of fire and law enforcement personnel and equipment in the area. These will all be part of the exercise.

Office of Emergency Services Deputy Director Jasen Vela stated “This exercise is designed to prepare and train our local law enforcement, EMS and hospitals in the event that a critical incident with mass causalities was to occur in our area. In recent times it has become increasingly more important that we train our first responders and hospitals to ensure they are prepared for an event such as this.”

We would like to invite members of the media to attend this exercise. Media members that are interested in attending should RSVP to Suzi Brady at (530)598-2622 or Suzanne.brady@fire.ca.gov. Media members are asked to meet at 08:45 for a safety briefing.

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Siskiyou County opposes claims of voter intimidation, asks court to drop lawsuit

Elections, Lawsuits, Sheriff Jon Lopey, Siskiyou County

PNP comment: Hum, if the sheriff and county clerk did not break any laws, how can there be a lawsuit? — Editor Liz Bowen

Oct. 21, 2016

Redding Record Searchlight

Siskiyou County is asking a Sacramento court to drop a lawsuit that alleged county officials were committing voter intimidation targeting the Hmong community.

In the past two weeks the county has asked the Eastern District Federal courts to dismiss the lawsuit, because there is no basis to the claim, according to a statement from the county’s legal representative.

The initial lawsuit alleged voter intimidation and marijuana cultivation enforcement activities by Siskiyou County officials that targeted the Hmong community.

Siskiyou County legal representative Jim Underwood said Sheriff Jon Lopey, County Clerk Colleen Setzer and other employees did not break any laws and as a result are asking the courts to drop the lawsuit.

The statement goes on to say that there is no basis of voter intimidation, because nine of the 10 plaintiffs in the lawsuit are registered to vote in Siskiyou County and seven of the plaintiffs voted in the June primaries.

A court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 1st in Sacramento.


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

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State owes Siskiyou sheriff an apology

Lawsuits, Sheriff Jon Lopey, Siskiyou County

PNP comment: Wow, quite the conciliatory apology by the Redding Record Searchlight. But, kudos to them for doing the right thing towards Siskiyou Sheriff Jon Lopey. Thank you to Alayna Shulman for digging deeper and truly investigating.

It needs to be remembered that these young Hmong are two and three generations past the Viet Nam era situation. I will alleged that a significant amount of several different foreign-type peoples are illegally growing commercial marijuana in Siskiyou County.

Unfortunately for the Hmong, their influx of visible numbers to Siskiyou the past two years is inescapable to notice — especially in gardening stores with carts packed to over-flowing with gardening supplies. And it was about 100 Hmong that attended standing-room only Siskiyou Co Board of Supervisors’ meetings to oppose the new stricter marijuana-growing ordinances. I was there. It was plain what their stance on the issue was.

Also providing false addresses for voter registration is considered fraud. Maybe Record Searchlight needs to look into that matter!

I allege it is a certain group of the Hmong and the ACLU who are the intimidators in this situation, including the threatened lawsuit. Media bias just fans the flames of true injustice! — Editor Liz Bowen

Redding Record Searchlight

Oct. 14, 2016

What happened in Siskiyou County last June after the local elections official raised questions about the voter eligibility of hundreds of Hmong residents would “take a few beers” to explain, as a Secretary of State investigator told an associate in an email obtained by the Record Searchlight.

It wasn’t that complicated to the Hmong residents the state’s investigators located and interviewed. They felt “terrified” and afraid to vote, they’ve since alleged in a federal lawsuit.

And it was very simple to Sheriff Jon Lopey, whose deputies accompanied the state investigators on their rounds. He was asked to provide navigation and protection and then left to twist in the wind, caricatured coast-to-coast as a redneck, racially biased lawman who allegedly hatched the idea of confronting frightened immigrants with automatic weapons and body armor. The state ignored and refused his pleas to acknowledge its role, records show.

At the time, this page piled on in that rush to judgment. We regret doing so.

That said, we don’t claim to know whether the deputies contributed to the situation by overstepping their bounds, as the lawsuit claims. But in two recent in-depth reports based on extensive interviews and reviews of public records, reporter Alayna Shulman clarified the sequence of events. In so doing, she uncovered a much greater role by Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office.

A week ago, due to her reporting, a spokesman there finally acknowledged that his colleagues had, indeed, asked for support.

The case began when Colleen Setzer, Siskiyou County’s elected clerk since 1999, flagged what she thought to be a suspicious batch of voter applications from rural parcels that did not have street addresses. She forwarded her concerns to the Padilla’s office.

The Secretary of State investigators don’t carry guns, and according to the office’s spokesman they occasionally ask for protection from the local law officers who do. That’s what we finally know happened in this case.

All this went down just days before the June primary election. Among the issues facing voters was a get-tough ordinance on marijuana cultivation. That would be of particular interest to the newly arrived landowners from the Hmong community, Lopey alleged, because illegal growing activity was prevalent in the rural areas where they’ve settled.

In fact, it was the presence of those illegal grows that both local and state authorities say prompted the need for guns.

Problems arose when, over the course of a couple of days, the investigators and their armed protectors managed to find about a dozen people — all members of the Hmong community that has bought property within the past year — and interview them. Ten of these would-be voters say in their federal lawsuit the conversations led them to fear they’d be jailed if they attempted to vote.

These are very serious allegations. The right to vote is fundamental, and the full force of our government at every level should be applied to ensure every eligible citizen can do so.

It’s particularly poignant in this case, because Hmong immigrants paid such a high price for standing with Americans during the Vietnam War. During the war, their casualty rate was far higher than the Americans’, and after it was over they faced massacre, starvation, forced relocation and “seminar camps.” Those who eventually made it to the United States had endured untold horror and deprivation.

In Laos before the war, the Hmong maintained a distinct ethnic identity as highland farmers. The interest in Siskiyou County, attorneys for the Hmong plaintiffs have said, is not just opportunistic. To them, the high, fertile ground feels like home.

Still, marijuana has driven an early wedge between the newcomers and their long-established neighbors. And that makes this story more complex than the one that was first told.

During a long career in the military and law enforcement, Lopey has actually spent a couple of years specializing in Southeast Asian issues. Contrary to the “country rube” narrative, he understands very well what happened in Laos during the Vietnam conflict.

If anything can be said of him, it’s that he’s zealous in policing a plant that voters statewide may be about to legalize for recreational use. But that’s a philosophical position, not a racial one.

Even with the benefit of hindsight, it’s hard to properly judge the actions of last June. The federal courts will need to do that. The county is preparing its response now. A Secretary of State investigator also is named.

What we can say with certainty is it’s important to protect the integrity of the vote both from potential fraud and from intimidation.

Regardless of exactly how those interests were balanced in Siskiyou County, Padilla’s office behaved shamefully afterward by abandoning Lopey.

The Secretary of State owes more than a grudging and belated acknowledgment of his people’s role. He owes the sheriff an apology. And if he truly believes Hmong residents were intimidated, he owes them an apology, too.


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml



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State office admits asking sheriff for help in voter investigation

Elections, Sheriff Jon Lopey, Siskiyou County

PNP comment: The end of this article holds the truth and should be at the top. — Editor Liz Bowen

Oct. 8, 2016

By Alayna Shulman of the Redding Record Searchlight

The California Secretary of State’s Office acknowledged for the first time Friday that it asked Siskiyou County law enforcement to accompany investigators looking into alleged voter fraud — an investigation that led to a federal lawsuit from Hmong residents who said the gun-clad deputies terrified them.

Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey has insisted that was the case since the allegations came to light in early June. But before Friday, the state office hadn’t acknowledged how Lopey’s department got involved, a “cowardly and totally inappropriate” omission according to Lopey, who has complained the silence left him the target of a smear campaign that painted him as a bigot.

Sam Mahood, a spokesman for Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office, previously had only confirmed by email to a national political reporter that the office does sometimes request local protection for its unarmed investigators, but didn’t say whether that was the case in Siskiyou County. Mahood also had declined to specify to the Record Searchlight whether the office asked for navigation and protection, and simply told reporters that Siskiyou County “recommended” deputies join the investigators. That’s something Mahood said again Friday, but with the added context that it was the state office that initiated the conversation.

The admission comes as other new details in the case have emerged through the paper’s California Public Records Act request on the case, including that an American Civil Liberties Union official knew the Secretary of State’s Office was at the helm of the June investigation but told officials there in an email she had “advised (Hmong residents) not to implicate the Secretary of State’s office in any way” when talking to the media.

Lori Shellenberger, the ACLU’s California voting rights director, now says “advised” was the wrong word to use, and that she actually just supported a call made by members of the local Hmong community.

It was, she said Friday, those residents’ “strategic decision” not to mention the office’s role in the investigation because it would scare away other Hmong voters. After all, the state office also was sending poll monitors to protect the vulnerable group from the alleged intimidation, she said.

Interviews and other emails released to the Record Searchlight this week reveal that Shellenberger did not seem to believe the state office had a role in any of the alleged intimidation that later led to the suit against the county and one Secretary of State employee.

She omitted the office’s role in the investigation from a press release and repeatedly blamed Siskiyou County alone for any of the grave psychological impacts the investigation allegedly caused.

“The people I was communicating with (at the Secretary of State’s Office) … assured me, ‘We would not (ask for armed protection),'” Shellenberger said.

When the story of alleged intimidation just before the June primary went national, Shellenberger was a leading voice condemning the sheriff. What emerged, Lopey said, was a portrait of a conservative county’s rogue lawman going on a power-trip against Hmong immigrants. Lopey has denounced that portrayal as a vicious falsehood.

Confusion in Sacramento

The case is full of contradictory accusations, including that Lopey’s deputies overstepped their protection role by warning the residents not to vote and that they brandished their weapons in an intimidating way.

As one Secretary of State employee said in an email to a friend at the state Assembly: It’s a complex case that “will take a few beers to talk about.”

Their exchange was another illuminating element found within the more than 300 emails obtained through the records request. The Record Searchlight asked for all documents that had been provided to Lopey’s attorney under his own earlier request.

The assembly employee is clearly irked at what his friend, James Schwab, has already revealed via email: Siskiyou County law enforcement officials allegedly intimidated Hmong residents by telling them they couldn’t vote just before the June election. He’s also confused: A news release linked into the email says Siskiyou County officials were helping an unnamed state agency with an investigation when the alleged intimidation happened.

“Do you know who the ‘state investigators’ are that are investigating? And […] what is Cal-Fire doing involving itself in voter registration fraud investigations?” Ethan Jones, chief consultant at the Assembly’s Elections and Redistricting Committee, writes in the June 7 email. “Lots of bad behavior at this election …”

In fact, one of those state investigators now is being accused in the suit of participating in the alleged intimidation.

The lawsuit that makes those allegations was filed by 10 Hmong residents who allege they were the direct victims of a wider case of intimidation that disenfranchised about 250 out of 360 potential voters in their community. The suit served to the county in mid-September names Lopey, Siskiyou County Elections Clerk Colleen Setzer, Secretary of State employee Alex Nishimura, Siskiyou County and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection as defendants.

Siskiyou County’s interim attorney said the county has hired outside counsel to defend the suit and is preparing a response.

Focus on Siskiyou

After claims came in that some Hmong residents were terrified by the investigation, the ACLU’s Shellenberger said she’s the one who contacted the Secretary of State’s Office and California Attorney General’s Office for help.

“When you hear that people are getting visited on their property with guns, that raises flags,” she said.

Shellenberger said she did know that the Secretary of State’s Office was involved in the investigation that generated her concern. But the ACLU’s news release on the case simply says the agency is working with the Attorney General’s Office to help deter intimidation from Siskiyou County.

She said Friday that she doesn’t remember why the office’s role was left out of the news release, but said some Hmong residents decided they shouldn’t mention the office to the media because it would scare other residents who didn’t know about the office’s involvement.

“If we go into detail and say, ‘But actually, one of those employees was here …’ that would undermine people’s security,” she said. “I would characterize it as a strategic decision” not to discuss the role of the Secretary of State investigators.

She said she also told those residents that the state poll monitors didn’t have to come if they would frighten people, and state officials themselves agreed it might not be the best idea.

“They were also concerned that, ‘Will our presence have a positive or negative effect?'” she said.

She continues to believe the real problem was with authorities in Siskiyou County.

“Yes, there was a Secretary of State investigator and the sheriff there … But among the people that I was speaking with at the time, I think there was the feeling it was the sheriff more,” she said.

Not everyone felt that way, according to the lawsuit.

One plaintiff, Jesse Vang, says in the suit that a Secretary of State investigator refused to give him his name at first, then told him he’d go to jail if he voted June 7, which left him “terrified.” Vang also said the armed deputies made him feel “particularly threatened.”

Shellenberger’s appreciation for Padilla’s office as a whole and its efforts to protect voting rights is evident in multiple emails.

“I cannot overstate the impressive response by Secretary Padilla’s team and the support provided by the Attorney General and her deputies. Their commitment to protecting the Hmong vote was unwavering,” she wrote in a June 8 email to members of the Future of California Elections, a collaboration of state organizations aimed at addressing the “unique challenges facing the State of California’s election system.”

She also said in a June 6 email to two Secretary of State employees that she told some Hmong residents if interviewed by the media to speak carefully.

“I have briefed them and let them know that the Secretary is very concerned about this and is flying in two representatives tonight and committed to getting to the bottom of this,” she wrote. “I have advised them not to implicate the Secretary of State’s office in any way.”

She said Friday that was a “poor choice of word” and she “would never advise them.”

When asked whether finding out the agency may have requested armed backup for the investigation would change her opinion on who’s to blame for the intimidation, Shellenberger dismissed the idea, but also noted that she didn’t know the answer.

“My experience (with the Secretary of State’s Office) was, as soon as I alerted them, they were very alarmed; they immediately responded. I don’t have any evidence that (they asked for protection),” she said. “I think that would be highly unusual.”

But later Friday, Mahood confirmed that “investigators reached out to the Sheriff to seek assistance in finding (the locations).” Mahood said the investigators reached out because “various parties” had told them the areas affiliated with the “suspicious” voter applications Setzer, the county clerk, had flagged were “remote, difficult to find, and posed a potential security risk.”

He didn’t say who the various parties were, but apparently Lopey wasn’t among them, as “the sheriff reaffirmed the concerns … and it was subsequently agreed that Sheriff’s personnel would escort our investigators to the sites.”

‘Uncertainty and mistrust’

Additional emails between Lopey and the Secretary of State’s Office reviewed by the Record Searchlight paint a clear picture of his dilemma as the events unfolded.

At first, Lopey doesn’t seem to suspect there will be a problem.

“Let me know if you have any issues with the (news) release,” Lopey writes in an email to a Secretary of State’s Office investigator June 3.

Then, after apparently not getting a response, Lopey carbon-copies another investigator.

“Please let me know if you have any issues with the text of the message.”

No response. Lopey writes back again after about an hour.

“Do you have any feedback for the news release?” he asks both investigators.

Still no response. Lopey waits about two hours before he pushes for approval from the state agency again.

“We are getting a lot of media inquiries. When will your agency OK this release? People already know you were here and that we assisted,” Lopey writes.

One investigator, Martin Deffee, finally gets back to Lopey about 12 hours later, the next morning.

Deffee says Secretary of State officials told him the agency “should not be mentioned in any current or future press releases.”

“It has always been the position of The Secretary of State that we do not confirm or deny any investigative activities conducted by The Secretary of State’s Investigative Services Office. Any press release naming the Secretary of State and/or its investigators could potentially affect the integrity of an investigation, the testimony of witnesses and impede investigative efforts. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter,” he writes to Lopey.

Lopey writes back that afternoon, frustrated but begrudgingly compliant.

“I personally think that the lack of transparency in these types of matters are detrimental to the image of your department and you miss the opportunity to showcase your agencies work and achievements. It is important for people to know that there are consequences for breaking the law and neither denying or affirming an investigation just fuels the fires of uncertainty and mistrust. I will remove the Secretary of State from the news release,” he writes.

Then, the news breaks. Across the country, news stories repeat the ACLU charge that Lopey’s office had intimidated would-be voters in the Hmong community — stifling the rights of immigrants who fought alongside America during the Vietnam War.

By July 26, Lopey apparently is fed up.

In an email titled “CONFIRMATION OF ASSISTANCE REQUEST,” Lopey implores Deffee to admit that he personally was in Siskiyou County and the sheriff’s office only went along to provide security.

“As you may know, I have personally received a lot of scrutiny and inaccurate comments in some media channels (that) have misrepresented what occurred during the investigation we assisted your organization with May 31st thru June 2nd. I am not asking you to confirm or deny the investigation but I am asking you to confirm that assistance was requested from the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office for your investigative team during these dates. I have a record of 4 to 5 phone calls requesting assistance with the effort,” Lopey writes.

No response was included in the documents provided to the paper. Lopey said Thursday that he never got one.

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