To the Editor: Questions council vote

At the meeting on March 21, there were two agenda items. The first item, from Mayor Breeden, was to send just Ron Strand to Washington, D.C., to meet with Department of the Interior officials. The second, from Ms. Stephens, to send both Ron Strand and Councilwoman Stephens. The highly contested debate went on and Councilman Martin gave a lengthy, powerful speech against the casino for eight major legal reasons, and he strongly defended the right for Ms. Stephens to go as well. In a highly contested vote, the issue barely passed by 3-2 for just Ron Strand to go. Then the second agenda item from Ms. Stephens was presented, allowing her to go as well. And the vote was called. The electronic results showed that the item passed … meaning a “yes” vote for both Strand and Stephens to go. But then immediately after seeing the vote on the screen, amazing things happened. It all happened so fast, hardly anybody caught what really happened.

One councilman says he hit the wrong button when voting – maybe? But once the vote was revealed on the screen, showing that the tribe lost the vote, all three said they too hit the wrong button??? Then they quickly re-voted verbally, and the vote completely changed – now in favor of the tribe. Three councilmen said they hit the wrong button, and three councilmen switched their vote. Strong appearance of collusion.

At first glance that seems harmless. But remember, this was the most significant vote on the casino since the MSA was officially signed. This vote would help sway the Department of the Interior to sign off on the mandatory acquisition taking Ridgecrest lands into “sovereign nation trust” forever. If James Cason, associate deputy secretary, Department of the Interior, signs this, the casino will have a major victory toward further development. This is not a casual vote and everyone voting on the council knew it. No councilmember would slip up on this one major vote. Nobody.

Equipment works great and councilmembers are very familiar with the new system. First, the new voting equipment has been working fine for numerous meetings over several months with absolutely no issues. At the meeting prior to this one, councilmembers even complimented the AV staff. The new system is simple, and the handheld remotes have large labels on them: 1 for yes, 2 for no and 3 for abstain. That’s it. A child can do this. But apparently at this meeting, three councilmen said they

couldn’t do it. The problem was not with the equipment, but somehow, they couldn’t figure out how to push the right number? You watch. You decide.

First, watch the video clip. It tells the quick story — seemingly innocent and very quick. But second, very, very carefully read the transcript below. It’s kind of like a good magic trick — sleight-of-hand. Watch the video clip and read the transcript. You decide. The transcript of the vote is exactly, word for word as follows:

Clerk: “Go ahead and vote.”

Mr. Thomas (During the electronic vote declares) …”I voted wrong” (as if he made a mistake with the button… but the results had not yet been shown on the screen).

Mr. Mower:” change it…change it”

Then the voting results appear on the screen, which clearly show that the vote passed in favor of the city – meaning Ms. Stephens would be going to D.C. with Ron Strand for fair and equal representation. Three yes votes and two abstains. Done deal. The vote was:

Breeden: Abstain

Martin: Yes

Mower: Yes

Stephens: Yes

Thomas: Abstain

Next, out of the blue, Mayor Breeden chimes in likewise, “Oh, I did it wrong” …

Thomas says, “I did it wrong.”

Breeden: “I did it wrong…Can I change it? Gary can you replace the slide?”

Thomas: “I didn’t mean to say that.” Now all THREE council members are openly stating that they ALL THREE MADE A MISTAKE.

Mower then states, “I didn’t mean to say yes, I just said no but I’m so used to pushing the 1…I’m so used to pushing the 1 button I didn’t push the 2 button.”

Breeden: “It might take him a minute…He said give him a minute … He’s got to replace it … We already know what everyone else has voted by those that are there … so, do we want to just do it?” …

Mower: “He’s putting it back up.”

Breeden: “Like honest normal people... (crowd laughter) …I mean that doesn’t ... that makes it sound like the other one was dishonest, sorry (crowd disapproval sounds) I’m abnormal. [Appears she is just verbally, nervously expressing her conscious knowing that she did know that what they all just did was wrong. Mayor starts waving her hands.]…”Sorry, I am normal … sorry”

Mower: “We are not honest normal people so.” [As if in jest. But there is NOTHING funny here.]

Attorney: “Ricca can do it for you.”

Ricca now calls a voice vote and the results dramatically switch. All THREE councilmembers switch their votes.

Mower: No (Switched. Prior vote was Yes?)

Thomas: No (Switched. Prior vote was abstain?)

Breeden: No (Switched. Prior vote was abstain?)

Martin: Yes (Same vote as before)

Stephens: Yes (Same vote as before)

Conclusion: Tribe wins – city loses. Motion is naturally defeated, meaning that Stephens is not allowed to fairly represent the city alongside Strand. Now only Strand will go as a one-person lobby team (quite possibly with tribal officials and attorneys etc.,) to falsely represent the wishes of the city. The result of this vote allows only Ron Strand to go to Washington, D.C., with a stated mission of “supporting the casino and supporting taking the land into trust,” thereby making the trip no more than a lobby for the tribe, with the tribe paying the bill for the trip, at a time when the issue is proven to be highly contested. But there is a MAJOR problem here. It would be potential perjury!

Potential Upcoming Perjury: city manager preparing to present two false statements to the Department of the Interior. The agenda items read, “Discussion and provide direction regarding a request from the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe for the City Manager to travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with the director of the Interior to provide “Support for the casino and the taking of Ridgecrest land into trust for that purpose.” However, as it stands now, although cleverly not stated in the agenda item, this would in fact be a mandatory acquisition, which the city never agreed to. The city of Ridgecrest has ONLY agreed to a “discretionary fee to trust acquisition” not a mandatory acquisition. It was agreed in two formal city documents, one via a letter from the city to the tribe and two, it is clearly agreed upon in the final MSA agreement. In addition, this was verbally agreed on from the beginning as documented on-video archive tapes. The city never agreed to a mandatory land swap acquisition.

Time is of the essence. The city manager is scheduled to meet in Washington next Wednesday, I urge all citizens to call Rep.Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Dianne Feinstein and email their offices NOW to express your concern for this proposed casino and ask them to stop the mandatory trust acquisition. Multiple legal challenges have already been brought forward.

Congressman Kevin McCarthy

Email: keenan.hochschild@mail.house.gov Phone: 202-225-2915

Senator Dianne Feinstein

Email: john_watts@feinstein.senate.gov Phone: 202-224-3841

Watch the video (ridgecrest-ca.gov/media-vault): Select March 21st video. Vote on Agenda Item 6 Starts at 5:00.14; Councilwoman Stephens starts at 2:46 and again at 4:45; Councilman Martin starts at 2:49.

Tom Rafalski

Story First Published: 2018-03-30