Local politicos invade Nevada County

The type of dirty campaigning that in recent years has been the bane of Butte County politics has apparently invaded the Board of Supervisors race in Nevada County, where four years ago progressives wrested power from the conservatives by winning two seats and gaining a 4-1 majority.

Now the conservatives, backed by Sierra Pacific Industries and private-property-rights groups, are aggressively trying to retake control of the county by targeting the seats of Izzie Martin and Bruce Conklin and supporting former Supervisor Rene Antonson and newcomer Robin Sutherland. And that’s where Butte County hatchet man John Gillander and former Butte County political consultant David Reade come in.

Beginning well before the March primary and into the summer, someone sent out direct-mail hit pieces attacking the two progressive supervisors and a county resident, Michael Funk, who had contributed to their campaigns. One of the hit pieces was a crudely designed flyer that ran an unflattering photo of Martin, gave the home address of Funk and in tiny print said it was from the Nevada County Citizens for Ethical Government. The NCCEG is not registered with the state Fair Political Practices Commission, nor does the flyer contain a return address. It does include, however, an e-mail address.

Funk tried to contact someone via the e-mail address but did not receive a reply until July. That response came from a “Bob Finch” and urged recipients to send checks to Antonson.

In August, Funk hired an attorney and filed a harassment suit against Finch in Nevada County Superior Court because this Finch fellow had allegedly left “offensive and threatening mailers” in Funk’s mailbox. Funk’s attorney subpoenaed Finch’s Internet service provider, Shocking.com of Chico, and learned the Finch account was actually registered to Gillander.

Ironically, on July 23, the Grass Valley Union, a Nevada County newspaper, published a letter to the editor from Gillander that attacked Antonson and defended Sutherland, who had hired Reade’s political consulting firm, Pillars.

Butte County citizens will recall that Reade was in the center of last year’s county redistricting fiasco that led to lawsuits and bickering among Butte County supervisors. Reade is the son-in-law of the late Assemblyman Bernie Richter and will most likely serve as Second District Assembly candidate Doug LaMalfa’s chief of staff should LaMalfa win the general election in November.

Gillander has long agitated for conservative causes in Chico and Butte County and once served as Richter’s chauffeur. A few years back he was found guilty of illegally placing political pamphlets on the windshields of cars parked in a public lot. Before that he was fined and placed on probation in connection with an altercation that took place in Lodi. He is currently on the payroll of Third District Assembly candidate (and Chico City Councilman) Rick Keene. That district includes Nevada County.

When the News & Review tried to contact him at his home this week, Gillander hung up the phone. Reade, who now lives in Sacramento, said that he had helped only Sutherland in the primaries and had no working relationship with Gillander.

“I really don’t know what is going on up there,” he said. “I don’t pay much attention. John has never worked for me, but he is a friend.”

However, earlier this year First District Assembly candidate John Byrne, who lost to LaMalfa in the primary, told the News & Review that one of the first things he did as a candidate was try to hire Pillars on the advice of an acquaintance in Sacramento. Byrne said he was contacted by Gillander, who gathered information from Byrne. But each time Byrne tried to pay for the consulting work, he was told to wait until a contract was signed.

"Turns out they were actually working for LaMalfa," Byrne said, "and just collecting information on me."