Political operative arrested

Say what you want about local City Council gadfly and former Rick Keene political operative John Gillander, but the man likes his dogs and is apparently willing to defend them.

Gillander was arrested by Chico police Nov. 15 after allegedly punching off-duty California Fish and Game Warden Will Bishop near Horseshoe Lake in Upper Bidwell Park. According to an e-mail sent by Police Chief Mike Efford to members of the Chico City Council, Gillander was running his dogs at around 5 p.m. near the lake.

“An off-duty Fish and Game Warden began throwing rocks to chase away these dogs, stating that they were aggressive,” the chief said in his e-mail. “John and the Warden got into an argument and a scuffle ensued, with John allegedly striking the game warden.”

Gillander, according to the e-mail, left the area in his vehicle, and Bishop phoned the police. An officer located Gillander near the park, where “John became argumentative with the officer who had to forcibly take him into custody.”

Gillander was booked at the Police Department, cited and released.

Bishop has offered a bit more detailed summary of what happened, and it does not involve throwing rocks at dogs.

Bishop, who has 30 years of experience with the DFG, said he was off-duty recuperating from a recent back injury and was visiting the lake with his three young grandchildren when they came upon a small cocker spaniel-type dog blocking a footpath. The dog, he said, was “barking viciously” and would not let them past.

Bishop alleged that he started to go around the dog when “a large man” appeared with a boxer dog and screamed that Bishop had better not be throwing rocks at the spaniel or the man would “kick your ass.”

The man then allegedly ran toward Bishop, hit him and shoved him down to the ground, where the men scuffled briefly. Bishop, who is a pretty large man himself, said that when he was able to break free he got back on his feet and announced the man would be going to jail.

At that point, Bishop said, the man took his dogs, climbed into his parked car and left. Bishop said he called the police and gave them the vehicle license number.

This is not Gillander’s first brush with the law. In 1990 he was arrested in the San Joaquin Valley town of Lodi on charges of battery. When he failed to appear in Lodi Municipal Court, a warrant for his arrest was issued.

Gillander, who had moved to Chico, finally went back to court in 1996 and pled no contest to a reduced charge of disturbing the peace. He was fined $410 and placed on two years’ probation.

A few years ago he was found guilty in Butte County of illegally placing political flyers on parked cars and was ordered to perform community service. Gillander is a disabled bricklayer who has long worked for local conservative politicians and the Butte County Republican Party, including a stint as chauffeur for the late Assemblyman Bernie Richter. He’s led attempts to recall progressive City Council candidates and filed complaints with the state Fair Political Practices Commission against others.

He worked briefly for Keene prior to last spring’s primaries doing research on Keene’s opponents. This week Keene defended his association with Gillander and said Gillander’s previous brushes with the law were minor and old news and that he paid him over a period of time so as not to detrimentally affect Gillander’s state disability wages.

He also said his employment of Gillander was no different than the local Democrats using to their advantage the political trickery of state Democratic Party advisor Bob Mulholland.

A call to Gillander’s home was answered by his father, who after a long silence reported Gillander had no desire to speak with the News & Review. However, a dog could be heard barking in the background.