Reade-ing between the lines

Are Supervisors Yamaguchi, Beeler and Josiassen puppets for consultant David Reade?

GRAY EMINENCE <br>County Supervisor Jane Dolan insists that political consultant David Reade (pictured) is the real force behind Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi’s last-minute redistricting plan.

County Supervisor Jane Dolan insists that political consultant David Reade (pictured) is the real force behind Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi’s last-minute redistricting plan.

photo by Sara Sipes

Register me: Of the 109,992 registered voters in Butte County, 46,854 are Republicans and 40,626 are Democrats.

After weeks of allegations of behind-the-scenes deal-making on the county Board of Supervisors, the simmering dispute looks as if it’s coming to a highly political rolling boil.

Applying much of the heat is Supervisor Jane Dolan, who has been very visible in the local media recently charging that three of her board colleagues—Kim Yamaguchi, Bob Beeler and Curt Josiassen—have been illegally conspiring with political consultant David Reade to restructure the county, from redistricting the supervisorial boundaries to rewriting the county’s trash hauling agreements.

Calling the alliance—which represents a majority on the board—"way too cozy,” Dolan has mounted a full-fledged effort to discredit the three and has even threatened a lawsuit alleging a series of open-meetings-law violations if they don’t shelve a much-ballyhooed redistricting plan Yamaguchi recently introduced.

Just this week, she wrote at letter to the Butte County Grand Jury asking it to open an investigation into Reade’s behind-the-scenes work. She charges that Reade has a major conflict of interest by working as a consultant for a garbage company (Norcal Waste Systems) while at the same time working as a consultant to Yamaguchi and Josiassen and helping write redistricting plans.

Yamaguchi denies a conspiracy. He admits that Reade worked last year as his campaign consultant (and that he paid Reade several thousands of dollars for the work) but has said repeatedly that his association with Reade ended in November.

However, a look at Yamaguchi’s most recent campaign disclosure form suggests a different story. The document, which was filed on July 26, details a $500 payment to Reade’s Pillars consulting company for campaign consulting, made this summer. It seems fishy, especially since Reade accepted a job with Norcal Waste Systems while Yamaguchi was brokering a deal with the trash company that gave it almost exclusive hauling rights in unincorporated Butte County.

When confronted about the payment, Yamaguchi was defensive.

“This is why I have a problem with [the media] reading those things,” he said. “You mess it up … [That payment] was for work [Reade] did last year, during the campaign.” Yamaguchi was unable to explain why the payment was made almost a year after the campaign ended.

Yamaguchi isn’t the only politician who is paying for Reade’s advice. Josiassen’s campaign disclosure form (filed July 31) shows a $1,000 payment to Pillars, and Sheriff Scott Mackenzie (who is a close ally of both Yamaguchi and Josiassen) has paid Reade a whopping $4,600 for political consulting since Jan. 30.

Reade has long been a player on the county’s political scene. He was firebrand Assemblyman Bernie Richter’s chief of staff and is also Richter’s son-in-law. He’s a former chairman of the county’s Republican Central Committee and has been involved in just about every major Republican campaign in Butte County since the late 1980s, when he headed up Josiassen’s first (and unsuccessful) bid for a supervisor’s seat.

But since Richter died in 1999 and Reade lost a hotly contested campaign against Sam Aanestad for his Assembly seat a year later, Reade has more or less dropped out of the political scene. That all changed last year, when he headed up Yamaguchi’s down-and-dirty supervisorial campaign.

Yamaguchi acknowledges that Reade “consulted” with him when he was writing his redistricting plan—a fact that has chagrined Dolan, who is now calling for Reade (and “lobbyists” like him) to be required to register with Butte County. The redistricting plan, presented by Yamaguchi without notice at the board’s July 24 meeting, has infuriated Dolan and Houx, but Yamaguchi, at a press conference on Aug. 6, seemed impervious to their concerns.

Yamaguchi conceived and wrote the redistricting plan separately from the county staff and committee meetings that produced the four alternative proposals that were being considered before he presented it. The plan’s presentation, which was made too late to allow public comment on it, caused an uproar among board members, particularly Dolan and Mary Anne Houx, the two Chico supervisors, who immediately called it “shady” and “bad public policy.” County Clerk Candace Grubbs, who’s usually quite reserved, even shouted that she was “pissed” about Yamaguchi’s plan and demanded that he make it clear that she’d had nothing to do with it.

At the Aug. 6 press conference, Yamaguchi announced that he’d changed the name of his plan from the “Consensus Plan” to the “Return to Fairness” plan, but the plan itself hasn’t changed. It would break up Dolan’s District 2, comprised of urban Chico voters, redistribute them into three districts, and deny hundreds of Chapmantown voters the ability to vote until 2004, instead of the currently slated 2002. Opponents say that will dilute the influence of Chico on the board and break up a sizable voting bloc, making it much harder for Dolan (or any liberal) to be elected in District 2.

But at his press conference, Yamaguchi said that his plan would make the voting districts “more compact” than they’ve ever been. He acknowledged that he discussed his plan with Reade but said that’s not important. He also said that opponents of the plan have “no validity.”

“It doesn’t matter who made the plan,” Yamaguchi said. “Focusing on who gave me the tools to make it is smoke and mirrors.”

Reade agreed and said that all the “fuss” about his new notoriety is so much fluff.

“I think what Mr. Yamaguchi is being accused of is being friends with me,” he said. “And I think what I’m being accused of is being friends with Mr. Yamaguchi. If that’s the case, then we plead guilty.”

The board will take a final vote on Yamaguchi’s plan—along with the four other, staff-produced plans—at a meeting on Aug. 14.