Decision expected Thursday in restraining order case against three Nevada County residents
Special to the Sierra Sun
A judge is expected to issue a decision today on a restraining order against three supporters of the Board of Supervisors recall effort.
Lawyers on Wednesday — the second day of the hearing — dissected contradicting testimony as Judge Angela Bradrick decides whether three Nevada County residents will remain barred from in-person services at the elections office following a January altercation.
Temporary “workplace violence restraining orders” were approved against Jacquelyn and Chip Mattoon, as well as Teine Rebane Kenney, to protect Assistant Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters Natalie Adona and Administrative Assistant Suzanne Hardin 11 days after the incident, according to court documents.
At the hearing, Hardin testified a coworker was behind her during the confrontation in which Kenney pushed past her to ask about recall petitions submitted the month before.
“My recollection is not foggy, it’s passionate,” Hardin told the trio’s attorney Barry Pruett in court Tuesday.
Video evidence captured on Kenney’s cellphone shows Hardin was flanked by a male security guard, which conflicted with both Hardin and Administrative Assistant Peggy Lee’s testimony, the defense said.
The video evidence also indicates that Kenney had a speaker and keys in her left hand and her phone in her right — which the defense argued undermined Hardin’s testimony that Kenney “pushed” the door.
According to attorney Trevor Kosky, who represented Adona and Hardin alongside County Counsel Kit Elliott, “not getting these types of details right is normal.”
Kosky said the “respondents’ testimonies suffer from their own inconsistencies,” even though they had the benefit of reviewing the cellphone footage before the hearing.
“It doesn’t mean respondents are lying about this, it means that they are human, they don’t remember every part of the encounter,” Kosky said. “That’s just normal. Respondents also appear to argue that their state of mind is relevant (…) but what matters is the state of mind of the employees in the elections office, particularly Hardin and Adona.”
Pruett said the incident on Jan. 20 was actually isolated — that the Mattoons’ first interaction with the elections office began Dec. 20 to file their supervisorial recall petition, and Kenney’s first encounter with the office was Jan. 15.
“There was no assault, no violence, no battery,” Pruett said. “They don’t even know these people.”
Pruett said his clients did not attempt to contact Adona or Hardin in the 11-day span that lapsed between the disputed incident and the enactment of the restraining order. The Mattoons learned of the order through YubaNet, Pruett said.
The Mattoons and Kenney testified that surrendering their firearms as a condition of the order made them particularly vulnerable after The Union published the respondents’ addresses.
Physical addresses never appeared in print in The Union. Court documents were posted to the newspaper’s website, with the addresses blacked out.
Pruett said his clients’ “unextraordinary actions” have invoked “extraordinary” consequences from the court, adding that they would lose their guns for three years if the order in question was granted.
“This is not about masks, it’s about violence,” Pruett said. “It’s a temporary workplace restraining order. Masks are not a basis for a restraining order.”
Risk Manager Nicholas Poole said he advised Adona of increased risk to her office that afternoon, given an incident in the lobby of the Gold Miners Inn earlier that same day, and escalating threats received by county officials over the last two years.
Poole said he has increased private security staffing since threats began summer 2020, and added that he advised public employees that he did offer Adona and Hardin some counsel as to how to address a threat in their office doorway.
According to Poole, the Eric Rood Administrative Center’s motion-activated cameras were too far from the elections office’s entryway to capture footage of the incident.
Poole said his own report directed to the court was largely based on an account taken from the security guard on scene, who described Kenney and the Mattoons as having “pushed their way inside.”
POLITICS AND PRAYER
Kenney said she learned of the recall effort four days before, but was previously praying before she decided to enter the Eric Rood Administrative Center with a group led by recall proponent Calvin Clark on Jan. 19.
Kenney said mask mandates go against American citizen’s constitutional rights, namely the First Amendment.
“I believe that Calvin Clark knew my rights thoroughly and knew what I was doing,” Kenney said of entering the county building maskless on Jan. 19, the day before the interaction became physical. “I wanted to support him. I followed him in after seeing the sheriff.”
According to an email from Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Andrew Trygg, two deputies responded to an incident at the elections office on Jan. 19 and “worked to deescalate the situation.”
“To their recollection, they did make a comment about how they didn’t like the mask mandate either,” Trygg said in an email, adding, “but needed to follow the rules set forth by the county.”
Kenney said she was aware of the mask mandate, but interpreted the deputies’ actions in the elections office the day before as empathy.
“That day, did you ever think for yourself when people asked you to wear a mask — maybe to just be polite and put one on?” Kosky asked Tuesday.
“No,” Kenney said. “That day, I remembered how many times I already had done that.”
Pruett blasted local media for its reporting on his clients.
“I think The Union, YubaNet, Natalie Adona — I think they inflated this to a place where it never should have gone,” Pruett said outside of the courthouse Wednesday. “I believe The Union and YubaNet defamed my clients in the publishing of the (restraining order) reports. The proper thing would have been for The Union and YubaNet to wait for this thing to flesh out and then report on it. I think it’s a travesty you guys have destroyed the lives of three people without them being able to defend themselves.”
When asked if Pruett thought the media coverage would influence the court’s decision, Pruett said the judge informed him she did not read any of the articles published on the incident.
Pruett said regardless of Bradrick’s final ruling, his clients must reckon with the socio-cultural consequences.
“I’m not taking about the court of law,” Pruett said. “I’m talking about the court of public opinion.
Pruett said even if the three restraining orders are not granted by the court, “these people have this on the internet for the rest of their lives,” and the documentation of the events will affect their livelihoods.
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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