Nevada County supervisor candidate claims sheriff sparked ‘whisper campaign’
June 13, 2016
Nevada County Board of Supervisors candidate Richard Harris claims that Sheriff Keith Royal helped spark a whisper campaign against him, alleging that he's a major marijuana grower in his attempts to damage his run against District 2 incumbent Ed Scofield.
Royal, however, disputes those allegations and said he has made no public claims about Harris, though he did two months ago tell Scofield that Harris grows marijuana – a claim Harris admits, noting it's for his daughter who has an intractable disease.
"The sheriff has really overstepped his bounds here and it's a big deal," Harris said.
Harris' accusations come less than three weeks before the June 7 election that's been dominated by Measure W. That initiative, if passed by the voters, would implement an outdoor medical marijuana grow ban and limit indoor grows to 12 plants.
“The sheriff has really overstepped his bounds here and it's a big deal.”
— Richard Harris, candidate for Nevada County supervisor
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Harris opposes Measure W. Scofield in January voted to impose the existing outdoor ban and put Measure W on the June ballot.
Harris, who on Friday issued a letter with his accusations, claims that Royal approached Scofield in early March with a map of the grow. Harris claims the sheriff noted that Harris is running against Scofield, who asked if authorities would arrest him. Royal said an arrest would look suspicious before the election, Harris claims in the letter, stating the pair then realized someone had heard them, and they closed the office door.
"That's absolutely untrue," Scofield said of the claim he suggested Harris be arrested. "People aren't getting arrested for marijuana grows. I saw the maps. So? I never, never said that."
Royal said his decision to approach Scofield came after a marijuana seminar he attended weeks before in Colorado.
According to Royal, some people in the marijuana industry will fund political campaigns in an attempt to get officials elected who side with them.
That led Royal on his return to Nevada County to do a Google maps search of Harris' property. Royal said he spotted 15 to 20 marijuana plants, not what he'd consider a large grow.
"He's been a single issue candidate," Royal said of Harris. "I found this important to share with Ed, so he understood what type of campaign he was facing."
Harris disputes that characterization of him, saying the divisiveness of the marijuana prohibition is taking time and energy from issues like fire prevention, water, economic development and homelessness.
Scofield said he's chosen against using Harris' grow as a wedge in the campaign. Royal noted he hasn't shared the information publicly.
"If I were going to go after him as a candidate, I would be very vocal and outspoken," the sheriff said. "I haven't done that."
Harris said the information about the exchange between Royal and Scofield came from Duane Strawser, a candidate for the District 1 supervisor seat. The sheriff and Scofield said they didn't remember Strawser being present. Strawser said he wouldn't comment on a private conversation.
In his letter Harris claims that rumors he's a large grower have spread through a whisper campaign. That campaign's intent is to undermine his character, integrity, family and business, he said. He opted on Friday to address those rumors after being asked about it at a public forum.
Harris said he wanted to maintain his family's privacy, but chose to fight what he called political manipulation by openly discussing his daughter's use of medical cannabis.
According to Harris, his daughter suffers from Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease. It's a neurological disease that led doctors to say she might not be able to walk once she's in her early 30s. There are no known treatments or cure.
His daughter tried medical marijuana after opiates and narcotics made her ill. Harris' family then grew 12 plants legally to provide the medicine that helps her. No other cannabis is grown on his property, he said.
KVMR 89.5 FM broadcasted interviews with both Harris and Royal as part of its evening news hour on Friday.
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.