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Hearing on door tiff opens: Elections office staff say they felt unsafe as recall supporters tried to barge in

Teine Rebane Kenney (far left) walks into Department 6 of Nevada County Superior Court in Nevada City. Kenney, along with Jacquelyn and Chip Mattoon, were served temporary restraining orders following a January incident in which they were accused of forcing their way in the Nevada County Elections Office. A hearing to potentially make the order permanent continues today.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

A judge is pondering whether a temporary restraining order should become permanent in the case of three supervisor recall supporters, and an elections officials’ request they be barred from their office.

The hearing, which began Tuesday, March 1, will continue Wednesday.

Assistant Clerk-Recorder Natalie Adona and administrative assistant Suzanne Hardin were granted temporary workplace restraining orders following the Jan. 20 incident involving Teine Rebane Kenney, and Jacquelyn and Chip Mattoon.



Thirty people — judge, guards, defense, prosecution and witnesses — gathered in Nevada Superior Courtroom District 6 to determine if Kenney and the Mattoons should be barred from in-person services indefinitely.

The temporary order was granted to protect Hardin and Adona after the interaction between Hardin and Kenney and the Mattoons became physical.



Temporary Judge Angela Bradrick oversaw the proceedings.

“Nobody may argue or discuss if mask mandates in place were bold and unlawful, exceeded authority — nothing like that,” Bradrick said. “The only thing that can be stated is, ‘A mask mandate was in place.’”

Nevada County Assistant Clerk/Recorder Natalie Adona (left) speaks with her counsel during a break Tuesday in court. Adona provided testimony Tuesday along with other elections staff present during the Jan. 20 incident at the Rood Center.
Photo: Elias Funez

According to Hardin’s testimony, the administrative assistant opened the office door a crack — seven inches, when asked to specify — and was attempting to reiterate her office’s mask policies when Kenney yelled, “I’m coming in.”

“The door slammed into my arm and my body, and I pushed back,” Hardin said. “(Kenney) shoved her arm and foot into the door — that’s why I was so intimidated — then I realized I was pushing a door on a human being and so I took a step back.”

Kenney said she heard Hardin grunt as if exerting force and documented a scratch and bruise on her foot sustained during the interaction in the doorway.

Hardin said she apologized to Kenney after realizing what she was doing.

“She said, ‘You hurt me,’ and I said, ‘I’m sorry … but you made me feel unsafe,’” Hardin said.

“Did the (employee) policy include using physical force to prevent entry to the office?” defense attorney Barry Pruett asked.

“In a dangerous situation, yes,” Hardin said. “That’s part of the policy.”

Jacquelyn and Chip Mattoon listen to the proceedings of Tuesday’s restraining order hearing while next to their counsel.
Photo: Elias Funez

Pruett asked Hardin to define what would be a dangerous situation.

“Someone shoving the door into my body,” Hardin replied.

She said the entire situation — the yelling in the hallway and the interaction itself — inspired fear. She returned to her coworker’s car after the interaction and wept, she said.

Adona said she was returning from lunch when she was informed that the three petitioners waiting to be serviced on the other side of the counter had “pushed their way through a door” to be there.

“Where I was standing, there is a short door that comes halfway up my leg, and there’s this door over here, where I see these women who are really afraid,” Adona said, referring to coworkers “barricaded” in the office kitchen. “I’m not a big woman, I can’t take on three people, and I just did not know in the moment what was going to happen.”

Adona said she previously agreed to meet petitioners outside of her office and confirmed that her staff continues to offer remote services to those who cannot or choose not to comply with the statewide mandates.

She said she’s had several panic attacks since the interaction, and that she has felt isolated and depressed.

Attorney Barry Pruett represents Jacquelyn and Chip Mattoon and Teine Rebane Kenney Tuesday in Nevada County Superior Court.
Photo: Elias Funez

“No one has ever pushed their way into our office before,” Elections Office employee Peggy Lee testified. “Normally, if someone is upset we can talk to them about it, but we’ve never had anything like that.”

Pruett, who represents Kenney and the Mattoons, ran for clerk-recorder in 2010 and lost to Adona’s current boss, Gregory Diaz.

Pruett inquired into how Hardin and Adona identified his clients as part of the recall effort against the Board of Supervisors, and asked Adona if it would surprise her to learn that his clients were at the Eric Rood Center to pray.

Kenney wore a face mask with stars and stripes during her court appearance Tuesday, and said she went to the center to participate in a nationwide demonstration she learned about online. She said she began convening outside of the county offices on Jan. 15 to “pray for our country, children, politicians, elections officials — all of us, actually,” as part of a “Jericho March.”

There, Kenney was introduced to the local recall effort and the Mattoons for the first time.

Video footage shot by Kenney of the incident on Jan. 20 was shown in court Tuesday. Once inside, the footage showed Kenney asking about the status of the recall petition.

Nevada County Supervisors’ recall proponent Calvin Clark was one of many people in the audience of the Judge Frank D. Francis courtroom in Nevada City. Superior Court Judge Angela Bradrick oversaw day one of the hearing whether to extend a temporary restraining order against members of Clark’s group.
Photo: Elias Funez

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com


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