Temporary restraining orders have been granted on behalf of elections office employees for three supporters of the recall effort against the Board of Supervisors.
A judge approved temporary “workplace violence restraining orders” 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 of the county’s elections office, documents and officials state.
A judge on Feb. 22 will consider whether to make the order permanent.
The request for a temporary order came after the Mattoons and Kenney, who weren’t wearing masks, approached the elections office on Jan. 20, and pushed their way inside, according to declarations filed in Nevada County Superior Court.
According to Hardin’s statement, Kenney yelled, “I am coming in” after Hardin opened the door “slightly” to reiterate mask requirements to the group.
“She then pushed against the door, which knocked hard into me,” Hardin says in court documents. “Fearful for my own safety and the safety of my coworkers, I tried to close the door. Ms. Kenney then put her foot and arm through the door, preventing it from being closed.”
Since the incident, entry to the second floor office in the Eric Rood Administrative Center has remained locked to all non-government employees.
When recall supporters returned the following day, blowing horns outside before approaching the elections office and yelling, Hardin reported feeling “trapped” and scared that the respondents would resort to “physical violence to force their way into the office.”
Petition against Jacquelyn Mattoon by The Union on Scribd
Petition against Teine Rebane Kenney by The Union on Scribd
Hardin’s statement, alongside Adona’s, was supported by county Safety Officer Nick Poole, who reviewed security footage of the hallway. Poole stated that the “respondents were the only recall proponents who forced their way through a locked door and into the Clerk-Recorder’s Office” in a statement submitted to the court.
An elections employee on Wednesday referred comment to County Counsel Kit Elliott. The Mattoons and Kenney couldn’t be reached for comment.
According to a letter addressed to county officials by the restrained subjects’ attorney, the trio had questions about their proposed recall petition’s rejection.
Recall supporters have argued elected leaders overreached in their reaction to the pandemic, and failed to remove former Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Kellermann. Their petition for recall has since been approved, and they have until May 31 to gather signatures to trigger an election.
The letter, sent by attorney Barry Pruett three days before the temporary restraining order was approved, said the mask mandates are clearly in the way of county’s responsibility to serve its residents and those residents’ personal freedoms.
“Law enforcement does not have the ability to enforce a mask mandate in a public building to which constituents have a lawful right to enter,” Pruett said in the letter, with a footnote: “While there exists a mask mandate in California and when asked about the enforcement mechanism, Gov. Gavin Newsom stated that he had ‘faith’ in residents to follow the dictate.”
Pruett states, “As the unidentified election staff member opened the door after the bell was rung, the injured party walked into the office and the employee shoved the volunteer and smashed the door on her foot.”
Three days after Pruett sent the letter, which accuses Clerk-Recorder Gregory Diaz of defaming the citizens’ group in the media, Adona and Hardin’s restraining orders were approved.
According to the documents, the Mattoons and Kenney must maintain a 50-foot distance between themselves and Hardin and Adona at all times. The subjects involved in the case are still permitted to attend supervisor meetings, but are not permitted on the public building’s second floor — for the time being.
“Any work to do, we will make accommodations,” said County Counsel Kit Elliot.
Elections office services will be provided to them through alternate ways, Elliot said, adding that the counsel’s request is a reflection of the county’s commitment to protecting its employees.
“The county has an obligation to protect employees,” Elliot said, “ — both from COVID, as well as people and situations threatening to them. When you come to do a job, it can be difficult, but it shouldn’t (cause distress over one’s wellbeing).”
Elliot said this is not the first time Nevada County has sought restraining orders against constituents. She began working in the region in November 2019, noting similar situations had occurred when working in a previous counsel position in Modesto.
Pruett, the attorney representing Recall Nevada County, unsuccessfully ran against Gregory Diaz for the clerk-recorder position in 2010. He declined comment when contacted Wednesday.
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This security camera video is from the hallway outside the Nevada County Elections Office on Jan. 21, 2022. The redacted video footage was provided by Nevada County.
These two security camera videos are from the hallway outside the Nevada County Elections Office on Jan. 20, 2022. The redacted video footage was provided by Nevada County.
“Our security camera system in the hallway has defined zones and thresholds for triggering recording,” wrote Taylor Wolfe, Nevada County Executive Office and Public Information Officer, in a press release. “Unfortunately, this means our systems only captured the footage immediately before and after the 1/20 incident at the Elections doorway, and no other security cameras cover this area.”