Oct. 16, 2012 — Sometimes I just have to scratch my head hard when Lassen County politics get really, really, really serious. A case in point — Eileen Spencer’s Oct. 9 objection to the possible appointment by the Lassen County Board of Supervisors of Kurt Bonham — a certified public accountant and a former mayor of Susanville and city council member — as an alternate on the Lassen County Assessment Appeal Board.
Spencer, who claims she is a journalist simply because she has a murky and undefined relationship with a Lassen County Community Bulletin Board website whose content is controlled by an unidentified committee of unknown origin and number that provides the community with absolutely anonymous “accountability through exposure,” blasted Bonham from the podium and delivered a multi-page letter to the board asking that his name “be removed for any consideration for this or any other appointment” because he does not possess “a level of competence” or “good judgment.”
Spencer and her husband, John, signed the letter. While Spencer may offer a surprised and indignant “it’s not my website” excuse when it’s convenient to distance herself from its content and reporting that even refers to her actions in the third person, she is irrefutably its sole administrator according to the site’s registration record.
In half a lifetime of studying or working in the news business, I have never seen a journalist stand up and make such a presentation or request at a public meeting. Not once. Irritating gadfly activist, yes. Professional responsible journalist, no.
I don’t want to further dignify Spencer’s allegations by republishing more details here. Instead, just for context, let me take this opportunity to share some of the things this insanely competent and horribly wise community bulletin board has published about moi.
In the interest of disclosure, I should tell you Spencer gave me a “Lighted Lamp Award” on Dec. 4, 2007 that still sits in a golden box on a shelf above my desk, although the prize is so memorable I’ve completely forgotten what I did to earn this lofty recognition. But I digress.
After handing out an “oink-oink/stinky award” and calling the newspaper, “a pimple on a pig for news source,” the bulletin board asked, “Does the Lassen County Times news editor and recently promoted managing editor believe that if you don't read it in the Lassen County Times it isn't true? … Sam Williams (sic) job is to suppress not only the truth but the truth and nothing but the truth.”
Complaining about the content of a letter to the editor, the website wrote, “Way to go, Grand Wizard Sam” and that my uncle, Hank Williams, would be proud — complete with a picture of a Knight of the Ku Klux Klan mounted on horseback.
While I used to joke about playing songs written by my “Uncle Hank,” my real uncle, Ted Williams, used the occasion of his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1966 to be among the first big voices to argue for the inclusion of the great black players “who are not here only because they weren't given the chance.” I’ve always admired my uncle for taking that stand, and today 35 Negro League players are enshrined in the hall. My grandmother was Mexican, so I’m actually one of those mixed breed mongrels the Klan would like to exterminate. I couldn’t be a klansman even if I wanted to be. They wouldn’t have me.
The website also accused me of enabling and protecting my “friends” on the Lassen Municipal Utility District Board of Directors, “the Nagels” and “all of the LMUD participants.” But the truth be told, in 13 years in Lassen County, I’ve never invited one of those folks over to my house for dinner. They haven’t invited me, either.
The website even went so far as to accuse me of letting someone else write a story that appeared under my byline.
“Did Sam Williams write this? Sounds more like he let Fred Nagel write this slightly slanted prejudice (sic) rendition of the real story, the real facts?”
I could let these comments upset me, but I know only a few people find their reality in such things. I mean, Grand Wizard, Sam? Really?
The first real lesson one learns in journalism is to consider the source. I trust the supervisors have learned that one, too.
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