A national organization is digging in its heels when it comes to a Mariposa County court case about property that has been placed in receivership.
The National Coalition For Men (NCFM) has responded to Mariposa County Counsel Steve Dahlem’s late November letter and is requesting a large amount of information involving the case.
The case involves local resident Jerry Cox, whose property was placed in receivership following a Mariposa County Superior Court ruling. Receivership is a legal proceeding in which the state of California, acting on behalf of the County, takes control of the property.
Cox was also involved in a felony case in which he was accused of multiple counts of rape and other sex-related acts. However, those charges were dropped.
The NCFM, however, believes County officials colluded in presenting the case, intermingling both cases in order to paint a negative light on Cox. Cox is the owner of Bison Creek Ranch which was operated by JDC Land Company.
“We do not agree with your assessment that there was no collusion regarding the false rape case and the coincidental initiation of the receivership action in the middle of that case,” wrote NCFM President Harry Crouch in his letter to Dahlem. “In fact, public record documents in both the criminal case and the receivership case reveal collusion and an intent by the County and your office to use the false allegations in the criminal case to support the receivership action.”
The NCFM had written a previous letter requesting the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors conduct a public meeting “to provide information to the public and taxpayers as to the chain of events regarding the false rape case against Jerry Cox.”
In his response, Dahlem said the “criminal and civil cases are completely distinct and have no relationship with each other.”
Therefore, Dahlem concluded, there was no need for a public meeting because the cases are separate and the criminal case is out of the purview of the supervisors.
The NCFM also is requesting the board of supervisors make a formal request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Public Corruption Unit to “conduct an investigation” of the matter.
“If, as you say, no collusion exists, then as a public official, you should have no qualms or reservations requesting a public corruption investigation by the FBI, and to provide full transparency to the general public,” states the letter from NCFM.
The national group then goes on to question why court records pertaining to the receivership have been sealed.
The court ordered the property to be taken over by the receiver and the property was seized in July 2017 by the receiver, Mark Adams, and members of the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office.
The County claims there are more than 100 code violations on the property and they attempted to work with Cox to get those resolved. But, the County claims that did not happen and that’s when they went to court to get the receivership, which was granted.
It appears that in October 2016, an inspection took place at the property, which was the basis for the receivership. It also appears those records have been sealed by the court.
The NCFM, in its letter, cited an October 2017 request from Cox’s defense team for the records related to that inspection.
The letter illustrates a computer screen shot outlining the County’s response to the defense.
In that response, the County objected, saying it is “over broad in both time and scope.”
It also cites the fact the documents are sealed by the court, something the NCFM believes is wrong.
In its response to the request, the County said the defense seeks documents “protected by the official information privilege in Evidence Code section 1040.”
According to California state law, that code involves information obtained by a public employee. Here is the full code:
ARTICLE 9. Official Information and Identity of Informer [1040 – 1047] ( Article 9 enacted by Stats. 1965, Ch. 299. )
(a) As used in this section, “official information” means information acquired in confidence by a public employee in the course of his or her duty and not open, or officially disclosed, to the public prior to the time the claim of privilege is made.
(b) A public entity has a privilege to refuse to disclose official information, and to prevent another from disclosing official information, if the privilege is claimed by a person authorized by the public entity to do so and either of the following apply:
(1) Disclosure is forbidden by an act of the Congress of the United States or a statute of this state.
(2) Disclosure of the information is against the public interest because there is a necessity for preserving the confidentiality of the information that outweighs the necessity for disclosure in the interest of justice; but no privilege may be claimed under this paragraph if any person authorized to do so has consented that the information be disclosed in the proceeding. In determining whether disclosure of the information is against the public interest, the interest of the public entity as a party in the outcome of the proceeding may not be considered.
(c) Notwithstanding any other law, the Employment Development Department shall disclose to law enforcement agencies, in accordance with subdivision (i) of Section 1095 of the Unemployment Insurance Code, information in its possession relating to any person if an arrest warrant has been issued for the person for commission of a felony.
The NCFM claims neither Cox or his attorneys have received information about who wrote the inspection warrant, what is contained in the affidavit, and “what was seized as evidence during the alleged service of the inspection warrant on that day.”
In the letter, the group asked Dahlem to justify “what specific overriding interest is there, that justifies the necessity for the public to be denied these documents? What could possibly be the necessity and the need for the County of Mariposa; their secrecy and lack of transparency, to deny the public the right to know why the inspection warrant was ordered sealed by the court?”
The letter goes on to say that “realistically speaking, we are not talking about an investigation of murder involving the Manson family, or looking for Usama Bin Laden, in that search warrants have to remain sealed to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation. We are talking about alleged building code violations.”
It goes on to say the “boiler plate excuses” provided by Dahlem are “ludicrous, inexcusable, and frankly, we are embarrassed that a public official would (make) such blatantly false statements, is in direct violation of the law, and refuses to make this information available to Mr. Cox and open for public inspection.”
The national group then goes on to make a long laundry list of public records requests, which the group said it didn’t make in its previous letter but was making now after a “bizarre” response from the office of the Mariposa County District Attorney.
The group said they had sent a letter to District Attorney Thomas Cooke asking for a criminal investigation against Ashley Harris, the woman who accused Cox of rape and other charges that were eventually dropped by Cooke’s office.
The letter from the NCFM said it did receive a response from Deputy District Attorney Philip Dodgen on Nov. 11, 2017.
“In some bizarre manner, apparently, our letter was mistakenly, or intentionally, interpreted as a Public Records Act Request. As is plainly obvious, our letter was not a Public Records Act Request. Again, this bizarre response suggests a lack of transparency, and is evidence of the typical ‘stalling’ technique, in an attempt to divert attention away from the letter’s clearly stated purpose.”
Later in its letter, the NCFM states that because of “recent discoveries” as well as what it claims to be “violations of state law,” they decided to make a formal public information request.
The letter then goes on to list a large amount of information being requested. That includes email, cell phone and other correspondence related to both cases. It also asks for the amount of funds spent by the County involving Cox as well as all records related to the civil inspection served in 2016 at the Cox property.
On Dec. 22, Dahlem did respond to the request.
The letter from Dahlem says the County will “provide all nonexempt responsive records. Due to the volume of documents you are requesting, the County’s limited resources, as well as the County’s need to consult with other departments, The County will need time to collect and review all available documents before disclosures can be made.”
It did not specify the definition of “non-exempt” records.
The letter states the County “anticipates” providing “further response” by January “to indicate what will be produced and the duplications costs, as discussed below.”
The County said the NCFM is “responsible for the direct cost of duplication pursuant to Government Code section (6253(b). Given the volume of records, this may include the use of a professional copy service.”
It states that once the County collects the non-exempt records, it will assess the cost of duplication “and notify you with the amount due.”
The letter also states the NCFM “must” pay those costs before receiving the records.
Greg Little is Editor of the Mariposa Gazette and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.