Tirade of Merlin Jones speaks volumesFree Access

OUR VIEW

It appears Mariposa County District 2 Supervisor Merlin Jones was stung by the recent release of Grand Jury information where fingers were pointed in his direction about activities in northern Mariposa County.

But instead of addressing the issue of whether or not he was interviewed by the Grand Jury and whether there is anything more to come, he chose instead to attack the messenger — this newspaper, which had a story about the Grand Jury in a recent issue. It should be made clear, no charges have been filed but there is a public document available to everyone which outlines the concerns brought to the Grand Jury.

Now, we are used to being attacked and people have every right to launch such attacks. But Jones decided he would make it personal, even bringing up tobacco smoking. He did this in handing out a nickname, which is juvenile and petty. When public officials do it, they are sinking to a level not becoming of the office.

But with that childish behavior aside, there are certain issues Jones decided to bring up that need to be addressed because he flat-out lied from the dais of the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors. That dais is paid for by the taxpayers and we all expect the truth to be told from that pedestal. Whether we like what is said or not is another issue; but we do expect our elected officials to speak the truth.

Jones chose to lie.

Jones decided to attack this newspaper, which is a local business that employs people and adds to the local economy. The supervisors recently were taken aback when a survey from the chamber of commerce indicated people think they are not business friendly. Attacking a local business in public is certainly not friendly, though Jones has every right to do that and we defend that right.

We thought a little bit of “fact versus fiction” is in order when it comes to what Jones said in the taxpayer-funded board of supervisors room.

It was obvious Jones was fuming over our story about the Grand Jury investigation which implicated his actions when it comes to the Hotel Jeffrey and other matters in north county. It wasn’t that long ago that Jones was in our office saying if an issue arises, contact him. We did when the Grand Jury report came out.

In his response, he sent us an email saying if he commented on the subject, he would be breaking the law. Yet during his tirade last week, Jones proclaimed he “did nothing wrong.” That sure appears to be commenting on the case. Maybe the local district attorney should take a look and see if Jones is right — that his comments rise to the level of breaking the law. It’s also true the current Grand Jury is still looking into the matter. Maybe they should think about his statement, as well.

Even though Jones was on a tirade about the Grand Jury, he said little about that case, other than the fact he insists he didn’t do anything wrong. Instead he chose to attack this newspaper, spewing false information. We know they are lies because he has no way to verify what he was saying.

First, he said this newspaper is struggling financially. Really? He has access to our financial records? Maybe he broke our QuickBooks code. Well, that can’t be the case, because he would find just the opposite. We are doing just fine, Mr. Jones, and who are you to blabber about something you simply have no knowledge to discuss? Especially in a public meeting funded by the taxpayers of Mariposa County. Which business is next?

This is the lowest of the low and you should be ashamed for launching a personal attack that is an outright lie. We pay our employees well, donate to the community and are advocates for all of Mariposa County. And yes, we pay our taxes to the county, too, which helps fund your pulpit.

In fact, last year we gave more than $10,000 to local charitable groups. That included the fairgrounds, Little League, Toys for Tots, Manna House and many others. We also organized political debates, presented a sports awards show to honor high school athletes, participated in parades and volunteered many hours.

He also proclaimed our readership is diminishing and we are only trying to blast stories like his “above the fold” to sell newspapers. Well, we are in the business of selling newspapers, but if you look back over the past year and a half, we have been very careful about not sensationalizing stories. In fact, we have completely changed the philosophy of the previous ownership and made every effort to highlight the positive things happening in Mariposa County. We’re not afraid of controversial issues, but we also want a balance. Our thought process is not about selling newspapers, it is about telling the truth, something Jones doesn’t seem to understand.

It’s also interesting that the self-proclaimed successful businessman Jones would criticize a business for trying to make money. He certainly boasts publicly, including from that same dais, about making money in the business world.

As for our readership, maybe Jones found his way into our circulation computer. Wait, once again, if he had done that, he would know we are not losing circulation and, in fact, our over-the-counter sales have increased significantly since the ownership of the newspaper changed. Our newspaper circulation is just fine and for an elected official to outright lie about something he knows nothing about should rile up every taxpayer in Mariposa County.

It also begs the question: What else is he lying about?

Jones then decided he would criticize our coverage of a couple of stories that have been high-profile.

He accused us of being lazy when it comes to the case of Jerry Cox, the local landowner who has a pending case against him — brought by Mariposa County. Should a supervisor who is a public servant of the county be publicly talking about such a case? We wonder what Mariposa County Counsel Steve Dahlem thinks of this tactic. Could it taint the case? Could it show bias? Jones claims we won’t even get the case file of the Cox case. We have a binder three inches thick with information from the court about the Cox case. Is Jones also calling his own county counsel lazy, as well, because Dahlem has been in the courtroom just as much as we have during almost every hearing that has happened.

Does Jones have more information on the Cox case that has not been revealed? Maybe Cox’s attorneys should call Jones to the stand to enlighten the public — and the courts.

He then proceeded to bring up the issue of Robin Hopper, the former superintendent of schools who was arrested for DUI.

Jones claims we did not get the facts straight in the case. He said we should have called Hopper when it came to the issue of a second warrant being issued for her arrest for failure to appear. If we called everyone accused of DUI, we’d never get anything done. However, this is a high-profile case, so we called her attorney, which is the proper protocol. In the end, it was her attorney who admitted to making an error and that’s why she failed to appear. Jones should probably check his facts before blasting this out in public, as well.

That’s not to mention the fact he drug Hopper into this for no apparent reason other than to blast the messenger. We’re sure she’s thrilled about it.

Jones also made sure to single out Gazette Editor Greg Little, who he called the “owner.” Technically, he is a co-owner, along with Nicole W. Little, who is the publisher. The publisher is the person who oversees the entire operation. Was this an oversight or chauvinism on the part of Jones? This might be picking nits a little, but it goes to the overall ridiculousness of the rant.

During another portion of his ranting, Jones said he had been told by “other” people not to bring it up and start a fight with the newspaper. Who were those other people? Were they members of the board or county employees? Were they discussing this before the meeting? If so, doesn’t that cross a line?

Jones also spoke of the “pulpit” he has as a supervisor. Does he not realize that pulpit is paid for by the taxpayers and he should practice dignity and respect while preaching from his taxpayer-funded high horse?

Here’s what Jones fails to realize, or choses to ignore: When an elected official spews blatant lies, there are people who take that person at their word. In essence, his goal was to harm a local business by spouting off things that are simply false. This is inexcusable behavior for someone who was elected by the people because there was a level of trust. That trust has been broken by this ridiculous and uncalled for rant by Jones.

This isn’t the first time Jones has gone on a tirade during a board meeting. He’s blasted others for accusing him of doing things he said didn’t happen.

But in this case, it is the Grand Jury that has an open case, not the newspaper. The Grand Jury who is still investigating this matter should also take that into consideration.

Could guilt be entering his mind or could he just be trying to divert attention from the real issue — he’s under scrutiny by the Grand Jury in a case that could eventually land in the hands of the district attorney.

There is another big point here and that is how the behavior of Jones reflects on the rest of the board. Do they condone such behavior? Do they just sit silently and let a supervisor rant, knowing full well he is telling outright lies?

Maybe so.

The bottom line is Merlin Jones, whose seat is up for election in March, was acting like a child. Maybe he should take his toys and go home.

Nicole W. Little, publisher
Greg Little, editor

7 responses to “Tirade of Merlin Jones speaks volumes”

  1. hettiejane tyler says:

    He has been a thorn in the North sides side for years and we are tired of him

  2. Fran Powell Horn says:

    Really? Thirty one paragraphs to counterattack Mr. Jones? You’re both being childish.

  3. Marc Angelucci says:

    On July 26, 2019, Judge Erin Child’s of the San Luis Obispo Superior Court dismissed Ashley Harris’ request for a restraining order after an all-day trial. The Judge found Ashley was not credible, and that Jerry was, and she cited extensive evidence of Ashley’s inconsistencies. I doubt Supervisor Jones is aware of this yet. But he will be. So will the rest of the supervisors and the local judges. We will provide the order, and a redacted copy of the transcript, when we have them. The transcript has been expedited. All of this snowballed out of a false accusations. Lawsuits are just around the corner. Stay tuned.

  4. Monty Jack Thornburg says:

    Excellent Article: On point, and you are correct there’s much under the surface for the Grand Jury to investigate. The specific issue of Mr. Jones attacking your business and making personal attacks goes to the heart, I believe, of the grievances found across much of the North County regarding Mr. Jones behavior. He’s done it in clear sight with your paper. He also does it, behind the back of people, and threatens them in multiple ways. Is his behavior an “Abuse of Power” as a Supervisor? This seems to be an open question. I’ve retired from the MCUSD after nearly 20 years as a resident in Mariposa County, (Coulterville), where I’d served as a teacher, principal, and director and as the president of the John Muir Geotourism Center (JMGC). A mission of the JMGC was partly met with the publication of “CA Country’s Digital Heritage: Innovations in Community-Engaged Research and Training” (2018) Lercari, N. et al., UC Merced. In retirement, I’m continuing with other historical research projects.

  5. Sara Zahn says:

    As the owner of the Hotel Jeffery I know firsthand that Merlin abused his power of District 2 Supervisor when he asked the Board to increase the water rates for the hotel last year.
    After the fire in 2014, he requested that the water rates be lowered due to the fact that there was no water accessible to the hotel…in fact no plumbing at all. Then, within months of suing his best friend who was the contractor I hired to repair the fire damage at the hotel (at his urging and that’s another story) he requested that the Board increase my water rates even though after 4 years there was still no plumbing available.
    Even though I went before the Board and pleaded with them to keep my rates where they were because it would be a financial hardship for me to pay and even though I informed them at that time that Merlin had an ulterior motive for doing so, it was voted to increase the rates as Merlin wanted.

  6. Monty Thornburg says:

    Sadness Indeed: The opening sentence of our peer reviewed and published paper on Coulterville, CA reads as follows. “Community-engaged scholarship aims to improve academic research, teaching and service by aligning university expertise and community priorities via respectful, equitable, and mutually beneficial collaboration.” This was the intention of a research project that I participated with as both President of the John Muir Geotourism Center in Coulterville, and as an academic researcher.
    The University of CA, Merced is the first 21st RESEARCH University. In meeting its goals and in maintaining its esteemed position as one of the World’s most prestigious research institutions the UC Merced has a new Social Science and Humanities Building. A part of that new facility is a state-of-the-art Digital History and Humanities facility. Coulterville was fortunate to participate in one of the universities first research projects outlined in a published paper in the journal COLLABORATIONS. See: collaborations.miami.edu/articles/10.33596/coll.16/
    My sadness comes from the fact that the petty political anti-business attitude of Merlin Jones has blocked needed progress in Coulterville. Until recently, the JMGC was located at 5009 Main Street next to the Jeffery Hotel and on one of America’s most historic community blocks. Contained within the COLLABORATIONS article are Digital Representations by the Director of the Digital Humanities project now published in an international journal, led by professor Lercari of UC Merced. Professor Lercari’s work extends to the forests of the Maya Indians in Guatemala, to ancient ruins in Turkey, and to the CA State Park at Bodie, California State Park and, Coulterville. It’s sad indeed that the entire block building (except one store) including the Hotel Jeffery, the old Haigh Saloon, the former location of the JMGC are all shuttered. They remain closed because of the petty politics described in this article about the supervisor’s tirade.
    Ms. Sara Zahn the owner of the Hotel Jeffery answers a question about “Abuse of Power” from her perspective. I’ve read the Grand Jury Report and can affirm that when Ms. Zahn went before the Board of Supervisors to PULL her item from the CONSENT AGENDA, she previously hadn’t known how this was an “Abuse of Power” in that supervisor Jones, apparently, with the assistance of a Mariposa County Director ALMOST closed the deal without at least a fair hearing. It’s clearly evident, listening to the audio tape of that Board of Supervisors meeting that three of the Board Members, including the chair, were caught completely off guard. It was an ITEM that WAS NOT routine business, especially when viewed critically as to how this adversely impacts a great historic legacy in Mariposa county and negatively effects opportunities for businesses in Coulterville.

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