Wacky doings in Westport

Big trouble in little Bragg.

It began in January, when a local individual, Rogers by name, walked out of a meeting of the Westport County Water District after being relieved of his duties as a volunteer fireman. However, his trials and tribulations in service of his community didn’tbegin, or end, there. The previous summer, he had been ousted from his position as chairman of the water board by a 29-19 vote, and another man (Simon), elected with 28 votes, stepped into his position. The exact circumstances for this shuffling of small town power are not clear–judging from his actions following these events, however, Rogers may not be the most agreeable individual, and this may have caused strife within the small town.

Rogers would not, it seems, be content with a theatrical exit–on 17 June, Simon’s home relaxation was rudely interrupted by a banging on his door, which he chose to ignore. When the noise became too persistant, he rose to answer it, and was met with gunfire. The Advocate-News, quoting the Sheriff’s Department, reported in thrilling prose the damage wreaked upon Simon and his door by the nine shots fired. Luckily for Simon, minimal. The state of the door was not made satisfactorily clear to this reader. While gunfire is not utterly unusual, especially during season, clearly a hunter would have to be in an advanced state of inebriation to seek deer within a human residence, in June, no less.

The shooting of a local (or his home) is generally a front page item and it duly blazed across the Advocate on the following Thursday. The plot became thicker, however, when it was realized that Rogers’ last words to the Water Board had come to fruition. (“I think you have shamed our community, you newcomers…You will see me in court.”) Presumably Rogers was referring to the lawsuit he would file against the board in April, and not to the fact that he would hire a hitman to kill his replacement on the waterboard.

Because this, ladies and gentlemen, was the breaking news in the Advocate on 7 July. Furthermore, the Advocate informs us breathlessly, searches of Rogers’ holdings on 29 June uncovered weapons and marijuana. It has been suggested that Rogers and the hired hitman were perhaps acquainted through the local agricultural industry–however it may be, Rogers was booked on a laundry list of charges. How Rogers came to think gunfire was the answer to his disagreements is unclear–shortly after the January meeting he was interviewed by an Advocate reporter who did not recall threats of physical violence. Rogers apparently had initially intended to sue those he felt had wronged him. Indeed, his lawsuit remains on file, although the most recent court date has been postponed, due to the criminal proceedings against him.

Rogers’ case is made more complicated, and has in fact attracted national interest, because he is the chair of the Mendocino County Republican Committee. The county isn’t known for contentious relations among the party committees–in general new members are accepted without protest by the rest of the committee, forgoing a county-wide vote. Rogers, however, refuses to resign from his position, despite a request from the state Republican Party chair. The faithful Advocate also had a feature article on this juicy bit of political manouvreing, as the Party at the local level is beside itself. Clearly, it is in the best interests of the state Party to get Rogers out as quickly and as quietly as possible–as a walking argument for gun control alone, he would seem hardly fit to serve. However, it is difficult to remove a chair on the county level due to bylaws designed to prevent dismissal for “frivolous reasons.” One might argue that, at the current time, an accusation of conspiracy to commit murder is, in fact, a frivolous reason. After all, under the laws of this country, Rogers is still innocent, and will remain so until proven otherwise.

However, on the local level, I believe that Rogers fits right in. He is perhaps quintessentially Mendocino County–I will admit that his actions may be rash, and poorly planned, but there’s no particular reason why he shouldn’t remain on the committee. Indeed, if convicted, he will be able to provide a unique perspective from prison which should not be passed up. I must admire his spunk and dedication–even in the face of criminal charges, he refuses to bow to the state committee, and he continues to plan a lawsuit against the Water Board for the untimely usurption of his position. More power to him.

[Fort Bragg]