Race-baiting and misinformation mar SLO County official’s departure

July 6, 2021

Rachel Maddow and Lindsey Holden

By KAREN VELIE

San Luis Obispo County’s clerk recorder Tommy Gong applied to be the Contra Costa County deputy county clerk recorder in March. He accepted the job before May 4 and announced his departure in June. His job change followed years of on-the-job mistakes and scandals attached to his family.

But media outlets, both local and national, turned Gong into a symbol of GOP outrage and the victim of race-baiting once he announced his departure. They cited a May 4 SLO County Board of Supervisors’ meeting.

In the public comment period, an attendee asked Gong if he was “a member of the Chinese Communist Party,” while other audience members questioned his refusal to provide certification and an audit of the county’s Dominion voting machines to the Republican Party of SLO County.

Gong’s announcement of his resignation prompted SLO County Supervisor Bruce Gibson to blame Gong’s departure on the May 4 meeting and on supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton. Arnold and Compton did not condemn the racist comment or the barrage of public comments questioning Gong’s job performance, he said. A Tribune editorial repeated the claim.

Within weeks, national media began reporting that anti-Asian bias had run Gong, “who was great at his job,” out of town. Rachel Maddow said that after “months of enduring the attacks, he is leaving.”

“Here are Trump supporters, saying they need the board of supervisors to remove him because he must be a secret member of the Chinese Communist Party, because you know, just look at him,” Maddow said on her June 11 show. “Showered with abuse, threatened, run out of town on a proverbial rail, and so it is going all over the country.”

Maddow failed to mention there had been only one anti-Asian public comment during Gong’s six years in office.

Gong won his first SLO County election in Nov. 2014. During his tenure, Gong faced multiple challenges regarding his job performance and criminal misconduct by family members.

During the 2018 election, Gong’s office miscategorized one of the three seats on the Los Osos CSD Board, and sent incorrect ballots to several Arroyo Grande precincts.

In 2019, a San Luis Obispo judge sentenced Sherry Gong, Tommy Gong’s wife, to about six months in jail for embezzling more than $32,000 from the booster club of the Atascadero High School Band.

In 2020, a family member was accused of illegally videotaping minors.

Then, in the 2020 election, some voters in San Luis Obispo received multiple vote-by-mail ballots, while thousands of other voters in rural SLO County found themselves removed from the voter rolls.

Gong did not respond to multiple emails from CalCoastNews about the reason for his resignation.

Following the 2020 election, Randall Jordan, the chairman of the Republican Party of SLO County, sent Gong a letter noting there was concern “with the controversy surrounding Dominion voting machines,” but understood Gong was busy with the election.

“We assume you are fully engaged in other post-election tasks at this time and that these do not include alterations, updates or changes in this machine,” Jordan said in his Dec. 11 letter. “However, we would request that if anything of that sort is planned, you defer that action until we have had a chance to talk with you and get our questions addressed.”

On March 15, Jordon, Gong and several concerned county residents attended a Zoom meeting. Gong was asked for an audit of the county’s voter machines and documentation of its third-party certification. Gong declined, according to several emails between Gong and Jordan.

In April, Contra Costa County selected Gong as the top candidate for the job, but needed to conduct a background check before making a formal offer. In the weeks that followed, a SLO County official informed CalCoastNews that Gong was planning to take a job in Northern California.

On May 4, more than 100 callers voiced their concerns with either election integrity or voter suppression during the SLO County Board of Supervisor meeting, with the one public commenter delivering the racial attack on Gong.

In mid-May, Contra Costa County officially offered Gong its deputy county clerk recorder position, according to a Contra Costa County staffer.

Then on June 4, after a SLO county administrator asked Gong if rumors he had taken a job in another county were true, Gong announced his resignation.

The SLO County Board of Supervisors is now tasked with appointing a new clerk recorder to serve until Jan. 2023. At that time, the winner of the 2022 election will take the seat.

Even though Gong is no longer working in SLO County, the controversy continues.

After San Luis Obispo attorney Stew Jenkins applied for the county clerk recorder job, Gibson called him unqualified and requested that they appoint Deputy Clerk Helen Nolan to serve until the 2022 election.

Jenkins has decades of experience with election law and regulations. However, after Jenkins questioned the integrity of former SLO County supervisor Adam Hill, Gibson broke with Jenkins, his former supporter.

The SLO County Board of Supervisors is slated to discuss the appointment of a new clerk recorder at its July 13 meeting.

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AGDUDE

First Off Who Believe The Election Results 88% voted bull hocky.. ,next this MSNBC woman is a joke, NEXT fine Job SLO Country You Elected two of the finest village idiots..Or Did You and Tommy Chong jumped ship.. reminds me of Up in Smoke .. the whole thing.. Get On The Trump Class action suit the pot is boiling .. So Hit That .. mad dog!


mazin

Don’t list a post office box as your address on your driver’s license.

“A large portion of District 5 voters do not have mail boxes, and utilize post office boxes, with the boxes listed as the address on the residents driver’s license. Because of new procedures, many who have updated their licenses were taken off the voter rolls for not having a street address listed on their driver’s license.”


derasmus

Per Ca DMV, a PO Box is permissible as a mailing address but DL and ID must include a physical address.


derasmus

As I recall from his campaigning for the office, it was Gong who introduced race. I recall his statement to the effect,”I’m like a banana, yellow on the outside but white in the middle.”


He said it either at a campaign event or on the Congalton. Either way, at the time I found it odd, silly, and completely irrelevant.


Francesca Bolognini

As usual, the current model for political behavior is to pull divisiveness from the jaws of unity. I see in the comments and the article itself that certain details are conveniently left out. Like the fact that, since they could not even correctly pronounce our county, a large majority of the callers to the BOS meeting were very likely not from this county and basically political operatives. I thought that the so called “conservatives” found that to be unacceptable in a protest. I think that anyone should find it inappropriate in a BOS meeting and regarding our local election integrity.


I would also question whether a man should be losing his job over the actions of other members of his family, if he is not found to be guilty of wrong doing. A certain top level official in the federal government comes to mind, who had a stunning number of appointees who were actually convicted of serious wrongdoing and he just pardoned them and went about his business with no one from his party making a peep. That situation is ongoing, by the way…..


But here we are in a situation where there is no actual proof of wrongdoing, an actual case of harassing of one of our local officials and the GOP is good with that, while the “liberal media (we have no actual mainstream liberal media, but go ahead and have that one) makes a meal of the harassment by outside influencers, with no mention of the shady family doings.


Seems that both sides could do a lot better here. Perhaps we could agree on that?


horse_soldier

He didn’t lose his job, he applied for and accepted another position–he QUIT. What’s so hard to understand about him wanting to get away from another embarrassing scandal?


Cindy

This was inaccurate reporting, done to falsely accuse and degrade Republican supervisors for partisan reasons. How many times have people attacked elected officials in this county through online trolls and threats. The same people that ignore these often sexiest attacks on Compton and Arnold, then degrade them for not calling out a single racist comment after three other supervisors denounced it.


Buchon

All the racism, particularly all the race-baiting from those (particularly the media) claiming to be anti-racism needs to cease.


These race-baiters who yammer on about “systemic racism”, are themselves the biggest spreaders of this social cancer through toxic crap like CRT, the 1619 Project, etc.


kettle

“the race-baiting who yammer on about “systemic racism toxic crap like CRT, the 1619 Project, etc.”


Nothing in the article about crt/1619 etc, that’s you who brought that here today.


The spreader is you, please stop blaming others.


Buchon

Race-baiting comes in many forms and from many directions.


The greatest amount these days clearly comes from those who claim to be anti-racism. It would be ironic, were it not so damned sicko.


There’s a large number of people that need to CEASE the practice of RACISM. Racism based on their absurd beliefs that it’s impossible for Caucasians to be the targets of racism, and that it’s impossible for non-Caucasians to be racists. Utter malarkey!


kettle

“Race-baiting comes in many forms and from many directions.”


Thanks for making my point that you are the one posting trigger words in order to elicit a response. It’s the phone, the race baiting trolling is coming from inside the house.


“who yammer on about “systemic racism”, are themselves the biggest spreaders of this social cancer” Correct, please stop.


IDBOUND

WOW just wow …as most folks opinions of GOV employees who just move from one GOV job to the next GOV job no matter how poorly they perform …it seems to be true almost 100% of the time .I wonder if Tommy is buying his relatives house in Pleasant Hill Ca aka Contra Costa county that is currently a pending sale for 989k, and that relative now lives in Danville Ca in a 1.6 million dollar home .I also wonder how many relatives/ (friends) he has that hold influence in Contra Costa GOV hiring of perspective employees


horse_soldier

“Illegally videotaping minors” doesn’t really begin to describe it.

Gong is getting out of town before the sh*t really hits the fan and his family suffers more humilitation, if not additional criminal charges.


MrYan

So the race baiting at the public meeting was merely repugnant, just not consequential.

Got it.