DA Reisig and DDA Couzens Threaten Johansson Campaign Volunteers Over Campaign Signs

Dean Johansson Calls DA’s Actions ‘Bullying’ and ‘Abuse of Power’

(From Press Release) — Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig and one of his chief deputies have been threatening volunteer campaign workers for Dean Johansson, a Yolo County assistant public defender who is challenging Reisig in the June 5 election, according to Mr. Johansson’s campaign.

Mr. Johansson described these attacks as “bullying” and an “abuse of power.”

The Johansson campaign reports that at least three emails and one private conversation suggest that Mr. Reisig and Supervising Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens are investigating Mr. Johansson’s volunteers for allegedly planting campaign signs improperly.

Mr. Couzens has sent three emails to Dean Johansson campaign staff alleging a violation of California penal code related to the placement of campaign signs. The second of these emails (sent on April 26) described how Mr. Couzens’ “staff” and “employees” had taken photographs and conducted interviews related to the allegations.

In a subsequent email sent later that same day Mr. Couzens asserted that the investigation was not being conducted on “county time,” apparently confirming that the “employees” he referenced in his earlier email do in fact work for the county.

Additionally, Mr. Reisig personally informed Mr. Johansson on April 18th — following their first and only public debate — that he was referring a complaint about sign placement to the office of the Attorney General. Mr. Reisig did not state whether or not this complaint was related to Mr. Couzens’ investigation.

In response Mr. Johansson has issued the following statement:

“Unfortunately this kind of bullying and abuse of power is all too common in the current DA’s office and a big part of the reason I am challenging the current administration.

“These accusations are nothing more than a distraction from the important issues being raised by our campaign. The only reason I am acknowledging them publicly is to protect our team from personal retaliation by the DA’s office. Our campaign is made up of hard-working, deeply-committed volunteers who are acting in good faith without exception. I am solely responsible for all actions taken by our campaign.”

Campaign manager Natalie Wormeli also released the following statement addressing the underlying complaint and the involvement of the DA’s office:

“We remain completely open to addressing these issues with the appropriate city or county authorities, however we have conducted our own internal investigation and at this time we believe that we are fully compliant with all relevant ordinances.

“To our knowledge it is not typical or appropriate for a senior deputy in the DA’s office to contact a political campaign about their sign placement and we find it unlikely that other political campaigns, past or present, have received this level of scrutiny from the DA’s office.

Finally, deputy campaign manager William Kelly recounted his email interaction with Mr. Couzens:

“Because these emails came from Mr. Couzens’ personal email account it was not clear to me whether he was reaching out as a deputy district attorney, a member of Jeff Reisig’s campaign staff, or in some other capacity. Mr. Couzens has since stated that he and others are not working on ‘county time’ and I have therefore suggested that he refer his concerns to the appropriate authorities and requested that he not contact us again regarding this matter.”

Mr. Johansson’s candidacy continues a recent national trend where reformer district attorneys are winning seats against hard-line DAs.

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  1. Ken A

    This shows how the world view of Johnson is different than Reisig when he says a “friendly call to let him know his campaign has illegal signs” is “‘Bullying’ and ‘Abuse of Power’”…

    It is sad but we have entire communities that describe the enforcement of anti-graffiti laws, traffic laws (Google Sideshow) and drug selling laws as ‘Bullying’ and ‘Abuse of Power’…

    1. David Greenwald

      They didn’t consider it a friendly call – they considered it a threatening email and threatening conversation, the email had a Deputy DA citing the criminal code and the conversation was that Reisig was going to refer the complaint to the AG’s office.

    2. Jeff M

      Yup.  That is the standard political instrument of some… to turn everything into “I am the victim and the advocate of victims and my opponents are morally deficient and mean.”

      We need another one of those types as our DA like we need greater pension benefits for our state and local government workers.

      1. Tia Will


        Oh for heaven’s sake. If you were not present for the conversation so that you know the words that were spoken and the tone in which both the conversation and emails were phrased, then you have no idea whether or not this was friendly or hostile. But you are certainly willing to weigh in on the basis of personal preference only.

        1. Howard P

          And, for heaven’s sake (if you believe in Heaven) why should we accept the versions of

          words that were spoken and the tone in which both the conversation and emails were phrased,

          if we have not personally heard/read them?  Think the technical term is “hearsay”… particularly “tone”… is that objective, or subjective?

    3. Ann Block

      It wasn’t friendly.  Reisig has also filed criminal charges against public defenders for clerical errors — e.g. someone on staff forgetting to redact a witness name or address from a police report, among other things.  That wasn’t “friendly.  Reisig has filed state bar complaints against public and private defense attorneys, including against the pro bono attorney of one of the Picnic Day 5 defendants — on that occasion for talking to the media.  That wasn’t friendly either.  These tactics are not only bullying, they are unethical and corrupt.


      1. Jeff M

        Now THERE is some bullying!

        Interesting… I know of some of the people that have worked for him in the DA’s office and everyone I have heard from says he is a great person to work for.  Maybe you have your DA’s mixed up… or maybe you live in the upside down world.


        1. David Greenwald

          Jeff opened Pandora’s box with this comment:

          “I know of some of the people that have worked for him in the DA’s office and everyone I have heard from says he is a great person to work for.  ”

          I have actually heard the opposite from both people currently in the office and people who are gone.  I just looked at his endorsement list and was surprised how few former DA employees are on the list.

          I suggest he talk to Larry Eichele about how he was treated while running.

          I wish I could share some of the horror stories I have heard from CURRENT people in that office who are afraid of retribution.  I have a few that I have received off the record that I can’ t print here, but I might read to Jeff over the phone if he is honestly wanting to engage in this.

  2. Tia Will

    It is sad but we have entire communities that describe the enforcement of anti-graffiti laws, traffic laws (Google Sideshow) and drug selling laws as ‘Bullying’ and ‘Abuse of Power’…”

    What is also sad is the willingness to accept the word of our preferred side about the nature of interactions uncritically. One man’s “friendly call” accompanied by multiple other contacts on the same issue may be another man’s “bullying”. I have no knowledge of these circumstances but am hardly to the point where I would be choosing sides based on this limited information even though I am actively engaged in the Johansson campaign.


    1. Tia Will

      Paid for by Johansson for District Attorney 2018 FPPC Committee ID #1401524″

      Or honest opinion based on a difference of perspective.

  3. Keith O

    If the tables were turned and Reisig’s team were planting these signs the title of this article IMO would’ve been:


    1. David Greenwald

      I’ve very rarely published stuff on signs.  Everyone puts signs where they don’t belong.

      This one was interesting because it has a different angle – the implied (not so implied) threat of legal sanction from the sitting district attorney.

  4. PhilColeman

    An ALLEGED violation of the Penal Code. A response, saying that an internal investigation has shown no violation of any ordinances. Ordinances differ from Penal Code violations.

    Since we’re talking about law–by persons who are professionally knowledgeable about such matters–let’s clarify we don’t have one side alleging a state law violation, and the respondent citing local ordinances as a denial.

    We all see the political advantage Reisig had–to cause embarrassment to the Johannson campaign had these alleged criminal acts been made public some three weeks ago.  Indeed, had this happened, the DA would be open to charges of bullying and abuse of vested powers to discredit his election opponent.

    Reisig didn’t do that, he communicated privately to Johannson. We were oblivious to all this, until today. The challenger published these private warnings, immediately followed by claims he’s been bullied.

    Bullying requires public humiliation to meet the definition of the term. Reisig didn’t abuse his power or create a bully pulpit, he was very discreet.




    1. David Greenwald

      “we don’t have one side alleging a state law violation”

      That’s not exactly true.  We have Ryan Couzens writing, “”We have received multiple reports that your sign crew(s) have apparently been placing your campaign signs in various places in the county, on private property, without the consent of the property owners (lessors, etc.) as required by Penal Code Section 556.1.”

      And then later adds: “signs posted in violation of the above Penal codes”

      We also have on April 18, Jeff Reisig telling Dean that they will forward these complaints to the AG’s office.

      So I disagree with you that there is isn’t “one side alleging a state law violation” and I disagree with you that he wasn’t “bullying.”

      The appropriate way to handle it would have been to state, hey we are hearing you are putting up signs where they don’t belong, please take them down and direct your volunteers to make sure they only post where they have permission.

      That’s not what happened, the first thing out of Reisig’s mouth was an implied threat followed up a week or so later with Couzen’s emails.

      1. Howard P

        Well, in your first instance, placing campaign signs on private property without consent, the owner could have pursued, acted on, immediate removal… trashing the sign, then filing a complaint for littering by the organization that placed them… trespass, for pacing the signs… the latter two would probably get zero enforcement… immediate removal would likely draw a faux complaint about civil rights (free speech) violation from the campaign…

        I saw a number of signs in Davis placed in the public right of way, of such a size and in a location that it could well obscure the vision of a driver to see a child at an intersection… those have been removed.

        It appears obvious, David, that you are inclined to be an apologist for one campaign, and an accuser of the other…

        I say this as someone inclined to vote for the challenger…


        1. David Greenwald

          I didn’t write the article, I posted it. With that said, what you’ve posted here doesn’t address the concerns raised about the specter of bringing criminal actions forth in a campaign dispute.

    2. Ann Block

      Bullying includes private intimidation — to get the bullied to stop what they are doing, go away, etc.  Reisig bullied Larry Eichle, his deputy D.A. who filed for the office last fall, into withdrawing in order to save his job.  He has bullied defense attorneys for years, filing criminal charges for minor errors when doing their jobs in defending their clients and state bar complaints if he doesn’t like something.  That means those attorneys have had to hire their own criminal defense attorneys, and state bar defense attorneys — to fight these charges, distracting them and intimidating them from being the strongest advocates possible for their clients.  This is not just bullying, it is corrupt.  I like many DAs in that office personally, but the top is toxic.  Time for a change.

  5. Cindy Pickett

    “Bullying requires public humiliation to meet the definition of the term.”

    That’s actually not true. Bullying is repeated physical or verbal aggression that involves an imbalance of power. Bullies are often able to continue their abuse by hiding it from others. We see this in schools all the time where students will send threatening or harmful private messages instead of publicly or openly engaging in this behavior.

    1. Howard P

      Actually, public humiliation is one of the best ways of defeating a bully… Cindy is correct, most bullying is done individually, and in small groups, away from public attention… cuts down on the possibility for intervention.

      Note that Cindy rightly points out,

      Bullying is repeated physical or verbal aggression that involves an imbalance of power. Bullies are often able to continue their abuse by hiding it from others.

      Kinda like sexual harrassment, hostile work environment, rape, and other behaviors that are generally seen as ‘crimes’.

      Sounds like teachers are trained, and expected, to look the other way as to bullying… hope that doesn’t also apply to things like sexual harrassment…

      I say again, bullies, in the main, are insecure cowards, looking to “build themselves up” to certain peers… [again, excluding sociopathy]

      1. Howard P

        oops, wrong thread… but one of the recent ones…

        Cindy’s and mine would best be repeated on the Chavez school one…

        Mine is inadvertantly off-topic here…

  6. Tia Will


    Actually, I think that your comments have relevance on both threads although to differing degrees. One thing that I do think is well demonstrated on this thread is the willingness to declare one or the other camp as “correct” or “more believable” based on a paucity of information without being willing to admit that is the case.

  7. John Hobbs

    Ah, election season, when Davis’ true spirit shows through so clearly…………………………..

    By the way, Reisig has always been a thug, so why would he change now?

    Johanson lost a little respect from me by taking the snowflake route.


    1. Howard P

      “Snowflake” behavior, if that is what it is, feeds “bully behavior”… high carbs and protein, low cholesteral…

      Seems like there are no “innocents” here… the Johansson campaign has been ‘over the top’ in their disregard of sign ordinances, public safety – as to location of placement (my observations), and arguably placement on property of non-supporters (allegations by others)… a pox on both their houses…

      Laugh about it, shout about it, when it comes to choose, everyway you look at it you lose… koo koo ca-choo…

      Am thinking the lesser of the two evils is the challenger…

      1. Tia Will


        f we have not personally heard/read them?  Think the technical term is “hearsay”… particularly “tone”… is that objective, or subjective?”

        That was precisely my point. No one not “in the room where it happens” has any business asserting that their interpretation is correct.

        “Snowflake” behavior, if that is what it is, feeds “bully behavior”

        Alternatively, one could point out that not identifying and calling out “bullying behavior” for what it is, is an invitation for it to continue. The target of “bullying” is effectively put in a “damned if you tell, and damned if you don’t” bind. Having been bullied through out junior high I am well aware of this bind. I chose not to tell and paid the emotional consequences for three years. What exactly did I get for not being a “snowflake”?

        Many years later, I stood up to the sexual harassment bully, by calling it out publicly. Yes, I was the victim, but I was not playing the “victim card”. I was actively trying to prevent this from happening to others. It worked in a fair, just and prompt process. No one’s career was ruined and the behavior stopped immediately.

        Two sides to this coin.


        1. Howard P

          You hear but appear to not listen…

          I have repeatedly said/posted that the MAIN good way of thwarting a bully (or, more accurately, bullying behavior) is to confront it… unequivocably… (doesn’t work for sociopaths)

          There is, in my experience and opinion, only one side to this coin… (except for sociopaths) … counselling/education might work, but not as effective as direct confrontation by the one being bullied.  If a third party is involved, it tends to reinforce the concept (to the bully) that the victim is “weak” and is fair game.  When the third party isn’t present.

          I have also seen where a group, seeing the bullying, confront the bully and “bully them back”… verbally, and unequivocably… preferably in ‘real time’… aka “shaming” (bad idea if it is actually a sociopath).

          I cannot fathom where you take exception to what I posted, then use the exact same argument/rationale to “refute” what I posted.

          I say again, absent sociopathy, bullies are cowards, and you have to call their bluff, call them out…

  8. Howard P

    Technical question… no matter the outcome in June, when does the new DA term begin?   Am thinking Jan 1, 2019…

    Unlike CC, thinking there is a ~ 6 month delay…

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