It seems I have inadvertently been making the local news lately and would like to clarify what is true and what isn’t. I’ve been called a bigot, a racist and have been accused of promoting violence. None of this is true. I believe another claim was something about me making $75,000 a year. On an average year, I make around $15,000 or so from the Sheriff’s Office. The public may not understand that most of the money in the contract is earmarked for emergencies, if the Emergency Operations Center opens, it’s not a steady monthly stream of income. If I don’t get called in, that contract money stays in the Sheriff’s budget and eventually goes back the County’s General Fund. Again, it’s unfortunate this type of misinformation comes from people who don’t research the subject matter.
All of this focus on me appears to stem from a recent request for proposal to continue as the Sheriff’s Office Social Media Manager which is a contract position.
Most of the confusion about who I am relates to a new Parler account I opened to explore and learn this new social media platform. I’d like to begin with the posts by Stef Ani who is https://www.facebook.com/stef.chenwelch.9 on Facebook. That account has very little information, so it’s unclear to me whether she is a resident of Mendocino or a fake profile. Regardless, it is obvious that her political views are vastly different than my own. And that is completely ok with me.
I’m sure our backgrounds are very different. Please allow me to give you some insight into mine which should shed some light on where I get the concerns I now have related to the need for more transparency in our government and election process. I was born in Egypt and came here with my parents and siblings many years ago after a very violent political regime change in Egypt. In 1956, 99.95% of Egyptian voters cast their ballots for Nassar, (to read more please go to history.com/.amp/this-da-in-history/Nasser-elected-president) who toppled the previous government in a military coup (while leading under 100 people). In that election his was the only name on the ballot. He immediately created a new constitution creating a single party socialist state. As a result of this coup, my parents witnessed much violence in the streets and worried for the safety of themselves and their children. Their property was confiscated and we were only allowed to leave the country with the equivalent of $50 US dollars.
My parents made the decision to come to the United States with four children on a refugee status. My father spoke four languages and not one of them was English. Both my parents went to night school and attended a class designed for Spanish speakers to learn English. I’d like to mention neither of my parents spoke Spanish either, but somehow with the help of the Italian they knew, learned enough English to not only assimilate, but thrive. Through a lot of hard work, they purchased a small restaurant in Ukiah and left that legacy to their children. In essence, our family’s version of the American Dream.
When I was growing up I heard that America was “The Melting Pot” of the world. People outside of our country were amazed at how so many different religions, cultures, races could come together and live in harmony. Did we have differences of opinion? Of course we did. But there were many times in my lifetime that you could engage in a debate with someone and end up sharing a meal with them at the end of the day. Sharing opposing viewpoints was seen as a way to expand everyone’s perspective and learn more about each other.
My Parler account is new and I’m still fumbling with it a bit. For those individuals that have never been on that platform, there is a mechanism called an “echo” which is like a retweet or share. The functionality is not yet equal to Facebook or Twitter so options to interact with the poster is limited. I follow many accounts that I don’t totally agree with, but they do share information that is difficult to find on other platforms. It’s also important to note that as a social media manager who acts as manager for other businesses, I need to stay current on new platforms. I’ve shared videos and online newspaper posts that I think more people should be exposed to. I don’t believe that there is such a thing as too much information. I believe the more information anyone has, the better decisions they can make. When I share a post it does not mean I agree with every one of their points but it might be interesting and beneficial to look at different perspectives.
When I shared the post about Rep. Rashida Tlaib, it was not because of the Mossad line that someone else had written above it (and incorrectly attributed to me), but to share the article she was in. I think it’s important for all Americans to know where all their representatives stand on issues. In the article in question, she was advocating for violence against Israel. To be clear, I’m against violence of all kinds.
My tenure with the Sheriff’s Office as an employee and later as a contractor has given me the opportunity to work with several Sheriffs. While certainly each was their own man, a commonality that each in their own way instilled in me was the importance of our Constitution. They reinforced my belief to respect and protect the Constitution and all the rights we too often take for granted.
Being a social media manager for so many years, I am very cognizant of everyone having the Freedom of Speech. Which is why this attack on my personal views really surprised me. It did bother me to a great degree that there are allegations floating around the internet that are completely unfounded. What you will not hear me saying is these posters have no right to speak in this manner even though I disagree with them.
I’m being called a racist, a bigot and worse. I’m a half Arab, half Greek woman, married to a Native American man. I have a son that converted to Islam about 15 years ago and married a Muslim woman and they have given us two beautiful grandsons. I also have two other children that are Greek Orthodox, one which will be baptizing their first born in a Christian Church as soon as that becomes possible again. My husband and I also have a beautiful granddaughter who is part Native American and part African American, two more that are part Native American. In our family everyone is equal and loved so I am not sure how I got labeled a racist? This is only possible through mass assumption with no personal knowledge of me or my family.
Yes, I worry about the lack of transparency in government because of my background I outlined above. I’m also troubled by so many people who jump to conclusions without many, or any, facts.
When I started handling the social media for the Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Allman gave me a lot latitude and trusted that I would post in a way that represented his way of thinking. Since around 2009, every post about every fire, every flood, every emergency was me behind the keyboard when most people thought it was Sheriff Allman.
Since Sheriff Kendall and I have not yet had the opportunity to spend years working together, I appreciate the time he’s provided for me to assist with the department’s community Public Service Announcements and the fact that, because I’m not in the Office but working remotely most of the time, I have Captain Greg Van Patten and Undersheriff Darren Brewster to work with me with department messaging.
I think it’s important to know that I’ve had a good relationship with CEO Angelo for quite some time. I was honored that CEO Angelo introduced me at a meeting in early 2020 in front of about 100 people as “the closest thing we have to a County PIO”. She also met with me prior to March of 2020 on a couple of occasions to discuss the possibility of her and I working together on a personal website for her and her personal social media. Because of her extremely time consuming (and continuing) role in the Covid epidemic, we’ve put off those talks, but I look forward to working with her in the future. She also approved a contract for me when the Covid pandemic hit us in early March so that I could train others on government agency social media tactics and strategy in the Mendocino County Department of Public Health and one of her Deputy CEOs. I worked with these two women for about two months and the three of us were focused on communicating public health messaging based on best practices known at the time. We also worked together to create and produce video and radio Public Safety Messages. None of us had a political agenda to push, so to be honest, for people to say they can’t trust me because of my political views is insulting.
To address masking concerns, I have never advocated that anyone not follow or comply with public health guidelines, including masking and social distancing. I do personally wear a mask in public and adhere to the social distancing guidelines. I have followed people on other platforms who do question the guidelines but just because you follow someone does not mean you agree with everything they say. There are times when someone posts something lengthy and perhaps I only agree with a portion of it, or they have a link attached that I think is something more people should see. If that link is worth sharing, I’ll share it. This is on my personal account of course.
At one time I managed the Facebook pages for the Mendocino Sheriff’s Office, the County of Mendocino and the Mendocino County Department of Public Health. I’d like to invite anyone to view these pages and let me know if I ever pushed any political agenda. In fact, there have been many years of me reading posts on government agency pages that are quite political in nature and I see part of my job to be getting people to separate politics from the emergency/incident at hand.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this and apologize that it was much longer than I had anticipated sending you, but it’s important to me that you know and understand who I am. I would also suggest you might reach out to the many people I have worked with over the years and I am sure they would verify I am not a racist or bigot, nor do I advocate violence against anyone. It’s also a sad time for me personally because in America everyone should be able to speak freely and not be afraid of being bullied into silence.
Respectfully submitted, Liz Barney