Accusations of Bribery and Payoffs in Napa Wine Country

For at least the last two years Americans have implored to become media savvy, to exercise a critical eye when evaluating the news. Among the things this must mean is appreciating the difference between rhetoric and reason; between claims and facts; between libel and reporting.

I was reminded of the need to recognized these differences today when perusing the Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative Facebook page. This is the official Facebook page of the “YES ON C” campaign that is attempting to convince Napans to vote “Yes” on the June initiative and roll back the wine industry in the Valley.

I was led to reflect on the issues of facts, rhetoric, libel, opinion and reporting when I read this comment on the YES On C Facebook page:

“Let’s remember who rendered the 9111 report: The BOS (Napa Board of Supervisors) hired the very firm to do the report which defended the BOS in the 2016 debacle of the first initiative, despite citizens’ protests. This is corruption with deep roots in our government. This is why we need initiatives: to take decisions out of the hands of people bought off by a very few but powerful in our wine and hospitality industries.”

This is the comment of Patricia Damery. Ms. Damery is an accomplished psychologist, entrepreneur and farmer here in Napa Valley. And it appears she knows something we all don’t. She apparently knows that the wine industry has made payoffs to the Napa Board of Supervisors in order to help defeat Initiative C. The problem is that she doesn’t say who paid who.

Ms. Damery isn’t just an entrepreneur, farmer and psychologist. She is also a board member of Napa Vision 2050, the organization that spearheaded getting Initiative C on the ballot. Now it appears she’s also the person with information about illegal bribes occurring in Napa’s government circles.

Except, the thing is, she doesn’t name names. And this is always the case when a person has run out of ideas, harbors extraordinary hate, and wants to lash out at their perceived enemies. They let dangerous, unsubstantiated claims fly without a single iota of evidence. I don’t know if this describes Ms. Damery or not. She may, in fact, have solid evidence that the wine industry has bribed members of the Napa Board of supervisors. If she does, then we also know she doesn’t have the guts or courage to name names. Maybe she is lying. Maybe she’s just spouting dangerous rhetoric.

I invite Ms. Damery to finally put facts where her mouth is: Who is bribing who, Ms. Damery? Who bought off who? Please, have the courage of your convictions and name names.

My guess is she won’t make this clear because none of it is true and she’s just making unsubstantiated, near-libelous, dangerous accusations…in a public forum no less.

Whether Napa Vision 2050 and the Yes On C gang convinces enough Napans to proceed with a plan to roll back the wine industry in Napa is yet to be seen. We’ll know in June. However, even at this early point in the campaign, we know the initiative’s most high-profile supporters are willing to make extraordinarily incompetent and dangerous claims in order to support their position.


8 Responses

  1. Stuart Smith - March 14, 2018


    Great job of exposing this sickening accusation. Is there no limit that these zealots will not go to? This accusation along with a similar accusation in Jim Conaway’s new book is protected by free speech, but it is so very, very wrong. There’s just under three months left before the election; how much more dirt will be dished, how many more false accusations will be made and how much more damage can be done to our community? Will this be the end of our wine community? It’s too bad that Jim Wilson and Mike Hackett never learned about King Pyrrhus.

  2. Annette Hoff - March 14, 2018

    “Who is bribing whom?”….sorry I’m kind of a grammar geek

  3. Michaela Rodeno - March 14, 2018

    In the public interest, the Board of Supervisors uses this and other law firms with similarly appropriate experience to evaluate à priori the legal risks of their decision choices. The objective is to protect the county from lawsuits that must be defended with taxpayer money badly needed for beneficial uses, like filling potholes, maintaining parks, updating voting systems, etc.
    We elect our supervisors to represent Napa County. If the proponents of Measure C think they can do better, they should run for office rather than try to derail local government with initiatives. They might gain a better understanding of the complexities our supervisors deal with on our behalf.

  4. Stu Smith - March 14, 2018

    Both Diane Shepp & Chris Malan ran against Alfredo Pedroza in the June 2016 primaries and lost badly. Hackett and Wilson knew that couldn’t win in the arena of facts so they chose the initiative process where slogans, falsehoods and emotion rules. The initiative process is the dark side of democracy.

  5. Jason Miller - March 15, 2018

    Napa is corrupt. From it’s notoriously sleazy criminal justice system to its old boy network of politicians. However the people are decent and they are waking up. I googled Napa corruption after reading this article and wow, try it.

  6. Matt - March 17, 2018

    Seems to be a straightforward accusation. Are the basic facts wrong?

    Begs the question, who is paying you Tom?

    I don’t ask that lightly, your naivety on this issue has me baffled. Do you really think the big money players in Napa will ever stop trying to “grapevine” every last inch of the valley (and hillsides!)?

    Are you not a citizen of this country, are you not a student of history? Do you really think big business in Napa will somehow behave differently than big business ALWAYS has? Frankly, the fact that you never even allude to this FACT, makes me think your honesty might be in question too.

  7. Tom Wark - March 17, 2018


    I agree. It is a straightforward accusation. So where are the facts? Why not name the names of who is paying and who is paid off? But No….that would actually require integrity instead of juvenile name calling.

    Second, learn to use “Beg the question” correctly.

    And to answer your question, since growers in Napa have never attempted and never could even try to plant on “every last inch” of the hillsides due to very strong regulations. What’s more. You know this. You know this for a fact. And yet you suggest the contrary. If by chance you don’t know this then you are unqualified to speak or write on this subject.

  8. tom merle - April 22, 2018

    Many prefer a certain lie to an uncertain truth and work hard to manufacture something complete at the cost of truth.

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