Last week’s Realities column dealt with a heated controversy over the cancellation of a charity event in Thousand Oaks. Political differences between the outfit organizing the tag football game and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department caused support to be pulled out at the last minute.

The event was set to honor fallen Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, killed in the notorious 2018 mass shooting at Borderline in Thousand Oaks. Sixty percent of the donations were to be given for support of the Helus family, according to Mike Randall, of Fallen Officers Foundation.

I have read everything I could of the organizers’ side of the controversy. I could not contact those in charge on the Departments’ side. However, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub (my sincere apologies for the misspelling of Sheriff Ayub’s name last week) concerned about what he perceived as a growing politicization of the event, pulled the Department’s support and the event was cancelled. The dispute quickly escalated and exploded into the media, local, state, and national - including TV. The driving force behind this spectacle was political - Democrat supporters versus Republican.

The organizers of the event, Florida based Fallen Officers Foundation and its Vice President Mike Randall, claim the event was publicized as “No politics”, and that Democrat Governor Newsom’s public safety liaison and others were invited to speak. Republican attorney Ronda Kennedy, a previous election opponent of California Democratic Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, was also scheduled speak.

As I understand the facts, widely reported in various media outlets, Irwin, learning of the scheduled Republican speakers, refused to attend unless the Republicans were disinvited to the event. Thereafter, Randall was told to disinvite the Republicans, including Trump supporters Scott Baio and singer Joy Villa. Irwin has denied Randall’s allegation and published her denial [see end of editorial].

I have to admit I was in an angry frame of mind when I wrote last week’s editorial. I heard only one side of the story, but could not get any denials or corrections from the Sheriff’s Department’s side before press time. After studying the issue, I stand by my assertion that Irwin torpedoed the entire event by her insistence that Republicans be disinvited.

In the interest of full disclosure here, I plead guilty to being a Republican (really an Independent) and conservative, at that. I also harbor a strong antipathy towards the Democrat Party, particularly since the Star Chamber treatment of now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. This outrage has indelibly influenced my opinion against the Democrat Party. However, I have striven to be as fair as possible in reporting this controversy. This is particularly true because a friend of many years, Sheriff’s Commander Tim Hagel, became a central figure in this unfortunate event.

I have to say, as I have known so many outstanding members of the Sheriff’s Department over 31 years, Commander Tim Hagel stands out as one of the best. I used to be able to say that I would trust him with my wife, my life, and my wallet - but the wife is long absent. I often have to write my columns quickly, and it often shows. I am told that, understandably, Tim walked into a beehive of emails during this heated controversy, and I couldn’t get a response to my own. I just did the best I could at the time. At least on my part Tim remains a trusted friend.

I am troubled when I think politics too strongly influences our civic functions, but not naive enough to believe it never happens. Today our nation is ferociously divided between traditional conservatives and radical liberals. It’s a fight to the death for Constitutional responsibilities and fundamental rights. Intransigence may set the powder off - while our many enemies crouch nearby with lean and hungry looks I continue to believe that, despite her denial, Irwin destroyed the Blue Bowl tag football charity event for the family of our lost Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus.

Peace - with strength.


Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin's Response to the Cancellation of the Sgt. Ron Helus Blue Bowl Fundraiser:

“Our community came together in the painful aftermath of the Borderline shooting when 12 people were murdered, including Sergeant Helus who charged into danger to save our friends and neighbors. That is what Ventura County does as a community. We come together. We come together as friends, neighbors, and, yes, as Republicans and Democrats. I’m very disappointed in what has happened over the last weeks. We have mourned at funerals together, we have memorialized the victims at the State Capitol and in our community parks, and we have called, texted, and kept in contact with families as they find their way through unimaginable grief. Our community has been focused on healing for the past 11 months and now a group that has no ties to Ventura County or California has come to tell us that we are doing it all wrong. Those organizing the event are trying to divide our community. They are disparaging Thousand Oaks Police Chief Tim Hagel, a personal friend of Sgt. Helus. Chief Hagel is revered in this community for his commitment and service. The people who live here know that. Honoring Sgt. Helus and the victims of the mass shooting has been my focus since last November and will continue to be my focus. My only participation in the event was going to be to give a 2-minute speech. I chose to withdraw after the Sherriff’s Department declined to participate and it became clear to me that self-promotion was being put before our community and before honoring Sgt. Helus. I choose to lift up the names and memories of Cody, Alaina, Blake, Daniel, Jake, Justin, Kristina, Mark, Noel, Sean, Telemachus, and Sgt. Ron Helus.”