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Dust-up over Portola Valley council candidate's twitter account

Chair of the Emergency Preparedness Committee Dale Pfau. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Portola Valley Mayor Craig Hughes said fellow council candidate Dale Pfau "should not be elected" because of his problematic Twitter account and his conduct when serving on the Wildfire Preparedness Committee. Pfau, the chair of the town's Emergency Preparedness Committee, responded by saying he is shocked by Hughes' insinuations.

The two are facing off against three others in a race for three seats on the Portola Valley Town Council in November.

The subject of Pfau's tweets was brought up during The Almanac's Portola Valley Town Council election forum on Thursday, Sept. 29, when Hughes was answering a question about how 2020 Census data puts Portola Valley among the Bay Area's top 20 most segregated neighborhoods by white wealth and whether it is important to increase diversity in town.

At 01:08:20, Mayor Craig Hughes explains the conduct elected officials should exhibit. He later told The Almanac he was speaking about fellow candidate Dale Pfau.

Hughes told The Almanac he was referencing a retweet from Pfau of a post that he interpreted to be a nativist trope that foreign people living in the U.S. should go back to the countries they came from if they don't support their adopted country, which he perceived to be racist.

"Housing and diversity of housing opportunities is an important element (of creating diversity in town)," Hughes said. "I think it's important to have council members and community members who do not support notions such as: 'foreign students who come to the United States should move to another country,' 'Or that we are losing our country to people like this.' Elected officials in this town should not support ideas like that. And that will drive people away who might want to come here when they have opportunities (and) will be turned off by having a council member or council members who support notions like that."

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Pfau said he felt ambushed during the forum and he's shocked by Hughes' insinuations. Pfau told The Almanac that he didn't support the retweet in its entirety. He said he endorsed the part of the tweet about not supporting people who are not supportive of American troops.

A retweet by Portola Valley Town Council candidate Dale Pfau. Screenshot verified via the WayBack Machine.

"I doubt there's anything in my Twitter that says I'm a racist because I'm not," he said. "I'm saddened he (Hughes) didn't reach out to me directly. I'm all about open honest discussion about the issues we face. … I don't really want to have any part in personal politics. I'm not searching through anyone's social media — this is not what Portola Valley is about."

The Almanac reviewed the video that's part of Pfau's retweet and found it promotes the nationalist notion that college students, not specifically foreign-born college students, should move to another country if they don't support America's military.

After being told of this by The Almanac, Hughes now says he owes Pfau an apology after having seen the fuller context of the tweet.

However, Hughes said that he does think that Pfau has extreme views. Even if the retweet was not nativist or racist, Hughes said he is wary of the jingoist view that people who don't support elements of American society should leave the country.

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The Almanac was able to verify the retweet Hughes referenced using the Wayback Machine internet archive, since Pfau's Twitter profile is now private. Pfau said he changed his profile to private when he learned people were mining his account and found some of his retweets to be politically incorrect. He said he doesn't have time to rebut everything he's posted on social media.

Pfau said that the mayor reached out to him after learning the tweets were not focused on foreign-born students. Pfau now considers the matter closed, he said in an email.

"I am focused on the critical issues that face Portola Valley residents: safety first, improved governance, and pushing back on unsafe state mandates. Personal attacks are an attempt to distract from these important points."

Twitter profile photo of Watergate felon

Portola Valley Town Council candidate Dale Pfau's former Twitter profile photo of G. Gordon Liddy. Via WayBack Machine.

Pfau's former profile photo on Twitter was of G. Gordon Liddy, a convicted felon for his role as one of the main operatives of the Watergate break-in during the Nixon administration. In his autobiography, "Will," Liddy stated that he was willing to kill during the Ellsberg break-in in Los Angeles and also said he once made plans to kill journalist Jack Anderson.

Pfau said he heard Liddy speak years ago and was inspired by Liddy's work ethic. Pfau said that Liddy was one of the "best speakers" he's ever seen. He said that growing up in a small town in Colorado he himself was told that he should attend junior college but instead worked hard to get into Stanford University.

He also retweeted a post that links to a climate change denying blog post. Pfau said he is a model wonk and likes listening to different theories. He didn't find out until later that it was an anti-climate change post.

"I wouldn't be so involved with wildfire if I were a climate denier," he said. "It (climate change) is affecting fire in California like we've never seen before. It is a fact."

Retweets by Portola Valley Town Council candidate Dale Pfau. Screenshot verified via WayBack Machine.

Emails about fellow committee members

During another part of the debate, Hughes read Pfau's emails aloud, and said Pfau was trying to work with the chair of the Wildfire Preparedness Committee to "undermine other members of the committee" and prevent them from being able to discuss the committee's work during meetings. Hughes said Pfau was removed as vice chair of the committee in April for trying to undermine other members and because disparaging remarks about female committee members via email such as "Is this woman clueless or what?" and "Please forward me Sarah (Wernikoff)'s agenda. We will completely ignore it of course."

"The Twitter thread shows additional ways in which Dale's philosophy differs markedly from what most Portola Valleyans would adhere to, and so much so that I felt it's important that the public should know about it," Hughes said. "The voters of Portola Valley should be aware of the differences between how Dale comes across in public versus what he does when he thinks that nobody is looking but like-minded thinkers."

Pfau said he owes the people mentioned in the emails, which weren't sent directly to them, a public apology. He said he was never specifically mean to anyone on that committee.

To watch the full candidates' forum, visit youtube.com or click the video at the top of this story.

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Angela Swartz
 
Angela Swartz joined The Almanac in 2018 and covers education and small towns. She has a background covering education, city politics and business. Read more >>

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Dust-up over Portola Valley council candidate's twitter account

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, Oct 6, 2022, 11:20 am

Portola Valley Mayor Craig Hughes said fellow council candidate Dale Pfau "should not be elected" because of his problematic Twitter account and his conduct when serving on the Wildfire Preparedness Committee. Pfau, the chair of the town's Emergency Preparedness Committee, responded by saying he is shocked by Hughes' insinuations.

The two are facing off against three others in a race for three seats on the Portola Valley Town Council in November.

The subject of Pfau's tweets was brought up during The Almanac's Portola Valley Town Council election forum on Thursday, Sept. 29, when Hughes was answering a question about how 2020 Census data puts Portola Valley among the Bay Area's top 20 most segregated neighborhoods by white wealth and whether it is important to increase diversity in town.

Hughes told The Almanac he was referencing a retweet from Pfau of a post that he interpreted to be a nativist trope that foreign people living in the U.S. should go back to the countries they came from if they don't support their adopted country, which he perceived to be racist.

"Housing and diversity of housing opportunities is an important element (of creating diversity in town)," Hughes said. "I think it's important to have council members and community members who do not support notions such as: 'foreign students who come to the United States should move to another country,' 'Or that we are losing our country to people like this.' Elected officials in this town should not support ideas like that. And that will drive people away who might want to come here when they have opportunities (and) will be turned off by having a council member or council members who support notions like that."

Pfau said he felt ambushed during the forum and he's shocked by Hughes' insinuations. Pfau told The Almanac that he didn't support the retweet in its entirety. He said he endorsed the part of the tweet about not supporting people who are not supportive of American troops.

"I doubt there's anything in my Twitter that says I'm a racist because I'm not," he said. "I'm saddened he (Hughes) didn't reach out to me directly. I'm all about open honest discussion about the issues we face. … I don't really want to have any part in personal politics. I'm not searching through anyone's social media — this is not what Portola Valley is about."

The Almanac reviewed the video that's part of Pfau's retweet and found it promotes the nationalist notion that college students, not specifically foreign-born college students, should move to another country if they don't support America's military.

After being told of this by The Almanac, Hughes now says he owes Pfau an apology after having seen the fuller context of the tweet.

However, Hughes said that he does think that Pfau has extreme views. Even if the retweet was not nativist or racist, Hughes said he is wary of the jingoist view that people who don't support elements of American society should leave the country.

The Almanac was able to verify the retweet Hughes referenced using the Wayback Machine internet archive, since Pfau's Twitter profile is now private. Pfau said he changed his profile to private when he learned people were mining his account and found some of his retweets to be politically incorrect. He said he doesn't have time to rebut everything he's posted on social media.

Pfau said that the mayor reached out to him after learning the tweets were not focused on foreign-born students. Pfau now considers the matter closed, he said in an email.

"I am focused on the critical issues that face Portola Valley residents: safety first, improved governance, and pushing back on unsafe state mandates. Personal attacks are an attempt to distract from these important points."

Twitter profile photo of Watergate felon

Pfau's former profile photo on Twitter was of G. Gordon Liddy, a convicted felon for his role as one of the main operatives of the Watergate break-in during the Nixon administration. In his autobiography, "Will," Liddy stated that he was willing to kill during the Ellsberg break-in in Los Angeles and also said he once made plans to kill journalist Jack Anderson.

Pfau said he heard Liddy speak years ago and was inspired by Liddy's work ethic. Pfau said that Liddy was one of the "best speakers" he's ever seen. He said that growing up in a small town in Colorado he himself was told that he should attend junior college but instead worked hard to get into Stanford University.

He also retweeted a post that links to a climate change denying blog post. Pfau said he is a model wonk and likes listening to different theories. He didn't find out until later that it was an anti-climate change post.

"I wouldn't be so involved with wildfire if I were a climate denier," he said. "It (climate change) is affecting fire in California like we've never seen before. It is a fact."

Emails about fellow committee members

During another part of the debate, Hughes read Pfau's emails aloud, and said Pfau was trying to work with the chair of the Wildfire Preparedness Committee to "undermine other members of the committee" and prevent them from being able to discuss the committee's work during meetings. Hughes said Pfau was removed as vice chair of the committee in April for trying to undermine other members and because disparaging remarks about female committee members via email such as "Is this woman clueless or what?" and "Please forward me Sarah (Wernikoff)'s agenda. We will completely ignore it of course."

"The Twitter thread shows additional ways in which Dale's philosophy differs markedly from what most Portola Valleyans would adhere to, and so much so that I felt it's important that the public should know about it," Hughes said. "The voters of Portola Valley should be aware of the differences between how Dale comes across in public versus what he does when he thinks that nobody is looking but like-minded thinkers."

Pfau said he owes the people mentioned in the emails, which weren't sent directly to them, a public apology. He said he was never specifically mean to anyone on that committee.

To watch the full candidates' forum, visit youtube.com or click the video at the top of this story.

Comments

PV Resident
Registered user
Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Oct 6, 2022 at 2:10 pm
PV Resident, Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
Registered user
on Oct 6, 2022 at 2:10 pm

You want the tweets?
I want transparency.
You can't handle transparency!!

I totally hid/deleted my tweets, but only because I was running for office and they were too complicated for PV voters to understand in context. Same thing with my email remarks about women volunteers. You were never supposed to find out about that. Let's not get distracted from my passionate advocacy, mm-kay?


Bob Turcott
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Oct 6, 2022 at 3:10 pm
Bob Turcott, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Oct 6, 2022 at 3:10 pm

MAYOR APOLOGIZES FOR ACCUSATION OF RACISM

Shouldn’t that have been the title of this article?

Instead of dealing with the pressing concerns of residents and working through conflicts directly, Mayor Hughes exploits media to promulgate his speculative smears.

How speculative are they? So speculative that the Mayor was forced to retract and apologize.

That’s no surprise. When accusations are based on out-of-context re-tweets and avatar images, the “evidence” is in fact a Rorschach test: so ambiguous that much more is revealed about the viewer than the poster.

(I’m still stuck on the image of the Mayor working late into the night, putting hours into digging through the social media history of a fellow resident and, failing to find useable quotes, spreads around “evidence” consisting of ambiguous re-tweets and avatars. Who does that???)

Instead of smearing people with different views or making broad, unsubstantiated claims about them, how about we engage with the substance of the many challenging issues we face as a community?

We need a Council that views differences of opinion as legitimate and healthy. One that recognizes that in exploring these differences and debating their merits we arrive at better solutions.

In other words, we need a new Town Council.

- Bob Turcott


Former PVSF board officer
Registered user
Portola Valley: Westridge
on Oct 6, 2022 at 3:20 pm
Former PVSF board officer, Portola Valley: Westridge
Registered user
on Oct 6, 2022 at 3:20 pm

Wow - the "politics of personal destruction" comes to Portola Valley! Will the Hughes campaign be rooting through their opponents' trash cans next? "Hughes says he owes Pfau an apology after having seen the fuller context of the tweet," but goes ahead with more personal attacks anyway. Is it too much to expect candidates in our small community to stick to debating the issues that affect us all?


Danna Breen
Registered user
Portola Valley: other
on Oct 6, 2022 at 4:25 pm
Danna Breen, Portola Valley: other
Registered user
on Oct 6, 2022 at 4:25 pm

This whole thing is terribly sad and unfortunate for our town. When I first heard about the tweets I called the candidate and said, I need to talk to you. I did not know him other than in passing. He came to my house. He was absolutely forthright and I chose to accept his explanations and move on. I laughingly confessed my passionate fascination with the Unibomber for decades. The comments about his committee members, he admitted there was a lot of change on this committee and found that frustrating.He was not permitted to know any specifics of being terminated. Btw I served on this committee for a year and never had an issue with him. So I did my homework. I interviewed the candidate, because I’m not familiar with him.
I was really looking forward to an open productive election process and am actually excited about the town resident gathering next Thursday evening in the community hall where we can all ask our own questions and visit with the candidates. I really hope there is a good population of residents because this is how you do your homework. Listening and asking good questions. Concerned about any candidate? Call them up and have a talk.!


Peninsula Local
Registered user
another community
on Oct 6, 2022 at 4:29 pm
Peninsula Local, another community
Registered user
on Oct 6, 2022 at 4:29 pm

Respectfully, please, just stop!! The constant attack of individual citizens is a stain on the town and you!  Focus on the issues please!  


Kristin Brew
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Oct 6, 2022 at 5:32 pm
Kristin Brew, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Oct 6, 2022 at 5:32 pm

As a 59 year old female surgeon who has had her fair share of sexist remarks thrown at her over the years, I am more upset at the current campaign tactics being used by the incumbent than any of the published emails/tweets I have read from the candidate profiled in the article. I have personally spoken to the candidate. I find him to be honest and upfront. I hope that the current election can return to a discussion of town issues and not personal attacks .


theater goer
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Oct 6, 2022 at 11:33 pm
theater goer, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Oct 6, 2022 at 11:33 pm

For many months, if not longer, a significant proportion of PV residents have been dissatisfied with the Town Council’s governance and have made their views known during zoom meetings. Some examples: failure to listen and respond to residents’ heartfelt concerns; undisclosed Council criteria for selecting members of key Ad Hoc committees (housing for example); Council failure to adopt the best-available fire danger maps of our Town; Council refusal to hold community meetings in which citizens could hold back and forth exchanges with Council members around key issues. Most of these actions/decisions were taken for reasons not explained to Town citizens.
I say that Mr Hughes has had his turn; it is time for new approaches and fresh ideas. We have four non-incumbents running for three seats. Let’s choose from among them.


PV Resident
Registered user
Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Oct 7, 2022 at 12:12 pm
PV Resident, Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
Registered user
on Oct 7, 2022 at 12:12 pm

Wait - is nobody standing up for the women who were diminished, dismissed and denigrated, both in meetings and email? We're saying that's ok?

I get that Dale apologized after certain facts became public. Here's what he didn't say:

"I realize now that I have a pattern of hostile and diminishing remarks and reactions to divergent perspectives, especially those of women. I recognize that bias in my past actions and pledge to actively work to be more constructive, fair, patient and inclusive while engaging with others. I plan on listening more and expressing humility for myself and dignity for others in my desired role on the town council. "


Former PVSF board officer
Registered user
Portola Valley: Westridge
on Oct 7, 2022 at 12:39 pm
Former PVSF board officer, Portola Valley: Westridge
Registered user
on Oct 7, 2022 at 12:39 pm

Your "Dale denigrates women" narrative is baseless. Correlation does not imply causation. As over 3/4 of Dale's fellow committee members around this time were women, it seems statistically probable that most or all comments would reference female members. None of the comments were sexist. (and where are you coming up with the "denigration in meetings"?)

Your narrative of "pattern of hostile remarks" is also baseless. Dale Pfau's endorsements include three current and/or former female members of town committees he has chaired or participated in. He served on the Woodside Priory board for eight years, two years as chair. Women who have served with him on the board of the Priory speak highly of him.

As context, the Wildfire Preparedness Committee at that time had far greater problems than Dale's careless emails. It had lost about half its members, couldn't raise a quorum and was facing a lawsuit regarding a Brown Act violation. Those wanting to dig deeper can reference Bob Turcott's June 17th posting (#163588) in the PV Forum. It includes several links, one of which links to a resignation letter from a Fire Preparedness Committee member.

If you view occasional disparaging remarks as an absolute disqualification for service, then you should in good faith also eliminate Craig Hughes from consideration, as his harsh remarks to and about residents are notorious. (Article above is Exhibit A)

my pronouns: she/her


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