Since August of 2011, Discovery Bay have been bombarded with news articles, letters to the editors, many rumors, and a recall petition which have all been aimed at Brian Dawson and his family which have all negatively portrayed Brian Dawson.
What is going on in Discovery Bay is nothing short of a witch-hunt with facts being distorted for political gain. This all could have been figured out rather quickly if someone would have spoken with Jessica Dawson, Brian’s wife. In four months, she was never quoted in a news story—just a simple letter to the editor she submitted was published.
If I was with the CC Times or Press, Jessica Dawson would be the first person I’d want to speak with to get my story. It would put an end to the rabble-rousers’ claims of spousal abuse and child endangerment being used in the recall movement.
While I do not condone what may or may not have happened the night of August 27, as an outsider looking in, it appears to me that some residents in Discovery Bay are not interested in finding out the facts. Rather are out to replace a seat on the CSD Board at any cost with — the media playing along in order to sell newspapers.
Luckily, I don’t have to sell any papers and am more interested in getting facts out while letting others decide for themselves what make of the situation in Discovery Bay. Currently, the message is being controlled by bullies, and I don’t like that. The least I can do is allow both Brian and Jessica Dawson an opportunity to tell their side of the story which the media has not done since they apparently have chosen a side to support.
Upon reaching out to Brian Dawson, I was curious as to why he is adamant about keeping his seat instead of simply resigning and walking away. He admitted that would have been easy, but taking the easy road is sometimes not the best choice.
“It would have been so much easier (to resign). But I was taught that what matters most is how well you walk through the fire. I don’t want my children to be the type of people who always take the easy way out when things get tough. I know I made a mistake, a serious, personal mistake for which I am facing the consequences in other parts of my life, but I also know it has nothing to do with the good work I’ve done and continue to do on the CSD Board,” said Brian Dawson.
Off the top of his head, Mr. Dawson provided 14-items the CSD Board achieved since the incident that includes the reorganization and upgraded Financial Services Division, hired a Finance Manager, updated and revised the Board Bylaws and Board Policy, and the continuing work on many other projects around Discovery Bay.
“There are people who have tried hard to make me a distraction, but my board hasn’t missed a step. We keep plugging away, working hard to maintain and improve life in Discovery Bay,” said Dawson. “My fellow board members Kevin Graves and Chris Steele have been really supportive, while still being hard on me. They are both like big brothers to me. The other members of the board are in an election year and will do just about anything to win votes and support. I have no clue if they support the recall but I wouldn’t doubt it – the chance of being able to appoint someone who agrees with their politics all of the time is probably pretty appealing.”
There are those who claim Brian Dawson is using his condition as a crutch in order to allow him to continue to serve on the board. Partial blame could be tied to the media’s reporting.
“I think that the angles used in the first stories after the incident, whether accidental or not, created that theory. But at this point, I would question the sincerity and the agenda of anyone still touting it. I’ve stated many times that my condition is no excuse for what happened, but to deny it played a part in my behavior is also without merit,” said Brian Dawson.
The constant in many of the news articles is a single line which states, “Charges filed against Dawson for spousal battery and child endangerment”. It’s a dangerous line that leads people to create their own visual of what happened and that is how rumors start.
Still, none of the reporters went to the source—Jessica Dawson who was ignored.
Technically no one knows what transpired except for the Dawson’s, the police, and lawyers. No details have been shared with the public—which begs the question: if these details have not been shared, how can claims of spousal abuse and child endangerment continue to be printed? Aren’t these only allegations at this point?
I thought I’d ask Jessica Dawson a couple questions. Although she could not go into details about the night in question, she was able to provide some facts that contradict those that the media has assumed or gotten wrong.
Jessica Dawson admits to calling the police because she saw her husband act in a way that he hadn’t in all their years together (7 years). She explained that it was a two-sided argument that escalated into a screaming match which is out of character for her husband to get into.
“I tend to be a yeller, but Brian much prefers the clever argument-closer (like a sarcastic lawyer) over a fight. I was a little scared and I felt like it would be best to get help with the situation. If Brian’s family lived nearer by, I would have called them instead of the police, but in the moment I really didn’t know what else to do,” explained Jessica Dawson.
In my conversations with both Brian and Jessica, it appears the media is blowing the whole “injury” claim out of proportion as well. The term has been used broadly without any facts to back up this claim. For the media to claim she was “injured” they first need to define how they are using the term “injury”.
By definition, a paper-cut or a sprained ankle from playing basketball with one’s kids is classified as an injury while being very different from an injury sustained in a fist fight or car accident—they are not on the same level. Without due diligence and by not gathering the facts it needed to thoroughly define the injury or how it happened, the media allowed its readers to come to their own conclusion about what Brian Dawson could have done to his wife.
Jessica Dawson explained that while she believes it is police procedure to attempt to get alleged victims to seek immediate medical attention for both their safety as well as for documentation for future prosecution, and in many situations both are necessary and wise. She said that it was unneeded in her situation.
“I absolutely did not require medical attention. The police asked several times if I needed it, I was sure, and I refused because it was completely unnecessary,” said Jessica Dawson.
I asked Jessica flat out if her husband deserves to go to jail based on his actions on Aug. 27.
“Absolutely not, if I don’t feel victimized, if he has never committed anything close to a crime before this, if he’s addressed his underlying medical condition, what is the reason? Who are they helping? I feel like the District Attorney is making an example of him, and they are punishing me and my family in the process, the very people they are supposed to be protecting. If he went to jail, it would be an incredible hardship for me. I’d lose his income, and then I would lose my job. Who would get the kids off in the morning when I have to leave to 5:30? No, he doesn’t deserve to go to jail, and if he does I don’t know what I would do,” she stated.
Another rumor flying around based on the media reporting is what, if anything, is entailed in the allegation of “child endangerment”, which both Brian and Jessica dispute, stating their children were never in any danger.
“I believe it was sad and damaging to my children to see us argue like that, which is one of the things we are working through after the fact. But they were never themselves in danger. We met with Child Protective Services (CPS) at their request. Both we and the children were interviewed, and they closed the case via a letter stating that while the exposure was not healthy, they are satisfied that we have taken the necessary steps to assure that there will be no future incidents,” said Jessica Dawson.
It’s safe to say that the media is to blame for the many rumors now affecting the Dawson’s which have portrayed them unfairly.
“No reporter has spoken to me to verify anything, ask any questions, or even just to ask my opinion,” said Jessica Dawson.
She explained that Brian had spent several long conversations with Ruth Roberts of the Press while discussing the incident, his condition, yet that is not the story they told. Instead, she claims they printed inflammatory one-liner quotes that made her husband sound arrogant as though he were excusing his behavior with his condition, the tone of the stories hinting that he might even be making it up.
Another example of poor reporting was in a recent Contra Costa Times article by Paul Burgarino which wrote about Brian Dawson’s recent court hearing on Dec. 14 which stated unnecessarily that “his wife was in the audience” but failed to mention in what capacity she attended.
By stating why she was there, it actually would provide some context to Discovery Bay on whether or not this is being blown out of proportion—it’s almost as if the newspapers want this story to drag on so they have a topic to write about later.
Don’t worry Paul, I asked Jessica for you.
“I was there to support him; and as the victim of record, I have the right to speak in court to make my wishes known. Although the judge does not have to consider them when making decisions, and the DA certainly doesn’t have to when pressing charges. The bottom line is that people make mistakes, and one mistake doesn’t define a person or a life together. If our marriage had been peppered with abuse and misery, this would have been a very safe way to get away from it, and the legal system is set up to protect women who need that. I don’t,” said Jessica Dawson.
If the situation was truly serious, Jessica admits she would leave her husband in a heartbeat and without reservations.
“I think that is one of the things about this whole situation that makes me the angriest. When Brian is called a wife beater, the assumption is that I not only accept that as my own life, but that I would expose my children to violence and allow them to think its okay for a man to treat a woman that way,” she said.
What concerns her is the damage the media has done to create a reputation with the “wife beater husband and delicate wife” stigma.
“It’s sad, and no one hit or beat anyone. I get a little heated when those words are used, and I have corrected more than a few people already. I don’t know that our family will ever, in this town, be able to heal from the damage done by the media and the local group of people intent on turning what was a sad, personal situation into the destruction of my husband’s reputation,” explained Jessica Dawson.
Mrs. Dawson also rejects the claim that spousal abuse occurred or has ever occurred in her seven years with Brian.
“I do not consider one incident of an escalated argument in our seven years together to be spousal abuse. I don’t want to speak for other people, but for me to call this spousal abuse it would need to be indicative of a trend of abuse, whether emotional, psychological or physical. I don’t feel like all of a sudden the man I married became an abuser because one situation got out of control,” she said.
She proclaims Brian is a supportive husband and a great dad, and one blip on the radar of our lives is not going to change that. He’s been a stay at home father or only worked part time so I could pursue my career, which is why he’s been able to be active in the community.
“We’re a great team,” she added.
Brian Dawson is greatly bothered by the assumption people think he is a “wife beater” and wants his name cleared.
“Currently the proponents of the recall effort against me are telling people who refuse to sign the Recall petition that I beat my wife in front of my kids. It’s desperate and disgusting behavior, and it is not factually correct. My wife has written a letter to the paper and emails to several of the Recall proponents, asking them to leave our private matter to us, but her opinion in this has been disregarded. She won’t even go to our local grocery store anymore,” said Brian Dawson.
The recall and rumors flying around have had an effect on the Dawson family, but they are not going to let that keep them down or change their lifestyle. In fact, it’s helped them be more open with Brian’s condition while bringing the family closer together.
“We’ve become closer as a result, but life in Discovery Bay, watching what Brian goes through in the newspapers and hearing all of the terrible lies people are spreading to advance the recall petition, even just going to the grocery store, is much more difficult,” explained Jessica Dawson.
Still, life is difficult around town. After the incident Brian grew a beard just to be able to go to the store and travel around town.
“There are sympathetic looks followed, and cancelled out, by whispering at the school, the grocery store, the coffee shop. There’s uncomfortable hemming and hawing. After the first few weeks, I just stopped going to those places if I could avoid them. It’s a thousand times worse for Brian than for me, I’m just uncomfortable because of the lies and assumptions and rumors going around. I will say though that recently, in spite of (and perhaps because of) the obvious smear campaigns, we’ve both been approached by people wanting to tell us how they didn’t sign the petition and they think the media coverage is disgusting. It really makes me hopeful, not just about this situation, but about human beings as a whole,” Jessica Dawson explained.
It got to a point where she couldn’t keep quite anymore with all the rumors and lies flying around she felt obligated to write a letter to the editor about the situation.
“Brian spoke to reporters from the Press & the CC Times. I heard those conversations, and yet what was published was a twisted and sensationalized version of what he actually said. Following that, for over a month the Press proceeded to tear Brian to pieces with no thought to how it would affect me or my children, half of the time getting their facts wrong. I needed everyone to know that what happened was unfortunate, but private. I really feel like people should be ashamed of what they are doing,” she said.
According to Jessica, their oldest child (in middle school) is aware of what’s going on and is disgusted. She feels bad about everything that has transpired in the media and around the town in relationship to how her dad has been treated.
“She’s very empathetic by nature, and she has a hard time seeing anyone get picked on,” she added.
Brian Dawson believes his children have handled all the added stress better than he thought they would.
“My children are amazing. It would be a lie to say this hasn’t affected them, but my wife and I have done a great job raising them and they are very strong girls. When the Discovery Bay Press published a sticker that violated campaign law, my oldest wrote a letter to the editor expressing her disgust. While we wouldn’t let her send it, it hangs proudly on our fridge, “said Brian Dawson.
Proponents have also taken to using his condition as a way to show he is an angry and unstable Director. I asked Brian about his condition and his history with it. He was very open about both.
Although there was suspicions of bipolar behavior from a young age, Brian Dawson was never diagnosed until 2007 when the doctors diagnosed him as a Level II (functioning) bipolar. He is a random-cycler which means his mood swings can quickly go from low to high and visa-versa; however, this can be managed with medication and regular appointments with a doctor.
“I didn’t address it until I had a child of my own. I was afraid to hear the truth. There is a lot of shame attached to having a mental illness, but when you have children you begin to think about how not taking care of your health can affect them,” said Brian Dawson.
Other than this past summer, when he was without health insurance, he has consistently taken his medication and regularly seen a doctor to manage the symptoms. He has even had a couple of minor cycles, but they have been controlled.
“At the time of the incident, I had been without my medication for 97-days, due to the loss of our health insurance and the prohibitive costs of medication which is roughly $600 per month which we (my family) couldn’t afford at the time”, explained Brian Dawson.
Since serving on the CSD Board, the night of August 27 was the only serious incident he has had while never missing a meeting due to a cycle. After his diagnosis in 2007, and especially since August, he has changed his lifestyle to help manage his symptoms.
“I was never much of a drinker, but now I don’t drink alcohol at all. I have to make sure I eat enough real food (limited junk food) throughout the day, stick to a pretty consistent sleep schedule, and keep an eye on my sugar and caffeine intake. That may all sound pretty normal, but lack of sleep or too much junk food affect my happiness levels more than the average person,” he explained.
With all the attention Brian has received, he plans to turn this negative into a positive in the community. He participates with the National Alliance on Mental Illness which has provided him with information and guidance while meeting others to talk about each other’s struggles.
“One of the reasons I came out publically with my diagnosis was because you don’t hear about openly Bipolar elected officials, although 5% of the population suffers from mental illness. I believe it’s time we talk about it and the issues surrounding it,” said Dawson.
Dawson admits he would like to help more people in the community who were like him who may have waited too long as a child to get diagnosed. He understands the stigma and shame associated with mental illness which causes so many people to go undiagnosed or untreated.
For now, however, the Dawson’s are focused on the upcoming court hearing. Brian and Jessica both believe jail time is unwarranted; the prospects of a year in jail scare Mr. Dawson as a judge will decide his fate in the coming months.
“It does scare me, very much so. I can’t imagine being away from my girls for any lengthy period of time, and frankly it would be an extreme hardship to my wife, who the law is supposed to be trying to protect. And no, I don’t feel that I should serve time in jail… but that is not for me to decide. Hopefully, with the support of my family, we’ll get through whatever happens,” said Brian Dawson.
Although things are still negative with the recall proponents, Jessica will continue to remain positive.
“It has opened doors of discussion between us and our children not only about Brian’s condition, but also about respecting oneself within a relationship, dishonesty in the media, and the rarity and importance of human kindness. This incident, the court case, the smear campaign, these things are now woven into the fabric of who we are; we are a couple who fights the good fight, together. I think all of those things are pretty darn positive,” Jessica Dawson said.
And a little support goes a long with the Dawson’s. They both are appreciative and amazed with those who have come up to them offering their support and disgust with how the media and petitioners have treated them.
“I was actually surprised by the friends I didn’t realize we had, people we knew more or less casually, or other parents from my daughter’s school. I’ve heard about several different out-and-out scolding’s given to the recall petitioners by these folks, and it really just makes me tear up thinking about their kindness and decency,” said Jessica Dawson.
Please Note: I only agreed to discuss the incident with Brian Dawson under the condition that Jessica also participate for the obvious reason she is being portrayed as the victim. I also did not want to know what exactly happened because I do not want a subpoena to their next court date so I stayed away from specifics. This interview involved multiple conversations over a period of weeks.