Dunsmuir City Council censures 2 councilmen, citing abusive behavior

Skip Descant
Special to the Siskiyou Daily News
Councilman Bruce Deutsch (left) and Mayor Juliana Lucchesi at the  Dunsmuir City Council meeting on Feb. 2, 2023. The council voted to censure Deutsch and Councilman Dave Keisler, citing abusive and demeaning behavior.

Two city councilmen in Dunsmuir have been censured by fellow council members following behavior described as abusive, demeaning and threatening. 

By a vote of three to two, Councilmen Dave Keisler was censured by the Dunsmuir City Council during its Feb. 2 meeting, with Keisler and Councilman Bruce Deutsch voting in opposition. 

By a vote of 4-1, Deutsch was censured as well. Keisler was the lone “no” vote, with Deutsch voting in favor of his censure, saying, “it certainly is bracing to hear all of this criticism, and to realize, it’s correct criticism. I’m not going to going to try to defend myself. I made mistakes.” 

The censure is largely symbolic. It does not remove the councilmen from office or curtail their role on the council. Neither of the men said they plan to step down. 

“I was elected by the people, I made some mistakes, and I intend to continue,” said Deutsch, following the censure.

“Ditto,” remarked Keisler. 

Councilman Dave Keisler speaks at the Dunsmuir City  Council meeting on Feb. 2, 2023. The council censured Keisler and fellow Councilman Bruce Deutsch, citing abusive and demeaning behavior.

You could say, it was about snow removal. But what the censure action really came down to was the behavior of the two men.

For his part, Keisler was opposed the towing of his truck by the city, following a series of December snow storms. His vehicle was parked on his property, but within the city easement. In order to operate snow removal equipment safely, residents on streets slated for plowing were advised to remove their vehicles from roadways. All told, 27 vehicles on Keisler’s street were identified and issued warnings. All but two — Keisler’s truck and another — were moved, said City Manager Dustin Rief.

Keisler’s truck was towed, setting off what has been described as a series of berating and threatening incidents directed at city staff, characterized as Keisler’s belief that he was exempt from the snow removal policy, a characterization he disputes. 

“I would not use my position as a city council member to try to get any favoritism, or anything,” said Keisler at the council meeting. 

However, the incident, described in city documents, emails and by city staff at the public meeting, describe a period of intimidation and threatening behavior by Keisler. 

“After the towing of the vehicles, things escalated,” said Rief, recalling Keisler telling him,“‘I thought we had an understanding.’” 

Keisler’s threats triggered a security response, Rief continued.  

“At this point city staff did not feel safe,” said Rief, visibly emotional, a display Kiesler would go on to mock. 

“I never meant to make you cry, bro. But that was good though. Good for the stage. Maybe I should have cried. But I never intimidated you,” said Kiesler. 

Keisler was elected in November, 2020, receiving 430 votes or 29.3%. Deutsch was also elected at this time, receiving 366 votes or 25%.  

“Ya’ll can think what you want. All I know is ever since November, ya’ll — ya’ll,” said Keisler, drawing out his contempt for his fellow council members, all newer members, “ain’t been liking me. And that shows.” 

“I’m sorry if you guys feel that I bullied you, or scared you, ‘can’t go to work,’” he said apparently mocking complaints from city staff. “I never tried to intimidate nobody.”  

Few in the room came to Keisler’s defense. 

“I love you Big Dave. You’re like a brother to me. But man, you crossed the line, dude,” said Brian Wilson, Dunsmir public works supervisor, using a commonly used nickname for Keisler. “This is not a personal attack on you. We were trying to be fair. We were trying to do our jobs right, and safely.

“I thought, you know what, my council member, my buddy, he could have made my job easier, if he would have moved his vehicle. But he didn’t. He chose to flex. And you know what, I think everybody’s kind of tired of your flexing,” Wilson added. 

Juliana Lucchesi, Dunsmuir’s mayor, aimed her ire directly at Keisler. 

“I am so disappointed. Every phrase out of your mouth has been ‘I’m sorry you feel that way,’” Lucchesi told Keisler. “That is not ownership. That is not responsibility. 

“I’m done with you,” she said, moving directly to presenting the motion for censure.  

 The censure of Deutsch was raised not for his unbridled defense of Keisler, who he cast as the victim, but the series of unprofessional, demeaning, profanity-laced and derogatory emails and other messages he sent to city staff and fellow council members. 

“It makes both Dave (Keisler) and me sick to have to sit in the same council chambers with them,” Deutsch wrote in a Dec. 22, 2022 email to City Manager Rief, referring to the other three members of the council, who he has described as hostile to Keisler, apparently in reference to allegations of domestic abuse. 

In 2021 Keisler was arrested on suspicion of felony corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant. Keisler was also arrested in 2015 for domestic battery. In both incidents, charges were not filed. 

Dave Keisler’s wife, Karen Keisler, described the two during her comments at the city council meeting: “There are two really, really big bullies sitting at this table right now.” 

“I believe that they both need to be removed off city council,” she added. “They’re hurtful, and they terrorize people, and they’re bullies.” 

In another rambling Dec. 29, 2022 email ― this one to Matthew Bryan, who was serving as mayor ― Deutsch wrote in the subject line “F**k you,” spelling out the profanity.

“The emails I received from Councilman Deutsch were threatening, personal, venomous, entirely inappropriate in any workplace across this country,” said Bryan. 

“I do not take it kindly that I was personally attacked, and my very livelihood in this town was threatened,” he added. “It needs to cease immediately, and permanently.” 

Deutsch went on to apologize for his behavior toward Bryan, saying, “I realize what I said to you was obnoxious, and inappropriate in every way possible.” 

But he went on to couch this apology with an explainer, saying he was driven by what he described as the council’s “casual cruelty” toward Keisler. “The idea that for the last 12, 14 months he’s been treated like a person who doesn’t belong,” said Deutsch. 

That reasoning did little to settle the matter. 

“You have done so much damage to the fabric of this community, and to the government,” Peter Arth, a former Dunsmuir councilman and mayor, told Deutsch. “Instead of doing anything more than apologizing, instead of doing anything to remedy the harm the two of you have caused, you sit here and just explain your personal angst.”