Cloverdale not 'feeling the Bern' after Sanders campaign declines invoice for his rally

The Sanders campaign has rejected a bill for police and fire costs associated with a June rally in Cloverdale.|

When Cloverdale officials first heard Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders wanted to come to town, they thought it was a practical joke.

But after being assured it was not, they put out the welcome mat for Sanders, who drew a crowd of more than 6,000 people to the Cloverdale Airport on a sweltering June 3, days before the California primary election.

Cloverdale officials said they were assured by Sanders’ campaign advance team that local public safety agencies would be reimbursed for expenses associated with the rally.

But after being stiffed for a $23,000 tab, they’re wondering if the joke was on them.

“I don’t understand why they don’t pay for police and fire there for the event,” City Manager Paul Cayler said Monday. “Sanders’ rhetoric during the speech was, he is from small town America and he values small town America.”

Instead of “Feeling the Bern,” Cloverdale, population 8,800, is feeling burned.

“We were told we would be reimbursed,” Mayor Mary Ann Brigham said. “I never would have done it, or given a nod to it as a council person, if there had been any doubts in my mind.”

According to Cayler, the city submitted an invoice on June 23 to the Sanders campaign detailing the overtime from four law enforcement agencies, including Cloverdale, Sebastopol, Healdsburg and the Sheriff’s Department, as well as four fire departments that worked the event.

On July 13, Casey Sinnwell, national director of scheduling and advance for the Sanders campaign, acknowledged receipt of the bill for “uncontracted security services,” but stated that the U.S. Secret Service takes the lead on all security matters and “any local law enforcement organization contacted by the Secret Service to assist in security should discuss matters related to costs with the Secret Service.”

Cayler said Sinnwell didn’t reply to all subsequent emails requesting clarification.

When the city manager contacted the Secret Service, he said he was told the agency is never responsible for paying local public safety expenses related to a presidential candidate’s events.

David Thomas, special-agent-in charge of the San Francisco Secret Service office, said Monday “generally localities pay for the first responder resources utilized, unless they have an agreement with some other party, campaign or donor.”

Sinnwell and other officials with the Sanders campaign did not respond Monday to a reporter’s phone calls and emails.

Cloverdale officials acknowledged there was no written contract related to public safety expenses, but said it’s because the city received only 48 hours notice of the event and there wasn’t time to put together a formal agreement.

“We were trying to accommodate a national political figure who had a number of stops all being scheduled on short notice,” Cayler said.

He said the Sanders campaign put down a $2,500 deposit to pay for local public safety agencies expenses with the understanding there would be more costs, including from allied police and fire agencies that would need to be paid after the bill was submitted.

The airport rally went off smoothly, although there were parking and traffic control challenges as well as some medical responses due to the approximate 100-degree heat.

Mayor Brigham said she is hoping the whole thing is simply a misunderstanding, perhaps caused by a precipitous drop in staff after Sanders lost his bid for the presidency.

Brigham, a self-described progressive who likes a lot of what Sanders stands for, said, “Surely I’m thinking, Bernie Sanders doesn’t know this is happening.”

“I’m hoping as soon as it gets to the right people they will repay us,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or On Twitter@clarkmas

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