Steer Clear of Mono

Burner Brandon has a warning for Burners contemplating taking I-395: steer clear of Mono. The anti-Burner sheriff who set up special checkpoints last year has been voted out of the town – but this doesn’t go into affect until next year. There is a good chance that the “by the book not by the spirit” sheriff is not happy about the situation, and will be looking to take out revenge by further “racial profiling” of our community to prove his point.

This guy targets Burners in road raids

This guy targets Burners in road raids

Brandon says: Sheriff Braun will take his place. Sherrif Obengerger wrongfully terminated her when she first took office now she is taking his job. The guy really thinks he can do whatever he wants to anyone

Last year they screened 341 vehicles. They made no DUI arrests, but with the help of faithful sniffer dog Tara they made 17 felony arrests, and smeared the good name of Burners as well as the career of someone who should have been innocent until proven guilty. This was brought up in the town’s Board of Supervisors meeting last December, and the response was quite telling. From Rons Log:

Supervisor Stump “Brought up law enforcement issue over Burning Man weekend.” The District Attorney gave a legal answer. Supervisor Johnston warmed to the subject:

  • Wants an agenda item to discuss the stopping of motorists, saturation patrols.
  • These stops are subjective and potentially prejudicial; we need to have a discussion about this.
  • Personally it’s a breach of his freedom to be stopped in this way.

Supervisor Fesko backed up Supervisor Johnston. Then Sheriff Obenberger defended the operation saying it was all legal and proper. On his campaign website the Sheriff writes:

After leaving the Board room that day I felt it proper and necessary to advise the Board what their role is relating to law enforcement policy in the County and the Sheriff’s Office. I drafted a letter how the Sheriff’s Office is a constitutional office and that the Sheriff alone has the authority to set policy relating to law enforcement services in the county.

Sort of a “respect mah authoritay!”

A week later on December 10, 2013, the Sheriff read a letter to the Board of Supervisors and it sounds like the Supervisors heard the message. The minutes tell us that Supervisor Johnston “wasn’t questioning techniques, he stated he doesn’t like being stopped at sobriety checkpoints, a lot of people don’t. That’s his opinion. Asked Sheriff not to take offense. Sheriff has a lot of good things going on in his department.”

Meanwhile, candidate Braun seems to be staying away from the issue. Her FAQ page has only two questions! (C’mon Mono-ites, you gotta ask more questions!) neither one of which refers to Burning Man or traffic stops or drugs.

The area around Mammoth Lakes is beautiful, I drove through it with my parents once. Looked like stoner territory for sure.

It seems like the Sheriff may have missed the point in his power lecture, that the people elect the Sheriff. And it seems the people have spoken: the former deputy that this Sheriff fired, has now become the Sheriff. But not for a little while yet. Not until after the burn.

From Mammoth Times, who called the victory a landslide:

Ingrid Braun, the soon-to-be Sheriff

Ingrid Braun, the soon-to-be Sheriff

Ingrid Braun, a 21-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department who last year was dismissed by Sheriff Ralph Obenberger, easily won election against Obenberger Tuesday night.

Braun, currently a reserve officer with the Mammoth Lakes Police Department, won in a landslide, with 1,932 votes—a 64 percent margin. Obenberger won 1,085 votes, 36 percent, in the signature race of the 2014 campaign.
Meanwhile, in Mammoth, Shields Richardson, John Wentworth and Colin Fernie all won seats on the Town Council, forming a new majority by replacing outgoing council members Rick Wood, John Eastman and Matthew Lehman.
None of the incumbent council members were among the eight candidates who battled each other in a hotly contested campaign.
For Braun, though, the night was hers.
“I had no idea how it was going to turn out,” she said shortly after the votes were counted. “I hoped for the best, but was prepared for the worst.”
She said the voters sent a clear message.
“People are ready for a new way of doing things,” she said.
Braun’s victory came on the heels of her dismissal from the Sheriff’s Department last year, six days before the end of her one-year probationary period.
Neither she nor Obenberger brought up the details of her dismissal during the campaign, both of them taking the high road in delving into details in connection with that issue.
Under law, Obenberger, who was appointed to the post of Sheriff after former Mono County Sheriff Rick Scholl resigned mid-way through his second term, was not obliged to state the reasons for his decision to let her go.

This Sheriff doesn’t sound like the kind of guy who would celebrate his defeat by reversing all of his interpretation of the law and his rights in the county, to the position held by the lady he fired. But that’s just my opinion, Burners: you be the judge.

The new Sheriff seems pretty Burner friendly. She went to Berkeley and was “big cheese” in the LAPD: From thesheetnews:

mammoth lakes“My focus as Sheriff would be to, target those areas that drive crime.” For example, she would go after people selling narcotics not just possessing narcotics. And Braun doesn’t believe in using arrest statistics to measure success. “Sure, arrests are up but statistics can be really misleading in a county this small. It’s not hard to have a huge spike up or down based on just a few numbers,” she said. “It’s not the same as LA when you’re dealing thousands and thousands of crimes. Here, you maybe have 100.”

Braun has served in law enforcement more than 22 years. After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in Political Science, she joined the LAPD as part of a hiring push in the early 1990s. “I didn’t grow up wanting to be a policeman. It didn’t occur to me. It never occurred to anyone who knew me,” Braun said. “It turns out I am good at it.”

At the LAPD, Braun worked patrols, as an investigator in internal affairs, as a detective, and as a supervisor for 12 years, running a night watch in Central Los Angeles: “I was the big cheese in all of downtown Los Angeles,” Braun said

…“We care and we want to be involved in town and that’s a skill set that we have that most people don’t that we can offer.”

The old sheriff says he doesn’t care about stats…but thanks to the 17 felony arrests from his Burner road raids, his arrest stats nearly doubled:

official-mammoth-lakes“Law enforcement is about helping people, not just putting people in jail,” says Obenberger. “I don’t care about the [patrol] statistics,” he says. “I told the guys, ‘my administration doesn’t routinely monitor the stats. You can write a ticket, you can give a warning. That’s up to you … But get into your communities. We tell ‘em to talk to people.’”

While Obenberger says he doesn’t care about the stats, an increase in criminal arrests since he took office is among the items Obenberger lists in the one-page handout he provides at “meet-and-greets.”

Criminal arrests were up 89% in 2013 over 2012.

But as Obenberger says, “we will not break the law to enforce it.”

Let’s Be Careful Out There, Burners. Know your rights. Last year’s arrest bonanza for the cops included:

…possession of cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, and psilocybin mushrooms;  possession of psilocybin mushrooms; possession of a methamphetamine pipe and a used syringe; possession of cocaine, ecstasy, MDMA, LSD, and marijuana; possession of Mdma, psilocybin mushrooms, GHB, and ecstasy; methamphetamine and marijuana; possession of GHB, ecstasy, MDMA, and Ketamine;  transporting LSD, ecstasy, marijuana, and cocaine;possession of Adderall and Xanax without a prescription.

Presumably, once Sheriff Braun takes possession of the office, she also gets the keys to the evidence locker containing felony quantities of all of the above.

Laywers for Burners have a more general caution for when you get to the event, whichever route you take:

In recent years, the BLM has shifted its drug enforcement efforts from patrolling inside the Event to stopping vehicles as they enter the Event. While the BLM cannot freely enter your camp and search for drugs without a warrant, probable cause, consent or exigent circumstances, the BLM can stop your vehicle and create probable cause with its dogs. You do not have to consent to a search. Take great care while entering the Event and while driving to your camp on Gate Road, the outer ring of the Event. In 2013, about 85% of the participants who contacted Lawyers for Burners reported receiving citations while driving into the Event.

    Participants reported being stopped for ticky-tacky motor vehicle infractions like driving 13 mph when the speed limit was 10 mph or obstructed rear license plate. Once stopped, participants reported being asked if they had any drugs and whether they would consent to a search of their vehicle. Some Participants reported that after they said no, the officer went back to his vehicle and returned with a drug sniffing dog. Some participants reported that it seemed like the officer caused his dog to “alert” even without the presence of drugs. This “alert” by the dog can become probable cause to search Participant’s vehicle.

    If the BLM finds drugs in your vehicle, the BLM will issue you a citation for $525. If you wish to contest the citation or plea bargain the citation to a non-drug offense, contact Lawyers for Burners through the feedback form on this site. Contrary to what the officer may tell you, it is very unlikely that you will be arrested or evicted from the Event for drug possession. Be polite, know that you do not have to consent to any interrogation or search, and enjoy the rest of the Event. Lawyers for Burners will assist you after the Event.

That advice is for the gate. Our advice is to avoid the problem entirely on the way up, and steer clear of Mono County. The 5 is fine once you get North of LA.

From Burner Brandon Burns:

I would like to remind the Burning man community of the problems driving through Mono county on the 395. Sheriff Ralph Obenberger set up illegal check points directly targeting burners through out the entire burn. Making people empty out their cars and taking Tara their dog through burners cars. The people of Mono county have said enough is enough with Sherrif Obenberger and his harrassing practices to Burners and the Mono county citizens and voted him out of office but this does not go into affect until Jan 2015. So rest assure you will be harrassed going through Mono county again this year.

There are many ways to get to BM aside from driving through Mono County. I feel bad for the citizens counting on burners for revenue but I believe while he is in office we need to avoid this route one last year.

Here are some links to articles from last year.

posts on mono county


Brandon Burns Really its no JOKE. There are plenty of ways to get there. from lone pine take the 168-264 all the way up. beautiful drive. No problems 

Heather Ann We had zero issues on the 395 last year. We also drove the speed limit and gave them no reason to pull us over. Know your rights!

Jeremy Wojo I find tis better to take the 6 from Bishop and then the 95. Drops you into Fallon or Fernly with plenty of options for water/food/etc. July 29 at 1:56pm

Brandon Burns You can drive it . Your choice I personally had no issues but they set up several road blocks at different times across the entire 395 north. They also very aggressively followed people then pulled them over w the dog and made them dump there entire vehicle. Go whatever way you want I am just trying to save some burnsers a major headache. I will be going up the 264. 

Dmitry Shapiro “I do NOT consent to a search! Am I under arrest, or am I free to go” <– REPEAT!!!!! 

Brandon Burns Look up the sheriff of mono county and how many people have lawsuits for not consenting to search. Sounds good on paper but he is one of a kind. You have to prove no consent was given and usually your word against his. He has won all these cases and there are a few 

Andy Wilson What Brandon is saying is true... Dmitry…. You think that works? Not in mono county… It’s a chess match for them…. Checkmate!!!

Nick Bourbeau I was one of those pulled over and searched in Bridgeport. Had nothing in the car so I consented in order to get it over with ASAP. It was clear what they were doing. Within approximately 3 miles I saw no less than 14 law enforcement vehicles

Scott Kampmeyer It doesn’t matter if you drive the speed limit and give them no reason to pull you over, they will invent a BS reason like “one of your taillights appears to be brighter than the other” and even if you do not consent to a search, they will insist 

Erica Sadhaka Swick Make sure you record any interactions you have with law enforcement. Be polite and do not consent to search! John Speer knows more about this than I do. 

John Speer Make sure to be polite, and record your encounter with LEOs in its entirety. If they try and seize your camera for evidence purposes, tell them to send you a subpoena for the evidence. Make sure you understand the state laws. 

Brandon Burns The reason I am posting so much on this issue is because it’s serious! I’m sure you have read a few of the responses of people that got caught up in this crap. This is a small town sherif that doesn’t care about rights. He has dogs at a supposed DUI checkpoint…My advice travel a different route. Have a great Burn

Fred Heald Also – don’t carry any drugs. 

Brandon Burns This is very true but this is just to avoid being harrassed. Like I said my girlfriends had tthe sherrif empty out there entire car to find nothing. No appology nothing.

Heather Ann At least they didn’t get drugs planted on them. Any word about that?

Fred Heald I do agree that Mono county, and several of the others on the 395 route, appear to have gone Burner-mad. I love the 395. It’s one of my favorite parts of driving to the burn. (I usually turn right at Bridgeport.)

Brandon Burns Sherrif Braun will take his place. Sherrif Obengerger wrongfully terminated her when she first took office now she is taking his job. The guy really thinks he can do whatever he wants to anyone Sheriff Ralph Obenberger | Sierra Wave: Eastern Sierra News Madrid keeps Mono County in federal suit

5 comments on “Steer Clear of Mono

  1. Pingback: Steer Clear of Mono | operation CDL

  2. Thanks for the article. I used to love traveling the 395 but Unfortunately I will avoid 395 this year. I wrote a complaint to the Bridgeport chamber of commerce
    Here was their reply

    Hi Robin:

    The Chamber of Commerce asked me to respond to your email. I’m a business owner in Bridgeport and depend on satisfied visitors to our area. The economy of our county is 80% tourism, so you can be sure we are just as upset about overly aggressive law enforcement as you are.

    The CHP throughout California has campaigns for different purposes from time to time. What you may have experienced last year could have been an effort to look for drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Our local business owners have complained to the CHP Commander in Bridgeport when we have been made aware of citizen complaints.

    Our local law enforcement, the Mono County Sheriff’s deputies, have been accused of following drivers off the main highways when an infraction is suspected. On at least two occasions during the past year cases have gone to court and the cases were decided in the favor of the driver. This is a very big deal in a small county. These cases received plenty of coverage by local newspapers, and the issue became part of the election campaign for Sheriff last June. I believe that the problem was the result of aggressive deputies, however the incumbent Sheriff was defeated.

    We have a very peaceful community here in Bridgeport. Most of the law breakers receiving citations, or finding their way into our jail are transients driving through on Highway 395, or locals from Mammoth Lakes. We want fair enforcement of our state and local laws. And, we hope you will come and visit this year and have a good time.


    Bob Peters
    Bridgeport Inn

  3. Its no just a burner issue as I stated. Read and comments where sherrif O is being talked about and the residents themselves are fed up with his tactics. Aggressively following residents who have done nothing wrong. Look up mono county and sandiego reader. Yes even the San Diego reader is talking about the trampling of rights going on in mono county. A encinitas gentleman coming back was wrongfully arrested for having a gun in his trunk but then it was planted by Sherrif O in his front seat. The case was thrown out when they asked for the survellence tape. Mono county reisdent if you are ok with these practices I question whether or not you are one of the LEO since we dont know ur identity.

  4. Do burners think they are the center of the known universe? that the politics of the world are decided according to the whims of a bunch of wannabes in a make pretend town? That the residents of Mono County elected a new sheriff just so burners can drive up hwy 395 unimpeded? You might want to have that megalomania looked at. I’ll bet the majority of the people of Mono could not give a rat’s ass if you don’t pass through our lovely county but I caught one of your compadres breaking into my car. BM – the most appropriate acronym anyone could have ever come up with for such an incredible load of –

    • It was an agenda item in a Board of supervisors meeting, so the town cares to that extent. Was it a factor in the local election being a landslide? You tell us…if you’re a local. If Burners weren’t a major factor in the Sheriff election, what was?

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