Colfax divided over consequences for Sultana

By: Carol Feineman, Gold Country News Service
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Local reaction to Graig Sultana making false claims about being a Vietnam prisoner of war and wearing unearned military medals is mixed. Wearing unearned military medals is a federal misdemeanor that could result in fines and/or jail time. Although a Pentagon official and POW representatives say Sultana was never a POW, Sultana is adamant that he was a prisoner in Laos for 2 ½ years during the Vietnam War. Sultana would not comment following publication of last week's Auburn Journal, but has so far maintained he has been telling the truth and cannot go into details because it is "classified." Extremely active in the community, Sultana is Colfax Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Post 2003 commander, Sierra Vista Community Center's president, Colfax Planning Commissioner, Colfax Veterans Memorial Building board of trustee and a Colfax Pride member. "I have contacted the VFW members and they feel he has done a good job and that it's wrong what has come up against him... We back him as a commander," said Harry Green, immediate past commander of the local post. "While it upsets all of us, this in no way affects his job here." John Lowe, VFW's state adjutant/quartermaster, said that any disciplinary action would be up to the Colfax post. "There's no such thing as disciplinary action. It doesn't concern us that he's not a POW. He was in the service. That's what it takes to qualify to be in the VFW," added Green, a three-time VFW all-state commander in 1994, 1999 and 2003. Sultana was awarded the VFW all-state award a few weeks ago. City of Colfax representatives were divided about the news. "As far as I know, Graig's been performing duties as he always has which is more than adequately as a planning commissioner. No council member has raised (concerns) with me," City Manager Bob Perrault said. Perrault said Sultana's POW claims in addition to his false statements made on a Colfax Planning Commission application dated August 23 that he was a former investigative reporter with The Sacramento Bee shouldn't affect his status as a planning commissioner. Any consequence ultimately rests with City Council members, though, Perrault added. Joyce Terhaar, The Bee's managing editor, said last week that, as far as she knows, Sultana was never an investigative reporter for The Bee. Planning commissioners are appointed by the City Council. As of Monday afternoon, Mayor Cassandra Kellams said she cannot comment on any potential repercussions. "I haven't researched it. I just got wind of it so I can't comment at this time. But I don't see it being a concern at this time." Former mayor and council member Sharon Gieras, though, would like to address the situation. "It's something that has to be discussed at an open meeting. It's a sad situation," Gieras said. As for the Sierra Vista Community Center board, vice president Elizabeth Armando wrote in an e-mail Tuesday, "Sorry, but I (am) not able to speak for Sierra Vista. The board has not met and until that happens, I have no idea what the board's position will be. We don't make decisions by phone or e-mail unless it's a building emergency." Rusch DeLong, a Sierra Vista Community Center board member and finance committee chair, doesn't know what to make about Sultana's claims. "I'll keep my mind open until records come forward. It's not a nice situation," DeLong said. "In my dealings with him, he has always kept his word. He's a problem-solver. I probably won't have continued on the board if he hadn't been president. He has fresh ideas, taking us into a new direction and getting things done." While the Colfax Pride board of directors will address the issue at Monday's board meeting, Vice Chairman Jim Bowers stated his own comments. "I'll stand behind Graig if he says he's a POW until it's proven. My personal opinion is he should step down from the (Colfax Pride) board and continue to be a member at his own discretion," Bowers said. "At this point, if he's prosecuted and convicted of a crime, then again in my own personal opinion, he should resign from his board position and then consider the impact of his continuation within the Pride organization. Ask him to do the right thing so Pride doesn't suffer. First thing to do is protect the organization and remove him from the board, if he's prosecuted." But Bowers hopes that won't be necessary. "Personally, I've always liked Graig. If you have 100 people, you can count on 10. He's one of the 10. He'll get it done. He's been a mover and shaker in Colfax," Bowers said. "As much as he may have done wrong for this community, he's done just as much right for the community."