Q710 Summary

Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee, III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.

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FBI Catalogue: Jim Jones speaking

FBI preliminary tape identification note: One BASF 90/ “7/1/75 JJ on (illegible word) from Dennis Denny” 3×5 card

Date cues on tape: July 1975 (notation on tape box consistent with context)

People named:

Local officials and citizens:
Dennis Denny, director of Social Services, Mendocino County (speaks)
Don Salisbury, official (?) of Social Services
Mr. Heddy [phonetic, first name unknown], rancher/neighbor of PT in Redwood Valley

Temple members:
Sharon Amos
Birdie Arnold
Marceline LeTourneau
Jim McElvane
Birdie Marable
Mike Prokes (presumably)
Tim Stoen

Temple members, full name unknown:
Mr. Harvey [first name unknown, elderly Temple member]

Bible verses cited:     None


(Note: This tape was one of the 53 tapes initially withheld from public disclosure.)

This tape, which the FBI initially withheld from disclosure, consists of a telephone conversation between Jim Jones and Dennis Denny, the director of Social Services for Mendocino County. The two men discuss some complaints that a few elderly Temple members have made about the operator of a care home, but the conversation is apparently not the first the two men have had about the subject, and without more background information than what is mentioned here, the context is unclear. (Some of the same concerns – and people – are discussed in Q 686, although the notations on the tape boxes indicate this tape predates the other by three months.)

Nevertheless, it is apparent that one Temple member felt that she had been threatened by a care home provider, and while she might have overreacted to the situation, someone had handled it outside of channels and in such a way as to cause the county and/or the Temple some embarrassment.

Jones pledges to Denny that the situation will not recur, saying that he had told church members, “no one was to involve themselves with anyone under your jurisdiction or any senior citizen living in a Mendocino County agency’s home without consulting you directly through one of our upper echelon people. So this will not happen again.” He reiterates this several times, along with his understanding for the reason behind the snafu: “I told [our people] to get the welfare authorities, and it somehow got garbled, and they thought this meant just the police.”

Even as he deplores the rift created by the misunderstanding, Jones drops hints of impropriety on the part of the care home operator. He alludes to the owner being drunk, displaying weapons in a threatening manner, and engaging in financial misdeeds, “her intimidation, her subtle intimidation of her people to the point that they would feel they have to give her … three or four thousand dollars.”

In general, though, this is a cordial conversation between two men who have a relationship built on respect and friendship, and who are trying to cut through the bureaucracy to resolve a problem in a way that ruffles the fewest feathers. There is the social lubricant of bonhomie, but it seems genuine, as two men with similar goals work in their own arenas to get things done. At one point midway through the phone call, Denny tells Jones, “I’ve always felt that if I had an issue, that I wanted resolved personally, and it surely has not happened that frequently, that I can always feel free to come to you.” It could just have easily been Jones as the speaker, at least during this conversation.

They move to a short discussion on the rumors of budget cuts facing the social services department, rumors which Jones has heard through his “grapevine” (which undoubtedly consists of the Temple members working in Denny’s department). He asks Denny if there is anything “good citizens” can do to block the cuts. The director says he doesn’t think the threat is serious, but adds that he would resign before he lets anything happen to his staff or to his clientele. Jones tries to discourage him, and says, “before you do [resign], let the community speak on your behalf. We have gotten certain things done, and we do have numbers.”

Denny praises the Temple members he has met during his tenure, and says he is very impressed with their work and dedication. He speaks glowingly of the church members who have worked for his department, although both he and Jones refer to a difficult situation that arose – and was resolved – years before.

The director then asks about the work going on at Jonestown. Jones says the Temple members in Guyana are distributing “tons” of food to the Guyanese, have provided employment for many others, and have thereby suppressed the threat of “militant communists” in the region. He adds the knowledge of that work gives him a “real healthy feeling.”

Unfortunately, the reality was different: Jonestown ended up importing much of its foodstuffs and became increasing insular as time went on, with little contact with surrounding Guyanese or Amerind communities. Jones is much closer to the mark when he describes the hard work that people are doing on the agricultural mission itself, and how many of these young workers were troubled youth in the cities before they went to South America.

Jones invites Denny to visit Jonestown sometime, and Denny says he’ll seriously consider it.

The conversation winds down with a short exchange about the work they do and why they do it. “But you know,” Denny says, “it isn’t our own community, Jim, it’s the world, it’s the people in the whole world… [E]verybody’s too narrow, and that’s … one of the admirations I have for your philosophy. I think you carry it much farther than most people do.” Again, either man could have spoken these words. The tone of respect, friendship, shared experience, and mutual encouragement continues from beginning to end of this conversation.

There is no indication why this tape was among the 53 that the FBI initially withheld from disclosure.

FBI Summary:

Date of transcription: March 8, 1979

In connection with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into the assassination of U.S. Congressman LEO J. RYAN at Port Kaituma, Guyana, South America, on November 18, 1978, a tape recording was obtained. This tape recording was located in Jonestown, Guyana, South America, and was turned over to U.S. Officials in Guyana and subsequently transported to the United States.

On March 7, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B62-27. This tape was found to contain the following:

A telephone call to Mr. DENNY at the Department of Social Services from Reverend JONES with a discussion of some members of the church. The name of a Mrs. MARABEL (phonetic) and a Mr. LATERNO were mentioned.

This tape was reviewed, and nothing was contained thereon which was considered to be of evidentiary nature or beneficial to the investigation of Congressman RYAN.

Differences with FBI Summary:

The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.

Tape originally posted April 2002