The Training Facility Nobody Wants

Here we are nearly three years after the passage of Measure B and more than a year after the purchase of the Redwood Valley Jehovah’s Witness Church and accompanying residence for conversion into a Training Center/Sheriff’s Substation, and nobody seems to want it, although a training center of some sort was called for in Measure B and subsequently purchased with Measure B funding.

The Training Center was specifically listed in the text of Measure B: “provide … a regional behavioral health training facility (BHTF) to be used by behavioral health professionals, public safety and other first responders.” 

At Tuesday's meeting of the Supervisors, Measure B project manager Alyson Bailey reported that a “business plan” for the training facility is being worked on. Surveys are “being prepared” for “various groups who hopefully [sic] will be brought in to use the facility.” 

Ms. Bailey added that “the first draft” of a Memorandum of Understanding between the amorphous Measure B staff and the Sheriff’s office “is complete and in hands of the ad hoc.” [See below.] Bailey added that about $308k of Measure B funds is being spent to turn the property into a training facility; the $308k is on top of the $370k the County paid for the property in July of 2019. 

Ms. Bailey said the preliminary agreement will address how the facility will be shared with the Sheriff’s office and Measure B staff on mundane things like security, utilities, landscaping, upkeep, etc. — but not training.

Supervisor Ted Williams who, with Supervisor John Haschak, is half of a two-supervisor ad hoc committee assigned to prepare a Measure B Strategic Plan, said, “I have heard that Mental Health may not use this facility for training. We need a list of people who will use it and offset the ongoing cost” of managing, operating and maintaining the facility."

Ms. Bailey replied that she didn't have a roster of potential occupants, but the survey was being prepared, adding, that she is “working on a plan” and that such a survey will have to go through “Behavioral Health” (Department? Advisory Board?) first, continuing, “We will have a good understanding of who will use it and how often after that. It may be that the business plan will allow some organizations to use it for free; others can be worked on. But that’s not the current framework that I have.” (?)

Supervisor Williams: “We bought this as a substation and training facility for mental health programs. But it’s not coming together. Why are we hanging on to this moving forward? We need a business plan for how it’s a net gain. What are the numbers? Should we move forward on it even if it’s a loss on paper? Does Health and Human Services see any potential for its use?”

Remember, it’s now three years since Measure B passed, and over a year since the purchase of the Redwood Valley property with full intention of developing it as a training facility. Yet nobody has any idea what to do with it, and apparently nobody has even bothered to ask as the year-long remodel was underway and is now almost complete.

Supervisor McCowen noted correctly that the Training Center was the only specific facility called for in the Measure B text and therefore probably required. But then he went on to claim that 10% of the Measure B funds were to be allocated to it and that golly, isn’t it great that we’re “under-budget” on the training center? (10% of Measure B funds would be over $3 million.) 

However, we have re-reviewed the Measure B text and there’s no such percentage mentioned for the training facility. There’s also no mention of 10% of anything for anything in the Measure’s text.

Williams: “We have no plan. We have no input from the right voices. We hear that Mental Health may not use it. So why build it? [Note: It’s already built, Supervisor.] If it’s for the Sheriff, let the Sheriff design it for his needs. We have a big disconnect here. We won’t get the most for it out of the dollars we’re spending.”

Supervisor Haschack agreed: “I don’t know why we’re sinking more money in this if it’s not to be utilized except a few times. We need a business plan.”

McCowen commented, “We have to have the training center. Sheriff Allman did well in locating that property. Some funds were reserved for the facility if necessary. [Not true. — ms] We should keep it and promote it and make it pay for itself. It could be a regional center. The substation conversion? Maybe not. It can be expensive [to operate and manage and maintain]. I’d prefer to spend that on staffing and enforcement. Then ask Mental Health to envision [sic] additional uses that are mental health related that it could be used for.”

Sheriff Kendall then joined the conversation, remarking that there were “pros and cons” about using it as a substation. “We need more space because the new courtroom/hearing room conversion at the jail will take up valuable space there. But I am concerned about longer response times to the south, like Hopland, and other central sector areas [including Anderson Valley; if they have to dispatch deputies out of Redwood Valley]. We need to look at what we’re getting for the money. We can look at other options for better response times. We need to look at the entire central sector. [There are three Sheriff’s Sectors: Coast, North and Central.] We need funding for converting it into a substation. Would [the substation] impact any mental health activities on the site? We need to take a good hard look at this.”

Supervisor Haschak concluded, “We need a business plan [for this facility] as part of Measure B.”

PS. Even though Mendocino County Mental Health Director Dr. Jenine Miller was on hand throughout this discussion, she didn’t say a word about the training facility or its potential use. 


Notes

The Sheriff’s request for about $2.2 million in additional funding for pot-related law enforcement devolved into a discussion of the failed pot permit program and then drifted into asking the state’s bloated and torpid pot permit bureaucracy for more enforcement money. No new County money was discussed or suggested. We don’t expect much to change.

County Budget officer Darcie Antle said that the Sheriff is now on target to use about as much overtime as last year, i.e., $1.6 million, about $900k over the initial token overtime budget of about $750k. This was in spite of the increase in emergencies and crimes compared to the same period last year and the likelihood of more before Christmas and next year, so $1.6 sounds like a low-ball guess. Ms. Antle added that the budget situation will be discussed further at the Board’s October 20 First Quarter budget meeting. Ms. Antle had no other budget numbers to present, choosing instead to talk about the legalities of employee comp time limits and other covid related activities.

PS. Measure B Project Manager Alyson Bailey successfully avoided any mention of their having forgot to video their September meeting.


Another Dubious Pot Raid

A reader sends this obscure item about a dubious pot raid in Potter Valley in 2018:

Current and Former Sheriff of Mendocino County Face New Allegations of Civil Rights Violations — Article by PHFM

The newly retired and well known Sheriff of Mendocino County Tom Allman and his newly appointed replacement Matt Kendall, along with Under-Sheriff/Operations Manager Darren Brewster and Deputy Sheriff Sgt. James Wells have been implicated on new Federal Civil Rights Violations.

This is the second and newly filed case in recent months involving Mendocino County Officials. This new scandal will follow the ongoing civil suit against twenty five Mendocino County Public Officials for the crimes of conspiracy and violating civil rights.

This new case list's violations by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Officers for proving false information to a judge — in order to obtain a warrant, destruction of property, willful misconduct and civil rights violations.

The civil rights complaint document was filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California on October 8, 2020. The plantiffs will seek monetary compensation, and for appropriate actions to be taken by the court — in order to prevent further, similar unlawful raids and rights violations by the officers.

Both of these recent claims of rights violations involve raids on otherwise confirmed legal cannabis farms that were in full compliance of the law. These alleged unlawful tactics show a trend by Mendocino County Public Officials — who are likely complacent [sic] in numerous other raids involving similar misconduct. In our small community, whispers have continually surfaced throughout the years pertaining to stories of a relative nature; that have left legal, small cannabis farmers as victims of police misconduct and with very little legal recource.

Please stay tuned for our next feature article that will include information sourced from various rights organizations about "Knowing Your Rights & How to Exercise Them". We'll continue to do our best to bring you more coverage on these and other related stories.


Back in August we covered the lawsuit filed by Chris Gurr and Ann Marie Borges who sued Mendocino County (and Fish & Wildlife) over another dubious pot raid conducted by State Fish and Wildlife officers at their small grow on the Ukiah end of the Boonville Road, Highway 253 in August of 2017. In that case, Gurr/Borges said Mendo’s pot policy and the personal actions of a non-uniformed Sheriff’s employee somehow made Mendo liable in part for the raid on and destruction of what appeared to be a permitted (or nearly permitted) pot grow.

Apparently there was another dubious pot raid in Potter Valley more than a year later in October of 2018 in which a Potter Valley man (who actually lives in LA) claims that Sheriff’s deputies destroyed his perfectly legal grow. This suit filing date is listed as 10/8/2020. But we found a reference to the local Case on the Supervisors agenda back in June of 2019: 

June 5, 2019 Item 9c (closed session): 

9c) Pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(1) - Conference with Legal Counsel - Existing Litigation: One Case - Andres Rondon and Skunkworks Pharms, LLC - Case No. SCUK-CVPO-19-72649 

Off hand, we can’t find any information about how that local case went or the outcome. But we also can’t find any press releases saying that the plaintiff or defendant won. 

The Potter Valley case was a filed as a federal civil rights case by Andres Rondon and his company, Skunkworx Pharms, LLC. 

The only other minor factoid we could find as background is that the year before, on October 7, 2016, the plaintiff, Andres Rondon, was arrested in Potter Valley for pot cultivation, pot possession for sale, and armed with firearm. We don’t know how that case turned out either.

Nevertheless the claim is interesting, and at least on its face would place more liability on Mendo than the Gurr/Borges case. 

The text of the allegation prepared by LA lawyer Arthur Angel:

SkunkworkxPharms,LLC. … were duly licensed as a cannabis cultivator by the state of California, registered as a lawful cultivator with Mendocino County, and were in full legal compliance with applicable state and county licensing, registration, and certification requirements for the cultivation activities conducted.

On Sunday October 21, 2018 at about 7:10 am, Plaintiff Andres Rondon, who was in southern California at the time with his wife, received a phone call from one of his employees at the farm in Potter Valley who reported that there were some robbers at the farm, wearing dark tactical or combat garb. Plaintiff Rondon immediately called the Mendocino County Sheriffs Office, advised of the report of a robbery in progress and passed along what the employees had reported. He requested that Mendocino sheriffs be immediately dispatched to the farm to apprehend the robbers. Plaintiff Rondon noted that the farm was a legally licensed cannabis cultivation operation that was registered with Mendocino County.

Instead of responding immediately, the Mendocino Sheriffs office took approximately two hours before deputies went to the farm in Potter Valley. When they arrived, they showed little interest in the reported robbery or the perpetrators and seemed more interested in impugning the credibility of the robbery report and the employees who were at the farm. A vehicle brought by the robbers was left at the farm and the deputies displayed little interest in it or in following up an employee's report about a robber who had fled the scene or in apprehending that robber.

The Mendocino deputies departed from the farm and returned several hours later with a search warrant. During that interval, the Mendocino Sheriffs Office, acting without probable cause or even reasonable suspicion, had obtained the search warrant by means of a sworn affidavit, signed by defendant Brewster as special agent supervisor, that falsely asserted: a) that there had been a check and it had been determined that the farm was not licensed or registered for cannabis cultivation activities; and b) that it "was obvious" to affiant Brewster that "the owner to this property is in violation of state law without being part of the counties (sic) permitting process."

Both of these were demonstrable falsehoods. Moreover, inasmuch as a) Plaintiffs' licensure and registration with Mendocino County were both readily verifiable through the applicable on-line databases; and b) Plaintiff Rondon had directly advised Mendocino deputies that the farm was in compliance with applicable legal requirements, the false statements made in the affidavit to obtain the search warrant seem to have been made intentionally or with reckless disregard for the truth of the statements that were made under oath and under penalty of perjury. 

Additionally, the search warrant that was signed by Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Jeanine B. Nadel authorized a search of 12805 Pine Ave., Potter Valley, California but Plaintiffs' property, where the sheriff's deputies had gone previously and where they returned, ostensibly in execution of the search warrant, was 12850 Pine Ave, not 12805. 

When the deputies returned to 12850 Pine. Ave., they brought a wood-chipper. They pulled off the cannabis buds and took them away in plastic trash bags and destroyed the 350 growing cannabis plants that were ready to be harvested the next day by running them through the wood-chipper. These actions damaged plaintiffs by approximately $350,000-$400,000. The deputies also destroyed plant cuttings for the next crop that were worth an additional $15,000. 

The deputies also destroyed eight light deprivation gardens, coverings and lighting equipment, damages of approximately $50,000. These destructions also damaged plaintiffs' ability to conduct their lawful business and deprived them of the next crop cycle and caused other business disruption damages of approximately $350,000. 

The deputies also seized and removed various items of plaintiffs' personal property from the residence, including cell phones, permits and other papers and other items, the value of which will be determined at trial.

Plaintiffs do not know what happened regarding the robbers but believe at least one was apprehended.

On information and belief, there have been a number of unlawful and unofficial raids of cannabis cultivators in Mendocino County by individuals dressing and acting like law enforcement personnel and indications that law enforcement officers from Mendocino County and neighboring towns have participated in such raids and have themselves trafficked in cannabis seized through such raids.

After the raid, plaintiffs retained legal counsel who attempted to contact the sheriff's office by phone, letter, and email to discuss the raid, identify the individuals involved, and to obtain return of plaintiffs' personal property. The sheriff's office ignored those communications. Additionally, several weeks after the raid counsel for plaintiff made a written request to the Mendocino County Records Department for a copy of the incident report on the 10/21/18 raid. The response was that the report could not be provided because it was part of an open law enforcement investigation. Plaintiffs are not aware of any valid factual or legal basis for a continuing criminal investigation concerning them.

Defendants maintained the pretense that they were continuing to conduct a criminal investigation of plaintiff Rondon to give their conduct a surface law enforcement legitimacy, to help block any outside investigation and discovery of details concerning the wrongful raid described above, and to frighten and intimidate plaintiff Rondon. 

As a result of the wrongful actions complained of herein, Plaintiffs have suffered economic and consequential damage, business interruption, and lost income. 

In addition to the direct economic damage noted above, plaintiff Rondon has also sustained and will continue to suffer general damages including fear, anxiety, humiliation, and emotional distress, the reasonable value of which is $400,000. 

(End of complaint text)


According to the County’s on-line list of cannabis permit applications, the Rondon Potter Valley grow (AG_2017-0654) was listed as an “active cannabis cultivation application” presumably in 2017 with status of “under review.” But the application is also listed under “withdrawn” applications. Neither of these entries are dated. We could not find any indication that the Rondon grow was formally “approved.”

It’s hard to assess these claims without knowing more about them which would take a lot more research time than we have. And the plaintiff and his lawyer did not provide any information on the outcome of their Mendocino County case. 

It’s certainly true that Mendo’s pot permit program is fraught with problems, incompetence and confusion in many cases. And you’d think that the Sheriff would check the status of a permit before throwing anybody’s pot plants in a chipper. So for now these two cases will have to remain as “allegations.” At the rate that these cases go, both in Mendo and in Federal court, we’re not likely to hear the outcome for a long time — if ever. 


Ed note: Rondon was completely cleared of any wrongdoing.

2 Responses to "The Training Facility Nobody Wants"

  1. The Northern California h8r   October 15, 2020 at 1:38 pm

    Frought with problems is putting it lightly, don’t you think?
    I want to know what the agencies are for, other than handing out the licenses, but not being able to make sure all the other agencies (police, fish and wildlife, etc.) are aware of the legal and compliant farms? Why did we pay all this money for getting the licenses if they aren’t going to protect us from corruption?!?
    Anyone?

    Reply
    • Eric Sunswheat   October 17, 2020 at 12:01 am

      The shooting fish in a barrel concept by agencies against the legacy growers under evolving state law, at the instigation of timber companies and certain environmental lobbying organizations became obvious at least 5 years ago, at the multiple agency workshop to start permit process to collect filing fees at Willits City Hall.

      Because most of the permit siting requirements precluded majority of topography challenged grow locations from becoming legal, the complicated delay of gaining attainment of approval, allowed dysfunctional grow location parties to eek out a few more harvests by continuing to pay filing fees and making minor improvements, until the larger commercial operations became active under the timeline built into enabling state legislation, except for the loophole that moved up the transition, in counties where it was exploited, particularly Santa Barbara.

      Reply

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