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Mendocino County Today: April 3/4, 2012

OCCUPY MENDOCINO needs your help! We are hosting a Street Fair on Saturday May 12, 2012 from 12-5 on Laurel Street in Fort Bragg. In addition to lots of family fun events, we're having a yummy bake sale. We would appreciate cookies, cakes and even an Occu-Pie if you are so inclined. Bake early — individually clear wrap — freeze. We'll be happy to pick up your goodies or you can bring them to the Street Fair on May 12. For more information call Syd, 937-1222.

FROM THE LATEST Sierra Club, Mendo branch, newsletter: “The matter of the adequacy of the Willits Bypass Mitigation Plan and in fact the appropriateness of the entire project will be challenged in a court of law.”

AND THE FOLLOWING letter to the Willits News from Rosamond Crowder seems to second the motion: “The bypass is not a done deal. While it has been announced that the last permit has been issued and the California Transportation Commission is likely to fund the project, it is far from in the bag. The information being proffered by the Mendocino Council of Governments (MCOG) and Caltrans — that the project is assured — is no more reliable than the announcement in 2010 that it was “dead.” The Army Corps Permit is based on the Mitigation Plan that came out in October 2011. There were many unanswered questions in that plan. The conditions on the 404 Mitigation Permit are presumably addressing those questions. How would we know since the discussions are all behind closed doors, and the permit is not public yet either? By the way, a new Mitigation Plan was delivered to the Corps in January. The public has not been allowed to view that document, let alone weigh in on whether it satisfies the many questions. This is one of the reasons the public has asked for, and should be granted, a hearing. What the Army Corps has done is issue a permit that invites litigation. Incidentally, the press release issued by Phil Frisbie at District 1 headquarters in Eureka now places the price tag on Phase 1 of the bypass (two lanes) at $200 million. This is $43 million over what was asked for in 2010. What is this for? Why were the numbers incorrect in 2010? Will it ever stop? I believe a fraction of this amount could easily revamp Willits with a truck route, alternate north-south routes, a Main Street with pedestrian-friendly upgrades, and a Sherwood Road intersection, as well as a Highway 20 intersection modernization.

NANCY JO McGINTY, 52, of Willits, was sentenced last week to 13 years in state prison for setting her house on fire with her disabled and immobilized adult son inside. McGinty's neighbor, Zack Allen, ran into the blazing building and pulled McGinty's son to safety. The cold-bloodedness of the event shocked County residents and, of course, attracted much outside attention. Was McGinty a monster or was she simply a single mother at the end of her rope caring for a son who required round-the-clock care? As the facts became known, especially the fact that suggested McGinty had decided on arson as her means of murder partly to deprive her ex-husband of the property, public sympathy evaporated.

FROM THE USUAL SUSPECTS, also known as the Bari Bombing lawyers, plus Darryl Cherney and the inevitable Karen Pickett, a press release having to do with important case evidence. The court order, described in the usual Send US Money fashion of all Cherney communications, which I've exorcised to spare you annoyance, among the lines a preposterous claim by Cherney he as “aggressively” sought the bomber, might be a good thing, but it may be just more obfuscation, the same flim flam these crooks have pulled off for years now as they collected tens of thousands of dollars, $1.2 mil, last time I checked, not finding the bomber and aggressively pretending that Judi Bari had an ex-husband fully capable of murder. Second warning sign here is the phrase “independent testing.” If Cherney and Company get this stuff they can't be trusted to honestly test it. One mystery remains, Why hasn't the FBI tested it? Why didn't the FBI investigate the case? Why is the ex-husband not considered the primary suspect?

“For Immediate Release, April 2, 2012 by Ben Rosenfeld — Federal Court Orders FBI To Turn Over Evidence for Independent Forensic Analysis in 1990 Judi Bari Car Bombing Case  In an order dated March 31, 2012 and released today, Honorable Claudia Wilken, United States District Judge of the Northern District of California, affirmed a March 21, 2011 Order by Magistrate Judge James Larson, directing the United States, through the FBI, to turn over evidence in the 1990 car bomb assassination attempt of Judi Bari in Oakland, CA to a third party forensic laboratory for independent testing.”

BROOKTRAILS has been a rolling scame for 50 years with thousands of unbuildable lots that keep getting recycled to new generations of unsuspecting buyers. There are only 24 water hookups available (at a mere $24,000. each!) for over 4,000 vacant lots. The postage stamp sized lots are too small for a well and septic system, which means without water and sewer the lots are unbuildable. New buyers eventually catch onto the scam and walk away from the property, which ends up being put up for auction by the County to satisfy the back taxes. The way the scam has always worked is that the speculators who sold the lots in the first place are the ones who buy them relatively cheap at the tax sale. The County gets paid back with interest for the money it paid out in taxes and the speculator re-markets the unbuildable lots to a new generation of suckers.

SUPERVISOR McCOWEN OBJECTED to the scam last year, arguing that the County needed to do more to alert prospective buyers to the true condition of the lots, otherwise the County was complicit in the scam. McCowen's objections fell on deaf ears as his colleagues approved the on-going scam on a 4-1 vote. Except the Brooktrails lots did not sell. The Board, again on a 4-1 vote, recently approved 74 Brooktrails lots for this year's auction, including the 40 that did not sell last year.

THE DISCUSSION OF “DE-TEETERING” BROOKTRAILS was before the Board last week at McCowen's initiation. Under the Teeter Plan, the County pays the school districts, special districts and cities in advance for all the taxes and assessments owing on a property. If the taxes are paid late, state law allows the County to tack on a 10% penalty charge and 18% annual interest until the taxes are paid up. If the taxes aren't paid for five years the County can sell the property at auction. Only now the Brooktrails lots that go to auction aren't selling. Thanks to the excellent reporting of Linda Williams in the Willits News, it has been revealed that the Brooktrails lots not only pose a moral dilemma for the County, but a financial drain as well.

THE COUNTY HAS PAID OUT $250,000 for the 74 Brooktrails lots up for auction next month. If the lots don't sell, which seems likely, the County will not get its money back. And of course it will not get the penalties and interest that should make the Teeter arrangement profitable. And because the deadbeat owners still hold title to the properties, the County can't even cut its losses by giving the lots to Brooktrails. All the County can do is pay out another year's worth of taxes and assessments — which represents money paid out that the County is unlikely to ever see again.

BUT THE 74 LOTS are just the tip of the iceberg. A total of 614 lots are currently delinquent one or more year's worth of taxes, which means there are another 540 currently working their way toward auction, including 150 or more owned by the Deerwood Corporation, which is controlled by Ukiah octogenarian Tom Porter, who has profited handsomely from selling and re-selling the Brooktrails lots over the years. But now he is letting his properties move toward auction, having failed to pay the taxes for three years and counting. By the time they qualify for auction the Deerwood Corporation lots alone will represent roughly $500,000 that has been paid out of the County General Fund. Porter says he has no intention of letting his lots go to auction and will catch up the back taxes “as soon as he sells a few lots.”

BROOKTRAILS GENERAL MANAGER Mike Chapman came forward during public comment last week to point out that Brooktrails contributes a significant amount to the County's overall property tax, that for years it was used (fraudulently, we might add) to bolster the County's claims to have land available for low income housing, and that Brooktrails, in keeping with the County approved Brooktrails Specific Plan, which calls for 4,000 lots at buildout, was reducing the number of lots by merging some of them. But reducing the total number of lots down to 4,000 from today's 5,500-6,000 would mean there would still be only 24 water hookups for more than 2,500 lots. Brooktrails Property Owners Association President (and former Brooktrails CSD Board member) Ginger Polson then made a rambling presentation to the effect that neither Brooktrails nor the County had done enough to comply with the Specific Plan.

COUNTY AUDITOR/CONTROLLER Meredith Ford, recently back at work after an extended absence to battle an unspecified serious health issue, came forward to ask that any consideration of de-Teetering Brooktrails be put off for another year, claiming that she lacked the staff to do the necessary analysis. County Treasurer/Tax Collector Shari Schapmire seemed to fall in line with the need for delay, but not as positively. When McCowen cited statistics on the progression of Brooktrails lots that failed to sell at auction, Schapmire wanted to know where he got his info. When McCowen cited the Willits News, Schapmire said she could not confirm those numbers. The fact that a County Supervisor needs to rely on newspaper reports is a red flag in itself and underscores the failure of the County's leading financial honchos to keep the Supes informed about critical financial info like the mounting General Fund payout for Brooktrails lots that can't be sold at auction. But these are the same people who mismanaged the Teeter Plan from the beginning and conspired to divert non-existent “excess earnings” out of the retirement fund.

AREAS LIKE BROOKTRAILS that have a tax delinquency rate greater than 3% can be removed from the Teeter Plan following a public hearing. Schapmire, apparently taking another stab at derailing the issue, pointed out that other areas in the County exceeded the 3% threshold. McCowen responded that only Brooktrails had a problem with tax delinquent properties not selling at auction, meaning it was only Brooktrails that was tapping into the County General Fund without payback. McCowen suggested setting the public hearing for two months in the future to give staff time to do whatever analysis they thought needed to be done. CEO Carmel Angelo and Kyle Knopp, the executive office budget manager, volunteered that they would get the Auditor whatever help she needed to get the job done. The Auditor, still fragile from her recent medical ordeal, struggled to maintain her composure as she offered additional reasons why she simply could not do the analysis, no matter how much help she had. And despite what they say in public, it is a poorly kept secret, dating back to former CEO Tom Mitchell, that the Auditor and the Executive Office are constantly sparring over control of the budget information, with the (elected, semi-independent) Auditor always bringing info in at the last minute without any opportunity for prior review by the Executive Office.

MCCOWEN commented that much was already known, including the $250,000 General Fund hit from the 74 lots going to auction next month. Dismissing the vague suggestion that keeping Brooktrails in Teeter may be a net benefit to the County, McCowen said he wasn't just worried about the 74 lots going to auction this year, but the total of 614 that were currently in arrears and the 4,000 that could wind up bleeding the County dry once the pool of suckers willing to buy the lots dries up.

SUPERVISOR HAMBURG said he would certainly have to accept the Auditor's statement of what was possible, and advocated for putting the issue off until August 15. Supervisor Pinches, apparently trying to end the seemingly endless back and forth about timing, made a motion to that effect, quickly seconded by Hamburg. Once it was clarified that delaying action to August 15 would keep the County on the hook for another year with further General Fund outlays, Pinches withdrew his motion. Following additional assurances that the Public Hearing could be postponed if the mysterious analysis called for by the Auditor was not ready, the Supes voted 5-0 to set a Public Hearing on de-Teetering Brooktrails for May 22.

ONE OF the biggest county coffer depleters

Might be fixed if Brooktrails is deTeetered

And then there’s Tom Porter

Who quarter after quarter

Is nothing but your basic tax cheater

2 Comments

  1. izzy April 3, 2012

    If all the supers were wiser
    And the Auditor too
    Our county would not be
    Neck-deep in doodoo

    How blatant can it get? Stay tuned!

  2. subscriber@theava.com April 3, 2012

    Damn. One shortcoming of the AVA.com (and what I miss about the print edition) is the wonderful graphic you used to run of Arcata’s grifter-in-chief, Dan Hauser. Any chance we could get a glimpse of a sweating Dan?

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