SOURCES in the Mendocino County Public Attorney's Association (MCPAA) confirm that our legal eagles have reached agreement with the County to scale back the current 12.5% wage cut to 10% in return for granting the County the right to adopt a new retirement tier (much less plush) for new hires. After stonewalling the County for a year during the previous round of contract negotiations, MCPAA, comprised of attorneys in the DA and Pubic Defender's offices, finally agreed to the 12.5% reduction under threat of imposition of an even more onerous 15-20% cut. Agreeing to the 12.5% cut was a big come down for a group that had successfully unionized, gone out on strike, and achieved wage increases in the 40% range back in 2007.
AS COUNTY REVENUES COLLAPSED in 2008 and 2009, the other bargaining groups, led by SEIU, agreed to unpaid furlough days, but the attorneys solidified the vulpine reputation of their profession by continuing to collect scheduled raises while contributing nothing to the collective effort to balance the budget. When contract negotiations opened in 2010 the attorney's demanded raises, a position they stuck to even as the other employee groups (except SEIU, the County’s largest union) agreed to 10% cuts.
THE ATTORNEY'S were split between the firebrands in the DA's office and more pragmatic types in the Public Defender's office. The DA's negotiators blustered that they would go out on strike and shut the County down. Unlike 2007, when the Board of Supes, (led by the twin disasters of Delbar and Wattenburger on the right, and the equivalently disastrous Smith and Colfax on the rhetorical left), sued to stop the strike and lost; the current Board, or at least three of them, undoubtedly would have forced the attorneys to strike.
IN 2007, the attorneys enjoyed at least a measure of public support, but after failing to make any contribution to solving the County's budget woes, and a year of insisting they deserved a raise while everyone else was taking cuts, support for the attorneys was non-existent among the public and other County workers. With no public support and a 15-20% cut staring them in the face, the attorneys blinked and agreed to a 12.5% cut.
THE ATTORNEY'S WERE FOLLOWED by SEIU (Service Employee's International Union), the County's largest bargaining group who also stonewalled negotiations for a year. The inept SEIU leadership, which could have reached agreement at a 10% cut at any time, maneuvered themselves into an unnecessary 12.5% cut and stayed there for several months until the membership demanded they be allowed to vote on an agreement with a 10% cut and a fresh retirement tier for new hires. That was back in March.
THE EXPECTATION, as soon as SEIU agreed to 10%, was that the County's lawyers would soon follow. But the split between the firebrands and the pragmatists deepened as the warring camps within the DA's and Public Defender's office split into still more factions. Despite assurances to the contrary, some looked at the new retirement tier as a Trojan horse that would somehow be applied to them. Others sincerely thought that reduced retirement benefits would make Mendo a less attractive place to work, resulting in lower qualified applicants, the ancient cry of Mendocino County's upper echelon employees: “We are excellent. You want the dregs?” The answer to that one is, “Go, my child, into the free enterprise jungle and see what your abilities command.” Still others were intent on resuming fullblown negotiations in an effort to restore the entire cut. When all was said and done, the attorneys agreed to the new retirement tier in return for getting back 2.5% of the original cut, a deal they could have had back in March.
ONCE THE DEAL with the attorneys is ratified, the County will be able to adopt a new (and lower) retirement tier for new hires. Workers hired after the effective date of the new tier will likely have to work longer for a smaller percentage of pay for each year worked in place of the generous formulas now in place for public sector workers. The new tier will result, initially, in modest retirement savings for the County, and greater savings as the new hires reach their golden years.
MEANWHILE, BACK IN FEBRUARY, SEIU launched a so far invisible two-year plan to convince their members that they are getting something for their union dues. Unions in general have suffered a nationwide double whammy with the economic collapse followed by opportunistic right-wing politicians in Wisconsin and elsewhere piling on in an effort to eviscerate the collective bargaining power of unions. But right here in Mendoland, and in many other places, the ineffective and indifferent union leadership has no one to blame but themselves.
SEVERAL YEARS AGO SEIU switched from having truly local union chapters in favor of corporate style “locals” based in Oakland or Sacramento. Now all the key decisions, including hiring and firing “local” business agents, are made by corporate union headquarters. And they are not competent or even superficially committed to the welfare of the membership which, in Mendo's case, pays thousands of dollars to union headquarters in dues every month and gets nothing in return.
SEIU'S TWO YEAR PLAN focuses on 1.) “organizing for the fight ahead” by building strength at the worksites and getting tougher at the bargaining table; 2.) winning public support; 3.) fixing the broken economy by taxing the rich and building a pro-worker political program; and 4.) growing stronger by organizing more union workers.
WHEN SKEPTICS dismissed the plan as nothing but “pretty words,” the SEIU leadership, in a phrase that reeks of the weariest political rhetoric, vowed they would implement it by “holding each other accountable.” So far, SEIU has held local, state and national politicians, banksters, corporadoes, union honchos, and other miscellaneous institutionalized gangsters “accountable” with a distinct lack of any demonstrable results. But the rhetoric rolls on and the union dues keep rolling in.
THE TWO-YEAR PLAN is a non-starter locally. SEIU has lost strength at the worksite, both in numbers and in influence, as the County has steadily reduced the workforce in response to declining revenue, including large state cutbacks in social services. Meanwhile, many of the remaining workers are unhappy with SEIU to the point of actively considering decertifying the union. SEIU's efforts to “get tough” at the bargaining table resulted in the workers taking a 12.5% cut when the leaders refused to settle for 10%. SEIU also struck out in efforts to win public support by running a member of their bargaining team for public office, who made it clear that she was running because she was angry about the pay cut. She lost by a 2-1 margin but the rest of the SEIU leadership praised her for holding the incumbent “accountable.” With accountability like that, even Romney might have a chance.
PAUL KAPLAN, the SEIU political organizer sent here by SEIU's executive suites to whip the locals into shape, so far seems to be as politically tone deaf as the bumbling local leadership. A month or so ago on the Sakowicz KZYX show, when asked how to improve county employee morale, Kaplan responded that we need to restore the 10% pay cut (that SEIU had just voted for) “to bring Mendocino County wages back into the 21st century,” which is a hugely stupid thing to say in this context, and ignores the basic reality of Mendocino County being a financially strapped outback county with rapidly escalating retirement and healthcare costs and no local economy, except the underground marijuana economy the feds are determined to keep underground, and therefore beyond the reach of the local taxing authorities. Unless and until the economy comes back, and a source of funds can be identified, talk of restoring the pay cuts is more likely to keep employee morale in the dumps. And since the economy seems to be tied to the national Ponzi scheme known as Wall Street, the chances of a continuing economic collapse seem far more likely than a prolonged recovery.
GARY HUDSON, who served as undersheriff for Tony Craver and Sheriff Allman, and who retired over a year ago after being out on paid “stress leave” for almost two years, has been granted a service-connected disability retirement by the Mendocino County Retirement Board. Which means that Hudson's already gold plated retirement benefits, far beyond anything you or I can ever dream of, will now be tax free. Cops and firefighters stand alone in qualifying for 3% of their pay for each year of service up to a cap of 90% of their highest year’s salary. With accumulated vacation, sick leave and overtime added in, the highest year of pay often “spikes” so that retirement pay dwarfs the highest base salary ever received. Hudson, who almost certainly claimed stress as his disability, had lots of stress in his life, but it stemmed mainly from his bouts with alcoholism, domestic violence and depression. But cops soon learn which helping professionals will co-sign their story of job-related stress while discounting incidents of lifestyle related stress. And if the helping professional did not co-sign, word would soon get around and their phones would stop ringing.
AMONG THE ITEMS on this week’s Board of Supervisors consent calendar is a long list of ancient debt write-offs finally declared officially “uncollectable.” The list includes two bills from Anderson Valley: Jose Ochoa of Boonville is off the hook for $461 and Pedro Arguelles is no longer responsible for $544. Other names we recognized were Randy Bloyd who couldn’t cough up $3,300 and Troy Huron who has been absolved of forking over $2,500.
BUT THE COUNTY-WIDE write off is quite large — $736,992.20. The single biggest uncollectable debt is owed by former Coast Cable business owner and convicted tweeker, Gerard Hanneman, once of Gualala before veering off into the white powder. Hanneman owed the County $6,400.
AND SPEAKING OF HANNEMAN, we find the following from the cornfields of Iowa: “Fairfield Man Sentenced After Federal Marijuana Conspiracy Conviction On August 9, 2012, Joseph Keith Haynes II, age 26, from Fairfield, Iowa, was sentenced to 78 months imprisonment, having previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, announced United States Attorney Nicholas A. Klinefeldt. United States District Judge John A. Jarvey also ordered Haynes to serve four years on supervised release following imprisonment and pay $100 towards the Crime Victims Fund. Two co-defendants were named in the same indictment. Gerhard Hanneman has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. The other co-defendant is awaiting trial. From February 2011 to December 2011, Haynes, Hanneman and others conspired to distribute at least 100 kilograms of marijuana. Haynes admitted that he received marijuana from Hanneman in multiple pound quantities. Hanneman transported this marijuana from California to Haynes in Fairfield. During the conspiracy, Haynes received and distributed at least 100 kilograms [over 220 pounds!] of marijuana, including distributions in the Fairfield area. This case was investigated by the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Division of Narcotics Enforcement, the Coralville, Iowa, Police Department, the Fairfield, Iowa, Police Department, the Iowa City, Iowa, Police Department, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, the Ottumwa, Iowa, Police Department, the University of Iowa Police Department, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. This case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.
USAO Official Notification Posted On August 19, 2012 United States District Court For The Southern District Of Iowa Court Case Number: 3:12-Cr-00007; Notice Of Forfeiture — Notice is hereby given that on August 06, 2012, in the case of US v. Gerhard J. Hanneman et al., Court Case Number 3:12-CR-00007, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa entered an Order condemning and forfeiting the following property to the United States of America: 2011 Volvo S80 T6 Sedan VIN# YV1902AH2B1146897 (12-DEA-558647) which was seized from Gerhard Jacobus Hanneman aka Gerhard Hanneman on December 19, 2011 in Coralville, IA 2004 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab SLT VIN# 1D7HU18D54J108527 (12-DEA-558700) which was seized from Joseph Keith Haynes II aka Joseph Keith Haynes on December 20, 2011 in Fairfield, IA $249,350.00 U.S. Currency (12-DEA-558706) which was seized from Michelle House and James Douglas House on December 22, 2011 in Fairfield, IA MidWestOne Bank, Checking Acct. #XXXXX246, VL: $6,476.32 (12-DEA-558708) which was seized from Joseph Keith Haynes II aka Joseph Keith Haynes on December 21, 2011 at MidWestone Bank located in Iowa City, IA 2007 Chrysler Aspen Limited SUV VIN# 1A8HW58247F512011 (12-DEA-559163) which was seized from Gerhard Jacobus Hanneman aka Gerhard Hanneman on January 03, 2012 in Fort Bragg, CA (6) Assorted Firearms, VL: $6.00 (12-DEA-559249), including the following items: 1 Franklin Armory HSC-15 rifle CAL:223 SN:HCS01320, Ser No: HCS01320; 1 Marlin Firearms Co. 3000 rifle CAL:30-30 SN:16039557, Ser No: 16039557; 1 Rossi unknown revolver CAL:357 SN:F069551, Ser No: F069551; 1 Intratec Sport 22 pistol CAL:22 SN:K000995, Ser No: K000995; 1 Ruger P89 pistol CAL:9mm SN:309-65760, Ser No: 309-65760; 1 Ruger GP100 revolver CAL:357 SN:171-29218, Ser No: 171-29218 which were seized from Gerald Goethe Blackburn aka Gerald Blackburn on January 05, 2012 in Fort Bragg, CA 19715 Benson Lane, Fort Bragg, California (12-DEA-562905) Parcel # 019-322-03 210 South McPherson Street, Fort Bragg, California (12-DEA-562916) Parcel # 008-201-03 The United States hereby gives notice of its intent to dispose of the forfeited property in such manner as the United States Attorney General may direct. Any person, other than the defendant(s) in this case, claiming interest in the forfeited property must file a Petition within 60 days of the first date of publication (August 08, 2012) of this Notice on this official government internet web site, pursuant to Rule 32.2 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and 21 U.S.C. § 853(n)(1). The petition USAO Official Notification Posted On August 19, 2012 must be filed with the Clerk of the Court, 123 E. Walnut Street, Room 300, Des Moines, IA 50309, and a copy served upon Assistant United States Attorney Maureen McGuire, U.S. Courthouse Annex, 110 E. Court Avenue, Suite 286, Des Moines, IA 50309. The petition shall be signed by the petitioner under penalty of perjury and shall set forth the nature and extent of the petitioner's right, title or interest in the forfeited property, the time and circumstances of the petitioner's acquisition of the right, title and interest in the forfeited property and any additional facts supporting the petitioner's claim and the relief sought, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §853(n). Following the Court’s disposition of all petitions filed, or if no such petitions are filed, following the expiration of the period specified above for the filing of such petitions, the United States shall have clear title to the property and may warrant good title to any subsequent purchaser or transferee. http://www.forfeiture.gov/pdf/USAO/OfficialNotification.pdf
THE PASS COMPLEX FIRES northeast of Covelo have grown to nearly 12,000 acres. As of 5pm Wednesday they are said to be 11% contained. Yesterday morning, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office ordered evacuations on Indian Dick Road (US Forest Service Road M1) and Blands Cove Road, USFS trailheads at Blands Cove, Hell Hole, Stick Lake, Foster Glade, Asa Bean, Rock Cabin, Georges Valley, Soldier Ridge, Smokehouse Ridge and Green Springs. Anyone who is displaced by the evacuation order may call the American Red Cross for housing assistance at 463-0112, or at (855) 891-7325. Anyone with questions about the evacuation order may call the MCSO at 463-6536. Some 45 homes are threatened by the fires, which have been burning since Saturday night (August 18th), having been ignited by lightning. 878 firefighters are attempting to encircle and extinguish the blaze and 62 engines, 26 CalFire crews, 26 bulldozers (nine from CalFire), 21 water tenders, three helicopters and two air tankers. To date, three firefighters suffered minor injuries from falls in the rough, steep terrain and one outbuilding has burned. According to the County’s Air Quality Management District, “Covelo is being severly impacted at this time. Readings have exceeded 330 for an hour and over 435 for short periods. These readings are at the top of the scale and are considered ‘Hazardous’ to all persons by EPA.”
THE CHP IS REPORTING that “three friends last seen more than two weeks earlier as they left Garberville for a trip to the Mendocino County community of Leggett were apparently found dead off the side of Highway 101 on Tuesday, the victims of a so far unexplained accident. Leggett resident Phillip R. Manus, 38, has been identified as the driver of the crashed Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, and the CHP is still working to confirm the identities of the two passengers, a man and a woman, but they were believed to be the two friends last seen in Garberville with Manus early on the morning of August 4th or 5th. The trio was moving the male passenger from Garberville to Manus' home in Leggett when another friend saw them load up the Tahoe with personal belongings and head south toward Leggett early one morning, CHP Sgt. Perry Heidebrink said. But they never got there, and no one saw them in the days and weeks afterward, either, he said. A worried friend finally filed missing persons reports Monday with authorities in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, Heidebrink said. Another friend started looking for them along their would-be route. He had hiked about two miles around the edge of the highway near Confusion Hill north of Leggett when he found the SUV on Tuesday morning, located about 150 feet over the side of a steep embankment, its roof apparently bashed in by a tree and three people dead inside, Heidebrink said. The bodies were badly decomposed, but family members identified Manus at the scene, the CHP said. It appeared the trio likely died shortly after they last were seen, Heidebrink said. There was evidence at least one person in the car had been drinking and may have consumed a controlled substance, and investigators were looking into the possibility of drunken driving, though it too early to say. Autopsies were being conducted Wednesday.”