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Mendocino County Today: July 27, 2013

A 15-YEAR-OLD runaway from a Los Angeles group home was apparently kidnapped and kept as a sex slave on a Lake County marijuana farm. The Los Angeles Police Department says the girl was taken by Ryan Balletto, 30, and Patrick Pearmain, 25, and held at their large-scale pot grow near Clearlake where the girl was secured in a four-foot by two foot tool box with breathing holes cut into it. Her abductors, she said, would periodically hose her down in lieu of regular bathing. When they weren’t engaging her in sex, she said she was forced to work on the marijuana garden. She said she voluntarily engaged in sexual relations with Pearmain but was forced to have sex with Balletto, a married man whose wife has also been arrested. Christa McConnell and Balletto have five children, one of whom, an infant, was found asleep dangerously close to a loaded handgun earlier in the month at a home in Lakeport shared by McConnell and Balletto.

Ballato, McConnell, Pearmain
Ballato, McConnell, Pearmain

BALLETTO’S grow operation was located on 681 acres off Zeno Road in Ogulin Canyon. The feds, of course, have claimed that the farm generated upwards of $20 million over the past year. About a thousand plants were uprooted during the task force raid on the place last week and a small arsenal of guns confiscated — all this plus the lurid details alleged by the young sex slave.

LakeCoArsenalTHE SORDID ALLEGATIONS briefly included rape charges against one Eric Edgar, 45, but were soon dropped. Edgar had been held on bail of a million dollars.

THE CHARGES against Edgar were dismissed so quickly it suggests that when this sordidly titillating story is sorted out it will probably be merely sordid. The DEA’s press releases always make it seem like the agency has just uncovered the crime of the century.

THERE ARE RECURRENT rumors of women being held at pot grows — “potstitutes” — who function as trimmers and sex toys for the criminals drawn to the enterprise by visions of quick cash, quick big cash. But the young woman recovered in Lake County is the first we know of where allegations of forced sex have been made by an identifiable person.

ACCORDING to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department there are more than 4,000 known grows just in HumCo. Factor in X-number of unknown grows and, what? Well, for one thing, the business isn’t the one begun by Ma and Pa Peace and Love back in ’72 for a little cash to pay the mortgage on Back To The Land Acres.



(Spoiler Alert! Yes.)

AGENDA SUMMARY (Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, July 30, 2013):

“On June 14, 2013, the Employment Development Department, Workforce Services Division awarded Mendocino County/Workforce Investment Board (WIB) $402,714 of the WIA Governor Discretionary funds to be used for dislocated worker employment services, county-wide, per the Workforce Investment Act. The term of the funds is retroactive to April 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014. The HHSA/WIA unit retains $40,271 for administrative oversight. MPIC has delivered dislocated worker employment services since May of 2000.”


Contractor shall provide the following services for 78 Dislocated Workers:

• WIA Title IB Dislocated Workers: Provide Core Non-Registered and Core Registered Services to customers as follows:  Outreach, intake profiling, information on services available;  Initial assessment, including support needs;  Provision of employment statistics for the labor market area;  Job vacancy listings;  Information in skills requirements for occupations;  Local occupations in demand, earnings and skill requirements for jobs;  Performance and cost information on training providers in the area;  Labor Market Information;  Access to EDD's Wagner-Peyser services;  Internet access, including career and job search;  Access to computers with resume-writing programs; Eligibility determination for additional services through WIA

• Provide Intensive Services to customers as follows:  Comprehensive assessment;  Specialized assessment;  In-depth interviewing and evaluation to identify employment barriers;  Career Planning and the development of the Individual Employment Plan (IEP);  Customer-centered case management;  Job and career counseling;  Life skills and Job Club;  Access to support services through the One-Stop or under WIA;  Work Experience Contracts

•  Provide Training Services to customers as follows:;  Issue Individual Training Accounts for:;  Vocational and Occupational Skills Training;  Skill upgrading;  GED and Basic Skills Training;  Negotiate and write On-the-Job Training contracts;  Provide Contract Education classes as appropriate.

ED NOTE UNO: $402,714/78 = $5163 per “dislocated worker.” However, all the money goes to the non-dislocated WIB Counselors for their “services.”

ED NOTE DOS: Nowhere in all of the contract’s associated “reporting requirements” is there any requirement to report how many of the 78 “dislocated workers” are located.



Draft of Letter to the suits at the Ohio-based mall development company which owns the abandoned Masonite site north of Ukiah proposed for discussion at the July 30, 2013 Board of Supervisors meeting:

To: Mr. Michael N. Dobrota, Vice President, Northwest Atlantic (Real Estate Services), 9 Corporate Park, Suite 230, Irvine, CA 92606; and to: Mr. Jeffrey J. Martin, Vice President of Development, DDR Corp., 3300 Enterprise Parkway, Beachwood, OH 44122.

RE: DDR Corp. Site Development

Dear Mr. Dobrota and Mr. Martin,

We write this letter signifying our strong resolve and commitment to the revitalization of the DDR site (the former “Masonite Site”). We see this property as a potential key economic driver for the County and our citizens. We welcome and encourage Costco or any other large retailer to come back to the table on this prime location. We believe this is in the best interest of our citizens.

In our past relationship, DDR Corp. has shown an impressive vision for future development of the DDR property that included the potential realization of retail and commercial facilities built in a modern multi-use configuration. Of all the future development sites across Mendocino County, the DDR site clearly has the most potential for growth and ease of access. Sadly, these efforts have not come to fruition, yet it is only a matter of time before this site is brought to the forefront as the next center of economic growth and development in Mendocino County. We believe that time is now.

The County is now ready to take action on any impediment to infill development on this site and is supportive of rezoning the DDR property for Costco or any other retail outlets or housing developments that could be located at this site. Mendocino County is committed to working with its service districts to assure that critical utilities, such as water, transportation and energy, are available to development projects occurring on the DDR property.

Mendocino County has a renewed interest in developing the DDR property. During the July 16, 2013 Board of Supervisors meeting, direction was given to the Executive Office to schedule a meeting with Costco Corp., DDR Corp. and the County. The purpose of this meeting would be to discuss revisiting the use of the DDR property, currently owned by DDR Corp., for the location of a new Costco retail store.

The Board of Supervisors is in unanimous support of promoting greater economic development that is in harmony with regional planning efforts. The County has adopted its Ukiah Valley Area Plan (UVAP) and is in the process of implementing this all-important planning document to facilitate jobs and housing opportunities within the County’s borders. Another prime reason for the adoption and implementation of the UVAP was to preserve open space and agricultural lands within the County. These are goals that can cohabitate with development on the DDR site.

We know the DDR site continues to be the preferred site for business development. There are lingering long-term access deficiencies at the City’s proposed site for a Costco retail store in the southern part of the City of Ukiah. The DDR site is simply more flexible and with the County’s unwavering support, development projects can happen quickly and be better tailored for the needs of those who will eventually occupy these sites for the next several decades. Mendocino County is prepared to devote staff resources to develop this property and to accommodate businesses and housing at this site.

Thank you for your time and consideration, and please do not hesitate to contact the Board of Supervisor’s liaison to the Executive Office, Brandon Merritt, at or by calling him at 707-463-7236 if you would like to proceed with a meeting.

ED NOTE UNO: The City of Ukiah is rushing headlong into finishing their “redevelopment” project involving the placement of a Costco bigbox in Ukiah city limits at the Airport Business Park (never mind the traffic jam it’ll create at the Highway 101 off ramp) so they can cash in on the sales tax increment to pay back the redevelopment, theoretically. But now, here’s the County of Mendocino proposing to invite Costco to the old Masonite site property outside the City of Ukiah. No wonder there’s no tax sharing agreement between the City of the Ukiah and the County after more than a decade of trying.

ED NOTE DOS: “DDR Corp. has shown an impressive vision for future development of the DDR…” A plain vanilla mall which would take business away from other local businesses, assuming that malls are even viable enterprises anymore is “an impressive vision”? What’s next: A fracking plant on Low Gap Road?


“BUT THE WORST kind of two-faced justice happens when there is a killing. When White Hawk, an Indian boy, killed a white jeweler he was sentenced to death. This sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment, and yet we know White Hawk wasn't in his right mind when he did this. That's the sentence for killing a white man — death.

“The sentence for killing a red man is different. When a 17-year-old white boy shot an Indian father in his 50s, shooting him seven times with a German Luger, he got away with two years. When a white man from White River killed an Indian boy from Murdo he got 30 days in jail and and a $100 fine for assault and battery. They said they couldn't convict him for murder because he simply married the main witness to the killing, an Indian girl who had seen the crime.

“And a rich white rancher shot and killed a young Indian, a very quiet and shy churchgoer. The white man was armed, the Indian was not. There were no witnesses, but the rancher admitted having shot that boy. The white man wasn't even arrested for two weeks. When the trial came up he was acquitted. Justifiable homicide, that's what they called it. These things stay in our memory.”

— Lame Deer, Lakota medicine man, 1972


THIS SMALL ITEM on the Board of Supervisors closed session agenda next Tuesday indicates that Supervisor Dan Hamburg is going ahead with his lawsuit against the very County he currently “supervises” to get retroactive permission to bury his late wife Carrie where she is already buried, and to recoup his substantial legal costs, estimated previously at well north of $10,000. Last month his colleagues voted 4-0 to more or less automatically reject his claim. Now that Hamburg has filed suit, his legal costs will be even further north. It must be awkward for his colleagues to have to meet in closed session to discuss the County’s defense to this clearly avoidable and possibly costly lawsuit.

Pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(1) — Conference with Legal Counsel — Existing Litigation: Daniel E. Hamburg v. County of Mendocino; Superior Court Case No. SCUK-CVPB-13-26080.


FOX TALK, A MENDO READER WRITES: ”We were just saying that if and when we decide to get chickens, we will have to build a seriously hermetic coop and pen knowing these woods are full of foxes. A longtime local said he's noticed that in a drought year when the foxes eat most of the bunny rabbits, they then become much more aggressive about harvesting fruit and chickens and cat and dog food. I trust you will find a solution. Eggs make the world go round.”



On August 3rd there will be a lively concert with Scottish fiddle, pipes, bodhran, and whistles. Rebecca Lomnicky and David Brewer will begin at 7:30, and parking in front of the Keepers houses. Contact or leave message: 707/937-6123

A week later on August 10th, a chance to tour the lens room at the top of the lighthouse on National Light House Day. The Point Cabrillo Light Station Historic State Park will open its lantern room to see its beautifully restored Third Order Fresnel Lens in operation.


  1. John Sakowicz July 27, 2013

    You write in today’s blog, “…$402,714/78 = $5163 per dislocated worker. However, all the money goes to the [sic] Workforce Investment Board (WIB) Counselors for their ‘services’.”

    What a rip off of taxpayer money

    Personally, I think a person out of work, and down on their luck, would be better off if the WIB cut each person a check for $5,163.

    The WIB sounds like a jobs program alright. It’s a jobs program for the people who work at the WIB.

    The same is probably true for the West Company, which gets a big slug of money from the federal Block Grant Program. Their last audit report shows a budget of $450,507.

    Then, there’s FIRST 5. Mendocino. Their budget is $1,588,151.

    Who is FIRST 5? What is FIRST 5?

    The FIRST 5 Mendocino mission statement says, “FIRST 5 promotes, supports and improves the health and development of children, prenatal to five years of age.”

    Funded by the passage of Prop 10 in 1998, FIRST 5 Mendocino, “… distributes this tobacco-tax revenue to benefit Mendocino County children, prenatal through the age of five, and their families.”

    FIRST 5 Mendocino continues, “We distribute this revenue by awarding grants and funding other initiatives to address the following focus areas: Parent Education and Support Services, Child Care and Early Childhood Development, Health and Wellness, and Policy and Advocacy for Children and Family Issues.”

    The FIRST 5 annual report finally states, “Each year we also give away hundreds of free smoke alarms, free children’s books, and free children’s art supplies, as well as free DVDs on nutrition, safety, quality child care, health, discipline, and early learning.”

    Guess what, friends?

    It virtually impossible to figure out from the FIRST 5 Mendocino annual report exactly how much FIIRST 5 Mendocino awards in grants — hard cash grants — each year to real child services agencies, like the Anderson Valley Resource Center.

    My guess it’s something in the neighborhood of $400,000-$500,000.

    So where does the cash go?

    The other $1 million, more or less?

    Some cash goes to administration…salaries.

    The FIRST 5 Mendocino annual reports states that $158,815 was spent for something called “administrative evaluation”. (Is that budget line item the total for administrative costs? I really don’t think so.)

    The rest of the $1,88,151 goes to soft services.

    Soft services…advocacy, case management, help in applying for welfare and Food Stamps, and instruction in subjects like breast feeding, nutrition and fitness, and something called “imagination library”, or “control your remote””, and something else called “rise and shine..”

    My question is: Wouldn’t poor women and their children be better served simply by cutting them a check, or giving them rental assistance, or a daycare voucher.?

    Think about it…$1,588,151.

    So whether you’re talking about the Workforce Investment Board, or the West Company, or FIRST 5 Mendocino, you’ve got to wonder: Are we getting our money’s worth?

    Also: What are the performance metrics to objectively measure the cost-effectiveness of these programs?

    Or isn’t it true that these three agencies are “grant writing machines” and “jobs programs” for the people who work in those three agencies.

    Just wondering.

    • skip taube August 4, 2013

      First 5 is sitting on a huge slush fund to secure their jobs after the tobacco tax revenue stream dries up; let’s demand an audit! i agree the money would be better spent if it all was divided into child care vouchers for any family in need of tuition help.

  2. James Marmon July 27, 2013

    This is just the tip of the iceberg Mr. Sackowicz. FIRST 5 is just one of the biggest scams out there. Very little money ever reaches the children, but it does create administrative jobs. Title IV-E funding for child welfare (CPS) works pretty much the same, millions spent each year on administrative costs, with very little ever reaching the families. Child Welfare is one of the most profitable industries in the County. Between HHSA and the private foster family agencies, hundreds of jobs depend on the millions of dollars of State and Federal funding provided each year. No wonder Mendocino County has twice the state average of sustained child abuse cases. Supply and Demand economics, and our children are the product. Do we really have the worse parents in the state , or the best child welfare department? I would bet neither one. Follow the money.

  3. John Sakowicz July 28, 2013

    Thank you, Mr. Marmon, for your comments.

    Sometimes, I feel very alone in expecting private sector productivity and job performance standards from public sector bureaucrats. It helps to have an “insider” share the same concerns.

    The AVA also does a good job in shining a bright light on mismanagement, waste, corruption, and fraud in the county government.

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