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Mendocino County Today: Wednesday, February 26, 2014

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AS MOST of us go into full drought mode, and spawning fish fight to get upstream in the low flows of The Valley's streams, the Goldeneye wine outfit sticks a three inch pipe into the Navarro near its confluence with the Rancheria and Indian Creek and proceeds to help itself to the water, heedless of fish welfare. When Goldeneye was still Duckhorn, they just as heedlessly placed a pond on top of a recognized archeological site. A locally-owned winery would not do this kind of thing, I don't think.

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Cloverdale Memories - Recollections of growing up on family ranches near Cloverdale and Yorkville

by Terry Ryder

Last Sunday February 23rd at 2:00 in the Yorkville Firehouse-Community Building Marie Hill presided over a “meet the author event” highlighting her book, “Cloverdale Memories — Recollections of growing up on family Ranches near Cloverdale and Yorkville.”  Although Cloverdale figures prominently in her memories she also has many memories Yorkville where she still lives. Many Anderson Valley and Yorkville residents familiar to us all were on hand as audience members and also as out loud readers for this event.  Readers included: Sheri Hansen presenting “Yorkville Roots,” Kurt Feichtmeir with “Papa’s Fiddle,” Sonia Gill on “The Good Ol’ Days, Dee Pickus reading “One Room School Houses,” Christine Clark read “Ingram Ranch Memories, Ann Carr with “Ruby’s First Buck,” Mark Rawlins reading “Christmas Grinches and Marie’s granddaughter (and my neighbor) Penny Avila concluding the reading with “My Favorite Window.” The book is comb bound and at 147 pages holds many memories and photos that will be of interest to people who have always loved or come to love our particular very beautiful piece of Northern California.  Marie writes, “The stories in this booklet are from memories of my life in Cloverdale and research on some facts and figures. My memory is fallible so please forgive any missteps along the path. This literary effort is dedicated to the memory of my parents, Rudy and Fred Vadon and my brother Jim Vadon, who were a part of all these stories. — Best Wishes - Marie Hill.  She also mentions “In 1994 Santa Rosa College decided to sponsor a creative writing class in Cloverdale. The class would meet weekly with an instructor from Santa Rosa JC. I had retired from my 38-year career as an insurance broker in 1992 and found time on my hands. I had been thinking about writing some family history for my descendants so decided to try this class. These stories are the result of that writing class.” As a disclaimer she adds, “Please note that the dates by each title are when the story was written. Many things have changed since those dates.”  At the very end of the book there is a photo of Marie and this hand written note, “I hope you have enjoyed walking down memory lane with me. I am fortunate to have lived in an era that included the horse and wagon days and landing a man on the moon. As you can tell, my favorite years were the ‘good old days’ when we left the keys in our cars, did not lock the door to our homes, and ran a monthly tab at the grocery store.”  If you don’t know Marie you probably know her ranch in Yorkville which is often decked out with wonderful holiday decorations that her son Jim treats us driv¬ers of Highway 128 to as his hobby. These decorations never fail to make me smile especially when they are really creative like the kissable red lips that appear for Valentines Day and the giant glowing eggs that light up the Hill Ranch grass at night for Easter.  Thank you Marie Hill for sharing your memories and thank you Jim Hill for your big-hearted holiday displays. Also thanks to Valerie Hanelt and Mary Darling who helped take an earlier version of Marie’s book and bring it into the digital age and put it into a form that Marie and her family can save — a pretty large task done with great grace and fortitude (qualities that these two ladies have in abundance). If you would like a copy of the book it can be found on sale at the AV Museum in Boonville - you can call the Historical Society at 895-2240. (—Terry Ryder)

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JUST IN FROM WILLITS. Mike Tobin has withdrawn as a candidate for 3rd District supervisor. Tobin's Facebook page contained this note: “On the advice of people who love me, I'm choosing my health and mental stability as of now. The stress of being Ill and fighting every little bug as cancer is wearing on me. I don't wish to be a medical burden unable to function in the 3rd district office for the people. As a deputy that began happening...I retired.” Tobin is a retired Mendocino County Sheriff's deputy.

ARNO GASSEN, who'd also announced that he would run for the 3rd District seat, has not filed candidate's papers.

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EXCESS EARNINGS — THE BACK STORY: the recent press release from the Mendocino County Employee's Retirement Association (MCERA) touting the IRS's favorable determination of MCERA's tax-qualified status (meaning that contributions to the retirement fund are made pre-tax, saving a chunk of money for the County and its employees) and a Ukiah Daily Journal article by Tiffany Revelle headlined: “Mendocino County gets IRS Agreement on Planned Payback,” are the most recent chapter (but maybe not the last) of a story that began in 1974 when the Board of Supervisors and the County Treasurer (acting as head of MCERA) conspired to fund retiree health insurance by diverting “excess earnings” from the retirement system. But those excess earnings never existed, which became painfully obvious during the economic collapse of 2008.

PUBLIC EMPLOYEE PENSIONS are paid by contributions made by the employee and the employer, but mostly funded by the hoped for return on investment earned by the retirement fund. Most of the retirement fund is invested in Wall Street stocks and bonds. The Retirement Fund, at least until recently, was projected to earn an annual rate of return of 8.00%, an unrealistically optimistic figure in the wake of three major economic downturns in the last dozen or so years. But starting in 1974, any income above the projected annual 8.00% rate of return was declared “excess earnings” and was diverted from the retirement fund and used to pay for health insurance for retirees. For the County, it seemed like a painless way to provide a benefit without increasing the County budget. And for the MCERA Board, dominated by County employees and retirees, it looked like a great way to get a benefit without having to pay for it. And as long as the Wall Street Ponzi traced a more or less upward trajectory, everything seemed absolutely peachy.

EXCEPT BY 2002 (following the bust and the 9/11 downturn) the “normal” method of calculating the so-called excess earnings was no longer working. County Treasurer Tim Knudsen and County Auditor Dennis Huey promptly came to the rescue, conspiring with the MCERA actuary to invent an alternative method of calculating excess earnings that did not rely on excess earnings. In fact, the new method did not rely on any earnings at all. Between June 30, 2002 and June 30, 2006, a total of $9,557,912 — almost $10 million — was illegally diverted from the retirement fund using the new math magic of Knudsen and Huey.

THE RETIREMENT BOARD, as mandated by state law, consists of the County Treasurer, a County Supervisor, three current County employees and one County retiree reinforce by three more appointees selected by the Board of Supervisors. With two-thirds of its nine members in line to receive a County pension, the composition of the Retirement Board represents the ultimate conflict of interest. Until recent years, the Retirement Board had no independent administrator, and was run by the County Treasurer. Which means that Tim Knudsen, County Treasurer from 2002 through 2006, was firmly in control when funds were being illegally diverted along with County Auditor Dennis Huey and former Supervisor Kendall Smith, with the whole show backed up by the other self-interested Retirement Board members.

AROUND 2006 JOHN DICKERSON, self-described “financial analyst,” began sounding the alarm about the County's heavily indebted retirement fund and its phony excess earnings. Dickerson also focused on the highly questionable diversion of the $9.6 million dollars, eventually suggesting that Knudsen, Huey and the MCERA Board had illegally diverted funds. Now the IRS agrees. And even the MCERA Board, in its carefully worded press release, referred to “the erroneous use of certain pension plan assets for retiree medical expenses.” The press release also admitted that “MCERA must see that $9,557,912 of pension assets that were improperly credited to county retiree health reserves (and not to pension reserves) will be repaid.” Translation: “erroneous” and “improperly credited”" are euphemisms for “illegal” and “illegally diverted.” If you or I did such a thing we would be lodged in the parallel bar hotel out on Low Gap Road learning how to bake bread as part of Sheriff Allman's rehab program.

THE ILLEGALLY DIVERTED FUNDS, according to the agreement between the IRS and MCERA, are to be repaid by increasing the employer's share of contributions. Which means the County is on the hook for the illegally diverted $9.6 million, just as the County is on the hook for the additional $40 million or so in so-called excess earnings that were diverted from the Retirement Fund going back to 1974. According to the Daily Journal, current Treasurer and Retirement Board Chair Shari Schapmire says the IRS could have required the County retirement system to pay back the entire $40 million. Except the County is already required to pay back the entire amount of diverted funds. Both the illegally diverted $9.6 million and the $40 million diverted by the “normal” method of calculating excess earnings are already included in the current total of $131 million in excess earnings that the County is on the hook for.

TO SUM UP: Since 1974 non-existent excess earnings totaling over $40 million dollars were diverted from the County Retirement Fund to pay for County retiree health insurance; and when the original method of calculating excess earnings no longer allowed for the diversion of funds, another $9.6 million was illegally diverted; John Dickerson began sounding the alarm in 2006; by 2011 the IRS was threatening to revoke the retirement fund’s tax-exempt status; in a clear admission that County Counsel and their own outside legal counsel are incapable of handling anything out of the ordinary, MCERA hired expensive outside legal counsel to schmooze the IRS; after milking the case for three years the IRS finally determined that MCERA could keep its tax exempt status and that the County could keep paying off the total $131 million dollar unfunded retirement fund liability, just like it is doing now.

THE USUALLY BOMBASTIC DICKERSON has been surprisingly reticent so far, not even issuing so much as an “I told you so.” Meanwhile, as things stand now, the “illegal” $9.6 million diversion and the “questionable” $40 million diversion is a distinction without a difference. Either way, according to the agreement between the IRS and MCERA, the County is on the hook to pay off the total amount because both are already included in the $131 million unfunded liability that the County is stuck with. Now that the IRS has confirmed (and MCERA has admitted to) the illegal diversion, will Dickerson and other Retirement Board critics demand that former County Treasurer and retirement board honcho Tim Knudsen (who still sits on the Retirement Board) and former Auditor Dennis Huey, be prosecuted for the illegal diversion? Will the County object to being on the hook for the illegal diversion ordered by the MCERA Board? The guilty parties no doubt hope the IRS determination is the end of the story. But the MCERA excess earnings chickens may still fly home to roost.

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RADIATION FROM THE FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR DISASTER has not yet reached ocean waters along the Pacific coast, but low levels of radioactive cesium from the stricken Japanese power plant could arrive by April, scientists reported Monday.

The report came even as some Internet sites continue claiming that dangerously radioactive ocean water from Fukushima is showing up along California beaches - reports that have been denied by health officials and scientists since they first surfaced more than a month ago.

Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., reported that four coastal monitoring sites in California and Washington have detected no traces of radiation from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant destruction - "not yet," he said during a telephone press briefing.

The briefing took place in Honolulu during a meeting of the American Geophysical Union's Ocean Sciences section. The meeting is being held with scientists from both sides of the Pacific to discuss problems caused anywhere in the Pacific by the offshore earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 16, 2011.

Buesseler said no federal or international agencies are monitoring ocean waters from Fukushima on this side of the Pacific, so he has organized volunteer monitors at 16 sites along the California and Washington coasts and two in Hawaii to collect seawater in 20-liter specialized plastic containers and ship them by UPS to his Woods Hole laboratory.

Two specific radioactive isotopes of the element cesium are formed in nuclear accidents, he explained.

One is cesium-137, whose radioactivity decays very slowly - its half-life is 30 years - while the other is cesium-134, which decays rapidly with a two-year half-life. So while cesium-137 is still detectable in the world's oceans from old nuclear-weapons tests, any traces of cesium-134 that are detected by monitoring instruments could only have come from the Fukushima nuclear accident, Buesseler said.

According to a widely accepted model of the oceans' circulation patterns, traces of the plume of radioactive seawater from Fukushima should be detectable along the Pacific coast in April.

"We need to know the real levels of radiation coming at us," said Bing Dong, a retired accountant and self-described activist at Point Reyes Station who has volunteered to collect ocean samples for Buesseler's project. "There's so much disinformation out there, and we really need actual data."

Roger Gilbert, a physician and radiation oncologist who collected water at Fort Bragg along the Mendocino County coast, said he got involved in Buesseler's monitoring project because he is concerned "over fear-mongering on the Internet about allegedly high levels of Fukushima radiation in California's coastal waters."

(Courtesy, the San Francisco Chronicle.)

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HumCoGrow(Photo from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office via Emily Brady.)

Every once in awhile it’s useful…or, maybe just interesting…to see ourselves as others see us. This week Vice — which has been described as “an ever-expanding machine for selling counterculture cool to the world’s largest and most mainstream corporations” takes a look at Humboldt and, its contradictory relationship with — what else? — marijuana.

The story entitled "The Stoners’ Paradise That Is Dreading Weed Legalization" examines this area more from the perspective of growers as agricultural workers than drug dealers (though a reference to the “narco-economy” occurs, too.) The writer describes us as “one of America’s most unique farming communities, with around 30,000 people (over a fifth of Humboldt’s population) involved in growing marijuana.”

Emily Brady, who recently wrote Humboldt: Life on America’s Marijuana Frontier, is interviewed for the story and describes the community in a series of colorful images. Here’s a few:

• I went to a school fundraising event, and they were auctioning off bubble bags (used to make hash from plants), along with knitted scarves and baskets of tomatoes.

• One dealer I know is a former logger, an honest, kind and generous man whose father is a decorated WWII veteran in his eighties who also grows pot.

• They are the wealthiest farmers in history, but only because what they farm is illegal.

Though the images Brady paints are mostly positive, the article, as have others before it, looks slightly askance at an entire county making a hefty chunk of change from cannabis farming but still, as a whole, voting to keep pot illegal. (Yes, yes, we know, the 2010 bill wasn’t ideal. But, why do we get the feeling that no bill to legalize marijuana is going to meet with the approval of people whose income depends on it remaining illegal?) — Kym Kemp, (Courtesy,

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Award-winning film is no turkey

The International Wildlife Film Festival continues its six-week run at the Ukiah Civic Center at 7 pm on Friday, February 28, with two films: first the Emmy Award-winning film, "My Life As A Turkey," a funny, sad and thought-provoking film about a Florida naturalist who hatched a bowl of wild turkey eggs and bonded with them as their mother. Also playing will be "Wild Things," a look at the eradication campaigns directed against wolves, coyotes and mountain lions and the attempt to find a better way for humans and wild things to live together.  The films will show at the Ukiah Civic Center at 300 Seminary Avenue with live music by Bob Laughton starting at 6:20 pm and the films beginning at 7. Tickets are available at the Mendocino Book Company and at the door for a suggested donation of $10 for adults and $5 for children. A series ticket for all six evenings is $50.  Proceeds from the film festival benefit the Redwood Valley Outdoor Education Project (RVOEP). For a full program of the film series and more information about the RVOEP visit its website,, or call 472-5258. (— Roberta Werdinger)

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Attention all Saint Patrick’s Day enthusiasts: The Active 20-30 Club of Ukiah is happy to announce our first annual St Patricks Day Bar Crawl. March 15th 2014 from 6pm to 10pm in Downtown Ukiah. Tickets which include your Bar Crawl t-shirt are on sale for $25. This event is limited to only 60 people so be sure to get your shirt early.  Your shirt will gain you access drink specials at 5 participating local bars: The Office, Forest Club, The Pub, Perkins Street Lounge, and Ukiah Brewing Company. Rides between bars will also be provided if you prefer not to crawl. Call 707-391-3664 for details. Reserve your shirt at Insurance Mommy, 101 North State Street in Ukiah before March 5th. The funds raised will help provide school supplies to needy kids in the Ukiah Valley. — Maureen Mulheren

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Bum's the Word

by Clancy Sigal

“Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people.”

– Leviticus 19:16

“There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

– Oscar Wilde

Waiting around in doctors’ offices my eye will greedily fall on gossip magazines like People and US.  I would happily read the National Enquirer and The Star if available, but usually the only other options are Golf Digest and Time Sharing Today.

Since boyhood I’ve been an insatiable scanner of celebrity gossip.  In olden days, on drug store magazine racks, in fanzines like Photoplay and Modern Screen, movie studio p.r. departments peddled gloriously false profiles of their stars or worked equally hard to cover up blemishes like abortion, drug overdose and murder.

Blame my fondness for gossip on an abusive childhood.  That is, abused by Chicago’s two great Hearst tabloids screaming headlines like “24th WARD RABBI SLAIN IN SECRET LOVE NEST = WIFE ARRESTED!”.

When I should have been doing my arithmetic tables I devoured columnists like Walter Winchell, Leonard Lyons, Ed Sullivan, Louella Parsons and “Cholly Knickerbocker” – all of whom had a distinct political or personal agenda.   (See Burt Lancaster as the venomous gossip columnist in Sweet Smell of Success.)  With a single keystroke the scandal mongers made and broke lives and cemented in us readers a reflex of permanent excitement.

My mother was horrified by my childish fondness for the “goings about town” of famous people. Yet she too couldn’t stop from peeking at accounts of Charlie Chaplin’s underage sexcapades or the child custody trial of, say, the movie actress Mary Astor whose diary, in open court, checked off, by the numbers, how many orgasms her latest lover had given her.  I didn’t know what an orgasm was, but my redheaded mother sure did.

The latest gossip hooks, of course, are “household names” like Justin B; Woody-and-Mia-and-Dylan-and-Ronan-maybe-out-of-Sinatra; Julia Roberts because the half sister killed herself blaming Pretty Woman in a five-page rant; royal Will & Kate; “Patrick Swayze’s Widow Finds Love Again”; Sharon’s Struggle With Aging (“I looked at my body and I cried”); Charlize and Sean “Moving In?”; Kanya and Kim.

Kim who?  If you don’t know about this bigassed reality show “star”, my dear, you’re not in the swim.  (Note: bigassed is not sexist, racist or insulting since Kim deliberately has herself photographed in skimpy bathing gear to sell her bum-bum, JLo redux.).

How can any person who pretends to be serious or have a political brain digest this licensed sadism?  Who has the time or the taste for such drek?  As we used to say in the army, “Sir, no excuse, sir.”

If you add up the circulation figures for People, Cosmo, O, Maxim, ET, Vanity Fair, GQ, Star etc. plus TV’s (unapolegetically racist and sexist) TMZ, and Wendy Williams, View (what? you don’t know about Barbara Walters’s vibrator), you get a fair sized audience probably exceeding the Tea Party, MoveOn, Rachel Maddow’s viewers and probably all the combined other parties as well.

Each celebrity-gossip outlet has its demographic niche – and its agenda.  The trick is to decode it if you’re interested, which I am.  (Full disclosure: I worked on British Vogue and various other glossies.)  Layout, typography, placement and choice of items, use of color (yellow is best for magazine racks) reveal the psyches at work in editorial offices.  There’s open season to be nasty on some personalities (Woody Allen, Justin Bieber, Alex Baldwin, Lindsay Lohan et al), taboo on others.  On race, for example, the gossips shrewdly navigate the p.c. minefields.  Denzel is out of bounds but not certain rappers.  Let’s not even talk sexism which is embedded in the very birth throes of the gossips.

And, as we have seen in Graydon Carter’s spineless spiking of an assigned piece on Gwyneth Paltrow in VF, celebrities very often wield a powerful veto, especially those who are domiciled in the UK with its punishing libel laws.  Celebrities like to play a Laingian double bind game pioneered by the British royal family: please shower us with publicity without which we would die but don’t you dare actually do a little digging or suffer a lawyer’s writ or, worse, your name spitefully excluded from next year’s Honors List.

No issue of a gossip mag is complete without crocodile tears for a cancer survivor, romantic breakup or disabled child’s remarkable recovery.  (See Nathaniel West’s Miss Lonely Hearts for a diagnosis.)  Readers like me eat up this stuff, identify, empathize, shake our heads or sneer “Who made her President” when some publicity hound teenager muscles his or her way onto a cover.  The trick is to know who these people actually are.  Most are incredibly obscure sit-com or sit-drama actors who inhabit the cultural 7th circle of Hell few of us dare enter.

Kim Kardashian and global warming?  A scientist friend is teaching me, a previous skeptic, about the “ocean’s death march”, acidification and the blocking effect of carbon dioxide on the sun’s radiation.  The problem is, my science friend cannot take on board how the same mind can embrace the dangers of excessive quantities of CO2 as well as Kim Kardashian’s derriere.  You see his problem?

(Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives.)

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ON FEBRUARY 24, 2014, at approximately 10:40am, an adult male reported to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office that he was at the Arena Cove parking lot in Point Arena, California when Brian Shannon, 52, of Point Arena, pointed a handgun at him and threatened to kill him.  The victim explained that he has known Shannon for several months and that they had been involved in an ongoing dispute regarding a business transaction.  The victims and witnesses described the handgun and the vehicle that Shannon had left in, and Deputies began checking the area.  A vehicle matching the description of Shannon's was located parked in the 200 block of Main Street in Point Arena and a subject matching Shannon's description was seated behind the wheel.  Deputies detained this subject, who was subsequently identified as being Brian Shannon.  During the investigation a very realistic looking replica handgun was located at Shannon’s residence and it was seized.  Shannon was arrested without incident for violation of 422 PC.  A records check revealed that Shannon was wanted for outstanding "no bail" warrants from the State of Florida.  Shannon was lodged at the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held on a no bail status.

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ON FEBRUARY 20, 2014, at approximately 5:50am, Mendocino County Sheriff Deputies were called to the Mendocino Coast District Hospital Emergency Room to contact an adult female (victim) receiving treatment for stab wounds to their back and hand.  The victim was not eager to discuss the incident with law enforcement and maintained that she had stabbed herself in the back. The victim would not provide any other information to Deputies, except to indicate that it happened in her home at about 4am, and that she was alone when the injury occurred.  A mental health crisis worker was summoned to evaluate the victim's mental health needs and Deputies went to the victim's residence.  At the residence Deputies collected evidence related to the incident and contacted Ugwunwa Ogwogwo, 43, of Fort Bragg, who was cohabitating with the victim.  Ogwogwo maintained that she had not been staying in the main residence with the victim during the night and claimed no knowledge of how the victim was injured.  On February 23, 2014 the victim contacted the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office to provide additional information.  The victim stated that early in the morning of 02-20-2014 she awoke to find Ogwogwo awake.  Ogwogwo began arguing with the victim and making accusations regarding their dating relationship.  This culminated in Ogwogwo stabbing the victim several times with a kitchen knife with an approximately 8 inch blade. Ogwogwo then stopped attacking the victim, attempted to provide her with first aid, and assisted her with summoning an ambulance.  On 02-23-2014, at approximately 9:11am, Deputies located and arrested Ogwogwo without incident for violations of 664/187 PC and 273.5 PC.  Ogwogwo was lodged at the Mendocino County Jail to be held in lieu of $250,000.00 bail.

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FIGHT -- Caller in the 600 block of North Orchard Avenue reported at 6:47 a.m. Friday that a man armed with a knife was fighting. An officer responded and arrested Armando Llamas, 19, of Ukiah, for criminal threats and being drunk in public.

Dog Bite -- An officer responded to the 1000 block of West Standley Street at 7:47 a.m. Friday and took a report of a dog bite .

Shots Fired -- Caller in the 800 block of Cypress Street reported at 2:15 a.m. Saturday hearing a gun shot. At 2:16 a.m., and caller in the 500 block of North State Street reported hearing three shots in a row. An officer investigated both areas but did not find anything suspicious.

Tip Money Taken -- Caller at Denny's restaurant on Pomeroy Avenue reported at 2:40 a.m. Saturday that a $1 tip was taken off a table. An officer responded and the money was returned.


One Comment

  1. Harvey Reading February 26, 2014

    I grew up in Calaveras County during the 50s and 60s (just as rural as self-entitled Mendo). I don’t buy this nostalgia about leaving keys in the ignition. Most of us locked our cars. The few who didn’t were considered idiots. Just another example of people yearning for a time that never existed, except in their faulty memories and wishful thinking.

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