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Mendocino County Today: Saturday, September 6, 2014

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THERE ARE TWO SEPARATE, but related, issues involved in the Grand Jury’s two reports on County Mental Health. The first, “An Appearance of a Conflict of Interest,” makes a bulletproof case that the County’s decision to turn over $6.7 million in annual Mental Health services to the private company that County's present Mental Health Director, Tom Pinizzotto, used to work for, looks fishy.

RATHER THAN DISPUTE the obvious point that the deal is highly suspicious and Pinizzotto's role as middleman even more suspicious, the Supervisors and CEO Carmel Angelo, insist that since there’s no documentation proving that Pinizzotto personally profited from the lucrative giveaway of public services, there’s no problem. If the County admitted that there clearly was a Conflict of Interest, they’d have to do something about it (such as put the work out to bid again with Pinizzotto out of the loop) and nobody in County management wants to do that.

IF THIS DEAL had gone down any other place, the GJ would have taken the next step — subpoenas for all involved and their financial records, not that it's likely that either the Superior Court or the DA would support such a move in a county where year after year Grand Jury reports are simply ignored.

TO US, it seems obvious that the County has painted itself into a corner by allowing the conflict to occur in the first place. Then we have the bigger issue of whether Pinizzotto’s former employer, Ortner Management Group, is doing a better job than the now privatized County staff was doing pre-Ortner.

CLEARLY, any assessment of the newly-privatized Mental Health Services is inherently subjective because individual cases are protected by HIPPA confidentiality rules concerning medical care for individuals. Therefore, management reports prepared by the guy who recently worked for the new private contractor now performing the work — the ubiquitous fix-it man Pinizzotto — bastes the reporting in non-credibility. The County assumption, of course, is that Pinizzotto is a pillar of integrity and the deal itself was totally transparent.

LAST OCTOBER, when the Board of Supervisors received a report on the status of Mental Health privatization, we wrote, (AND READER, BE CLEAR THIS IS WHAT WE WROTE ALMOST A YEAR AGO AS THE WHOLE DEAL WAS GOING DOWN):

“An Ortner item is scheduled for 1:35pm just before closed session, which makes it look like someone, (probably County Admin), doesn't think there is much to talk about with the new mental health contracts. (Ortner is the owner, basically, of one of Mendocino County's freshly privatized mental health contracts/organizations.) We think it's all quite suspicious, and hope the Grand Jury is also following it. Ortner operates a “secure facility” in Yuba City to which seriously disturbed Mendo persons are sequestered at the rate of more than $800 a day. A fellow named Pinizzotto is steering the deal. He was hired from Ortner two years ago as Mendocino County's mental health director and instructed to privatize the County's mental health services. Guess who got the $6.7 million annual contract? Pinizzotto's old boss, Ortner.

“THE BACKGROUND of all this is described more formally in the County's chaste description: ‘On May 21st the Board approved two contracts to privatize the County’s Mental Health services. The adult services contract was awarded to the Ortner Management Group (OMG) and mental health services for children was awarded to Redwood Quality Management Company (RQMC). The contracts took effect on July 1, 2013. Services are currently transitioning from Mendocino County HHSA Behavioral Health to OMG and RQMC. This report will cover an overview of the transition process up to the current day and will outline accomplishments and adjustments. Participants in this presentation will be from HHSA, OMG and RQMC.’

“IN OTHER WORDS, the contractors will report on themselves with, as it has duly turned out, Pinizzotto doing the reporting. According to the accompanying staff report, the Yuba City-based Ortner Management Group has subcontracted the actual ‘service’ to several local non-profit organizations who have the following caseloads: Manzanita Services, Inc. — 52 clients, 2.0 Care Managers total (currently); Ford Street Project — 9 Clients, 1.0 Care Managers total (currently); Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center, 30 Clients; 1.5 Care Managers total (currently); (Supervisory staff not included in above staffing numbers) Private providers (Therapy) — 13 clients; Medication only clients — 210 clients currently managed by Mendocino County BHRS (Behavioral Health and Recovery Services) to be transitioned to OMG Medication Management providers.

“DOES this look like $6.7 million worth of public dollars to you?

“THE ABBREVIATED presentation included a blah-blah report with lots of dazzling colored graphs and charts breaking down OMG’s caseload into every category you can think of (age, gender, race, geography, insurance source, etc.) But there’s no list of problems to be dealt with, no comparisons of staffing or client levels before and after privatization, no mention of the number of persons NOT served, etc. In other words, the Board will be told by the contractor that everything’s going as well as can be expected with their contract.

“A MAJOR TURNOVER of local public services worth millions of public dollars was allotted ten minutes public expression. And there was no public present to complain. The presentation of the fancy-schmancy charts and graphs will easily take up the 25 minutes set aside. But from what we’ve heard and read, some of it in these pages, there’s lots to talk about concerning the shift from County-run mental health to privately-run mental health.

“CHILDREN'S mental health was already being contracted out to Redwood Children's Services with few complaints because, like adult mental health records, children's records are sealed, and both ‘client’ groups derive overwhelmingly from the unprotected class of Mendocino County, it is no surprise that Redwood has continued to be granted annual millions to provide ‘services.’

THE PRIVATE CONTRACTOR for adult mental health services, the Yuba City-based Ortner Management Group (which we speculated is probably Ortner and his wife), is another story altogether. Among the issues we know of regarding Ortner (OMG! — as some are referring to them) are those related to OMG’s contracts with community non-profit agencies with a track record of filling the void in county services. What little has historically been done for the County’s walking wounded has largely been done by places like Hospitality House on the Coast, and Ford Street Project and Manzanita Services inland. We hear that Ortner is trying to force down the price of the contracts with these subcontracted agencies by questioning their professional qualifications and knowledge to do the job. It sounds like Ortner is trying to squeeze them out so it can keep more of the profits for not providing services to the mentally ill adults, especially the ones listed in their own charts as ‘indigent’.”

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ALMOST A YEAR LATER NOW, we re-reviewed the video of that October 2013 Board of Supes meeting. Most of the time allotted was taken up by Ms. Cryer (Pinizzotto’s boss), Mr. Pinizzotto, a Mr. Mark Montgomery of Ortner Management Group, the chair of the Mendo Mental Health Advisory Board (who basically said there still wasn’t much mental health service outside of Ukiah) and representatives of some of Ortner’s subcontractors — all of whom said things were going fine.

INDIVIDUAL SUPERVISORS expressed their views — with absolutely no hard data to back them up other than the self-tributes from the staff and contractors — that things were going fine. There were some pro forma questions about how the MediCal billing was working. (Nobody asked about service delivery itself.) Board Chair (at the time) the putative “liberal” Dan Hamburg concluded: “There’s a degree of justified optimism that we did make a good decision and we are moving forward.”

TRANSLATION: We made a good decision and anyone who thinks otherwise should sign up as an Ortner client. (Mendo dissidents are inevitably insulted by local authority because dismissing them as crazy or simply wrong is easier than actually debating issues.)

THE REAL TROUBLE with all this is that Pinizzotto, whose connections to the contractor performing the work are well documented, is STILL in charge of the reporting — or NON-reporting, since the Board has not had a report on Mental health for almost a year since the happy-talk version last October in which Mr. Pinizzotto told the Board how great his former employer was doing.

THE UPSHOT of all this is that we’re stuck with what we’ve got — including the huge turnover of millions of dollars of tax money under highly suspicious circumstances — and there’s effectively no way to raise questions because Official Mendocino County not only won’t even cop to the obvious — and ongoing — conflict of interest surrounding Pinizzotto. The Supes did, however, go to the trouble of officially denouncing the Grand Jury for having the gall to point it out.

PS. Here’s just one small but typical example of the uselessness of trying to deal with this material. Take the Supervisors response to the Grand Jury report of June 2, 2014 entitled “The Privatization of Mental Health Delivery Services.” In their first finding, Finding F1, “the Grand Jury, in reviewing the provision of mental health services through privatization, found a serious omission in the preparation of the contract. The current contract does not provide for the continuing care of Level 3 mentally ill clients.”

THE BOARD'S RESPONSE: “The Board of Supervisors disagrees wholly with this Finding. The current contract does provide for these services. Exhibit A, page 4, Section 6 of the contract addresses this issue.”

BUT IT DOESN'T. At the risk of putting you to sleep, here’s the entirety of Exhibit A, page 4, Section 6 of Ortner’s contract:

“Exhibit A – Page 4

“6. Provide a Quality Improvement Program:

“e. CONTRACTOR will provide a quality improvement program. The CONTRACTOR’s QI program coordinates quality improvement activities throughout the CoC. The QI Program is designed to provide QI oversight functions for contracted providers with a focus on continuous improvements in service delivery. The QI program also assures periodic assessment of client care and satisfaction. Contracted providers are expected to use the results of beneficiary/family satisfaction survey outcomes required by the External Quality Review Organization (EQRO) State clinical audits to continuously improve services. The QI Program focus areas are categorized as follows: Service delivery capacity Service delivery system and meaningful clinical issues Service accessibility Continuity of care and coordination of care Beneficiary satisfaction

“f. Clinical and fiscal outcomes The Annual Work Plan required by the Mental Health Plan identifies key factors for QI/UM activities. The CONTRACTOR will develop and/or revise and implement the Annual Work Plan in collaboration and coordination with Mendocino County BHRS. A minimum of two PIPs are conducted annually, one clinical and one non-clinical. These PIPs measure performance using objective quality indicators and demonstrate planning for increasing or sustaining improvement. CONTRACTOR’s QI program is client focused in the context of wellness and recovery. Mechanisms are in place to monitor appropriate and timely intervention of occurrences that are potentially high risk. Corrective action plans may include modification of the structures and/or processes, education of providers and/or clients, the development of a performance improvement team, and/or other measures as appropriate. The Quality Improvement Plan, required by the Mental Health Plan, will be developed and/or revised and implemented by the CONTRACTOR in collaboration and coordination with Mendocino County BHRS.

“The Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle is the model used in evaluating performance and when implementing a new process. This consists of a logical sequence of four repetitive steps assuring continuous learning and improvement. By implementing a continuous quality improvement model we use data to identify opportunities for improvement and monitor effective interventions to assure stable processes.”

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WE'VE READ this several times and there’s absolutely nothing there on the subject of “Level 3 mentally ill clients.” In fact, the words “Level 3” do not appear in the Ortner contract. But even this blatantly incorrect denial — of an important contract omission — of the Grand Jury report was rubberstamped by the Board of Supervisors.

PINIZZOTTO and the Mendocino County Superior Court. Supervisor Hamburg's mentally troubled son Matt has been, and may still be, a client of Ortner Management Group. As reported last year by Bruce McEwen, Pinizzotto appeared in court with young Hamburg to recommend that young Hamburg be jumped to the head of Mendocino County's acutely mentally ill cadre, which is perennially backed up at the County Jail. Young Hamburg was to be priority-placed at the Ortner facility in Yolo County. Which he was. The Hamburg placement was made at County expense with the Superior Court subsequently exempting Hamburg, a wealthy man, from any financial responsibility for his son's care.

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THE ONE OR TWO PERSONS paying attention to the Mendocino County Office of Education, will have noted lame duck Superintendent Tichinin's sure-to-be-granted request for out-of-state travel. Tich wants edu-dollars to fund a jaunt to Washington D.C. for the "Connected Superintendent's Summit," and to another prolonged happy hour in Nevada. MCOE maintains travel slush fund of $228,421 for the 2014-15 school year, every dollar of which comes directly out of the instruction of Mendocino County children.

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THE SUPERIOR COURT is quick to do special favors for the well-connected. A few months ago, Superior Court judge Anne Moorman, personally arranged a drug rehab program for the daughter of wealthy Coast coffee magnate, Paul Katzeff. The next guy up, also as reported by Bruce McEwen, also wanted to stay with a friend while he waited for one of the rehab factories the rabble is routinely dispatched to. Nope, the judge said, you'll stay at the County Jail until a space opens up.

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WHILE we're on the subject of County government and the Superior Court, Judge David Nelson proceeds under the radar to get a new County Courthouse for himself and (count 'em) his eight colleagues. Nevermind that the judges are the only people who want a new County Courthouse (even the Deputy Sheriff’s Association is on record against it) and nevermind that the present County Courthouse is perfectly serviceable. Property in and around the proposed site of this brazenly megalomaniacal project on Perkins Street near 101, some of it controlled by the Northcoast Rail Authority apparatus, an adjunct of the Democratic Party that Nelson is active in, will be cashed in by the locally connected as space leased back to the County for ancillary court services. It's not quite as smelly as the Ortner deal but give it time.

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A 19 YEAR OLD resident of Ukiah was killed early Friday morning when he rear-ended a logging truck near the Ukiah airstrip on South State Street. The fatal accident occurred a little after two. The boy, still not identified, was driving a 2003 Audi north on South State Street when he drifted off the road and into the truck, whose driver said he was preparing to begin a day's work. The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, September 5, 2014

Carson, Clawson, Duncan, Graves, Hannah
Carson, Clawson, Duncan, Graves, Hannah

CHRISTOPHER CARSON, Clearlake. Failure to appear.

JASSEN CLAWSON, Fort Bragg. Possession of hashish/marijuana, probation revocation.

SABRINA DUNCAN, Ukiah. Drunk in public.

MATTHEW GRAVES, Laytonville. Pot cultivation, processing, sale.

PAUL HANNAH, Redwood Valley. Domestic assault, possession of pot for sale, probation revocation.

Lucido, Martinez, McOsker, Miller, Munoz
Lucido, Martinez, McOsker, Miller, Munoz

BRADLEY LUCIDO, Ukiah. Under the influence of controlled substance.

AGUSTIN MARTINEZ, Talmage. Pot sale, transportation, furnishing. Driving with invalid license.

REMO McOSKER, Ukiah. Possession of drug injection device, failure to appear. (Frequent flyer.)

SHAWN MILLER, Ukiah. Parole violation.

ANDRES MUNOZ, Fort Bragg. DUI. Driving with invalid license.

Robinson-Rosado, Schlapkohl, Thompson, Zaccaria, Zuritapaz
Robinson-Rosado, Schlapkohl, Thompson, Zaccaria, Zuritapaz

SATASHA ROBINSON-ROSADO, Lucerne. Domestic assault.

CARLEY SCHLAPKOHL, Ukiah. Drunk in public.

DAVID SHERRY, Willits. Trespassing. (Photo not available.)

SUMMER THOMPSON, Covelo. Drunk in public.

DIANE ZACCARIA, Ukiah. Under influence of controlled substance. Probation revocation.

MARCELINO ZURITAPAZ, Ukiah. Drunk in public. Probation revocation.

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Dear Editor:

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is an old adage that is apropos to the situation with ISIS. As Biden blows hot air and Obama dithers and daddles, ISIS gets stronger by the day. It is quite apparent airstrikes alone will not defeat ISIS and boots on the ground are needed. The US except perhaps for some special forces is not going to provide any boots nor are any of our allies. The militias fighting Assad are not up to the job. That leaves people who we do not like and with whom do not want to have any dealings.

Too bad about what we want or do not want. The only people who can put effective boots on the ground are Assad and the Syrian Army, Hezbollah, the Iraqi shiite militias and Iran. Obama has to quit acting like a spoilt kid and start forging support agreements with the “bad people” if we want to defeat ISIS.

In peace, Jim Updegraff, Sacramento

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Video from Tom Stienstra's SFGate Blog Today

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AV FOODSHED THIRD SUNDAY POTLUCK, Sep 21., 6:00 PM at the Anderson Valley Grange

This Month: Hard Cider / Apple Cider Vinegar

Hard Cider and Apple Cider Vinegar are two Rural Skills that are timely and close to home. These amazing products of apple alchemy have an amazingly long history of benefits. Before our Potluck, we have Diane Paget graciously sharing with us a demonstration of basic preparation techniques. Following the presentation we will will talk a bit about the alluded to history and benefits. If you want to start vinegar at home, mothers will be available. Then: the Potluck, where the discussion continues over dinner. As always, bring a dish to share.

Jim Devine, 3rd Sunday Committee,

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THE C'MON HOME TO EAT IN OCTOBER COMMITTEE met yesterday to organize the 9th annual C'mon! Here are some of the events/activities we are planning:

--a challenge for individuals and families to eat within 100 miles and an extra-challenge to eat only AV grown during the month of October

--restaurants and cafes featuring one or more days when they offer an all-local meal with the idea that Valley residents can get together to celebrate

--local stores featuring shelf stickers that identify local produce/products

--posters announcing C'mon to Eat month, small signs for businesses that say they serve or sell local food, and banners to put outside local businesses to signal their special events

--farm tour

--third Sunday in October Foodshed monthly potluck will also be a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Foodshed. Those who have been a part of the AV Foodshed organization over the years, even if they have moved away from AV, will be invited to this AV community event.

--a local food lunch at the elementary school--and hopefully high school too. Deleh is organizing and needs help with planning and procuring the food.

--at the monthly 3rd Sunday in October AV Foodshed event participants will be encouraged to bring extra produce to share

--Jen Burnstad is organizing some gleaning days for people to pick figs, apples, or whatever else might be available at that time for their own use or to donate to one of the events

--articles (one in September and then one each week in October) announcing and giving the rationale for local food consumption for the AVA and the

--possible local food lunch or dinner fundraiser

--T shirts and/or underwear featuring the 10th anniversary of Eat Local

--A presentation by Gowan and Sharon who completed a whole year of eating locally on the coast

--Emerald Earth presentation on their successes at eating locally

--advertise for C'mon at the AV Foodshed Fair booth

--print a calendar of October events scheduled and hang by the last week in September--due to Torrey by September 16th

If you would like to help carry out one or more of these activities, please call Barbara at 895-3897 or email C'mon, let's eat locally!

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Humanity i love you

because you would rather black the boots of

success than enquire whose soul dangles from his

watch-chain which would be embarrassing for both

parties and because you

unflinchingly applaud

 songs containing the words country home and

mother when sung at the old howard


Humanity i love you because

when you’re hard up you pawn your

intelligence to buy a drink and when

you’re flush pride keeps

you from the pawn shop and

because you are continually committing

nuisances but more

especially in your own house


Humanity i love you because you

are perpetually putting the secret of

life in your pants and forgetting

it’s there and sitting down

on it

and because you are

forever making poems in the lap

of death Humanity

i hate you

— e.e. cummings

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The United States Department of Justice should fight pot farms on federal lands by putting a bounty on all plants caught on pot sites. Hunters could add to their incomes, and recruitment will become harder for these outlaws.


  1. Jeff Costello September 6, 2014

    Bounty hunters, guys with guns roaming the woods and hills looking to make money taking plants? Really bad idea. Or perhaps as with any “hunting,” they should be required to eat what they take. I’d like to see that.

  2. Jim Updegraff September 6, 2014

    Nothing surprising about Judge Moorman giving a sweetheart deal to a daughter of a wealthy magnate. Next time she runs for reelection if she has an opponent she knows where to get a campaign contribution

  3. Harvey Reading September 6, 2014

    Our “justice” system always favors the wealthy … unless they have been stealing from other wealthy people. That’s why I avoid it like the plague. Justice for all; what a bad joke.

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