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Off the Record (Sep 10, 2014)

SHERIFF TOM ALLMAN told a Laytonville audience last week, "I've never arrested a card-carrying cartel member." He meant, of course, a person who could be linked to a drug cartel. Doubt any cartel people carry membership cards, and who knows if there are cartels at work on the Northcoast in the sense of the Mexico syndicates that decapitate rivals and shoot up cities. We do know that there are groups of people who grow and sell marijuana in tandem, people like the Bulgarians who pop up in the Sheriff's Log from time to time, but why would a Bulgarian, who barely speaks English, work with people of other ethnic groups he barely knows and can't understand? When excitable hill muffs talk about 'cartels' they seem to mean 'menacing' hombres driving through the outback that they don't know and have never seen before, like home invaders, that annual menace to Mendocino County's outback people this time of year. Some of them are very bad hombres indeed. As are some growers, especially the new ones with no prior connection to Mendocino County.


Ed note: Being at the mercy of these infernal new machines, I can only belatedly second Bill Ray's lament at the passing of Sanford Dorbin because the so-called spam filter has only now permitted it to land in my "in-box." Sanford was a friend of long standing. I first met him at County long-distance runs where he inevitably finished well ahead of me although he was 15 years older. He was also a very good writer and a fine poet. I apologize for the tardy appearance of this notice of Sanford's passing.


Sanford Dorbin died peacefully yesterday morning, May 27, 2014, at his home in Chico, California. He was surrounded by his family.I am not authorized to write an obituary. I don't want to trouble Rose about it right now, but I think you and Sanford have kept in touch, so you already have a basis for saying something if you want.He had contracted liver cancer during the last six months and it was treated and in remission. But returning from a recent treatment in early May, he suffered painful symptoms. The tumors had spread throughout his system.I can testify to you he showed and expressed no fear of death. Instead he was enthusiastic when we met about producing a book of poems for and by his closest friends. This will be his memorial and monument. His wife Rose will finance publication. The artist and poet Daniel Marlin is the compiler and editor.He was fully conscious and aware until last Wednesday night, the 22nd. I had visited him earlier that day, saying, "If you have to die, this is the best possible way, surrounded by those who love you more than anything." He whispered in reply, "It is a privilege."He was cared for in recent weeks by Rose, his daughter Sariah, and Rose's daughter Sally. His son Shelley Dorbin and wife Carmen had a daughter Brooke last year, his first grandchild by blood. I will say here, and you know what kind of man he was, that he did not distinguish between blood and married relations. Evan, Rose's son, and his wife Sue and their four children who live in Chico, were beloved.Sanford was himself beloved. Barry Powell recently translated The Iliad and dedicated it to him. He received a copy shortly before he died. Rose took it off the shelf to show me last Wednesday. You have his selected poems, Never Enough Light (1995). Daniel Marlin water-color is on the cover.  Shelley took the author photograph. I reviewed it in the AVA at the time.You already know about his life in Mendocino County as poet, writer, editor, jazz expert, and political activist. This will fill you in on what happened. A good man. My heart is heavy and at the same time I admire his noble example. — Bill Ray, Willits

HOME INVASION SEASON, this just in from the Sheriff's Department: “On 09-07-2014 at 5:32 AM Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to a residence located in the 7000 block of East Road in Redwood Valley, California in regards to a reported home invasion robbery.  Upon arrival Deputies contacted an injured adult male who was the homeowner of the residence.  The Deputies learned at approximately 4:00 AM the home owner was confronted inside his home by 4 to 5 suspects described as being white adult males in their 20's (age).  One of the suspects was armed with a handgun while the suspects demanded marijuana and money.  For approximately 1 hour the suspects ransacked the inside of the residence while physically assaulting the homeowner and interrogating him at gunpoint.  The suspects eventually departed the residence in an unknown vehicle that was last seen traveling southbound in the 7000 block of East Road.  During the robbery, the suspects took several firearms (handguns and a rifle), miscellaneous personal belongings, and a few marijuana plants growing outside of the homeowner's residence.  Investigators noticed the presence of approximately 15 marijuana plants that were being grown at the location (inside and outside) and it is unknown at this time if the plants were being grown for commercial or medical reasons.  The homeowner sustained facial/head injuries as a result of the physical assault but ultimately refused medical treatment at the scene.  Sheriff's Detectives were summoned to the scene and are currently conducting follow up investigations into the robbery.  At this time Sheriff's Detectives do not believe this home invasion robbery is connected to the home invasion robbery that occurred at a residence in the 9100 block of Colony Drive in Redwood Valley, California on 08-21-2014 (MCSO Case# 2014-22388).  Anyone with information that would aid Sheriff's Detectives in this investigation is urged to contact the Sheriff's Office Tip-Line by calling 707-234-2100.”

WELL, WE THINK it's news. The Covelo football team is quarterbacked by a — gasp! — girl.

IN OTHER SPORTS NEWS, the kid out of Cloverdale, Robby Rowland, was released by the Pirates a few days ago.  Redwood Empire’s number one all-time scorer in basketball, son of ex-big leaguer (Tigers, Red Sox) Rich Rowland. Robby had been pitching out of the bullpen in West Virginia for a Pirate minor league team.


THE SUPERVISORS' insulting response to the Grand Jury's criticism of the privatization (give away) of County mental health was way outtaline. Please. Something's wrong with the Grand Jury for pointing out this obvious conflict of interest:  A guy named Pinizzotto, working for a private company in Yuba City, magically gets himself a mental health boss job with Mendocino County's public health apparatus. Pinizzotto then mental health then functions as broker for the sale of Mendocino County’s public mental health services to the private company he worked for in Yuba City. That private company is called Ortner Management Group. The sale is worth about $7.9 million annually to Ortner. And the supervisors denounce the Grand Jury for saying that it all looks like a conflict of interest on the part of Pinizzotto.

Ortner Management Group
Ortner Management Group

WE THINK it looks a lot worse than a mere conflict of interest. We think there should be a criminal investigation of exactly how it happened and exactly who, besides Pinizzotto, made it happen. We also think a criminal investigation should begin by subpoenaing all Pinizzotto's and Ortner's financial records.

WE AGREE with DA Eyster that the Grand Jury was way off by blasting the DA over Animal Control policies. Crimeny, the GJ didn't even seem to know that Animal Control runs out of the Sheriff's Office, not the DA's bunker.

FRONTIERS OF PUBLIC ED: According to the Independent Coast Observer, the "Point Arena Boosters, Rotary and alumni Jamie Leanus" have purchased "a new volleyball serving machine. The shots are fast and accurate, giving more players a chance to handle serves."

MENDO AND MARIN counties have each agreed to take as many as 15 Sonoma County jail inmates for $100 a day per inmate. Sonoma County can't handle the numbers of state prison people coming back to the SoCo jail under the Governor's realignment program. The Sonoma County Jail is already teeming with SoCo miscreants. If the two counties took the max of 15 they could each take in $547,000 a year.

ICE BUCKET VIDEOS have racked by more than a billion YouTube hits, additional confirmation, if you need it, that we share our doomed planet with at least a billion morons.

SOME VERY ODD THINGS turned up in the July minutes of the County’s Retirement Board, and if I were a retired County employee I'd start paying very, very close attention to my money.

ACCORDING TO THE RETIREMENT BOARD'S “report” for July 2014, “Mr. Sakowicz, Mr. Goodman and Mr. Stephens estimated an annual negative cash flow of $6,000,000.” Which none of the board members seemed concerned about. In fact, they went on to approve spending as if they had plenty of money on hand, hiring a recent college grad named Stan Conwell as “financial investment officer” to run errands for the Pension Fund Administrator, which is the pension fund's top position currently occupied by “Interim Administrator” Jim Andersen who retired as administrator a couple years ago and is now back double dipping.

ANDERSEN was succeeded by the aptly named “Rich White,” a retired LA cop who only lasted a couple of years before resigning last year, not long after The Board of Supervisors denied his request for a “financial investment officer,” a position now filled by young Mr. Conwell.

RE CONWELL: “We had a lot of applicants, and we feel we hired a really strong candidate,” Andersen told the Ukiah Daily Journal. "We really needed someone to assume those duties."

NO, THEY DON'T. A private business running at a big annual deficit would leave the job vacant, and probably wouldn't have created the “job” in the first place. And any time a local hiring board, typically after a “national search for excellence,” says they've hired someone who will FER SHURE run the trains on time, they've hired someone exactly like themselves.

BUT ACCORDING to the Retirement Board's July minutes, "strong candidate" Conwell was immediately packed off for several weeks of expensive additional training at Scott German, Fetcher & Co., a CPA firm, where he learned “monthly financial and investment reporting,” after which he will need additional training “in closing out the books at fiscal year end.”

EXCUSE US for asking, but isn't this basic stuff the lad should have learned before he got this particular job? Don't laugh; half the retirement fund's disappearing reserves come straight out of County property tax revenues.

O WELL. Of course the Retirement Board and Mr. Andersen have been preoccupied with more important matters. They agreed to pay an outfit called “Alliance Resource Consulting” to “prepare a draft Retirement Administrator profile,” under the terms of “a formal agreement” so the consulting outfit could tell the Board what a retirement administrator is supposed to do. Although the Retirement Board has been around for years they apparently don't quite understand what their Administrator is supposed to do, so they pay through the nose to have a consultant fill them in.

THE RETIREMENT BOARD also agreed to pay a recruiting firm to find a new Retirement Administrator to fill the position described by the consultant's profile. (The usual Mendo national search for excellence?) It came as no surprise that the recruitment firm chosen was the same Alliance Resource Consulting the Retirement Board had just voted to buy a profile from. Andersen told the Board that Alliance was “more expensive than” the other bidder, “but has more 37 Act exposure.” (This is Andersen-ese insider shorthand for California's 1937 retirement law which governs most of California's rural county pension systems.)

OF COURSE the more expensive outfit was paid $37,500 to find someone to succeed Andersen who, we learn from the minutes, has been busy renewing the insurance coverage on their building, getting bids to remove a tree from the parking lot, arranging to have the office carpet replaced, and, after “two releases from the water system in the past month,” figuring out ways to stop the sprinkler system from “unplanned releases."

THE RETIREMENT BOARD has budgeted $549,451 for staff this fiscal year, up from last year's budget of $423,591. The money for all this comes out of employee contributions, county contributions and (theoretically) investment returns — unless the investment “returns” produce a $6 million negative cash flow.

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 then 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.

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, said he 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.

WHILE we're on the subject of County government and the Superior Court, Judge David Nelson steadily 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 Judge Nelson's 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. The new County Courthouse is not quite as smelly as the Ortner deal but give it time.

ON A BUSY FRIDAY in the perfectly fine present County Courthouse, dapper Omar Figueroa was representing a guy named Smith who said the pot he was nailed with belonged to another guy who doesn't want to fess up. Smith said he wants to take this the-dog-ate-my-homework defense to a jury. Trial was set for October.

A SANTA ROSA ATTORNEY named Clausen, occasionally in the news (see appended story below from the Press Democrat) for his windy pot law claims, was representing a lively fellow by the name of Ian Haynes. Haynes was originally represented by Keith Faulder, but just as Haynes and Faulder were in negotiations with the DA on one case, Haynes racked up another batch of felonies, this batch alleging that when the cops caught up with him they discovered loaded guns in his vehicle.

FOR SOME REASON, the much misunderstood Haynes dumped the formidable Faulder for the, ah, less formidable Clausen, who didn't seem to know much about criminal defense. Clausen tried to recuse DA Eyster for an alleged and, as it turned out, invisible conflict of interest.

RECUSING Eyster for some random bullethead from the State Attorney General's office is generally regarded in Mendo as a dumb legal move because Eyster is reasonable, the state people often aren't. In any case, Behnke denied the recusal because there was no legal reason to grant it.

THE COURTROOM was crowded because Judge Behnke was hearing a bunch of stuff in the absence of Judge Moorman, who is away because her mother has died. Things got backed up because lawyer Clausen appeared with a foot of paperwork that the judge had to sort out.

A BUNCH OF LAWYERS were present because Assistant DA Paul Sequeira is fun to watch. Judges Nadel and Mayfield seemed to also be present out of show biz interest. Faulder showed up because Clausen subpoenaed him.

GLENDA ANDERSON of the Press Democrat was not present. One has to wonder why she wasn't. Remember her story earlier this year that DA Eyster's disposition of pot cases was being investigated by a federal grand jury? Where's the follow-up? No follow-up because it was a non-story and completely wrong-headed into the bargain. Eyster's policies are legal and are a good all-round deal for the County, settling cases for fines that would otherwise occupy expensive court time.

“Lawsuit challenges Mendocino payment program for marijuana offenders” by Glenda Anderson, The Press Democrat.

May 23, 2014— A Mendocino County program that allows marijuana defendants to plead to lesser criminal charges in exchange for restitution payments is the subject of a lawsuit filed this week in Mendocino County Superior Court. The lawsuit contends the program — which is unique to the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office — is "not simply unlawful, but criminal." It asks that it be halted and that the $3.7 million collected and distributed to law enforcement agencies since 2011 be returned to some 350 defendants who have paid into the program.

"The program constitutes an illegal criminal enterprise," Santa Rosa attorney Mark Clausen wrote in the lawsuit. The program has been dubbed the "Mendo Shakedown" and described as a "Get Out of Jail Free" card for those who can pay, according to the lawsuit. It is being investigated by a federal grand jury, Clausen noted in the lawsuit. The lawsuit names the program's creator, District Attorney David Eyster, as well as his office; the county of Mendocino; and Sheriff Tom Allman and his office, which has received the lion's share — about $3.3 million — of the restitution monies.

"It also names state Attorney General Kamala Harris, because she's responsible for ensuring the sheriff and district attorney are not breaking the law, Clausen said. "Harris has a clear ministerial duty to take appropriate action to terminate the program," according to the lawsuit. Clausen stated he expects that Harris ultimately will side with his lawsuit.

"The Attorney General's Office did not return phone calls Friday seeking comment. Neither the Mendocino County counsel nor administrator could be reached Friday. Those county officials who were contacted declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

"The fact that a lawsuit has been filed prevents me from commenting," Allman said. "We have no comment on a lawsuit citing the wrong state code, and filed by a twice suspended lawyer," District Attorney spokesman Mike Geniella said in an email.

"Clausen, whose suspensions were related to failure to pay his state bar dues on time, currently is in good standing. He is representing part-time Mendocino County resident Mikalek Adams and the Green Bush, a group of Mendocino County property owners who advocate for an overhaul of marijuana laws, according to the lawsuit. Clausen said his clients do not wish to discuss the lawsuit.

"None of the plaintiffs has utilized the restitution program, and Clausen said he expects the county to challenge his clients' standing in the case because they haven't been directly affected. But as taxpayers and citizens, they have a right to sue on behalf of the general public, which is affected by the program "because it destroys the appearance of fairness which our justice system demands," he said. He said his clients are also suing on behalf of those who cannot afford to pay the fees, and as a result have been charged with more serious crimes, according to the lawsuit.

"Eyster instituted the restitution program shortly after he took over the District Attorney's Office in 2011. It is aimed at — and by all accounts has been successful at — reducing the backlog of marijuana cases clogging the courts before Eyster took office. Eyster said he has reduced the time it takes for marijuana cases to be resolved to three months from 15, a feat lauded by supporters of the program. The program is a hybrid he created by applying Welfare law to Health & Safety Code Section 11470.2. Under the program, defendants pay $50 per marijuana plant and $500 per pound of pot, typically in exchange for having their felony charges reduced to misdemeanor counts of possession of more than an ounce of marijuana. The changes to Section 11470.2, after which the program is named, are many and they render the program invalid, according to the lawsuit. The changes include collecting the restitution fees before, rather than after, convictions are obtained; eliminating a requirement to calculate actual costs generated by the drug activities; and allowing defendants to plead to lesser crimes if they pay restitution.

"The program completely conflicts with and is therefore invalidated by" the original Health & Safety code sections to which it is related, the lawsuit states.

WE'D LIKE TO KNOW MORE about the jail suicide of Steve Neuroth, a mental health client of the Ortner Management Group. Yes, he was a troubled person, but some of his friends say he got no help from Ortner, and wound up in jail where he managed to kill himself, as described at the time by the Sheriff's Office:


"ON JUNE 11, at about five minutes after midnight, Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Correctional staff assigned to work Building One of the Mendocino County Adult Detention Facility entered the cell of an unresponsive male inmate. Deputies found him unconscious and not breathing. Jail medical staff was present and evaluated the man. No pulse or respirations were detected, and life-saving measures were started. Emergency services were summoned and ultimately transported the man to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead. The 55-year-old inmate was the sole occupant of the cell. He had been arrested on June 10, 2014 for being under the influence of a controlled substance by Willits Police Department and has since been identified as 55-year-old Steve Neuroth of Ukiah. Autopsy results are pending.

ON LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK: "Back in the day, ok way way back in the day, when people were growing a few dozen plants and supporting a low impact lifestyle, and there were maybe 3 or 4 cars total in Alderpoint instead of people having 3 or 4 each family, marijuana wasn't an overall negative for the community as a whole. Now things are beyond ridiculous. Why do people need hundreds or thousands of plants? What is so special about flying thousands of miles away for some vacation? Does having a 50,000 dollar brand new f250 really make your life any better than having a ten year old used truck that’s got plenty of life left in it for a fraction of that? Legalization can't happen soon enough. There's a reason people don't generally farm in remote hilly areas with inadequate water far from major markets or economical transportation. It is expensive and inefficient and has major environmental consequences."

THAT NEW REALITY SHOW on Fox has its origins in Point Arena-Manchester where its creator, Jon Kroll, grew up at Oz, the well-known commune that thrived on the Garcia River from the late 1960s through the 1970s. Panda Kroll, Jon's sister, is a successful attorney based in Oxnard. Dad, who called himself “Redwood” when I met him once in Boonville, is alive and well and living in San Francisco.

DANA CRUMB has died. A long-time resident of Potter Valley and a talented chef, she and her former husband, Robert, settled in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury just before the hippies kicked off, driving separately to Frisco from their home in Cleveland.


R. Crumb, a genius both as an artist and a writer, became synonymous with hippies although he often parodied them in his art. The parting of the Crumbs was not a happy one. Dana told me once, “He may be a great artist, Bruce, but he's a nasty little man.” Could be. One never knows what goes on in the marital bower, but the Crumbs' son, Jesse, a fine artist in his own right, clearly benefitted from the hours of instruction his father gave him. Dana was smart, funny, tough and resourceful, going on to make a successful life for herself as her ex became a millionaire and a permanent resident of France where he is rightly regarded as a major talent.


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