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Off the Record (Dec 17, 2014)

RUMOR OF THE WEEK: The Coast branch of the CHP maintains a "little red binder" in which the names of habitual drunks are kept. The CHP then visits alcohol vendors asking them not to sell booze to the persons listed in the little red binder. The CHP spokesperson got a good laugh out of that one. She said, “Let's put it this way. It's highly unlikely. We have enough to do.”

A READER sends along the "2015 Budget Preview Summary" for the Redwood Valley Community Church. He's circled the senior pastor's projected salary at $87,440.76, noting that the pastor also gets a free house. The assistant leader of the RV flock will also do pretty well at $60,478.72. “How about the same for everyone else!” the reader demands.

AFTER READING Linda Williams recent piece about Caltrans planned use of herbicides in Little Lake Valley as part of their bypass “mitigation” program ..…

WE ASKED Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie about Caltrans' reintroduction of herbicides in Mendocino County after what we thought was a well-deserved ban achieved by anti-herbicide protests back in the 90s.

FRISBIE REPLIED: "I am not sure what you mean by ‘reintroducing herbicides’, when herbicides have continued to be used in Mendocino County when absolutely needed with little fanfare. For example, at the request of the City of Fort Bragg, Caltrans used herbicides on invasive pampas grass along state and city property in Fort Bragg a few years ago. And I have heard (you will need to confirm the details with them) the City of Willits has used herbicides recently on city property. Most of the information I have for the Willits Bypass herbicide use is at If you have additional specific questions I will happy to answer them. Sincerely, Phil Frisbie, Jr."

THE ANNOTATED Board Of Supervisors announcement that the County has hired a new library chief:

"After conducting a national recruitment and review of 11 potential candidates — Mendocino County's inevitable national search for excellence — on December 9, 2014, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors announced that we found an excellent guy right here in the Ukiah library stacks. Ladies and Germs, Walter 'Wally' Clark is your brand new Mendocino County Library Director!

"Supervisor John Pinches, representing the 3rd District and current Board Chair, commented on the Board’s action, stating, 'In a national recruitment process, Wally Clark, a local candidate, rose to the top. As part of our Leadership Initiative and succession planning, we are happy to promote a current employee to the Library Director position.'

ISN'T IT AMAZING how many national quests for excellence wind up just down the goddam street. What a coincidence! And how fortunate we are to have so many excellencies in office who know a fellow excellent when they spot one!

THE PRESS RELEASE bubbled on, and we're sure Wally can handle the job which, lately, mostly consists of running the bums out of the Willits and Ukiah libraries and keeping the pervs off the computers.

BUT THESE "national searches for excellence" are very unfair to the many outside people who pony up their bona fides and even drive up to Ukiah from wherever thinking they are viable candidates for the job when the job is insider-wired and the outside applicants are simply being used to fake an open-hire process.

JANIE SHEPHERD WRITES: "Los Angeles, City of Water - "If Los Angeles can hugely reduce its water consumption it's worth a few minutes to consider the claims of Claude Lewenz that Mendo Vito could indeed further show us the way forward. Surely if Los Angeles can reduce its water usage, a new community that doesn't have to retrofit can reduce per capita water use hugely as well. It's at least worth considering. I recommend reading the article in the New York Times via the link below. "One sign of Los Angeles’s earnestness is its success in conservation: The city now consumes less water than it did in 1970, while its population has grown by more than a third, to 3.9 million people from 2.8 million. Two projects — a nine-acre water-treating wetland constructed in a former bus maintenance yard and a water management plan devised for a flood-prone district of 80,000 people — won awards this year from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. The city itself won one of the first water sustainability awards given by the U.S. Water Alliance, in 2011."

MENDO CO. DA David Eyster has exonerated Fort Bragg police Lieutenant John Naulty in the March 19th shooting death of an Oregon fugitive named Chaney who shot and killed Mendocino County Sheriff Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino.

"…Chaney had attempted to shoot a shopkeeper at Confusion Hill with a shotgun; (b) Chaney had recklessly evaded pursuing law enforcement at high speeds on a coastal highway with driving that greatly endangered the public safety; (c) Chaney deployed unanticipated and overwhelming lethal force against Del Fiorentino causing the deputy’s demise; (d) Naulty heard the gunfire that was determined to have caused the death of Del Fiorentino and he immediately responded to provide assistance; (e) Naulty personally observed the bullet-riddled patrol vehicle and the death of the deputy caused by Chaney; (f) Chaney attempted to shoot and kill Naulty at that scene; (g) rather than attempt to escape, Chaney instead attempted to flank and re-engage Naulty with lethal force; and (h) while the use of force employed by Naulty by its nature could be characterized as both defensive and offensive, I find by overwhelming evidence and beyond all doubt that Naulty was acting in self- defense when he returned fire on the murder suspect…" The full report can be found on the district attorney website:

SO, WHAT'S WITH the Fort Bragg City Council's shabby treatment of John Naulty? Naulty risked it all when he confronted and shot the rampaging Oregon killer before the guy could commit more mayhem. Naulty's been off the job ever since because the old city council required he be cleared to return to work by their psychiatrist. Naulty and his psychiatrist both say he's fine. Here's hoping the new city council will finally get off the guy's case and get him back on the job. As Chief. Naulty's earned it.

NAULTY HIMSELF said upon hearing that his shooting of armed fugitive Ricardo Chaney has been officially declared justified that DA Eyster and Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman have been very supportive and kept him informed during the investigation. “It’s nice to finally be cleared by the DA’s office,” he said. “Each day I’m learning more about what happened.” Naulty said he is unsure of when he will return to active duty. He has been released for duty by his personal psychiatrist since October, he said, but the City of Fort Bragg wants him to see a city psychiatrist. “The city has made no efforts to move in that direction,” he said. “I don’t know where I stand with the city.”

COAST HOSPITAL'S BOSS, Wayne Allen, has retired, his exit seemingly timed to coincide with the arrival of three new board members, all of them from Coast Hospital's medical staff — Dr. Glusker, Dr. Rohr and RN Kitty Bruning.

COMMENT OF THE WEEK "First – my credentials. I have studied martial arts for the last twelve years. I have also been a ringside physician for boxing for two years, and currently a ringside physician for mixed martial arts for two years. I’m currently studying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – which involves various choke holds, such as the one applied to Mr. Garner. I have been choked nearly unconscious in practice twice – once by a trachea choke, the other by a carotid artery choke. That being said, I believe Mr. Garner was murdered for the crime of selling loose cigarettes; I believe all the police involved should be arrested. A choke hold is always potentially lethal if applied long enough. A potentially lethal technique should never be used against someone suspected of a petty, non-violent crime, who is not resisting arrest with deadly force, or extreme violence. If, say; the police had a strong suspicion Mr. Garner was a serial killer with a high likelihood of killing again if not arrested, and he had been choked and died, no-one would be upset – especially if it was determined he WAS a serial killer. There are many non-lethal techniques police could have used with Mr. Garner, including swarming him, using pepper spray, or a Taser. A choke hold was not warranted to begin with, and it’s prolonged application after Mr. Garner was helpless on the ground, complaining of inability to breath to me rises to the level of murder."

NO OFFICIAL IDENTIFICATION YET, but the man found dead Friday in his Point Arena trailer home was Bill Elmore, described by one person who knew him as “a really good painter/artist who hung his paintings at the post office and Arena Rx frequently. He was quiet, kind, an intellectual, active in his community, and seen almost every day checking his mail in Point Arena, or driving down to the Pier to look at the surf. Bill was about 70-75 years old maybe. As they say about trailers, they have aluminum wiring, and it’s not about ‘if’ they catch fire, but ‘when’.”

THE US JUSTICE DEPARTMENT has belatedly published a memo it issued in October instructing US attorneys not to mess with tribes that want to grow and sell marijuana on their sovereign lands, as long as those tribes maintain “robust and effective regulatory systems.” This decision could have a major impact on tribes that choose to pursue marijuana cultivation and sales. US News and World Report theorizes that “marijuana may displace casinos as reservation cash cows.” However, as the LA Times notes, “Many tribes are opposed to legalizing pot on their lands, and federal officials will continue to enforce the law in those areas, if requested.”

LINDA WILLIAMS of the Willits News reports the partial follow-up to 2012’s breathless announcement by the feds that a number of prominent Mendocino-area men and women constituted an intra-state drug ring. "The courts didn't post the outcome of the Dec. 9 hearing until yesterday. The feds threatened to withdraw their deal due to something that defendant Jeffrey Wall did and Wall's attorney filed a flurry of motions to counter. The original plea bargain and the reasons for the final sentence are in documents sealed to the public. “I suspect similar outcomes for the rest of the Mendo crew. The feds have Wall admitting he received $300,000 for marijuana he sold to the ‘conspirators.’ Full details won't be posted by the court until sometime early next year.”

WE'RE ALL looking forward to reading the Mendo Gang's testimony.

DEFENDANT McCusker was released from prison when the prosecutor acknowledged under the new Federal guidelines he would likely not have to serve any more time for the conviction. He was the only Mendo link who hasn't been out on bail this whole time.

JUDGMENT as to Jeffrey Wall, 42: Timed Served. Five years supervised release for Conspiracy to Possess With Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 5 Kilograms or More of Cocaine; to Manufacture, and Possess With Intent to Distribute 1,000 Kilograms or More of Marijuana; and to Maintain Drug Involved Premises, a Class A Felony.

MOST of the remaining Mendo connection to the Kansas case are now set for sentencing in January, at least as of this week.  The three people on the list of more than 20 defendants who did not plead guilty were found guilty at trial in July. They haven't been sentenced yet. Most of those with a plea seem to be getting time served and supervised release.

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. (Sheriff’s Press Release, June, 2014)

WE'VE LEARNED that Neuroth arrived at the jail under the influence of methamphetamine and became combative. He had to be restrained and forcibly placed in an isolation cell where he died. There was no indication that he was beaten or otherwise mistreated.

ADD TO YOUR long list of minor annoyances, the increasingly frequent verbal tic, "It's interesting that...." We'll decide if it's "interesting" or not. We don't need you to pre-judge your (undoubtedly) uninteresting remark.

YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. Matthew McDonald asks, "Why is the cost different for California mailing addresses vs the rest of the nation? The cost to the AVA of mailing to San Francisco is the same as the cost of mailing to Chicago."

MARK SCARAMELLA REPLIES. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately if you’re an out-of-state subscriber), we have not yet implemented the proposed increased out-of-state subscription rate that would allow us to actually make money on the out of state subscriptions that you may be referring to. We had planned to raise rates for out of state subscribers (and may yet) because the cost of mailing out of state has increased steadily year by year since last century in rough approximation with deterioration in service. Mr. McDonald must be referring to first class rates which are indeed the same throughout the US, but which apply only to letters, not newspapers or magazines. However, second class (or “periodicals”) postage for out of county (and out of state) papers is based on distance (“USPS Delivery Zones”) and ranges from about 48¢ to 55¢ per paper for various destinations in California, and about 68¢ per paper for out of state. (Try putting a single AVA in an envelope, writing an out-of-state address on it, and mailing it first class or media mail.) Printing costs are about 30¢ per paper these days. Add our other — office rent, contributor fees, internet and web hosting, layout, office supplies, and our out of state paper quickly exceeds the $1 cover price which we have haven’t raised for, what?, 20 years? And lately the USPS provides such poor service that their increased rates for out of state mailings is quite galling and is slowly strangling our print edition. But… Oh, did I mention that the editor and his chief assistant are compensated at less than a dollar an hour? In a normal commercial media world our, ahem, services would at least double the cost of an AVA. And considering that the AVA is the last real paper in America. There’s more readable, well-written, Mendo-centric content every week both on-line and in print than the rest of the Mendo media produces in six months.

THE HUFF IS LOOKING BETTER AND BETTER: The Congressman explains his vote on Wall Street's latest shakedown of the rest of US as Congress gets out of town by agreeing to underwrite Wall Street gambling, Congressman Huffman writes,  “Disgusted that the ‘CRomnibus,’ a veritable special interest Christmas tree, passed the House with 57 Democrats supporting it. Had it failed, we would have had a short-term clean CR which I believe would have been better strategically and substantively. Major policy concessions were given up — including permanent repeal of a key anti-bailout provision of Dodd-Frank, a further weakening of campaign finance laws, an anti-environment rider to make it easier for Big Coal to do mountaintop removal mining, and federally overriding the citizens of the District of Columbia who overwhelmingly voted to decriminalize marijuana — in return for a few more months of government funding, even though we know this is just the beginning of the GOP policy shakedowns. I'm disappointed that instead of drawing a firm line on at least some of these policies, the Obama administration rolled over and actually whipped the bill for the GOP. Democrats had some power for a moment and could have leveraged a better outcome. We have now given a bully our lunch money. He will be back in January bigger, stronger, and asking for more.”

EVEN MIKE THOMPSON demonstrated mild distress at the last minute agreement: “Once again, House Republicans are threatening to shutdown the government by including provisions in a last-minute funding bill that’s needed to keep the government open past midnight. I just voted against this legislation because we need a clean, straight-forward spending bill that doesn’t hurt our middle class, undermine our democratic process, arm foreign rebels we know little about, or undercut efforts to fix our immigration system.”

LAKE MENDOCINO has an official “water supply pool capacity” of 68,400 acre-feet. And “Current water supply pool storage” (as of Saturday, Dec 12) is about 45,000 acre-feet, or two-thirds of capacity. If we're reading the government’s plumbing jargon correctly, about half of what's coming in is being released at present, although we’re told nobody really knows the ratio between in and out.

POSTSCRIPT to last week’s piece about Coast Brothels in the late 1800s (From an Interview with former Fifth District Supervisor Joe Scaramella): “There were brothels in many areas of Mendocino County in the early part of the century. There was only the one in Point Arena in the early 1900s. Most communities had at least one. There was one in Navarro. Mendocino. There was a famous one in Ukiah. And in Fort Bragg of course. I always had a high regard for the inhabitants of the brothels as a kid because they were right next door to us in Point Arena. One of them had a weeping willow tree outside. They'd put a parrot out on it, squawking, squawking. All of a sudden the parrot disappeared. Gone. So the lady was frantic trying to find it. We were nearby, so she got us to try to help her. So when we brought back the parrot she gave us five dollars. Wow! That was great! I went to my father and said, ‘Look what I just made!’ He said, ‘Give that to me.’ And he grabbed it. So I thought they were pretty good people. They gave me five dollars for catching the bird.”

PD: BYPASS TWO YEARS BEHIND & $64 mil over budget (and counting)

State approves $64 million to complete Willits bypass

The California Transportation Commission approved a $64 million Caltrans request to complete the Highway 101 bypass around Willits. The project, already two years behind schedule, is 50 percent complete.


Supervisors Blame Protesters For $65 Million Caltrans Overrun — Never Mind That Even Caltrans Admits That The Overruns Were Their Own Fault — Mainly Failure To Comply With Permit Requirements From Other Agencies.

At end of their December 2, 2014 Board meeting, Supervisor John Pinches presented his colleagues with a set of aerial pictures of the Willits bypass construction.

Pinches: “This gives you some pretty good photos basically from the air. The Willits bypass is 55% constructed at this point. But it gives you a real good — you can't see this really from the — if you drive out the highway all you are going to see is over here. You don't really see that. So it's really pretty impressive about the work that's been done. Yesterday at the MCOG meeting—’

Supervisor Carre Brown: “Will that be part of the package that was sent out by MCOG? Those pictures?’

Pinches: “That was separate. Yes.”

Brown: “So I'd like to have a color picture of that.”

Pinches: “Okay. Anyway, the MCOG board yesterday, you know the cost overruns for a whole host of different reasons is running, what the estimate is going to be $65 million, which is what next week Caltrans will go to the California Transportation Commission. They will ask for support to get the additional funding which I'm sure they're going to be successful. But it was up to us to keep our commitment to the 15% so that amounts to $9.7 million and the board of MCOG yesterday voted unanimously to keep our commitment to that.... This is the final commitment. I don't think it was unexpected. Everybody knew it was coming from last year that there was going to be cost overruns. Frankly, I thought it was — although $65 million is one heckuva big cost overrun with all the problems that's been involved there, I didn't think that was totally unreasonable. I think it's really important that all the city reps and everybody held together on it. That money — it's not like MCOG doesn't have the money, the $9.7 million, that's out of the future STIP [State Transportation Improvement Program — local road money from the state gas tax] that is distributed to counties and probably through several STIP cycles in future years, but it (the Bypass) is still Mendocino County's number one project and like you can see there it's 55% done. So that was kind of the news from yesterday.”

Supervisor John McCowen: “But that is $9.7 million that will not be able to be spent on other transportation projects.”

Pinches: “That's exactly right.”

McCowen: “And although you say that there is significant, that there is multiple factors for that, certainly a significant factor has been the unnecessary delay.”

Pinches: “Well, certainly. That brings the total commitment for Mendocino County to over $40 million. It was $33 million before this. So it's well over $40 million now. It's the largest project in Mendocino County history. It's the largest local commitment that's ever been put out by this county over the years. Everybody hates to see those cost overruns, but you know, going back to the new Bay Bridge for instance, that was started out as a $1.5 billion bid and it's over $6.5 million now. (In fact, the Bay Bridge overrun is millions more and growing) So cost overruns on projects are not something that's uncommon. Especially when you have all the issues on the bypass project. But it is 55% done and by this time next year it won't be done but it will be well — you'll be able to drive down the roadway.”

Brown: “But it is too bad that other construction projects locally are going to suffer as a result.”

Pinches: “That's true. Some of those cost overruns are nothing you can do about although the cost of the protesters and the cost of the CHP to do the monitoring and the safety of that, those were probably costs that really didn't need to happen but it did and somebody has to pay the bill. And that's us.”

McCowen: “Has anyone considered that there is really no value to having a large CHP presence out there since they have never prevented any protester from doing anything they wanted to do as far as I know?”

Pinches: “Well I don't think that was their main mission to stop the protesters. You know, it was — the job was still going on. They had people out there working and safety was their first priority.”

McCowen: I know. But they have not prevented a protest from disrupting work if that's what the protesters wanted to do. That's what I've observed. It's kind of like, Why are they there?”

Pinches: “This is just what in business I call —”

McCowen: “They could save money if they scaled back the presence.”

Pinches: “That's true, but if they don't have the proper safety amount of people out there and somebody gets hurt and the state get sued, it's what you call in business a bad deal — it is an extremely bad deal.”

THE CITY OF UKIAH has lost another round in its on-going effort to keep milking the redevelopment agency (RDA) cash cow. In theory, a local RDA was a way to rebuild run down areas by borrowing against the future increase in property tax to pay for the improvements. In practice, especially in places like Ukiah, redevelopment became a way to pay for pet projects like the Ukiah “convention center” where no conventions are ever held and the Thomas Plaza which has become a de-facto “day shelter” for punks, drunks, tweakers and traveling trimmers. RDA has also been used to line the pockets of private developers and a small army of consultants and attorneys that specialize in RDA law and finance.

UKIAH ALSO PERFECTED the practice of paying admin salaries out of RDA money by claiming the City Manager, City Attorney, Finance Director and everyone down to the janitor were really spending up to 100% of their time working on RDA projects instead of running the city. By the time the state pulled the plug on RDA, the City of Ukiah was milking its local RDA for $1 million in admin salaries. When RDA went away, instead of laying off any of the admin honchos, the City of Ukiah laid off police, firefighters, public works, and parks and rec workers. Everyone working in admin was deemed essential. Everyone working in the trenches was deemed expendable.

UKIAH WAS ALSO PLANNING to fund the Costco giveaway with RDA money, promising Costco up to $6 million in public funds to improve Airport Park Blvd. and the intersection of Talmage Road and US 101. Ukiah issued bonds (i.e., borrowed money) for this purpose but the bond money is sitting untouched in an account (and incurring hefty interest charges) because the brainiacs in charge at the city missed the deadline for incurring new bonded obligations. Ukiah then tried to claim that it had created “an enforceable obligation” based on an agreement between itself acting as the Ukiah City Council and the same people acting as the Ukiah RDA.

THE SACRAMENTO SUPERIOR COURT, in a ruling issued Dec. 12, carefully detailed how Ukiah tried (but failed) to comply with the law. (The state legislature, in an effort to avoid “hometown” decisions, required that any challenges to RDA dissolution had to be filed in Sacramento.) On March 8, 2011, Ukiah and its RDA made an agreement to use $3.6 million in RDA funds for the Costco giveaway. State law wiped out that agreement, but said RDA parent agencies (like the City of Ukiah) could “re-enter” such agreements if they wanted to. Instead, on June 20, 2012, Ukiah adopted a “Restated First Amended Funding Agreement,” which changed the provisions of the original agreement.

THE COURT RULING means that Ukiah could have used RDA funds, including bond proceeds, to pay for the Costco improvements if only it had “re-entered” the original agreement. In short, Ukiah screwed up by trying to adopt an amended agreement (instead of the original) and now has to look elsewhere for the $3.6 million (up to $6 million by some accounts) needed to pay for the Costco giveaway. All this has come at a tidy on-going cost for high priced attorneys and consultants, all of whom are being paid out of local tax dollars. The same legal experts who screwed things up to begin with are expected to urge the Ukiah City Council to appeal the ruling to the State Supreme Court.


On 12-14-2014, at approximately 7am a local citizen was walking his dog on the Noyo Beach in Fort Bragg when he came upon the remains of a deceased person lying on the beach near the surf.  Mendocino County Deputy Sheriff/Coroner's responded and initiated an investigation.  The decedent was found to be a male adult, estimated to be 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall and 130 to 160 pounds who appeared to have been in the water for sometime and was in an advanced state of decomposition.  The decedent was wearing blue “Alfred Dunner” brand sweat pants, gray socks, and brown “Outdoor Gear” hiking boots. The decedent also has a tattoo of what appears to be the letter “S” on the back of his left hand between the thumb and index finger and also a tattoo on his right shoulder of a “heart” and a name, which is unreadable.  No identification was located and the identity of the decedent is unknown at this time.  Any persons with information which may assist in identifying the decedent are encouraged to contact the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office tip-line at (707) 234-2100.


TRISTAN MENDEZ is the Redwood Valley kid a month past his 18th birthday who last month robbed a store in Redwood Valley at knife-point then drove to Albion where he and his 17-year-old companion robbed the Albion Store, also at knifepoint. Mendez is the grandson of two ground floor Mendo counter-culture figures, Marilyn 'Mother Bear' Scott, and Troll Brandon. The 17-year-old is being held in Juvenile Hall, Ukiah. Tristan was initially placed in the County Jail in the Tough Guy Unit where, at barely 18 years of age and at 5'5" and 135 pounds he was easily robbed of his commissary and otherwise harshly treated. He's since been moved to what may still be called "County side," the lightweight unit where locals serve out drunk driving sentences and other mostly misdemeanors. If the lad has any brains at all he must be lamenting his abbreviated career as a thug. Unless he has a long prior as a juvenile delinquent, we hope DA Eyster will give the kid a break.

One Comment

  1. John Fremont December 17, 2014

    Well done!

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