Off the Record (Jan 7, 2015)

FORT BRAGG UNIFIED'S LAWYER, Patrick Wilson, is quoted in the Associated Press story on the famous ‘I Can't Breathe’ t-shirt controversy that Fort Bragg didn't want to engage in an expensive legal battle over the 1st Amendment. Wilson also said the Fort Bragg school administration he represents was worried about the effect on the town as it continues to mourn the murder of Sheriff's deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino by a crazed Oregon tweaker.

LAWYER WILSON: “The concern is, you are in a packed auditorium, this is a polarizing issue and it’s about something that happened in New York. I think it’s fine for people to protest about it, but emotions are still raw in that area.”

PLEASE. Is the school district's mouthpiece suggesting a crazed Del Fiorentino mourner might run out on to the basketball court and attack the teenage girls wearing the t-shirts during warm-ups?

THE FACT is the school administrations of both Fort Bragg and Mendocino threw the Mendocino girl's basketball team (and one brave member of the boy's team) over the side along with the First Amendment. And the reason the schools didn't want to litigate the issue is because they'd lose.

NATURALLY, CONGRESSMAN HUFFMAN just had to weigh in with a weasel-lipped, all things to all people, statement that began, “I spoke last night with Fort Bragg School District Superintendent Chuck Bush, Mendocino County Superintendent Paul Tichinin, and Sheriff Tom Allman regarding the controversy surrounding the Fort Bragg High School basketball tournament," and ended just as turgidly, "I call upon those expressing themselves on all sides of this issue to do so with restraint, nonviolence and respect for others.”

WHAT? NO PHOTO OP? I don't know Fort Bragg's superintendent Bush, but his public remarks so far are not encouraging. I do know Tichinin and, to be gentle about it, the fact that he functions as the educational leader for Mendocino County is a kind of ongoing, countywide joke. Versions of Tichinin, as this controversy has made clear, function as school administrators at Fort Bragg and Mendocino. If you wonder why American schools are ranked 36th in the world, look no further than these guys.

THE CONTROVERSY came and went, and a week after it began, the global story was over, settled in favor of the Mendo girls who proved they have a firmer grasp of their country's principles than their principals do. Which isn't to say they have anything to be smug about, though it's unlikely the true issues involved will or can get a thorough airing in PC Mendocino.

CALTRANS WANTS $9.460.45 FROM WILL PARRISH. Big Orange now claims Parrish cost them that much in so-called wick drain rental for the days Parrish spent locked down to the apparatus during protests at the under-construction Willits Bypass.

PARRISH'S LATEST BILL from the bumbling state agency, represented locally by Paul Sequiera of the DA's office, is obviously an attempt to harass the enviro/writer and intimidate other protesters from dramatically pointing out what a destructive boondoggle the Bypass is.

CHECK THE FIGURES Caltrans has previously laid on Parrish. In 2013 they claimed Parrish cost them $490k in construction delays. Then that number was adjusted to precisely $481,155, then $150k in May of 2014. In 2014 the money was called “civil restitution” after the criminal trespass charges were plea bargained down to infractions. The restitution Caltrans wanted remained at $150k going in to this particular court restitution process where it was whittled down to $108k on the first day of the hearing.

AND NOW IT'S down to $9.460.45, a figure cynically arrived at because, the “reasoning” probably goes, Parrish will either have to raise that amount, which isn't really doable for a guy with no money but not the preposterous half-mil Caltrans started with, or he'll have to refuse to pay and go to jail. And jailing paupers is still illegal, isn't it?

CALTRANS, the DA's office, court time — all this has cost a lot more than $9,460.45 Revenge is the point, not restitution, revenge against the one guy and a warning to the rest.

AS JUDGE BEHNKE puzzled out Parrish’s “restitution,” one had to wonder why Behnke didn't cite and fine Caltrans for making false claims to the Court. Caltrans went from a demand of half a mil to less than ten grand, lying the whole way.

LOCAL COLOR (Friends of Linn Bottorf, Coast artist and bon vivant presently recuperating at Sherwood Oaks)...

ELEANOR COONEY writes: "Linn is doing fairly well at Sherwood Oaks, except that he has lately been eating very little. I sat with him at dinner recently, and the food was really not so bad at all — fresh salmon, rice pilaf, a vegetable mix. So it's not that the food is inedible. I was able to get him to eat a few bites. When he refused any more, and left the table, I finished it. Can't stand to see food go to waste. And it was good! He did, apparently, scarf down a burger I got at McDonald's (I know, I know) and left by his bed. Next I'll try a Jenny's Giant Burger. Anyone inspired to stop by with something tempting from the outside world, you're encouraged to do so! He's gotta eat something."

MARCO MCCLEAN writes: "What interests me is to hear that they still have Jenny's Giant Burger in Fort Bragg. I have always loved the salacious sound of it: "Jenny's Giant Burger." Somehow I forgot all about it. I'm hardly ever in Fort Bragg in the daytime anymore. Across the parking lot from Jenny's Giant Burger, the bowling alley closed forever and became some sort of local Jesus fort, but many years ago the busy bowling alley was a purveyor of fine hamburgers too. They fry-toasted thick-cut French bread on the flatgrill in the fat from the meat, and they layered on hand-cut slices of onion and ripe tomato and a slab of iceberg lettuce so they had to pin it all together with bar toothpicks to keep it from toppling off the plate."

NO RAISES for line workers but free cars for their bosses: On December 7, 1999, the Board of Supervisors "created an executive automobile allowance for appointed department heads, and extended by resolution to elected and exempt department heads and approved County executives." Annual Recurring Cost Budgeted in Current Year for CEO’s office goes from $1,442 to $3,000.

LOTS OF COUNTY bureaucrats get this perk, and lots of them live out of the County, meaning they get paid to commute to work. Why, when they make salaries more than adequate to pay their own transportation. Some who live in the County, like the Superintendent of County Schools, gets a car and an allowance to commute back and forth to Talmage from his home in Fort Bragg. He makes upwards of $120,000 a year.

THE SUPERVISORS are poised to declare the drought over. (Well, gee, it rained, didn't it?) "The Board’s Drought Ad Hoc Committee no longer meets and there are currently no communities/water agencies/districts on a drought critical list."

MENDO'S ROYAL COUPLE of Frequent Fliers are Scotty and Kelisha. They're described in their latest interface with the forces of law and order:

Alvarez, Willis
Alvarez, Willis

ON SATURDAY December 27th at about 9:25 AM Ukiah Police responded to 125 South Orchard Avenue for campers. Officers contacted 31 year old Scotty Lee Willis and 26 year old Kelisha Alvarez who were both sleeping under blankets. The surrounding area was covered in trash, blankets, and clothing; two shopping carts also containing garbage and clothing were nearby. Ukiah Police Officers had responded to identical service calls involving these subjects 16 times within the previous 10 days, wherein the subjects were either warned or cited for violating the City’s overnight camping ordinance. Ukiah Police had responded the night prior at 11:45 PM and warned both subjects regarding overnight camping, as they didn’t meet the criteria to be cited at that time. Willis and Alvarez were arrested for overnight camping, and booked into the County Jail. Other officers responded and spent considerable time gathering and storing Willis’ and Alvarez’ large amount of possessions and other items.

"OTHER OFFICERS RESPONDED and spent considerable time gathering and storing Willis' and Alvarez's large amount of possessions and other items."

THE UKIAH PD has taken the “serve” part of “protect and serve” to a whole new level of serve in the case of these two who, before America lost its way, would have been confined to a state hospital program. As it is, the police spend many hours of public time taking care of them. And our judges just keep on sending Scotty and Kelisha, and about 40 other habituals, back out on the street.

EARLIER IN THE WEEK, Scotty and Kelisha, had refused shelter because — get this — they didn't want to share space with black people!

Johnson
Johnson

BOOKING ENTRY: DAVID JOHNSON, Ukiah. Grand theft, obtaining vehicle by theft or extortion, receiving stolen property, conspiracy, vandalism, probation revocation. (Frequent-Frequent flyer with enough miles to get him his own room at the County Jail.)

JOHNSON has been charged in Mendocino County Superior Court with at least 28 crimes since 1995, many of them felonies. Throw in traffic violations, a few civil charges and numerous parole violations with his registration as a sex offender, and Johnson is right up there with Kelisha and Scotty in total police hours.

DavidJohnsonCases

SOME OF JOHNSON'S CHARGES are, of course, drug related. According to a (typical) Ukiah PD report from October of 2013: “On October 1st at about 1:00 PM Ukiah Police Detectives were on Talmage Road near Cunningham Street, and saw 33 year old David Michael Johnson near the railroad tracks. Johnson was a parolee at large and wanted for violating his registration requirements as a sex offender. Johnson ran into the creek bed, and one officer ran after him while the other entered the creek in front of Johnson. Upon seeing the other officer Johnson tried to run the other way, but eventually surrendered. Johnson had a methamphetamine smoking pipe and hypodermic syringes in his possession, and was charged with resisting arrest and possessing drug paraphernalia and for violating parole.”

HERE'S OUR GUY kicking off 2015 with a vehicle theft somehow involving a “conspiracy” and the usual meaningless charge of “probation revocation,” as he joins several hundred other Mendo miscreants who've had their probation revoked to no known consequence. One wonders what this guy will have to do before he spends more than a couple of days in the barred timeout room.

REPUBLICANS In Mendocino County? The Mendocino County Republican Central Committee will meet Saturday, January 17, 2015, 10:00 AM - 12:00 Noon at the Henny Penny Restaurant, 697 S. Orchard Ave (corner of Gobbi), Ukiah 95482. For further information contact: Stan Anderson, 707-321-2592.

STEVEN NEUROTH’S BROTHER AND SISTER have filed a claim against Mendocino County for unspecified damages “in excess of jurisdictional limits of the Superior Court,” alleging that the 55-year old Neuroth’s in-custody death at the County Jail was the result of “deliberate indifference” and “widespread injuries.” Neuroth died in custody on June 11 of apparent asphyxiation and other injuries. The claim alleges that jail staff should have known that Neuroth was “obviously emotionally disturbed” and under the influence of a controlled substance when he arrived at the jail, because the Willits police had described Neuroth as “extremely paranoid” that someone was trying to kill him and that there were snakes in the car with him. The family further claims that the County is “responsible for claimants’ injuries through its own acts and omissions, negligent and otherwise, by failing to properly and adequately hire, investigate, train, supervise, monitor, instruct and discipline deputies and other law enforcement personnel.”

THE NOW MOSTLY PRIVATIZED County Mental Health apparatus seems to pass on people crazed by methamphetamine, but if this poor guy was mentally ill and on meth, he would have been a load for whomever had to deal with him.

THE DA doesn't investigate jail deaths unless invited to look into them which, to us, means the jail investigates itself, a situation ripe for abuse.

FORT BRAGG ADVOCATE REPORTER Frank Hartzell’s coverage of the Neuroth in-custody death, based primarily on jall medical reports, an autopsy, and a death investigation, paints a somewhat different picture than the one in the family’s claim: “Neuroth's autopsy and death investigation report revealed a violent and methamphetamine-soaked end to his life. After being brought to the jail for being under the influence of a controlled substance, Neuroth was screaming ‘don't kill me.’ He had a pulse rate of 129 beats per minute and appeared paranoid to the CFMG (contract) nurse on duty as he was put in his cell, the death investigation file showed. Neuroth resisted officers and was taken to the floor using control holds. Leg restraints were attached to him and he was carried to a safety cell, where he continued to be combative. The nurse said it took deputies almost 15 minutes to take his clothes from him and remove his restraints as the highly excited man continued to fight. Within five minutes of being in the safety cell, the nurse observed Neuroth still on his stomach and apparently not breathing. She and an officer went into the cell, found no pulse and called the ambulance. He was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead. Four kinds of stimulants were found in the toxicology tests, including three different amphetamines. His cause of death was found to be ‘Methamphetamine toxicity associated with violent struggle. (Any contributory role of restraint asphyxia unascertainable).’ Neuroth's body was covered with cuts and bruises and he had a broken rib, the autopsy found.”

THE NEUROTH FAMILY’S CLAIM was on the Board of Supervisors consent calendar for Tuesday, January 6 where it is recommended for routine denial.

THE NEW UKIAH CITY COUNCIL, according to the Ukiah Daily Journal, is going for $15,000 worth of consulting to  “facilitate goal setting.” The last time the Council went looking for outside advice, they came up with Ukiah-based consultant Steve Zuieback and his “process enneagram.” I can't remember how much they paid Zuieback for his enema, but the City Council that hired him was purged in the next election.

Enneagram
Enneagram

WE'RE TOUCHED by the people who, Quixote-like, periodically try to reform KZYX. We wish them well. But the game is rigged. KZYX can't be reformed. It will always be dominated by frightened little people way over their dim little heads.

THE STATION'S founding father, a hustler called Sean Donovan, who retroactively (and successfully) billed his creation for services rendered, structured KZYX in a way that it would forever be controlled by management and its programmers, the two being interchangeable.

INTERCHANGEABLE? Interchangeable. The programmers always vote for management no matter who management is because they are dependent on management for their shows. If they alienate management, as John Sakowicz, Doug McKenty and innumerable others have before them, they're out as programmers. And there are what? A couple of hundred programmers, a bunch of them playing the same music now for a quarter century, thumbs securely stuck in their uncomprehending pusses.

PUT THE PROGRAMMERS together with the paid membership, almost all of which is also happy with no local news, music and NPR, add them to the usual oblivious Mendo board of rubber stampers, and you've got an insurmountable bloc for bad management forever, or until the whole soufflé collapses of its own inertia. It would take a large number of single minded new members to turn the ship around, and that bloc just doesn't exist in Mendocino County.

WE THINK public radio energy in this County is more productively invested in KMEC and, for people who can get its signal, KMUD. It's too bad. Smart, pleasant, energetic people in the management slots at KZYX would double the station's membership. As is, it's an elephant's graveyard for the wrong kind of old hippies. The right kind of old hippies? The fun ones.

ON-LINE STATEMENT OF THE DAY: “PG&E rates are going up and up, with another 5% raise this coming year. How comforting that PG&E maintains over 50 vice presidents. News like this reminds me of Gordon Gecko's comment in the movie, ‘Wall Street’ — about the money being spent on paperwork between vice presidents.”

THE DA'S POT STATS: 4th Quarter Non-medicinal Marijuana Prosecution Stats: Fifty-seven individuals charged with a marijuana-related primary offense had their cases resolved during the 4th quarter of the 2014 calendar year. The conviction rate for the quarter was 90%.

OF THE 57 charged, 6 individuals had all charges dismissed against them. Two individuals were convicted of infractions. Thirty-four individuals were convicted at the misdemeanor level.

FIFTEEN individuals were convicted at the felony level. Four of these 15 felons received local prison sentences. The 34 misdemeanants and 11 of the 15 felons are now on either supervised or informal probation. All 45 are subject to search and seizure on demand without a search warrant.

AS A TERM of probation, 31 of the overall 57 were ordered to perform a collective 4,925 hours (159 hours/person) of community service through Mendo-Lake Alternative Service.

DOUG LOSAK, Interim County Counsel for Mendocino County, seems stuck on a hamster wheel of pointlessness, with the current spat with Citizen O'Brien only the most recent example. Two years ago, just two weeks after being appointed Interim County Counsel for the first time, Losak was pulled over for speeding with an unregistered gun and a bag of marijuana stuffed under the front seat. That episode earned Losak the sobriquet of The Midnight Rambler.

LOSAK RESIGNED from the interim position in semi-disgrace (as half the County laughed, the other half pretended to be aghast), but managed to keep his high paid County job. Still, driving around in the middle of the night with dope and a gun is, even in Mendocino County, considered just a tad unseemly for a County Counsel. But Losak was inevitably promoted to "Acting" County Counsel when his replacement quickly proved to be a bust and abruptly resigned following a performance review. Losak struggled from the beginning to advise the Supes on basics like how many votes it takes to pass a motion. But things went smoothly enough until Losak was named "Interim" County Counsel. No one, by the way, from the County has ever explained the difference between acting and interim except interim pays a lot more.

THE SUPES TRIED to sneak through a 30% raise for Losak on the Consent Calendar, which is usually reserved for non-controversial items. Sheriff Allman immediately said it was an insult to his deputies to consider any raise for Losak. District Attorney Eyster told the Supes in detail that Losak was not a very good lawyer and that calling him "interim" was a way around their own policies that limited raises for "acting" appointments to no more than 5%. In the end, Losak was given a 10% raise, which was still a huge slap in the face to all county employees who manage to show up for work every day without getting booked into the jail between shifts.

BOARD CHAIR JOHN PINCHES, in a departure from his usual common sense approach to the public's business, came out strongly in favor of the Losak raise, claiming that Losak was doing an "extraordinary" job for the County. Pinches didn't provide any evidence of Losak's extraordinariness but neither did any of us know which supervisors besides Pinches were in such staunch support of the Midnight Rambler. The public's business is always kinda opaque around here, much of it being done in "closed session."

AND HOW HAS LOSAK done since his raise and extraordinary job performance? When Library Advisory Board member Jonathan Middlebrook made a Public Records Act request for the resume of a consultant hired for the library, Losak said the records were protected as a personnel matter. Middlebrook sued, at which point Losak said the County never had the records. After months of jousting back and forth the County settled the lawsuit by producing the records it said it didn't have and paying Middlebrook $2,000 for attorney fees.

CITIZEN O'BRIEN initially sued the County claiming a Sheriff's Deputy threatened to arrest a petition signature gatherer at Raley's and that O'Brien was denied his First Amendment right to sign the petition. Sheriff Allman and Deputy County Counsel Terry Gross signed off on an agreement that said the Sheriff would adopt a training manual on the topic and that each side would pay its own attorney fees. (A training manual? How about a simple directive: "Boys, and you're all boys in this here department, Americans have the right to circulate and sign petitions in public places.")

THE SETTLEMENT Agreement also said the Board of Supes had to approve it. Meanwhile, O'Brien signed the agreement and dismissed his original lawsuit. O'Brien has been trying ever since to find out if the Supes voted to approve the agreement. And if so, what was the vote? Interim County Counsel Losak wrote a letter on Dec. 16 saying the Supes approved the settlement agreement, but in court on Dec 19 claimed the Supes never vote on such matters but only "give direction to staff."

JUDGE HENDERSON ruled against the County's effort to get the lawsuit tossed out, instead setting it for a Mandatory Settlement Conference on Feb. 25 while urging the parties to resolve the matter in the interim. O'Brien has neatly summed up the issue: "Judge Rules Supervisors Must Disclose Vote - But Did They Vote?" Second District Supervisor John McCowen, quoted in the Ukiah Daily Journal, says the Supes "never saw or voted on the settlement agreement" and if they had, he "would be the first to insist that the vote be made public."

INSTEAD of keeping his clients, the County of Mendocino, off the front page, Losak has managed to become the story on an on-going basis. And has cost the County money in the process. First, by protecting what he said were non-existent documents only to produce them after the County was sued. And now by saying the Supes approved an agreement that at least one of the Supes says they never saw.

DENNIS O'BRIEN'S ongoing Brown Act struggles are of major importance to all of us. He's going for transparency, that public agencies do their business in public. For a long time now the supervisors, to name the most egregious offenders, along with every school board in the County, do a lot of stuff in closed session. We, Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public, have a right to know which supervisor votes which way on these matters. Pour it on, Dennis!

THE HEADLINE over Willie Brown's column in the Sunday Chron: “Clinton, Bush: Skip fluff, seek substance.” The Mayor seems excited at the prospect of the looming dynasty showdown, but I'll bet the prospect of a choice between Bush and Clinton — Russian roulette with no empty cylinders — causes most Americans, whatever their political views, only despair. As for fluff, Franklin Roosevelt was the last American president to tell Americans the true state of the union, and the last president who knew what to do to save capitalism from itself.

HIS LAST SENTENCE in Brown's Sunday piece seemed an inadvertent give away as to the diff between the two parties, and the diff between high end professional Democrats and the rest of us: "…But this time out, the GOP's business backers see victory on the horizon and are not going to let the ship be hijacked by the plaid-suit crowd.”

THERE ARE, YOU SEE, cool people like me, the Clintons and the rest of us millionaire Democrats and you, you pathetic off-the-rack schlubs, whatever your politics.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Eddie Muller's Noir Film Festival at the Castro Theater, an annual event now in its 13th year. Opening night is January 16th with two Frisco-filmed doozies, “Woman on the Run” and “Born To Be Bad.” BTW, Muller is one of the best noir-ish writers and just plain writer-writers around. He's especially good at re-creating pre-War San Francisco in his boxing-themed books, as you can read for yourself in his “Shadow Boxer.” Muller's one of these unsung genius types who doesn't get the recognition he deserves, probably because he refuses to shove himself upfront in a much less talented herd. The Noir Festival is lots of fun, and the Castro Theater is a delight in itself. (eddiemuller.com)

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