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Off the Record

LOOKED AT FROM a horror film perspective — accurately, in other words — Mendocino County is like a mammoth haunted house. Behind every door lurks a crime, a cover-up of a crime, a simmering scandal, thefts great and small. Which brings us to Kristi Furman, Clerk of the Board, Mendocino County Supervisors, none of the above but a beneficiary of one. Ms. Furman is getting a big back door raise because, insiders say, her raise is a reward for not filing a slam-dunk harassment charge against the County for her suffering at the hands (not literally, we hope) of priapic former supervisor, Michael Delbar. Instead of suing the County for the big bucks she could have gotten for enduring the attentions of the boorish supervisor, Furman, a team player, stayed at her job without mercenary complaint. Her sideways promotion is her reward for not costing broke-ass Mendocino County a big hunk of settlement dough, not to mention embarrassment if official shame is even possible anymore.

BEHIND ANOTHER of the locked doors in the Mendo House of Horrors is the Aaron Vargas case, now going national with Vargas's indefatigable sister, Mindy Galliani, slated for an appearance on Oprah in a couple of weeks. Vargas, if you came in real late, shot and killed a man who Vargas said had tormented him for years, an alleged pedophile and pillar of the Fort Bragg community as scout master and businessman named Darrell McNeill. Vargas was 31 when he shot McNeill with an antique replica pistol. (There are assertions recently from the Vargas camp that the gun may have accidentally discharged into McNeill. Police say Vargas would not permit Mrs. McNeill to call the police during the half hour it took McNeill to die. Mrs. McNeill, in an odd twist to the case, is a Vargas partisan.) After the shooting, several other Coast men came forward to say McNeill had also molested them when they were very young. According to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department there are 42 registered sex offenders in Fort Bragg, which works out to roughly one every few blocks, and not all of them pedophiles presumably.

THE SAD SAGA of Aaron Vargas would seem to require a serious follow-up investigation into why McNeill apparently got a free pass from the Fort Bragg Police Department, if he did get a free pass. McNeill's dead. We'll never hear from him, but the other men who have said he molested them are very much alive. Some of them have said either they or a parent complained about McNeill to the Fort Bragg Police Department but their complaints were ignored.

THE FORT BRAGG PD has turned over three or four times over the past thirty years, but there are a couple of cops who have been there long enough to know who the town's most active pervs were and are. Department records also presumably exist, as does, in theory, a Mendocino County Grand Jury that could investigate. There are some very large unknowns about this case. If it's true that the police didn't move on McNeill out of pure sloth and dereliction, Vargas and the rest of the victims are entitled to damages so huge they could wind up owning Fort Bragg.

WHILE WE'RE TALKING PERVS and Mendocino County, for its population of a mere 90,000 Mendo has more than held its own in the national and even international twisto sweepstakes. Among the world class psychopaths who once called Mendocino County home, we can include Jim Jones, Tree Frog Johnson, Leonard Lake and Charles Ng, and Kenneth Parnell. Parnell was in the news this week because Timothy White died suddenly at age 35 of a pulmonary embolism. Parnell and the late Steven Stayner, also a kidnap victim of Parnell's when Stayner was a small boy, had snagged the five-year-old Timothy White off South Dora Street in Ukiah one afternoon in 1980 as Timothy walked home from school. Two weeks later, Stayner, still only 14, appeared with Timothy at the Ukiah Police station, having hitchhiked with the child from Parnell's cabin on Mountain View Road, west of Boonville. Most people know the story of how Stayner had saved Timothy from a childhood of mandatory sodomy. It was the subject of a television special called, “I Know My Name is Steven.” What isn't widely known is that Parnell, after he grabbed the six-year-old Stayner in Modesto, had lived with the boy in Santa Rosa and then in various locations in Mendocino County, including Comptche and Point Arena, without once arousing anyone's suspicion as to the nature of the Parnell-Stayner relationship. Parnell supported himself and what he described as his “family” by working as a night clerk at local hotels and motels. He had enrolled Stayner in the elementary schools of Santa Rosa, Mendocino and Point Arena where the curiosity of local teachers and school administrators, then as now incurious about matters unrelated to their pay and comfort, went un-aroused. Another Mendo angle: Parnell was not prosecuted locally for kidnapping Timothy White; he went back to prison basically on nothing more serious than a parole violation and was out again after five years. He finally died in prison after he was arrested for trying to buy a Berkeley child for $400.

A READER WRITES: “I went to school with Dennis (Steven Stayner) and had no idea what was really going on. He got drunk at a party once and tried to tell us he was kidnapped but no one believed him because he was so wasted. What a huge missed opportunity that was. Ken and Dennis rented a home from our family to live in and I remember feeding their animals when they were on vacation. I still did not know anything was going on. I remember asking Dennis once, where is your mom at to which he replied, Oh down in the city. Ken at that time had a girlfriend in Ukiah who had like 3-4 kids around my age so I would go up to their place and play. I guess I was one of the safe ones since Ken didn't seem to like little girls. Again, I knew nothing was going on! It was tragic when Dennis died and truly a heart breaking time for Timmy and his family.”

RICHARD ALLEN DAVIS murdered Polly Klaas when he should have been back in San Quentin for violating his conditions of parole. Davis had been arrested for drunk driving in Mendocino County where he was briefly held at the Mendocino County Jail. Mendo authorities, for reasons that remain obscure, were unaware that Davis was a parolee and let him go. Davis, as we know, then raped and murdered the little girl.

LUIS TREE FROG JOHNSON arrived in the Anderson Valley c. 1978 with a small boy in tow and was instantly embraced by the local counter-culture. It's likely that Johnson, instantly sizing up Mendo-Hip as Doofus-Squared, called himself Tree Frog to solidify his bona fides with the hippies as eco-boffo so he could get at their kids. Frog lived in Boonville at roughly the same time Parnell was moving around the Mendocino Coast with Steven Stayner. No one, least of all the stoners Frog associated with, apparently tried to determine the true nature of Mr. Frog's custody of Alex Cabarga, a boy of 11 or 12 when the odd couple found succor and suckers in Boonville. Even if the hippies had had intimations of evil, as it all turned sordidly out, Cabarga's parents had voluntarily turned the boy over to Tree Frog because, his parents said, Frog was the cool-est adult they knew! (If Americans had to pass parenting tests before they reproduced, we wouldn't be facing present-day population pressures.) The Boonville hippies, of course, also thought Frog was cool. And so helpful! Frog was always available to baby-sit! Why, he'd even take the kids over night! What a guy! When the Boonville hippies finally figured out that Frog was unwholesome even by the ga-ga standards of long-haired dumbkopfs, Frog was “shunned” all the way out to Albion, forty-five minutes from Boonville. He parked his live-in molesto-van at the Whale School, also a gathering place for randomly supervised children assembled, it was said, for educational purposes. When Frog and Cabarga were finally arrested in San Francisco with two-year-old Tara Burke, the little girl they'd kidnapped in the East Bay, Frisco detectives soon appeared in Boonville with a pile of nude Polaroids of children the police had found in Frog's step-van. The cops were trying to match the photos with alleged parents. It was all beyond awful and the inevitable outcome of the Do Your Own Thing-ism of the times. The hippies of those years? All those veterans of all those big naked solstice piles? They cleaned up and now run Mendocino County as therapists (of course), teachers, school administrators, lawyers (double of course), judges (triple of course), social workers and social work bureaucrats, public radio subscribers, militant Democrats.

HUGH EVERETT III was a well-known physicist. His posthumous letter about Hamburg obviously came from Inland's Evil Empire as channeled by a local radio personality. Hamburg is the only liberal in Mendocino County feared by the local right-wing. They fear him because he was in fact an effective supervisor, leading the way to prevent a truly ghastly “convention center” the EE's pavement division wanted to plunk down north of Ukiah near the Parducci Winery. That monstrosity should have been stopped on aesthetic grounds alone, but Hamburg, Norman deVall and Jim Eddie, the last hardly a radical, knew that it represented, as Hamburg argued at the time and has to point out again to the historical amnesiacs, the worst kind of leap frog development. Moreover, and this always seems to come as a surprise to the inland chamber of commerce types — no one deliberately comes to Ukiah for the purpose of enjoyment. It's not an attractive place. A convention of the blind wouldn't have booked that place. I'm sorry to have to break the news to you boys, but there it is.

TERRY ALLEN COHEN, 60, whose trial for murder was thoroughly covered by Bruce McEwen, was found dead by suicide in his Laytonville home last Sunday. He'd been dead for several days. Cohen had twice overdosed on prescription drugs while his trial was underway, although he managed to hang his jury (10-2 for conviction) when the evidence against him in the 2008 shooting death of Sean Piper at Cohen's home was overwhelming, so overwhelming the DA was preparing to re-try him.

A GENTLE KNOCK on our office door last week preceded the entry of a tentative woman holding a painting. “A man named Captain Fathom asked me to give this to you,” she explained. “He said he wanted you to have it.” The Captain himself had also presented our reporter, Bruce McEwen, with an autographed copy of “The War Within” by Bob Woodward. The Captain has always been generous, but we wondered at the two-item variousness of the two gifts: Woodward and a mermaid? The painting, as I hope you can see, is indeed of a mermaid, nautical themes having always been dear to Fathom, an ab poacher from way back. The mermaid rendition is the work of Babette of Fish Rock Road, Point Arena. But our wall space being limited and presently covered with political exhortations, we placed the mermaid in the conference room next door while we mulled over a permanent home for her. The next day I heard a female voice exclaim, “Oh, no. I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to turn her face to the wall.” We weren't sure if this determined comment was an aesthetic judgment or a political pronouncement of the gender-inspired type, but the mermaid is back in our office, Babette, and we'll keep her safe for you in case she and The Captain swam away from you without your knowing. As for Woodward's tome, and we're not trying to be obtuse here, but we've never been big on his reporting, even his Watergate reporting, and only if every other book in the world suddenly disappeared right down to the Gideon bibles would we read about the Bush-Cheney Gang. Of course it's the thought that counts, and thanks, Captain Fathom.

SHERIFF ALLMAN made the state news Monday when he appeared at KMUD, Garberville, to ask the 'MUD not to live-broadcast the movements of the Sheriff's dope crews. KMUD was founded partly out of frustration at pot raids, a fact Allman seemed unaware of until he arrived at the station where a mini-mob of demonstrators invited Allman to return to Ukiah and leave KMUD alone.

NEWT GINGRICH recently called Obama “the most radical president in American history,” and referred to “Obama's secular, socialist machine.” Closer to home, a letter-to-the-editor described 5th District supe's candidate Norman de Vall as politically situated on the “extreme left.” Norm de Vall is a mainstream liberal. Obama, by any standard, is a very conservative liberal. Liberals are not leftists, let along socialists. Obama is far to the right of New Deal liberals like FDR and LBJ. Gingrich, who knows the diff, deliberately characterizes liberals as “radicals” or “leftists” to stir up the millions of Americans sooooooooo untutored in the history of the land of their birth that they're unable to make even the most basic political distinctions. Obama just turned over the country to the banks. A socialist would nationalize the banks. Obama also just turned over healthcare to the insurance combines. A socialist would not compel citizens to buy health insurance from for-profit corporations. Obama is not a socialist. He's barely a liberal. He's a nice man, a man too nice for the good of most of us, whose wife and children are probably being held hostage in the White House basement by Gingrich and Goldman-Sachs. Obama's government is more for capitalism of the worst, most lawless kind than Bush's government was. A leftist is opposed to capitalism. Or at least wary enough of it to want it heavily regulated. Obama and Norman de Vall are not hostile to capitalism. Mendolib is not hostile to capitalism. There are very few self-identified leftists in Mendocino County. In fact, I think Jeff Blankfort and I are the only ones. Gingrich and the rest of the Fox News Beller Boys are sponsored by the big capitalists who pay Gingrich, O'Reilly, and uber-twit Hannity to falsely characterize liberals as socialists to prevent average Americans from getting the civic amenities enjoyed by Europeans, Japanese, Koreans, Malaysians, and Canadians — universal single payer health care, free or very cheap public transportation, free or inexpensive public education through college, and so on. Large sectors of the rich don't want to pay for this stuff, hence Gingrich, O'Reilly, Hannitty and the rest of them propagandizing the boobs to vote and act against the boobery's own interests! In return for a functioning society the citizens of the civilized countries mentioned above pay about 40% or so of their income in taxes, a bargain for what they get in return. We pay between 20 and 30% and get back chaos and wars.

“THROUGHOUT the country, the dismal economy is straining transit budgets to the breaking point,” said a recent press release from the Mendocino Transit Authority announcing transit service cutbacks throughout the area. MTA General Manager Bruce Richard, said that the MTA “is experiencing the most difficult budget year since 1976. Facing a half-a-million dollar shortfall has sharpened our focus on our fundamental purpose: moving people safely and efficiently and our role to provide critical mobility to the communities we serve.” The press release goes on to described cutbacks in several services and increases in dial-a-ride fares. A Public Hearing to solicit public input on the proposed service reductions and fare increase will be held on April 22, 2010 at 1:30pm at the regular MTA Board meeting in Fort Bragg at 190 East Spruce and video-conference with Ukiah in the Riesling Room at the Ukiah Valley Conference Center, 200 S. School Street. Cutbacks include half the evening buses in Ukiah, reductions in weekend trips and their frequency; reductions in dial-a-ride on Saturday and consolidation of two Yokayo Center routes. In Fort Bragg Saturday service on Routes 5 and 60 is eliminated, round trips are cut in half and weekend routes will be restricted. Dial-a-Ride Saturday service will lose the last hour from 5-6pm. Almost all Holiday service will be eliminated. Fare increases are also proposed. The regular cash bus fare would rise 25¢ for all trips short and long. Punch passes and monthly passes will cost about 25% more (which would mean that a $60 monthly pass will go up to $75). Dial-a-ride fares will rise 25%. Service reductions are also planned for Willits and Laytonville as discussed at an MTA Board meeting in Willits on March 25. Other reductions are slated for discussion on the South Coast on May 27.

THESE SERVICE reductions and fare increases come at about the same time that the MTA contracted with a Santa Rosa design firm for $760k in architectural services to design a building to house its offices, shop, “alternative fuel building” and nearly 30,000 square feet of photovoltaic arrays which will end up costing about $22 million or more to build. $670k of the $760k came from the MTA’s “vehicle acquisition reserve,” the MTA will also have to come up with a sizable matching funds in the next phase to get the $22 million in construction grant moneys. The new MTA building will add several new bus and staff parking spaces, triple the MTA’s shop and office space, all while services are cut, fares are increased and ridership declines. Never mind that there’s plenty of empty industrial building space in the vicinity of the MTA right now.

KERMIT LYNCH of the eponymous Kermit Lynch wine shop in Berkeley isn't impressed by Mendo's or any other California wine. Lynch recently told the Chron, “When I first started I sold wines from all over. I carried a lot of California wines. I had what people called a California palate; I thought, the bigger a wine the better. As time went on, France and Italy just appealed to me.....In France, you can really talk centuries-old wine as culture. There's a depth of interest that goes beyond vinification and whether you use new oak. The 70s was really the period when California wine started to change. When I got into wine, I had the good fortune that I could taste old wines easily. I got to taste California wines from the '40s 50s and '60s. They were jewels. I loved them. But in the 70s they started going more and more toward these bigger alcohols and tons of new oak, where previously they didn't use new oak in California. It's a taste I can't stand. So they changed and left me out of it… Most of my wines are priced from $10 to $20. The high prices are ludicrous.”

ACCORDING to a recent story in the Press Democrat about the new dope dog on the campus of Ukiah High School, there were 188 suspected cases of students possessing, using or selling pot during the first four months of school this year. The five year average case load at Ukiah High School had been 113 busts a year, but that average also included alcohol related offenses. Boonville Unified has a few busts every year but proportionately nowhere near the number that Ukiah does.

PERSONS NOSTALGIC for the protections of the First Amendment, will want to meet Peter Scheer of the First Amendment Coalition who will speak from 6-8pm, Tuesday, April 27 at the Ukiah Civic Center. Mr. Scheer knows all public access to public records and the Brown Act, to name two laws either ignored or unobserved in Mendocino County. KC Meadows has long struggled to get the salaries and the names of the County employees earning them out of Mendocino County's always uncooperative County Counsel's office staffed, it is said, by people trained in the law.

SUPERVISOR Carre Brown, in a long letter to the Ukiah Daily Journal on Sunday, tries to explain why she voted for John McCowen's nutty, unworkable, federally mooted pot cultivation ordinance (County Code 9.31) by saying that she doesn't like it because it allows 99 plants per parcel (with lots of bureaucratic restrictions), but that she voted for it anyway because it contains new restrictions on outdoor grows, which are better than nothing. “Our best effort, Measure B, has not made a dent in [Mendocino's pot friendly] reputation even with record numbers of arrests and prosecutions. The criminals have continued to come in. The home invasions and rip-offs continue to escalate without the 99 plant approval.” Our best effort, Ms. Brown? A trio of Whack A Moles like John McCowen, Mike Boom-Boom Sweeney and Ross Liberty is Our? Measure B was not “our best effort” because the Board of Supervisors had nothing to do with it. All Measure B did was lower the allowed number of plants from 25 to six, thus making criminals out of law abiding mom and pop gardeners. To the big boys of the pot biz the six plant rule meant no more than the 25 plant rule had meant, i.e., nothing. Measure B was aimed at getting John McCowen elected supervisor by whipping up a lot of hysteria about the pot issue. Period.

PS. The California Supreme Court further muddied the water with its recent Kelly decision which said that marijuana patients could have as much marijuana as is reasonably related to their medical condition. The Kelly decision said that no legislative body could limit the number of plants without going to the trouble of asking “the people” to approve yet another measure amending Proposition 215 with plant count limits.

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