Off the Record 10/21/2009

by AVA News Service, October 21, 2009

THE STEAMIEST SEX case ever in Mendocino County kicks off Thursday with a pre-trial conference in Ukiah. Already, Judge Behnke is keeping media out, although so far as we know Christina Aanestad is the only media trying to have a look. The AVA is also on the case, but we're after depositions while Ms. Aanestad has asked to record all the proceedings for the new MEC-based media group she's part of. The matter involves a suit against the County brought by deputy Jason Cox of the Mendocino Sheriff's Department. Cox alleges that his supervising sergeant, Shannon Barney, when Cox was assigned to Covelo, made sexual demands on Cox and Mrs. Cox. Barney, Cox says, was also part of an in-house cop wife swap­ping arrangement with other resident deputies, two of whom committed suicide although their deaths aren't, at least so far, known to be related to their after-hours sexual practices. We've always expected that the County will settle this thing rather than see the whole show played out in public, but we're prepared to call upon outside media groups and the law, specifically the California Public Records Act, if Behnke and the stonewalls in the County Counsel's office try to dis­appear this one.

MENDOCINO COUNTY reported a record num­ber of marijuana arrests in 2008, according to data from the California Department of Justice Bureau of Criminal Statistics. Mendo's felony pot arrests soared to an all-time record of 238, up 42% from 2007. The surge in Mendo marijuana felonies appears to be attributable to Measure B, which tightened the County's marijuana policy as of last June. The net effect of B has been the opposite of what its deranged sponsors – John McCowen, Mike Sweeney and Ross Liberty –intended. The uptick in arrests nicely serves to keep pot prices at $2000 to $5000 a pound, thus attracting even more people to the business, especially in a down economy that's clearly going to be down for many years.  Mendocino is unique among California's counties in that its felony arrests outnumber its mis­demeanor arrests for the same offense. Statewide in 2008 there were 17,126 felony marijuana arrests and 61,388 misdemeanor pot pops.

EVERY WEEK at least one woman is booked into the County  Jail for smacking her significant other, and I ask you what kind of wimp-twit is Michael Wil­son, 39, of Windsor? At 2:15 last Saturday morning "deputies were dispatched to 7751 North Highway One in Little River regarding a domestic disturbance. Upon arrival, deputies learned that the suspect, Anne Wilson, assaulted her spouse, Michael Wilson, during a heated verbal discussion. Wilson sustained a small laceration above his upper lip as a result of the assault. Anne Wilson was arrested and charged with corporal injury to a spouse and transported to the Mendocino County Jail. Anne Wilson's bail was set at $25,000." If Anne winged the guy with a tire iron while he was asleep, Macho Michael might have a beef. But a cut lip and you call the cops?

THEN THERE'S the case of Erica Sandoval of Ukiah, all four feet ten inches and 104 pounds of her. Ms. Sandoval allegedly smacked her "man" who also immediately called for law enforcement to protect him against her wrath. Ms. Sandoval's bail was also set at $25,000.

AND HOW ABOUT Miss Tymn of Covelo booked last week for "use of offensive words"? And 85-year-old Ed Roberts of Ukiah, jugged for "terrorist threats"?

WITH SO MANY Mendo people voting absentee, the unwitting have already cast their ballots before we've offered up our canny electoral advice, but here it is for November 3: No on Measure A, of course, for the reasons stated in last week's paper, not because Mendolib is voting No.

MENDOCINO COUNTY'S most corrupt public agency is the Mendocino County Office of Education. Yes, yes, I know that's a large statement, but MCOE beats out the rest of the local apparat by some dis­tance, not performing a single task that the rest of the County's school districts could not do better and cheaper. MCOE rakes off an annual $36 mil or so simply for functioning as a pass-through agency, tak­ing a rake-off of the state and federal millions that should go directly to the County's independent school districts. Naturally, it takes a special kind of delu­sional to sit on MCOE's board of trustees. But pay each of those 7 trustees three hundred bucks a month plus free medical care plus travel plus tax-paid expedi­tions to "educational conferences"  for attending one day time meeting a month and, presto! lots of people want to get elected to the County School Board.

NICE ALTERMAN represents the 5th District, ground zero Mendolib. She's been on the board so long she could be the superintendent's grandmother, but has been content to merely hold his hand over two decades of free lunches. It's long past time for Alterman to shuffle off into the fog and buy her own double latte decafs. Vote for George Montag who, for all I know, could be a total lunatic, and probably is since he's from Elk, but lunacy would only be another reason to vote for him simply to see the alarm he might cause at MCOE's plush compound at Talmage. Montag's sole known virtue is that he isn't an incum­bent. MONTAG FOR COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD.

MADELIN HOLTKAMP is a long-time local public employment gang girl. (Hold the sexism accusations! There's plenty of public dollar gang boys – Colfax, Chesbro, Shoemaker, Sweeney, to name the most prominent.) Faster than an NFL defensive back can jump on a loose ball, Holtkamp leaps on unprotected tax dollars which, of course, makes her a natch for the MCOE board where unguarded public dollars is the name of the game. An automatic yes vote for what­ever MCOE administrators want, and they want it all, now, Holtkamp is another incumbent MCOE trustee who needs to be freed from her monthly meeting obligation. A retired doctor named Jonah Freedman has signed up to swallow the whale of this particular edu-boondoggle. He, too, could be an absolute nut­ball, but so what? He's not the incumbent. FREEDMAN for Area 6 County School Board.

MENDO-LAKE COMMUNITY COLLEGE'S board of trustees is another nest of mutual back-rub­bers in perpetual need of total over-turn. This is the "college" whose first priority has always been its state-of-the-art sports facilities, many of which were fully funded before the school's library bought its first book. Incumbent Area 5 trustee Janet Chaniot has been on the college board forever. Craig Shell, "execu­tive film producer" opposes her. We assume "execu­tive film producer" doesn't translate as Mr. Shell, his handheld camera, two bimbos, and a room at Motel 6, but again, he's not the incumbent. SHELL for Mendo College Board.

JUST WHEN you think the North Coast is finally beyond the grasping reach of Dan Hauser, he and his capped-tooth cannibal grin suddenly reappear in area newspapers. According to last week’s North Coast Journal, Hauser is a candidate for the Humboldt Bay Harbor District Board, a Eureka-based group of fan­tasists who promote the dually undoable deep water port for Eureka as the north end of a railroad running from Marin to Humboldt County's largest city. Town, actually. Eureka is hardly large enough to qualify as a city. The idea is that big boats would off and onload big cargoes to be named later. These mystery cargoes would then be shipped in and out of a presently non-existent modern port by train to and from the Bay Area, the Port of Oakland notwithstanding. Of course the rail line connecting the upper part of the old rail­road long ago disappeared into the mud flows of the Eel River Canyon while the Port of Eureka, like the non-existent railroad serving it, would require billions of dollars in modern industrial port infrastructure to even begin to rival, in facilities, existing ports up and down the West Coast.

WHEN HAUSER was finally term-limited out of state office, he moved over to the North Coast Rail­road Authority for several years. Democrat bigwigs owed him, you see, but he's too damn dumb to run for higher office and too incompetent for most sinecures, so they stuck him off in Willits to administer the trains that hadn't run in forty years. Hauser dutifully made sure the railroad wouldn't run for another forty although, realistically, it could run from the Bay Area to Willits without huge repair outlays to existing track. But getting a train to run between Sausalito and Willits, a feat which 19th century Americans managed in a mere two years, while doable today, assumes a competent person in charge. Hauser could barely find the caboose on the stationary train wrecks sidelined at the old Willits train station.

HAVING ENSURED that trains would never again run north of Santa Rosa, Hauser, who began public life in the oblivious little college town of Arcata, became Arcata's city manager, accomplishing nothing of note beyond occupying the job as every other house in the stoned village became an indoor grow. Hauser is now running for the Harbor District Board because, he told the Journal, he “was drawn back into the pub­lic sphere by a lingering sense of obligation to the community.” Shucks, Dan. You've done all you can for us so why don't you and Wes (Wes Chesbro, the Northcoast's second ongoing curse) just ride on outta here so we might have some hope. Hauser added that he “believes [good paying jobs] may yet be delivered by rail. I'm not 100 percent positive that the rail could be restored,” he said, avoiding in his typically weasel-lipped way, what “percent positive” he was.

LAST WEEK’S front page piece about the growing rebellion of the artists and staffers at the Mendocino Art Center produced some interesting reaction, mostly positive. Long-time Art Center members and supporters are now circulating a petition to force dis­closure of Art Center board records and finances, and to make Board positions directly elected by the mem­bership. Readers familiar with the Center’s operations and finances told us that the estimated annual value of the lost revenue for this year from newly installed Executive Director Karen Ely’s shut downs of the various revenue generators is $175k.

MS. ELY, who maintains a website with some other ladies called, "Conscious Menstruation" or "CM," has also canceled an Art Center book project that’s been in preparation by Coast writer Bruce Levene, which not only leaves Levene high, dry and unpaid, but puts the brakes on a revenue generating book that was nearly finished. (Levene's books are a huge contribu­tion to local history and have always come out in the black.) Ms. Ely is paying herself more than $60k/year, plus she’s paying a freshly hired “financial executive” $40k a year, and a part time assistant an additional $15k per year. She’s also planning to outsource the Art Center’s magazine, a move sure to cost a lot more than the quite sufficient mag produced cost-effec­tively by former Center Director Peggy Templer. Ms. Templer was making a modest $33k/year and she didn’t need a “financial executive” or a part-time assis­tant; she also edited the Magazine as simply another of her many duties. Ely’s decision to close the Cen­ter’s gift shop – “We don’t need to sell that junk,” she told one Center staffer – means about $100k per year in lost revenue. Board Chair Brandt Stickel, an attor­ney (surprise!) allowed Ms. Ely to write her own employment contract and then presented it to the board as a done deal in closed session. Several board members are now openly opposed to the Ely regime and more are moving towards opposition. Petition circulators say people are flocking to sign. The big board meeting is *this* afternoon (Wednesday, Octo­ber 21) at 3pm. Not only should sparks fly but it will, at a minimum, be great theater.

A READER WRITES: "A Potter Valley man, arriv­ing home late one evening after hours on the road, went directly to his outhouse. As he opened the door to what is essentially his bathroom, a naked man burst forth and grabbed Property Owner by the neck. Prop­erty Owner promptly bashed Naked Man in the head with his flashlight, stunning the intruder, and contin­ued to pummel the intruder when Mrs. Property Owner came running out of the house with a sheet wrapped around her starkers self, screaming, “No! No! Stop! I love him!” Property Owner stopped. But Naked Man, aware that neighbors were a little too pleased with all this running naked in and out of out­houses, and by now fully clothed, came back the next night and chopped down Property Owner's marijuana plants and commenced vengefully going around the neighborhood chopping down *everyone's* pot plants, which can get a guy injuries far more severe than a couple of raps from a cuckold's flashlight. When Naked Man placed his frenzied machete to the throat of yet another pot grower who tried to stop Naked Man's revenge on area pot gardens, the cops were called and Naked Man and Property Owner were arrested and their plants seized. Mrs. Property Owner? Sheet Lady? Not known, but in Mendocino County Cupid's very arrows are made of hemp even if the flashlights aren't.

WORD TRAVELS fast through the village of Cata­lina Island, even outside word. A couple of weeks ago we wrote an item about former Coast Hospital CEO Bryan Ballard landing on the SoCal island and, as is his M.O., immediately began to work his bankrupting magic at Catalina's unsuspecting 12-bed hospital.

WE SOON RECEIVED the following email from Angela Teckenoff of Catalina weekly newspaper. Beginning with the salty challenge, “Do you have the guts to print this?” Ms. T writes: “Dear Editor, Your follow-up story in the Oct. 7th issue of ‘Off the Record’ segment just clarifies for me the credibility of your paper. The mention of the 'island’s main news­paper' acting as lead propagandist is without merit and simply absurd. It is the strict policy of the 'Cata­lina Islander' that all letters to the editor be signed by the author. This is to protect our readers from invalided [sic] slander and wind bags who simply want to air their dirty laundry. The mentioned letter to the editor was not signed therefore could not be pub­lished. To suggest that a letter to the editor was not printed because Mr. Ballard is a drinking buddy, proves just how ill informed the AVA really is. Just where to do get your qualified information?  I guess you don’t. Hmmmm… wonder who the degraded publication really is? Angela Teckenoff, Catalina Islander Avalon, Catalina Islander Newspapers. P.O. Box 411. Avalon, CA 90704 . 310-510-0500”

IT TURNS OUT that Ms. Teckenoff is the wife of the Catalina Islander’s editor. According to the Islander’s info box Ms. Teckenoff is “Office God­dess,” which would seem to make him the Office God. Ms. Teckenoff has posted a couple of music vid­eos in which she warbles off-key sea ditties as a pair of leather-clad, gray-haired groovy guys assault their gui­tars. She may be a better musician than she is a journalist, but standards being what they are, well, like whatever as the young people say.

WE TOLD MS. T that of course we’d run her letter. Heck, we might even help her out with an English translation, but we wanted this letter in *her* paper:

A WARNING TO CATALINA ISLAND. To the Editor: The new Chief Executive officer of your Catalina Island Medical Center, Mr. Bryan Ballard, was previously the chief executive officer at Mendo­cino Coast District Hospital in Fort Bragg. As a reporter for the only independent newspaper in the area, I covered Ballard’s activities and the associated financial difficulties at that hospital very closely from 2000 to 2006 when Ballard was fired (they called it “resigned”). Along with a craven majority of Coast Hospital’s board of directors at the time, Mr. Ballard nearly bankrupted Mendocino County's only publicly-owned hospital. Ballard was finally fired from Coast Hospital when his cooked financial record books were revealed and the small hospital was reeling from his profligacy, teetering on the brink. Now, Ballard has been hired by another unsuspecting little hospital, this time the small 12-bed facility on your island. As he did in Fort Bragg, Mr. Ballard schmoozed key peo­ple in town, sounded real slick, and wormed his way into various community organizations. So far several key senior staffers at the Catalina Island Hospital have been forced to resign or retire after having had disputes with Ballard which parallels what happened in the early days of Ballard’s tenure in Fort Bragg. And, as in Fort Bragg, Ballard and his new crew of outside staffers are much more expensive than the original, perfectly competent staff. So far, it sounds like Mr. Ballard has had his way with the Catalina Island Medical Center just as he did in the early days of his tenure in Fort Bragg. Reportedly, letters to the editor of local newspapers from hospital staff who are justifiably worried about retaliation from Ballard (as they were in Fort Bragg) are not being printed because the writer does not want their name used. This refusal to print letters from staffers justifiably worried about retaliation may protect the paper from criticism but lets Mr. Ballard off the hook. If your local papers insist on not printing these letters, they should at least use them as the basis of an investigation into what’s going on at the local hospital -- a critically important community resource. They could begin that investigation by reviewing the available on-line reporting on Ballard’s tenure in Fort Bragg (and, before that in Gilroy), looking at the Hospital’s audit report for the final year of Mr. Ballard’s tenure, and contacting current and former management staff at Coast Hospital who are familiar with his damaging decisions while there. There’s also the County’s 2007 Grand Jury report issued after Ballard “resigned” in 2007 which blandly and belatedly concluded, “MCHD's [Coast Hospital’s] past allocations and mismanagement of funds resulted in a decrease in overall revenue. Interim financial reports to the Board of Directors (BOD) were often misrepresented.” That is a serious understatement. The entire Grand Jury report can be reviewed at: www.co.mendocino.ca.us/grandjury/pdf/MCDH.pdf. If the Catalina Island Medical Center does not sur­vive Mr. Ballard’s tenure, part of the blame will lie at the feet of your local media if they give Mr. Ballard a pass while he does to Catalina Island what he almost did in Fort Bragg. Among those who can be contacted on this matter are the current Board of Directors of Mendocino Coast Hospital and their Financial staff. In particular, former Chief Financial Officer Mr. Wayne Allen who picked up the pieces from Ballard’s tenure in Fort Bragg and was credited with the hospi­tal’s “$6.5 million turnaround at our hospital” upon his departure. He can describe the condition of Coast Hospital’s finances at the end of Ballard’s tenure. (Mr. Allen now works at the North Hawaii Community Hospital in Kamuela, Hawaii.) For more information on-line go to our website, www.theava.com, and look at the hospital related items in our archive. While seen by Mr. Ballard as overly critical at the time, all our reporting and conclusions have since been inde­pendently confirmed. I can be reached at themaj@pacific.net. Sincerely, Mark Scaramella

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