Mendocino County Today: March 12, 2012

by AVA News Service, March 11, 2012

SATURDAY’S memorial services for Vern Piver saw a standing room crowd fill the Fort Bragg High School gym as family and friends remembered him. A vivid and much loved figure, the turnout was among the largest in Fort Bragg’s history. A lengthy obituary for this memorable man will appear in Wednesday’s Anderson Valley Advertiser.

THE GREAT Japanese earthquake and tsunami occurred a year ago Sunday. Ever since, the more excitable residents of the Mendocino Coast have claimed that they’ve detected measurable radiation from the reactors destroyed in the dual catastrophes. They may be correct but we haven’t seen independent, scientific corroboration. The tsunami also produced an estimated 25 million tons of debris that washed out into the Pacific from the Japanese shoreline. The people who watch and measure ocean debris, of which there is already a depressing amount as testified to in 2008 when a dead sperm whale washed up near Tomales Point with 450 pounds of fishing net and plastic bags in its stomach, have said that they don’t expect much to wash up on California beaches. When the Japanese sea borne litter does appear, most of is predicted to appear on the shores of Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and British Columbia.

‘AUDIT OF DA’S OFFICE EXPANDS’

by Daniel Mintz

A consulting firm specializing in grant regulation compliance is reviewing management of grant funds in the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office and its work has expanded to include what a county staff report describes as “all prior year grants and revenue sources.”

The firm’s expanded contract is said to be connected to a personnel matter. The District Attorney’s Office’s legal business manager is on administrative leave and a separate county investigation has reviewed the job performance of that employee.

Failure to claim grant revenues is one of the issues being analyzed and it’s one that’s been noted by the Humboldt County Grand Jury. District Attorney Paul Gallegos had refuted the 2010 Grand Jury report’s finding that two quarters of grant funding reimbursements for a victim-witness program hadn’t been claimed in the 2006-07 fiscal year.

But the accuracy of Gallegos’ response is in serious doubt. The DA’s Office, the County Administrative Office and the county’s Auditor-Controller’s Office noticed that grant revenues failed to materialize in the 2010-11 fiscal year, said Assistant County Administrative Officer Cheryl Dillingham. “Money hadn’t been claimed,” she said, leading to “a lot of backwards research to maximize revenue.”

The Sacramento-based consulting firm, Intellibridge Partners, was hired by the DA’s Office to look into the situation. Originally contracted for $30,000, Intellibridge began work on June 14, 2011 and its contract has been extended to March 31 for a total cost of $147,805.

Dillingham said that once Intellibridge began its review, it was determined to be “cost effective” to enlist the firm for additional work.

At the March 6 HumCo Board of Supervisors meeting, the DA asked for and got approval of transfers from asset forfeiture funds to pay for the contract, which is part of a larger supplemental budget funding request.

“The underlying reason for hiring the outside consultant somewhat emanated out of a personnel matter but certainly, it’s important for us to make sure all the funds we received, both from grants and from the General Fund, are actually being spent as they should be,” Gallegos told supervisors when asked about the Intellibridge contract.

Irregularities in DA’s Office grant management were publicized through the Grand Jury’s report and media coverage of concerns raised by the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA) last summer. The agency informed Gallegos that county public safety departments weren’t being notified of the availability of hundreds of thousands of dollars of grant monies.

At the time, a spokesman for CalEMA said that “management papers weren’t being filed and the state doesn’t like to delay getting money to locals.” But CalEMA has not responded to several messages requesting follow-up information.

Gallegos said that so far, one grant from the federal Office on Violence Against Women has been identified as having been affected by lack of reimbursement. “In and of itself, it’s not an issue, it depends on the magnitude of what wasn’t reclaimed,” he continued.

Asked if there’s a grasp on the magnitude, Gallegos said there isn’t. He said he isn’t certain if the grant is the same one that the Grand Jury focused on in its finding.

The grant mentioned by the DA is related to domestic violence services and spanned multiple years. Gallegos said it was discontinued in 2008 but the staffing that it supported remained in place because the funding was thought to be active until last year, when its non-renewal was discovered.

Gallegos declined to say more about the situation due to its status as a personnel matter. But he acknowledged responsibility for it.

“It is my fault? Yes, because it was my employee and I allowed it to happen,” Gallegos said.

Linda Forbes, Intellibridge’s director of marketing, said the firm will draft a report when it completes its work. The firm won’t release the report to the public, she continued, as that decision will be left to the county and the DA’s Office.

Gallegos said anything in the report related to the personnel matter won’t be disclosed but information on the status of grant funding will be.

Forbes said Intellibridge is “providing critical fiscal services related to grant management, ensuring that requirements are followed concerning the use of grant funds.” Responding to a question, she said there’s no indication that grant funds have been misused.

“It’s just a matter of meeting their compliance needs,” she continued.

The county has handled the situation as a personnel matter. An inquiry to the County Administrative Officer last month was referred to Amy Nilsen, the county’s risk manager, for response.

Nilsen declined comment, saying personnel matters can’t be discussed. She also declined comment for the same reason when asked for general information about the status of grants.

Gallegos said that all grants affecting his office’s services are now being properly managed. The county agrees.

“I feel fairly confident about what’s going on up there now,” said Dillingham. “They have a good handle on what’s going on with all of their grants.”

DFG RESOURCE ACADEMY: TRAINING MLPA SPIES?

by Dan Bacher

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), under the helm of DFG Director Chuck Bonham, announced on March 1 that it is “recruiting applicants for the “Natural Resource Volunteer Program (NRVP)” to serve in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

The DFG will hold a “NRVP training academy” in Los Alamitos from April 19 to May 2, Monday through Friday. Graduates of this academy will become volunteers for DFG.

The announcement of the launch of the academy in Los Angeles and Orange Counties takes place at a very curious time – just two months after so-called “marine protected areas,” created under the “leadership” of a big oil lobbyist under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative process, went into effect in Southern California waters. The privately-funded MLPA Initiative is “proudly” backed by the Western States Petroleum Association, Safeway Stores and Walmart.

In an overt conflict of interest, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, chaired the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, as well as serving on the task forces for the North and North Central Coast. The task forces also included a real estate executive, marina developer and other corporate operatives with numerous conflicts of interest.

It appears to me that this academy is wasting DFG staff time and money, when the state is in its biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression, to bolster the increasingly repressive surveillance society in California, rather than constitute any genuine effort to “protect” the environment. The news of the program’s launch occurs less than a year after a widely-deplored campaign of surveillance of student protesters conducted by state officials was exposed at UC Davis. (http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2012/02/23/uc-davis-students-file-lawsuit-over-pepper-spray-fiasco)

The DFG claimed in a news release that the Natural Resource Volunteers “have no law enforcement authority and are trained to be educational ambassadors for the department, donating their time in a variety of areas.”

Yet in the next sentence, the DFG said these “volunteers” will be “patrolling” the so-called “marine protected areas” – described by the Department as “ecological reserves.”

“Some of these areas include responding to human/wildlife incident calls, instructing at NRVP academies, representing DFG at community outreach events, patrolling DFG lands, ecological reserves, and coastal and inland fishing areas, and disseminating useful information to the public,” according to the DFG.

“The NRVP provides conservation and enforcement education through public service while providing biological, enforcement and administrative staff support to DFG,” the release noted.

People interested in applying for these volunteer positions will go through a selection process that “includes initial screening, application, interview and background check.” (You can bet that anybody who criticized the MLPA Initiative or other DFG policies won’t be selected).

If selected, individuals attend an 80-hour conservation course to prepare them for a “monthly service commitment” of at least 24 hours. After completing the academy, volunteers work with a trained “volunteer mentor” implementing their newly acquired skills during a six-month probationary period.

While training volunteers to assist the Department in “patrolling DFG lands, ecological reserves, and coastal and inland fishing areas” at first may sound like a noble thing, it’s ramifications become clear when you realize that the “ecological reserves” created under the corrupt MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from oil drilling and spills, military testing, wind and wave energy projects, pollution, corporate aquaculture and all other human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

BIG OIL allowed to kill marine life in a ‘Yosemite of the Sea’

The collusion between the oil industry, MLPA Initiative and corporate “environmental” NGOs was revealed in a March 10 article in the Santa Barbara Independent (http://www.independent.com/news/2012/mar/10/coastlines-new-rules/). The official language for a new marine protected area in the Isla Vista area of Santa Babara County reads, “Take of all living marine resources is prohibited, except for take pursuant to operation and maintenance of artificial structures inside the conservation area … “

“The caveat, allowing marine resources to be taken near artificial structures, exists to allow oil production representatives the ability to maintain equipment, including pipelines, located in this area,” the article stated.

So the “protection” created under this glorious “Yosemite of the Sea” and “underwater park” off Isla Vista doesn’t extend to the operations of the oil industry! This evidence of the corrupt MLPA Initiative letting ocean industrialists off scott-free demonstrates that the MLPA Initiative has nothing to do with marine protection – and everything to do with corporate greenwashing of the oil industry and the Wall Street one percent.

While the oil industry, military, municipal polluters and ocean industrialists will continue to do business as usual in and around these “marine protected areas,” volunteers will be “patrolling” marine protected areas and legal fishing areas.

This volunteer program is likely to lead to many instances of harassment and abuse of law abiding recreational and commercial fishermen, especially since the knowledge of Fish and Game regulations by many paid DFG officials and staff is already notoriously lacking. This is evidenced by any one who has ever called a DFG office inquiring about the status of fishing regulations in an area. It is isn’t hard to imagine what will happen when even less knowledgeable “volunteers” are helping the DFG to “patrol” DFG lands, ecological reserves, and coastal and inland fishing areas!

The same Department that is sponsoring this questionable volunteer program did nothing to stop the largest-ever fish kill in the Delta pumps in 2011, prodded by record water exports out of the Delta, and backs the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral canal. If built, the peripheral canal would likely result in the extinction of winter run chinook salmon, Delta smelt, Central Valley steelhead and other imperiled fish species.

The DFG’s limited staff time and funds should be spent addressing the slaughter of millions of Sacramento splittail, striped bass, Sacramento River chinook salmon and other species in the Delta pumps and stopping the peripheral canal, rather than setting up a volunteer program that extends the repressive surveillance society to ocean waters. For more information about last year’s record fish kill at the Delta pumps, go to: http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2011/09/09/over-11-million-fish-salvaged-in-delta-death-pumps-since-january-1.

 

MOST COASTIES tend to mechanically behave

as if catastrophe is only one tidal wave

from destroying their bluff

and the rest of their stuff.

But it’s mostly attention they crave.

 

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