Off the Record (Feb 24, 2016)
by AVA News Service, February 24, 2016
SUSAN KEEGAN was bludgeoned to death in her home five years ago. The only other person present was Dr. Peter Keegan, Susan's husband of thirty years. When David Eyster was elected DA, Mrs. Keegan's death certificate was edited to read, "Cause of Death: Homicide." Under DA Lintott, Cause of Death was something like, "Her husband said Mrs. Keegan fell and hit her head in the bathroom. Case closed."
DA EYSTER inherited the Keegan murder, whose investigation was so badly botched by the responding Sheriff's Department officers, that sitting DA Meredith Lintott simply took one look, if that, and danced out the door and across the street to the great big office that hounds deadbeat dads, a kind of retirement home for under-employed lawyers.
BUT EYSTER continues to pursue the Keegan case. He recently subpoenaed Keegan-related records from the Ukiah offices of attorney Norman Rosen, of Vogel and Rosen, which is a County first so far as we are aware.
ROSEN functioned as the Keegans’ court-appointed marital mediator and may also have functioned as Peter Keegan's lawyer at some point. Susan Keegan told her close friends that her husband threw a major tantrum in Rosen's office when he learned that his wife was entitled to half the couple's modest assets. Right there is what most people would consider a motive for murder.
ROSEN will no doubt claim his records are protected because his function as counselor was a confidential one. Rosen's stonewalling of the DA's investigation has complicated the DA's investigation of Mrs. Keegan's murder, which seems to us to put Rosen squarely in first place as co-conspirator in Mrs. Keegan's death.
ACCORDING TO THE DA, it took his office two months to get the judge (Henderson) to review and approve that search warrant for Rosen's Keegan file, and when it was finally served before yet a third lawyer, Chris Neary of Willits, to make sure the DA carried away only the material specified in the subpoena, whatever was carried away from Rosen's office then disappeared into Judge Henderson's chambers, where it still hasn't been seen by anyone other than His Honor and impartial lawyer-witness, Neary. And maybe Keegan defense attorney, Keith Faulder.
ALL THIS secrecy and sequestration is frustrating but not surprising to anyone familiar with byzantine workings of official Mendocino County, but you'd think what residual adult authority we have around here would cooperate with a murder investigation.
JUST LAST WEEK there was a closed hearing in Henderson's courtroom to allow Rosen the opportunity to object to turning over whatever was seized from Rosen's office when the search warrant was served on him. The DA was excluded from last week's secret session. What happened remains unknown, but it doesn't auger well for justice for Susan Keegan.
A READER WONDERS: "I’m a sucker for forensic files and the first 48 on TV. Today Forensic Files did a case that involved a propofol murder due to an injection administered by a medical technician. You frequently write about that doctor over in Ukiah whose wife died under mysterious circumstances. Propofol dissipates rapidly in the deceased. I think the only way to detect the possibility of a propofol injection is a needle mark and a very small needle mark in an odd place could be easily overlooked. After all, your suspect is a doctor. I’m probably way out of bounds on this, but did they look for needle marks in the autopsy? Was a blow to the head the actual conclusive cause of death?"
DR. KEEGAN, an instant widower, quickly had his wife cremated. It's safe to say that her autopsy was about as thorough as the initial investigation of her death, i.e., incomplete.
IT TOOK A WHILE for the Sheriff to re-set the booking log. No sooner had he done it than we noticed that back on February 11 County School Superintendent Warren Galletti was arrested and booked for DUI in Ukiah.
I DON'T DARE FEEL any schadenfreude at Galletti's DUI, because I've been behind the wheel myself in an impaired condition, not that I'm bragging. It's a stupid, dangerous thing to do. There's never any excuse for it, and the difference between me and Galletti is that he got caught.
MENDO BEING MENDO, our educational leader is not likely to suffer consequences beyond those that come with getting nailed driving drunk. Of course there will be some pro forma tut-tutting from the edu-establishment as they wash down their prozac with mineral water, but Galletti will sail on in his lavishly compensated position, a position that comes with no duties, a position that anybody could occupy after mastering a few basic terms — in-service; proactive; paradigm; dedicated; conference and travel. Throw out an occasional, "Gosh, I sure love these little bastards," and you're in until you shuffle off to full-time alcoholism. (cf former superintendent Tichinin, perhaps the dimmest person ever to function as head of an educational apparatus anywhere in the English-speaking world, and living proof that literally anyone can function as Mendocino County's Superintendent of Schools.)
GALLETTI'S not likely to be mistaken for an intellectual, but he's not a bad guy. He was peter-principled into a position which, in theory, is above his gifts, but then George W. Bush was twice elected president. (California runs neck and neck with Mississippi for the worst public schools in the country.) If Galletti had simply installed a cot in his office, if there isn't one in there already, he could swim in the bottle for weeks at a time without anyone noticing. Anyway, in these ethically elastic times, and especially in the county that runs on intoxicants, who dares cast the first stone?
IF YOU'RE NEW to Boonville's beloved community newspaper, here's the oft-repeated truth — the truth, I tell you! — about the Mendocino County Office of Education...
UNTIL THE AUTOMOBILE was prevalent in Mendocino County, which would have been about 1920, the County Office of Education functioned simply and efficiently as a teacher's hiring hall. There was a superintendent and a secretary. He interviewed teachers, mostly women of the most intrepid and resourceful type, and off they went on horseback to all corners of far-flung Mendocino County.
WITH THE ADVENT of the automobile, the office functioned in this simple way right up through the 1950s, with the superintendent also overseeing, from his Ukiah distance, the functioning of school districts with their own school boards. And the superintendent and his secretary or two checked credentials and wrote a few checks.
IN THE MIDDLE 1960s, the office began to grow, neatly keeping pace with the onset of social collapse and the rise of the educational expert, accruing to itself functions that had been the responsibility of individual school districts. And the federal and state governments grew larger, too, and with them came thousands of instant educational authorities, and many millions of dollars accompanied their expert recommendations. Funny thing is, the more money spent, the fewer children learned to read and write with anything approaching facility. Typical of the edu-expertise was the new math interlude, a decade during which a generation of our nation's future became permanently mathematically handicapped. That was followed by “whole language” which did roughly the same thing to spelling, grammar and vocabulary. Videos and computers have since taken over the classrooms as verbal communication devolved into grunts, the written word into garbled fragments.
THE COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION, in the middle 1970s, moved from a modest modular office on Low Gap Road to the old state hospital dairy facility at Talmage, spending several mil on a glorious remodel, converting one large room to a free lunch cafeteria for MCOE staff. The agency, like much of County government, became its own purpose.
AS MCOE glommed on to all kinds of vague state and federal funding programs, its bureaucracy grew and grew, with MCOE taking a large cut of the money to pay all these hires before passing on what was left to (all rise) "the kids." The lush compound quickly began to resemble the Winchester House.
MCOE'S RECENT HISTORY includes a superintendent jailed for stealing stuff from the agency; another took school video equipment to his Ukiah bar where he made pornographic films featuring underage girls; another made the newspapers when he announced that the word niggardly was an ethnic slur. A Native American was fired because he wanted ethnically-earmarked monies spent directly on Indian ed programs. MCOE installed its own, more pliable Indian.
I COULD GO ON, but the only conclusion a rational person can draw from the functioning of this parasitical operation is to disband it, safe in the full realization that MCOE does not perform a single function that could not be performed better and cheaper by the individual school districts of Mendocino County. Superintendent Galletti, when he sobers up, might even drink to it.
WHEN THE GOOD STRAY from the path of righteousness… Sgt. Rich (Richard) Spurling, an 18-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, enjoys an enviable work record at the County Jail, but less of a sterling reputation away from work.
The Spurlings (Facebook photo)
JUST OVER TWO WEEKS AGO, the Sgt. was the author of wild events at the Ukiah bowling alley parking lot where, stumbling drunk, he got into an argument with his wife, Brandy, a dispatcher with the Sheriff's Department. The dispute between Spurling and his wife devolved into a confused melee involving bystanders, during which Spurling took at least one punch to the head, Mrs. Spurling was roughed up and a bystander is said to have sustained minor injuries. Most disturbing, Spurling's loaded gun made its way out of Spurling's truck, but no one reported it in Spurling's possession or said that Spurling was brandishing it. But Spurling's gun somehow wound up on the ground of the bowling alley's parking lot where all this occurred. One witness said Mrs. Spurling disarmed her husband, but that is unconfirmed.
DEPUTY Orell Massey and several other cops were soon on-scene. Massey placed Spurling, belligerent and challenging deputies to fight, under arrest. At the Jail, Spurling continued to erupt but calmed down long enough to be photographed, booked and fingerprinted as he was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence.
STILL FUMING, SPURLING was driven home in a police van by an on-duty deputy after he posted bail, a favor few drunks enjoy. It was assumed Spurling would call it a night. But he grabbed more beer, climbed into his big red Ford truck, and sped away southbound on Redemeyer Road in Ukiah.
BY NOW it was about three in the morning, and Spurling was off careening around the Ukiah Valley, drunk, angry. No alarm, no all points bulletin was issued. People who know Spurling claim this episode was the third like it that they know of. They say Spurling is an alcoholic who drives drunk "all the time."
REACHED FRIDAY MORNING, Sheriff Allman said he was well aware of the incident. Allman said the Sheriff's Department is "prohibited by law” — the Peace Officer's Bill of Rights — from releasing photographs of law enforcement officers. (Spurling's picture was briefly in the Booking Log, but soon removed). Allman said he's requested clarification of booking photo policy from the State Attorney General's Office but has not received it. In any case, that's the reason Spurling's photo did not appear in this newspaper's catch of the day. The Sheriff said a report on the Spurling affair has been submitted to the DA's Office. Sheriff Allman said also that an Internal Affairs Investigation was initiated last week on this incident.
SGT. SPURLING has been put on administrative leave and has reportedly entered a rehab program, which was mandated by the Sheriff's Office. He won't be allowed on jail premises until his case is resolved. Two years short of pension eligibility, Spurling could be fired. But given his years of otherwise unblemished service, he is more likely to be demoted and ordered to clean up or be fired. It's up to DA Eyster to file charges, but people close to the Spurlings say Mrs. Spurling is unlikely to testify against her husband, complicating any possible moves by the DA who has announced his own investigation into the Spurling matter.
Mike & Mary
SORRY to see Bones Roadhouse barbecue fall to the merciless imperatives of free enterprise. The popular Gualala restaurant had struggled since the day it opened in 2005 when Mike ‘Bone Daddy’ Thomas and his wife, Mary Horton, first fired up the grill. But they survived three moves, a major fire and a long, expensive liquor license hassle with a former landlord. There's a certain publican look, and Bone Daddy, a large boisterous man was the archetype. If anyone can rise from the ashes, it's this guy and his wife, and let's hope they do.
WARNING SENSITIVE SUBJECT ahead. Persons whose mental equilibrium tends to TILT! should skip ahead to less stressing material. Ready? Go! The gentle way to put it is that wealthy people and ambitious parents generally have abandoned the public schools, hence home schooling, hence charter schools, hence the huge growth in private schools. The last will run you $30 to $40 thou a year, but lots of San Francisco parents either have the money or think the sacrifice for their heirs is worth a private school education. Even in mostly flush Marin County, lots of people send their kids to private schools when the public schools of Marin are just as good as the expensive private academies.
IN MENDOCINO COUNTY parents are fleeing Mexicans. (Before Mexicans, securely middleclass hippie parents fled “rednecks.”) And they're fleeing the chaotic incompetence public ed has become. Christians, hoping to inoculate their children from an insidiously destructive popular culture, either home schools or sets up Christian schools, of which there are lots throughout NorCal.
PARENTS aren't jerking Mendo kids out of the public schools out of racism but, as in Anderson Valley for instance, the schools are informally Spanish-speaking and formally English-language learning centers. In areas like Covelo and Point Arena the public schools have failed altogether. So parents of whatever ethnicity but mostly white often seek alternatives. College educated parents also flee incompetent instruction when their children hit junior high, but that's another subject.
THE EDU-DRONES at the higher levels of public education, as always in self-preservation mode, were quick to note the state's white flight. They immediately devised ways to keep ed money flowing to the public ed bloc. They even managed to route home schoolers through the public ed bureaucracies to keep the average daily attendance money streaming past them so they could take their cut. And they came up with charter schools which, as most parents know, have the chief advantage of keeping classes small, keeping classes more focused on education, keeping crazy and/or delinquent kids down the street in the public schools, and hope that by getting their children away from the public schools their children aren't preoccupied with pep rallies, week-long homecoming festivities, drugs, classrooms disrupted by the unruly, and incompetent instruction. The entire public ed enterprise ought to be re-thought to at least attempt to prepare young people for the chaotic world they'll be living in, but the edu-apparat is (1) unwilling to do anything that threatens their serenely oblivious daily task for the half year they report to work, and (2) is famously incapable of intellectual enterprise (cf the Mendocino County Office of Education, or any collection of school administrators anywhere in the United States).
TINY CASE IN POINT: One day I walked past a Mexican high school girl I happen to know. She was sitting on the deck below our newspaper office hard at the books and writing in a notebook in the large, rolling, half-print, child-like hand teenage girls write in, complete with circles (or hearts) over the i's. I asked her what she was reading. "The Wobblies," she replied. Being more or less in the proud black flag tradition, I was curious. "What do you think about them?" I asked. "I don't know. It's real boring. I'm not interested in politics." I didn't say it but I thought the exchange was a metaphor for the entire educational effort. A subject like anarchism feeds entire university history departments, and unless a kid is extremely precocious and has a specific interest in the subject, he or she will be as mystified by it as this kid was. Being a helpful kind of dude and not merely an idling geezer out to bore captive teens, I said she might be interested to know that Wobblies once took over and ran for a while a Mexican border town. "Uh huh," she said.
A READER WRITES: "Mr. Smarty Pants! You guys are not the only people who pay close attention to the Supervisors. You had it right on the CEO ordinance — after Ball was canned the ordinance was revised so that it is CEO by title only with no real additional power. Inexplicably, you come back to the conclusion at the end that the CEO has all power. And the CEO does not lead the Supes around by the nose. All things being equal, Hamburg (especially Hamburg) and Brown are hard wired to go with staff recommendations, Woodhouse does not know where he is going, and Gjerde and McCowen do know where they are going, have a road map to get there, and aren't afraid to buck the staff recommendation on any given item."
NO HARD FEELINGS, but we have a disagreement here. CEO Ball was smart and efficient, hence his dismissal engineered by the two travel and conference chiselers, Colfax and Smith, when he balked at enlarging that budget so they could steal more. We also agree about the functioning of the present supervisors. However, CEO Angelo presently has all power and she exercises it, although authority, in theory, rests with the Supervisors who inevitably turn authority over to her. I miss my Mommy, too, but really…
THE GOOD NEWS. Scientists at the University of Southampton found drinking two additional cups of coffee a day was linked to a 44 per cent lower risk of developing liver cirrhosis, typically caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
THE COUNTY has rejected the sole offer it received to give over management of the County's troubled Animal Shelter to the Petaluma Animal Services Foundation. The County deemed the offer deficient in particulars, commenting that despite the County's request to the Petaluma group to beef up their application with proposed management particulars, Petaluma failed to do so. Petaluma claimed they could run the Shelter for about a mil a year but couldn't, or wouldn't, say how they'd do it.
THE COUNTY'S SNIPPY REJECTION of Petaluma's officer, included this statement: “During a public competitive process, it is imperative to ensure consistent and accurate information is exchanged as well as ensure that only the appropriate public employees are involved in the process."
CRITIQUING the Animal Shelter's request for proposals, a reader writes: "I read the entire batch of proposals from Petaluma Animal Services, and I understand the county's "snippy" response. The original proposal, of August 2015, had pretty much nothing in the way of detail or information, but rather pages of resumes and self-congratulatory exclamations. The updated December proposals still had no statistics to back up flowery statements, and no information, in general. The marketing plan, which was neither marketing nor a plan, consisted of kiddie-like colored graphs trumpeting the amount of facebook "likes" they get every week. And some extremely poorly designed and anthropomorphisized advertisements of dogs playing the guitar and a note on how often they change their facebook banner. Had the county ok'ed Petaluma, the financial results would have been bad news. Though the RFP process took a long time to conclude, it looks like the county gave Petaluma every opportunity to produce a factual proposal that would meet government scrutiny and needs. Post Ortner, wouldn't you agree that's a good thing?"
WE DO AGREE. We would like to see the Sheriff in charge of the Shelter, and we point out here that if the catastrophic mental health privatization deal with private entrepreneur Ortner had received as much public scrutiny as the Animal Shelter proposal that disaster also would have been avoided. The Sheriff was left out of the Ortner give away, but he still has to do almost all Mental Health's heavy lifting.
THE COUNTY’S LETTER TO Petaluma Animal Services Foundation (PASF) explaining why their proposal to take over the County Animal Shelter was not accepted mostly listed valid reasons for non-acceptance. But a few seemed dubious:
“The proposal did not adequately address the relationship between PASF and the Sheriff’s Office/Animal Control,” and “PASF stated that this would not be an optimal model (not providing field services) and believed that these were important to the success of the shelter services.”
And, “PASF's proposal contained several references to ‘field officers,’ including certain referenced activities being ‘at the discretion of the animal control officer,’ yet this service is not a component of the RFP. This indicates a lack of cohesive plan that would address the unique model that would be necessary for Mendocino County.”
“THE UNIQUE MODEL”? That’s certainly true. And that’s one of the major shortcomings of the current arrangement. Back in the 90s the two functions were properly under the incompetent supervision of Animal Control chief Greg Foss. Foss screwed things up so badly the County took a knee-jerk approach to fixing it, splitting Animal Control off and giving it to the Sheriff, then turning the Shelter segment over to the mega-bumblers at Health and Human Services. Talk about a “lack of cohesive plan.”
IN HUMBOLDT COUNTY, for a nearby example, both functions are under the Sheriff. It works fine. And it works a lot better than Mendo’s “unique model,” which lurches from “unique” into “unworkable.”
THE PETALUMA proposal may have been denied for good reason. But their failure to adapt to Mendo’s cockamamie “unique model” was not one of them.
TURN THE WHOLE SHOW over to the Sheriff and you’d at least have a sensible, accountable, elected official who could deal with complaints as they arise and coordinate the two basic functions under a cohesive plan.
THE MENDOCINO COAST, by the way, always gets left out of the Animal Shelter discussion, as a Coastie complains: "I have a copy of the RFP and I see there is no mention whatsoever about ACS for the Coast. Do you think it fair that we ask it to be included since we currently do not even get the Care-A-Van on the Coast and since we have a perfectly good shelter waiting to be used? My organization helps pay bail out fees for animals taken over the hill by Animal Control. Lots of these folks do not have transportation to pick up their animals, and if they do, they can’t pay for fuel or their vehicles might not make it over the hill. The lucky ones have some income from jobs but cannot leave their jobs to pick up their pets. That means we have to pay additional fees for boarding while these folks get an opportunity to pick up their animals. As for tourists, if their pets should stray on a weekend and the shelter is closed on Sunday and Monday, I guess they are plumb out of luck and can return home with one less mouth to feed. And we are dependent on tourist trade to survive?"
$28,000 CASH-MONEY is missing from the Animal Shelter, and the search is on for where it went and who made it go there. Poor cash handling protocols and/or oversight have been among the issues that got boss lady Sage Mountainfire put on paid leave. Where she remains as of this writing.
NO ONE BELIEVES the old girl was till-tapping, but the money is missing, and she's the boss, and $28,000 bucks stop with her.
WE'VE THOUGHT for some time that the Sheriff is the best move to administer the Shelter. He already does Animal Control, and we like his idea of training County Jail inmates in the finer points of animal care. The present staff would not be thrown out of work and the County would avoid another privatization controversy. (The Sheriff has said he’d be willing to consider it, especially if it came with the associated budget. The Grand Jury recommended it be turned over to the Sheriff just a few years ago, too.)
BUT NO SOONER had we nominated the Sheriff to take over the Animal Shelter than a Shelter volunteer called us to say, "Are you kidding? I've been at the Shelter when tweekers have been storming around the lobby demanding their pit bulls. These people scare the shit out of us volunteers."
WELL, YEAH, BUT. County Jail inmates working at the Jail would be supervised by Jail staff. Un-tweeked, tweekers aren't any more menacing than the next person, and name anybody better with a pit bull!
THE ROCKEFELLERS of animal rescue, the Mountanos family, is advocating for the Petaluma group presently angling to take over the Ukiah (County) Shelter. That is unlikely to happen given that County staff is saying they do not have a "complete" proposal to recommend. Indications are that the Petaluma group wants too much money, which no one is saying openly and which their backers dispute. There is a mystery impediment which staff has identified but which they have not publicly identified.
KATY TAHJA, the AVA’s ace history writer, wonders if the writer of the unsigned fan letter she received care/of Gallery Bookshop would sit still for an interview. The mystery man is a resident of Willits, a train lover, a very senior citizen who mentions seeing Franklin D. Roosevelt on a train in his childhood. Katy, natch, would love to interview the man and hopes he will contact her at Gallery Bookshop, Katy's work place in Mendocino.