Off the Record

by AVA News Service, June 17, 2010

YOU DIDN'T GET last week's paper because the Post Office lost our entire dispatch, 34 mail bags that ordinar­ily reach every region of America, gone, as disappeared as Amelia Earhart. As the nation grieves, we've pushed through the black crepe and gone right back to work! We've done a second press run and Thursday we will do a second mailing. You, dear reader, should get last week's paper by Monday the 21st. The problem is not Collete Hahn at  the Boonville Post Office or Jan The Mail Lady, who picks up our dispatch bags at the Boon­ville Post Office every Wednesday and drives them to Cloverdale where a southbound truck scoops them up to take them to the massive distribution center at Petaluma. If Collette Hahn and Jan The Mail Lady were Postmis­tress General no mail would be lost ever. We sued PO Central in small claims years ago when they lost three bags of papers. They sent up three people from the Frisco Office to say the papers would eventually turn up. Which they did, three months later. We argued then that a newspaper, deathless as our prose can be, is time-sen­sitive. “Newspaper, your honor, get it? News. It's not news if it arrives three months later.” We lost the case. Of course. The Mendo judge seemed dazzled by the bureaucrats and was hostile to us. Of course. “Can you prove your newspaper left Boonville, Mr. Anderson?” That was His Honor's reasoning. We'll file another com­plaint for this one. An anonymous bureaucrat somewhere on the East Coast will chuckle. “Hey, Charlie. Take a look at this one. This putz out in the sticks somewhere up in pot country thinks he's going to get two thousand bucks out of us!” Our claim will then be tossed into a mammoth, inhaling, wet vac-like apparatus with a sign on it that says “The American Complain Department,” but five years from now when the newspaper in print form is otherwise extinct, the Anderson Valley Adver­tiser, America's last newspaper, volume 58 number 23 of June 9th 2010 will be rediscovered and delivered to the last reader's mailbox.

UNDERSHERIFF GARY HUDSON has been booked into the County Jail on domestic abuse charges, with bail set at $25,000. Hudson has been with the department for years.

MAJOR CUTS are on the way in the Sheriff’s Office. Yesterday (Tuesday, June 15), the Board of Supervisors voted to approve CEO Angelo’s budget proposal, which leaves the Sheriff short of money for perhaps as many as two dozen patrol deputies. The vote was 4-1 with Super­visor McCowen the only Board member to think that the Sheriff’s office cut was too big. The other four Board members simply repeated, “There’s no money.” But, as several attendees noted, there was money for Supervisor Smith and CEO Angelo to attend an all expenses paid trip to Reno, Nevada, where the California Association of Counties is holding its annual conference. Angry members of the public tried to point out that manage­ment and County Counsel salaries are way too high (as we’ve pointed out for years) and there seems to be plenty of money for that, but the Board had clearly made up its  unimpressive collective mind before Chair Carre Brown called for the Pledge of Allegiance. We’ll be hearing exactly what the Sheriff plans to do in the next few weeks. If he’s true to his previous statements, something like half of the County’s patrol  staff is gone.

BESS AND JAMES SANDERSON have been much in the news lately. The Coast couple first came to public attention when they were arrested Fed-Exing pounds of pot in exchange for pounds of Fed-Exed cash, $80,000 in one go. It was then revealed that the Sandersons were drawing welfare while living in an ocean view home valued at nearly $3 million. While he was fighting off the drug and welfare charges, Mr. Sanderson, was observed falling in a drunken stupor out of a stolen vehi­cle parked at the Willits Burger King. According to his lawyer, the redoubtable Richard Petersen, Mr. Sanderson is a Phi Beta Kappa college graduate, the lawyerly impli­cation being that Mr. Sanderson is one smart dude whose recent misadventures were an odd deviation from his usual enlightened behavior. Mr. Sanderson is fortunate in his lawyer, and he's fortunate in his address. Most places, $80,000 dope deals get you some state prison time, but Mr. Sanderson got County time and restitution while Mrs. Sanderson, just last weekend, parked her car near Dick's Place in Mendocino and went off to have a few. It was a little after 10pm.

A lady who works at the Mendocino Hotel couldn't help but notice the couple's two chil­dren, a two-year-old and a four-month old unattended in the Sanderson vehicle. Mrs. Sanderson told police she'd only left the children for 15 minutes. The cops say the children were basically naked with the two-year-old wrapped in urine-soaked blanket. Mrs. Sanderson is now in jail next door to her husband, with her bail set at $25,000.

LIVE! CAL WINSLOW'S livingroom! Sasha Lilley! Straight outta KPFA! 7-pm Saturday night! $20! 32820 Gibney Lane, Fort Bragg. RSVP. Fund-raiser for Parents For Peace!

IN ALL THE depressing wreckage of the election cycle just past, for me the single most offensive visual was an Ann Moorman flier featuring Ann gazing fondly at Judge J. Lehan of Ten Mile Court, Fort Bragg. Candidates who trot out the wife, the kid and the family dog ought to be arrested for pimping. Hell, we all agree on that. But the implications of Moorman-Lehan are much more serious, but there they were just as pleased with themselves as they could be. “Yes, yes, my little poppett. I'll soon be a judge, too, and won't we have a time of it processing the shmucks in and out of jail, and they pay us $180,000 a year to do it!” Moorman, natch, portrayed herself as especially sensitive to women and children, so what's she doing with this guy? Lehan should have been removed from the bench when he repeatedly flashed his court clerk a few years ago. Instead, with the usual connivance of his fellow black robes, the perv's victim was trans­ferred to Willits, far from her home and work place in Fort Bragg. When the complaints about Judge Weenie Wag leaked to outside authority – there is no adult authority inside Mendocino County – presiding judge of the Mendocino County Superior Court Ron Brown brought Lehan over to Ukiah until the little scandal blew over and, after a few months in Ukiah exile, Lehan was returned to his perch at Ten Mile.

ANOTHER CASE that still rankles is ours against Judge Vincent Lechowick. We wanted to look at the judge's divorce file. Long story short? We were stonewalled by the Mendocino County Judicial Club and had run out of money when we finally got to the appellate level. We never did see the judge's file although we knew for a slam-dunk fact it contained information that would get Lechowick tossed off the bench. Lechowick beat up his first wife. Moral turpitude, as wife beating is quaintly called when an elected official does it. Any place but here a judge would get bounced for it. Flashing your courtroom would get you gone, too. But not here. You'd have to beat up your wife while court was in session, and flash the next twenty juries before you'd get the heave-ho in Mendo. So, the way it worked out with The Honorable Vincent Lechowick is that we could read everyone else's divorce file but not the judge's. The local judicial appa­ratus protected Lechowick all the way. We kept appeal­ing until we were out of dough. So, what am I trying to say here? I'm saying that when all the judges and law­yers of this crony-ridden county, reinforced by the arrayed forces of dependably amnesiac Mendolib, team up to get behind a candidate for judge as they did for Moorman, your chances for justice against one of them, brothers and sisters, is proportionately reduced.

IT'S THE BLITHE, smug invincibility of these people that rankles, their liberal pretense. You get between one of these Nice People and their fat pay checks and you'll see how liberal they are. Elections anymore are beyond infuriating. They're suffocating.

JUST WHEN YOU THINK things can't possibly get dumber or more ethically odorous around here – and I apologize for being so shrill here today, but what with our papers getting lost and a combative possum turning up in my Boonville kitchen the other morning it's been a rough week – the Niggardly Case finally got to court. And where else in our doomed country but Mendocino County would you find the superintendents of all the schools signing a public letter that says 'niggardly' is a term of racist abuse?

SO WE'VE got the small claims case of Mr. Dennis Boaz against Mendocino County's lead educators. They said Boaz, a teacher's union rep, is a racist because he used the word 'niggardly' to describe Ukiah Unified's negotiating stance. Paul Tichinin, superintendent of all Mendocino County's schools, hustled out a public letter defaming Boaz as a racist, right up there with James Earl Ray and Senator Bilbo. Not content with solidifying his own widespread reputation as a boob of the first magni­tude, Tichinin had no trouble getting the rest of the county's school administrators to sign on to his flagrantly defamatory communiqué.

LOTS OF PEOPLE, me included, simply assumed that Tichinin and the other school honchos simply didn't know what the word meant. Which is what I still suspect. But the plot thickened last Friday when Boaz finally got the first of the boobs, Bryan Barrett, into court. Barrett works as an administrator for Ukiah Unified. He testified that he knew what the word meant but thought it was offensive anyway or, in feeb-think, inappropriate, so inappropriate that he had no prob publicly denouncing Boaz as a racist for using it. Niggardly was inappropri­ate, Barrett testified Friday because his boss, Lois Nash, is black. “To me, it's not what the word means. It's how people take it,” Barrett said. Think about that stance as you send your kid off to the classrooms supervised by this guy.

BUT THE TRULY STARTLING testimony from Barrett revealed that his and Tichinin's public letter denouncing Boaz as a racist had been pre-approved by a school attorney named Margaret Merchat. And by Lois Nash, alleged victim. And signed by Tichinin and the school superintendents of Anderson Valley, Round Valley, Fort Bragg, Mendocino, Laytonville, Manchester and Point Arena (of course!), Willits, and Potter Valley. Which is every school superintendent save one in the County. Tichinin probably forgot to call Leggett or he would have had himself a dumbkopf's grand slam.

TICHININ will be in court on September 3rd. He was supposed to be in Judge LaCasse's court Friday but, being a local big wig, got his appearance put over because he had to go “on vacation.” LaCasse also allowed Barrett to read from a cheat sheet attorney Mer­chat prepared for him. Lawyers are supposed to be excluded from small claims actions. But here's Merchat getting paid out of school taxes to represent a band of tax-paid dunces, not that she's helped them any. Any lawyer who let that letter go out would naturally find work representing Mendocino County's school apparat.

BOAZ is a former attorney who became a school teacher. He once worked in the Mendocino County DA's office. Boaz also once represented the infamous Gary Gilmore, executed in Utah by firing squad. He is widely quoted in Norman Mailer's wonderful book on that case called “The Executioner's Song.” Ukiah is lucky to have a person of Boaz's learning and experience working as a teacher.

MALICIOUSLY DESIGNATING someone as a “rac­ist,” ubiquitous as it is in politically correct circles, is harmful in the outside world of work. Boaz's claim that he was harmed is fully believable. A school teacher denounced by his principals and superintendents as a racist will always have to fight suspicions that he just might be one. If LaCasse doesn't hold Tichinin, Barrett and the rest of these fools fully accountable it will be one more disgrace for official Mendocino County.

ACCORDING TO A PRESS RELEASE from County Clerk Susan Ranochak issued the day after last Tues­day’s election, “there are ballots left to be processed as a part of the official canvass. Mendocino County has 10,559 Vote By Mail ballots to process as well as 242 Provisional ballots to review. These are ballots that were left at polling places or at the elections office on Election Day. The District breakdown is: 1st District–1795; 2nd District-1673; 3rd District-1895; 4th District-2996; and 5th District-2442. The Elections Department has 28 days to complete the canvass. Final official results will be issued upon completion of the canvass.”

IT'S STILL TO EARLY, then, to draw firm or even flimsy conclusions about last Tuesday’s “preliminary results.” All we have so far is about 55% of the votes counted. There are, of course, definite trends, but even they might change by the time the rest of the votes are counted, whenever that glorious day may be. The trends, incidentally, support our predictions, not that one has to be particularly far sighted to glean Mendo's political pre­dictability.

BASED on the votes so far it looks like it’ll be Dan Hamburg and Wendy Roberts in a run-off for the Fifth District. DA Meredith Lintott and David Eyster will face off for District Attorney, and John Pinches and Holly Madrigal will compete for Third District Supervisor. The final election for these lucrative positions will not be held until November and the winners won't take office until January, meaning the lamest duck ever, sitting 5th District supervisor Colfax, will continue to suck up County pay and perks for another seven months without so much as deigning to return a constituent's phone call. Colfax retired on the job about a year ago. Prior to his cynical abandonment of his post he could boast a single achievement over three terms and 12 years in office – a big pay raise for himself.

IF THE NOVEMBER election sees a 55% turnout that will translate to 3,000 to 4,000 more votes countywide in November than were cast Tuesday. Which means that in the close elections, people who didn't vote in the primary may well decide the outcome of the two closest races: District Attorney and Third District Supervisor.

IN THE DA's RACE, newcomer Matt Finnegan garnered a respectable 30% or about 3500 of the 11,700 votes cast. Some 1100 voters didn't bother to vote for District Attorney. How many of Finnegan's 3500 votes will go to Lintott and how many to Eyster? We suspect the major­ity will go to Lintott because Finnegan ran as a tough on crime DA and Eyster is wrongly perceived by Finnegan voters as a DA who won't file as many cases – that is, unless Eyster recasts his opposition to Lintott and con­vinces Finnegan voters that his promised “gatekeeper” role will not only save money, but will produce more public safety, not fewer charges filed. But the larger question may be how many of the several thousand additional November voters will Eyster get? Recent his­tory indicates that the challenger will get more of them, and Eyster is the challenger.

THEN WE HAVE what appears, on the surface, to be a squeaker for Third District Supervisor. Based on the limited number of votes counted so far, incumbent John Pinches is only three (3) votes short of defeating outright Willits City Councilwoman Holly Madrigal and Brook­trails Community District Board member Tony Orth. Incumbent Pinches got a mere 1517 of the 3038 votes cast in the Third District. Half of 3038 is 1519 – Pinches was only three votes short. But there are more than 1800 Third District ballots still uncounted, primarily the absentee votes that were turned in on election day, June 8. The Third District race has the potential to become unusually tight and contentious before it even reaches the general election – if it  does. If Pinches' outright-win margin is still only a few votes, will there be a recount? Recounts are only required if the difference between candidates falls within the margin of statistical error.

SOME LOCALS may remember the Fourth District race between Liz Henry and Heather Drum in the early 90s. That one was as close as it could get – one vote. Henry's single digit victory withstood the recount.

FOR NOW, all we can say is that we expect most of Orth's votes to be gathered up by Ms. Madrigal since Orth and Madrigal are both, more or less, “liberals” in the infinitely elastic sense that the term applies to inco­herent Mendocino County. Pinches is a libertarian Republican. If the Third District race goes to a run-off in November, Ms. Madrigal could make it interesting. If Pinches doesn't win outright in the primary after all the votes are counted in a few weeks, that means that he may be more vulnerable than anyone thought. (We think Pinches has been a good supervisor, conscientious and genuinely committed to the greater good of the County, which isn't to say that Madrigal doesn't possess the same qualities. It is to say, though, that there's no pressing rea­son to oust Pinches.)

IN THE FIFTH District, the numbers went pretty much as we predicted, although Mastin appears to have received votes we thought would go to Hamburg. But there are still almost 2,000 Fifth District votes uncounted. We predicted Hamburg at 40%; Roberts 32%; Mastin 16%; de Vall 14%. So far it's Hamburg 34%, Roberts 30%, Mastin 21% and de Vall 14%. Ms. Roberts will probably go into the run-off by the time the remaining votes are counted, but it's hard to imagine her getting more than the standard conservative allocation of around 40% in the Fifth District come November.

ALTHOUGH 12,800 Mendo votes have been counted so far, those running unopposed were far from unanimously endorsed for re-election. Sheriff Allman got 10,293, or about 80% of the votes so far. County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor Susan Ranochak got 9,351 or about 73%. Auditor Meredith Ford got 9,217 or about 72%. And County School Superintendent Paul Tichinin rolled up a niggardly 9212 or about 72% from people who obviously pay no attention whatsoever to the guy's job perform­ance.

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