Mendocino County Today: Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017
by AVA News Service, August 9, 2017
COAST HOSPITAL IGNORES COMPLAINTS
by Malcolm Macdonald
Here's your headline: With a lone exception, the Mendocino Coast District Hospital Board of Directors has decided to ignore a growing list of seemingly valid complaints from a number of hospital staff members because they (the board members) are afraid of the potential upheaval, economic and otherwise, that might occur as a result of removing the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer, who are the subjects of the complaints. This will be repeated for you later, so readers can grasp the context of events as they have played out this year.
Here's what the general public has seen: Early in July a standing room only crowd filled Fort Bragg's Town Hall to speak out against a possible closure of the obstetrics (OB) department at Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH). At the end of July approximately thirty-five coastal folk showed up at a MCDH Board of Directors meeting when a parcel tax measure for this November's ballot was rushed onto the agenda by board member, Dr. Kevin Miller. These two issues, though valid long term concerns, have effectively served as smoke screens disguising deeper problems within MCDH's administration and its board of directors.
The late July MCDH Board meeting was instructive on another point besides OB or parcel taxes, that being the exodus of citizenry from the meeting after the board voted to hold off on a parcel tax measure until next year. The vast majority of Mendocino Coast Healthcare District voters and taxpayers are generally too busy to attend two hour board meetings. As a result that board and the hospital's chief administators have pretty much taken for granted that they can do whatever they want without question from the public.
So readers, here's your chance to ask some serious questions of the powers that be at the coast hospital without getting out of your chair. This article will provide you with a synopsis of background information for each question and the emails of the appropriate figures to send your questions to. It is one thing for the AVA to print these, and related, questions over and over. Elected officials, committee members and administators often don't take note until they read something directly from members of the voting public.
First: On March 16th of this year, the MCDH Board finished up a closed session regarding the job performance review of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wade Sturgeon with a promise to conduct more interviews with hospital staff. These interviews never took place. Readers should ask each member of the board (President Steve Lund, Kitty Bruning, Dr. Peter Glusker, Dr. Lucas Campos, and Dr. Kevin Miller) why they did not keep their promise to the public and the hospital staff to hold further interviews concerning the CFO's job performance. Email Steve Lund at: email@example.com; Kitty Bruning: firstname.lastname@example.org; Dr. Glusker: email@example.com; Dr. Campos: firstname.lastname@example.org; and Dr. Miller: email@example.com.
Some of the negative aspects of CFO Sturgeon's job performance were related to a harassment complaint made against him by the Chief Human Resources (HR) officer at the hospital. At the time of the March 16th closed session the HR chief was on administrative leave, as a result of the harassment complaint against CFO Sturgeon. Creditable reports indicate that on or about March 18th, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bob Edwards mailed a termination letter to the HR Chief. If the performance review of Sturgeon was still on hold as of March 16th, largely predicated on the complaint against him by the chief HR officer, why did the CEO attempt to fire that HR Chief on March 18th? CEO Edwards can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. A follow-up question to each board member would be something along these lines: Why did you allow the CEO to undercut the board's decision to conduct further interviews with hospital staff regarding the HR chief's harassment complaint and how it related to CFO Sturgeon's job performance review?
Ask Board President Lund (email@example.com) why he confronted an MCDH employee in her office one day after the March 16th closed session? Ask him if he thinks this is an acceptable way to conduct staff interviews. Background: This was another employee who had filed a harassment complaint against CFO Sturgeon. Ask the other MCDH Board members if they think it is appropriate for individual board members to confront hospital staff in the workplace while job performance reviews or harassment complaints are ongoing?
Ask board member Miller why he questioned an employee, more than once, on hospital grounds during the days leading up to the March 16th closed session regarding CFO Sturgeon's job performance. Perhaps more importantly, ask Dr. Miller why he told the employee that MCDH could not survive an administrative turnover. Meaning the dismissal of Edwards and Sturgeon.
The implication here is that Miller, and apparently the rest of the board (with the exception of Dr. Glusker) have decided to ignore a growing list of seemingly valid complaints from a number of hospital staff members because they (the board members) are afraid of the potential upheaval, economic and otherwise, that might occur as a result of removing the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer, who are the subjects of the complaints. In street parlance, these board members have allowed Edwards to throw several hospital staffers, from the manager level on down, under the bus to protect Edwards and Sturgeon.
In the fall of 2016 CFO Sturgeon downplayed the seriousness of billing and coding errors made by the newly contracted Emergency Room provider, EmCare, in official monthly report after report to the hospital's Board of Directors and its Finance Committee. In addition, both the CFO and the CEO ignored internal warnings to add employees to sort out the billing and coding mess. The question to ask CFO Sturgeon (firstname.lastname@example.org): Why did you conceal the seriousness of EmCare's coding and billing mistakes for so many months? Ask CEO Edwards (email@example.com): Why did you abet Sturgeon in this coverup and why didn't you act in a more timely fashion to fix the problem?
Readers may want to ask MCDH Board members and its Finance Committee members (John Allison: firstname.lastname@example.org; Kirk O'Day: email@example.com; and Dr. Campos) why they haven't offered up any significant questions concerning this problem? Finance Committee members should be asked why they didn't do more investigating of this matter and/or why they didn't report this problem to MCDH's Board.
If you want an issue that involves OB, ask CEO Edwards or CFO Sturgeon why they have frequently quoted a million dollar annual loss to the hospital due to OB services, but both flatly refuse to give any comparative profit or loss numbers for the new ER service from EmCare, the new orthopedic surgeon, or the pain management program that came on line last year. Ask them to give you specific positive or negative dollar amounts for each of those services.
Ask the MCDH Board members and the CEO to explain this to you: When the CFO was accused of workplace harassment, why was the victim of the harassment placed on administrative leave instead of the accused CFO?
Also ask board members: Does MCDH have a clear written policy regarding whether the accuser or accused in harassment cases is placed on leave?
In May the CEO placed the Chief of Patient Care Services on leave, pending an investigation. Ask Mr. Edwards (firstname.lastname@example.org): What specifically was he investigating? He subsequently fired her, apparently because she was a friend of the Human Resources Chief.
Ask the four members of the board (Lund: email@example.com; Bruning: firstname.lastname@example.org; Miller: email@example.com; and Campos: firstname.lastname@example.org) who were present at an April 1, 2017 Board of Directors meeting, which was not properly noticed to the public, why they went forward with that meeting after they were told that doing so would violate the Brown Act (CA Government Code 54956).
There are many other questions that can be posed to the MCDH Board and its administrators beyond just these, but we can save those for later, if necessary.
MR. MICHAEL SANER, accused of homicide in Navarro with a 12 gauge shotgun, will be arraigned Wednesday in Judge John Behnke's court, Dept. H, top floor of the courthouse, 9:00 am — if everything goes right.
The poor devil is facing what seems an open and shut case — which, incidentally, is a fate he shares with about half-a-dozen homicides, stalled these last few years in the Mendocino Superior courts. For instance the jury trial of the guy who used a bat to brain a fellow low-level pot pharm employee, has decided to go NGI (Not Guilty by reason of Insanity). Devoted readers may recall how the boy Timmy's dog had dug up his grave and alerted the cops to the murder — Lassie? Anyhow, it's a tricky business arraigning an American for murder, and I expect the process will be prolonged — not that I won't be there to cover it (one of the few times I'll get to meet my fellow reporters this year!).
Incident Number: 2017-22786
Crime/Incident: Missing Person, Adult
Location: Noyo Harbor, Fort Bragg, CA
Date of Incident: 08-06-2017
Time: 2:00 AM
Victim(s): James M. Begley, 64 years of age, Fort Bragg CA
Synopsis: On August 6th around 2:50 PM the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office received a report from the United States Coast Guard Station in Fort Bragg CA, related to a recovered kayak on the Pacific Ocean and possible missing person. The Coast Guard advised they were contacted around 1:40 PM by a group of Ocean kayakers who had discovered an "unattended" kayak floating in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 1/4 mile north of Noyo Bay. This area is commonly known as the Old Georgia Pacific Mill site. The Coast Guard and the Fort Bragg Fire Department launched search personnel on boats as well as the Coast Guard Helicopter out of McKinleyville, CA. An extensive search was conducted of the area but no persons were located.
James Begley, Fort Bragg CA
Responding deputies conducted an investigation and learned the kayak belonged to a man who lives on South Harbor Drive, named James Begley, who is 64 years old. Witnesses place James entering the water on his kayak sometime between 12:01 AM and 2:00 AM that morning. A witness who knew James contacted him and was advised by James that he could not sleep so he was going kayaking. He was seen wearing a tan colored "Carhart" jacket but no wetsuit or life vest.
Other witnesses who had seen James in the past several days mentioned him giving conflicting statements about his long term plans and others described him as having an "undiagnosed mental illness".
James was not located on land or in the area where his boat had been located. The Mendocino County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Unit Dive Team responded to the location on 8/8/2017, and with assistance from California Fish and Wildlife Personnel, used their boat to dive the area where James' kayak had been located. Ocean waters in this area were described as being approximately 40 to 60 feet in depth. The ocean conditions were calm during the search but divers were unable to locate James or any additional clues as to his whereabouts.
The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office is requesting anyone who has information related to this missing persons case to please contact the Sheriff's Communications Center at 707-463-4086.
Written By: Lieutenant Shannon Barney
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “I like Skrag and all, and I don't want to sound like a species-ist, but he sure gets a lot of attention from these people considering he just wandered in here for free meals. One guy even rushed out and bought Skrag a case of Tuna! What the hell? I'm lucky I get one of those WalMart biscuits.”
MENDOCINO COUNTY SHERIFF TOM ALLMAN opened the Board of Supervisors meeting, Tuesday morning, August 8, 2017. Public before the Board and a roomful of pot ordinance people (pro & con) who were there to pressure the County to relax and streamline the rules:
TOM ALLMAN, SHERIFF:
This is a big day in Mendocino County. I jokingly say that we are not the County of Marijuana but the County of Mendocino. Because marijuana seems to be the topic of concern for every social issue we have in our county. I just want to remind the public that we actually have some other issues. We have some major issues that are confronting the citizens and county government every day. Whether it's mental health, whether it's Lake Mendocino, the deplorable condition it was in — it's getting better – whether it's the road conditions, whether it's the fact that fire departments have to have barbecues to buy firehose and pay for workers compensation. These are issues we have to deal with. It certainly would be wonderful if on board days we had our board room filled with people who want to address those important issues. Because we are not a rich county, we are a rural, poor county. So as we go through today and we talk about marijuana and we talk about the ordinance and how people can make a living and how people can raise their kids in our community, I hope that people understand that it's not just about marijuana. It's about our county. It's about what we're going to look like in 20 or 25 years from now. [Holds up a handful of yellow-stripped grabber devices.] So yes, these are some litter picker-uppers that I have for each board member. [Laughter in the room.] It doesn't take a lot to make our county better. We have a damn good county. This is not to say that you are not doing your job or your not picking up litter, because you are. I know all five of you supervisors well and I know you care about our communities. I know the chair [Supervisor John McCowen] — his hobby is cleaning up Ukiah Valley. I appreciated your efforts to make our county better. But I want to go one step further. I encourage you to encourage your constituents: let's work together and let's actually have a conversation one of these days when the marijuana ordinance doesn't even come up! Where we can have a conversation about a school PTA and a picnic and a bake sale for Girl Scout cookies and we are not talking about marijuana. We actually have a lot of good things to talk about. Thank you for doing your service. This is not in any way derogatory. This is telling you that I know the job you are doing and I'm just trying to help you do that job a little better. That's what the sheriff's office does. Thank you. [Wide round of applause from the room.]
SUPERVISOR JOHN MCCOWEN:
I will note that for anyone who doesn't know, Sheriff Allman has engaged former Sheriff Jim Tuso to have inmate crews do a clean up at Lake Mendocino once a week I believe is the timing of it.
SEVERAL POT PEOPLE came to the microphone after Sheriff Allman's statement to take some umbrage with it, pointing out that they do indeed care about other issues but that marijuana is their livelihood. But the sheriff had made his point that they don’t appear in the Supes chambers when the subject is not pot and they don’t say much on the record nor lobby the Board about those other subjects, nor do they attend other board or commission meetings, write letters to the editor, or engage in any publicly visible way with them.
SUPERVISOR CARRE BROWN admonished the crowd that if they agreed with someone's statement they should not applaud, but rather they should put their hands up and wave — translation, Even the usually conservative supervisor Brown prefers twinkling to ordinary applause.
KATHY JANES, NAVARRO:
I am a member of the board of directors of the Rancho Navarro Association, a subdivision in the town of Navarro. Rancho Navarro consists of 135 separate parcels which have at least 150 full-time residents. I come before the board in support of the adoption of a zoning ordinance allowing discretionary cannabis cultivation in recognizable, definable areas of the county such as a subdivision with CC&Rs with a defined boundary. Our subdivision, Rancho Navarro, near the town of Navarro, is currently experiencing an unwanted and unwarranted expansion of cannabis cultivation. We feel this is in part due to the county ordinance related to cannabis that allows commercial cultivation in residential parcels of 10 acres or better, even without a legal residence. Our subdivision consists of 10 acre parcels. It is a very remote area. Therefore, many growers have flocked to our residential neighborhoods for the sole purpose of cultivating cannabis. Most of these large commercial grows are operated by absentee landlords who do not live in the community and are not involved in managing our homeowners association. This creates a lot of transient traffic along our roads, a lot of unwanted noise, environmental destruction and heavy impacts to our road network and shared water resources. Our board has met numerous times to discuss this issue. We feel that the county regulations related to cannabis contradict our desire for our subdivision to be first and foremost a residential neighborhood as specified in our CC&Rs. We would prefer not to allow large commercial cannabis operations in our communities because such operations violate the provisions of our CC&Rs that our parcels are restricted to residential and recreational use. We appreciate the response we have seen so far from county staff and the resource agencies regarding our previous recent complaints. We look forward to seeing that this issue is addressed via a zoning overlay which would allow a more permanent solution. Thank you.
COUNTY STAFF reported that they have no received 673 applications and issued a whopping 2 permits (up from one three weeks ago). Another one is close to being approved. 101 are in “pre-site inspection.” And 19 applications have been denied. Ag Commissioner Diane Curry said most of the denials were for Fish & Wildlife violations or Calfire violations or zoning restrictions. One applicant from Covelo insisted that the violations are minor and the entire process is skewed toward finding reasons for denial.
AT THE END OF THE DAY, after a long, meandering and disorganized plod through no particular agenda followed by lots of endless speculation and rambling by Board members, the Board simply punted again, with the hope that staff was listening to some of the complaints and would come back with another opportunity for another rambling discussion at an upcoming meeting at which at least some of the Board will be present.
PS. For some reason that wasn’t made clear, Supervisor Dan Hamburg participated (more like lengthened) the aimless Board discussion, no longer barred by his previous recusal due to his daughter’s pot growing operation. When the Board discussed who might be able to attend possible future pot meeting dates, Hamburg said he’d have to “consult with my better half.”
OUR FATE is in the hands of the two craziest people in the world. “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump said Tuesday from a golf course in New Jersey. “They will be met with fire, fury and, frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before.” Trump’s comment came a day after North Korea, reacting to new UN sanctions against its rapidly developing nuclear weapons program, warned the US it would “pay dearly for all the heinous crimes it commits against the state and people of this country.” North Korea has successfully developed a nuclear warhead that could fit onto its missiles, which apparently can reach the United States.
DUH headline of the week from the Ukiah Daily Journal: “Willits hotels, gas stations see decline in business.”
* * *
SECOND DUH HED, this one from The Willits News” How businesses get Caltrans signs:
Don't we all assume that any town anywhere in the land now offers the gamut of negative food value items?
THIS PHOTO is for sale on eBay for twenty bucks.
Visiting family members stand at entrance to New Ideal City Ranch, Boonville, California, April 4, 1977. (AP photo)
It depicts several Moonies at the gate of their Boonville "International Ideal City Ranch," circa 1977. Those were the days! I bought a dozen non-laying hens from them, having been assured they were good layers. At their "open house" they were selling tiny paper cups of coca-cola for fifty cents each. On clear summer nights we could hear the group chants of the lobotomized from several miles away. The ideal city consisted of sheep barns and a couple of ancient chicken coops, all of it comprising a kind of anti-Gotham where ideals consisted of jamming as many saps onto the place as possible. Eventually closed by the county for multiple code violations, the Ideal City served as a kind of way station for prospective cult brains who were lured north from airports and bus stations, and often simply off the streets by recruiters who first took them for a free meal at one of the Moonie houses in San Francisco. At Boonville, the Moonies deployed classic brainwash techniques such as sleep deprivation, irregular meals (mystery slop ladled out of surplus mess hall vats), constant group song, and lectures claiming the lunatic Korean was divine. After the camp closed, a residual Moonie crew ran a chinchilla farm up in the hills. The high school kids who worked at the place often smuggled the charming little creatures down into Boonville where, at least for a time, they were saved from being turned into fur coats. The couple who ran the chinchilla operation were a German national married via one of Moon's mass marriages in Yankee Stadium, to an Italian national, both of whom, a couple of generations earlier would undoubtedly, given their mentalities, have been eager fascists. There were many poignant scenes at the Boonville gate seen in the photograph. Parents would beseech the Moonie thugs to see their wayward children only to be turned back. Many young people simply fled the place for sanctuary at the Boonville Assembly of God Church, which was quite helpful in re-uniting young people with their families.
STILLS FROM SURVEILLANCE VIDEO OF THE ALLEGED SUSPECTS IN CHINA CREEK SHOOTING
About 12:20 p.m. today (Sunday), law enforcement learned of a shooting in the China Creek area. The victim was brought to Jerold Phelps hospital, taken by ambulance to St. Joesph’s Hospital in Eureka, and then medevacked to an out-of-the-area hospital with serious injuries. We’ve been given some stills taken from a surveillance video showing the suspects.
According to a good friend of the victim, “[The victim] was air lifted to [redacted] a couple hrs ago in critical condition. He is a veteran of the United States Navy.”
The suspects and the victim met to exchange marijuana for money. The suspects took the pounds of product without leaving any money.
According to the victim’s friend, “When the guys tried to drive off, [the victim] jumped in the [driver] side window grabbing the steering wheel and causing them to crash. That’s when they shot him.”
Law enforcement said that after shooting the victim, the suspects drove off in a white mid-sized SUV, possibly a GMC Acadia or similar.
Then another local person managed to get the victim into his truck and they left the scene to get [the victim] to a hospital. “When he left, the car was through a fence off the bank, but [the suspects] were able to get out somehow,” explained the victim’s friend.
Below are stills taken from a surveillance video. The stills were given to us by someone we know but who wishes to remain anonymous. Nor do they want to reveal where the video was taken. However, they have satisfied us that the stills are authentic.
UPDATE: Information in the comment section indicates that there may have been a theft incident in Mendocino involving three men with similar descriptions.
Suspect one (L): “Black male adult, clean cut, wearing a grey and red jacket”
Suspect 2 (M): “Black male adult, 6’2”, gold teeth, wearing a grey shirt”
Suspect 3 (R): “Black male adult, thin build, neck and arm tattoos, goatee, wearing a white shirt.” He also had gold teeth, according to the friend of the victim.
(Courtesy Redheadedblackbelt / Kymkemp.com)
GRAPE TRUCK-PICKUP CRASH BLOCKS 101
Two people were sent to the hospital in the Tuesday tangle on Highway 101 in southern Mendocino County.
(Click to enlarge)
CATCH OF THE DAY, August 8, 2017
Carver, Farmer, Furline
CHAD CARVER, Willits. Probation revocation.
RICKEY FARMER, Ukiah. Fugitive from justice.
CODY FURLINE, Fort Bragg. Parole violation.
Maxfield, Meadows, Shelly
JUSTIN MAXFIELD, Willits. Under influence, paraphernalia, probation revocation.
ZACKARY MEADOWS, Oroville/Ukiah. Elder theft, controlled substance,
JOSHUA SHELLY, Willits. Suspended license, probation revocation.
Thompson, Valador, Wheat
WILLIAM THOMPSON, Richmond/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
MONIQUE VALADOR, Fort Bragg. Grand theft.
DONNELL WHEAT, Oakland/Ukiah. Unspecified misdemeanor.
A VISIT TO CIVIL COURT
by Bruce McEwen
A couple of blocks from the County Courthouse I was set upon an attorney named Attila Panczel, just as he emerged from the den of lawyers in a nearby office complex.
“Hey, Bruce,” Attila called out to me, “Why don’t you cover the case I’m working on?”
“Okay, what’s it about, Attila? I thought you were doing civil law — and you know I only cover crime.”
“The insurance companies are the real criminals, and I just served papers on their lawyers for a case coming up on Monday about a real crime. C’mon up to my office and meet my partner.”
We crossed Main Street and went up the back stairs of Lamb’s Inn, where I met Attila’s law partner, Joe Turri, who kind of reminded me of Danny DeVito in The Rainmaker. Then I noticed how Attila was a ringer for the Matt Damon character in that movie from the John Grisham novel— where the young ambitious and idealistic lawyer, right out of law school and in company with his trusty side-kick DeVito, sues an insurance company and the jury awards them a stupendous fortune of a judgement — hence the title: The Rainmaker.
Attila and Joe Turri were all excited and eagerly gave me their take on a case for a guy — their client — who got royally shafted (they said) by an insurance company and then died.
“It was awful,” Attila said.
“It was outrageous,” Joe agreed.
“It was criminal, Attila added.
“Worse than anything you’ll ever see in criminal court.”
Enough with the pejoratives already! Just the facts.
“You want facts? We’ll give you facts!” Attilla said. ‘We’ll put together a nice packet of info for you — you can do that can’t you, Joe?”
“Sure, I can fix it all up nice and neat and have it ready for you by uh, lemme see — how about this time tomorrow? At… what is it now? Four o’clock? Make it four-thirty, how’s that?”
“Fine. That’s just fine.”
“Okay, see ya then. Bye.”
Next day, I went back to the Insurance Litigators office and it was dark, no one around; I’d come a little early, so I went home — which is just across the street and called at exactly 4:30: no answer. I left a message, my number, please call. This was on Thursday. By Monday, still no return call, so I called again, got the same voice mail, left the same message. Then I went to the Courthouse and sat in on the hearing on the matter.
Since I didn’t even know the name of the case, it was very confusing. But I was under the impression that Attila and Joe were suing an insurance company, so when I saw Attila seated at the defense table, with another lawyer, David Kindopp, and the convervative eminence gris of Ukiah attorneys, Jared Carter, at plaintiff’s table, my confusion multiplied exponentially, as it were.
The only case on the docket for Judge Jenine Nadel’s civil court the previous week — when I had time to look into it — was Giacomini v. Giacomini, and there were people in the courtroom with this name on their t-shirts, so I thought the case had something to do with them. Imagine my surprise when Judge Nadel called the case of Mike Davis Insurance Agency v. Aiken and Turri!
Who Mr. Aiken was, I have yet — two weeks later — to find out. But I knew who Joe Turri was and eventually spotted him, slumped in a chair behind the rail, the back of his bald head the only thing visible from my seat at the back of the gallery.
For readers who missed The Rainmaker movie, Jon Voight played the corporate lawyer defending the wicked old insurance company, and Jared Carter would have fit that florid face in the gray pinstripe suit Voight wore 20 years ago when the film came out. But, at 82, Mr. Carter’s demeanor has attained the venerable austerity reminiscent of those Dickensian Chancery characters in the classic, Bleak House.
I scribbled notes and tried to keep my head above water as the waves of incomprehensible civil litigation jargon swept over me, and the windy references to case law precedents blew up a veritable gale.
Here’s what I got down — and please don’t ask for any explanations, as all of these lawyers have refused to return my calls or answer any questions.
Mr. Carter seemed to be saying that a settlement agreement had been reached — but not in so succinct a manner, oh no. Carter was interspersing his comments with a kind of legalese the layman would have trouble glossing on short notice, and gliding urbanely into the points and authorities he’d submitted with his brief (which Turri and Panczel had promised a copy of, yet never delivered), so it came as a surprise to learn that even though the parties had reached a settlement agreement, Mr. Aiken was still free to refile, and that the case had been left open indefinitely.
Mr. Carter then said that the fact that a party was entitled to re-file did not mean that a “malicious prosecution [countersuit?] couldn’t be filed.” Carter then launched into case-law examples of “voluntary dismissals” — at which point Mr. Panczel pushed himself back in his chair and seemed about to jump to his feet — but instead waited until Judge Nadel asked for his response.
Panczel denied that it was a voluntary dismissal, “one does not abandon an action on the grounds of” — here more case law was cited, and quoted from.
“A voluntary dismissal could well result in a favorable termination,” Mr. Carter rejoined in calm counterpoint to Panczel’s agitated impatience. “It was abandoned on the grounds that Mr. Aiken wanted a time-out.”
Panczel was further incensed by this remark. “This wasn’t a settlement — we told them we were going to refile.”
“Well, if it wasn’t a settlement, it goes against our whole agreement. Now, if we can prove the case lacked probable cause, and this is clearly the case, it is so clearly the case in fact, that we have a voluntary dismissal without prejudice. What were the factors? It was not one that resolved all claims, and so it becomes a question of fact and in [cites case law] …so for a party who chose a settlement rather than go to trial — and in this case the plaintiff’s didn’t want to go to trial — so what happened was an abandonment with a face-saving right to re-file at a later date.”
Carter took a breath and resumed: “So this case was abandoned. Now, one reason your honor is suffering from a misconception” — Judge Nadel came to attention up on the bench without rising any more than her eyebrows (and perhaps her hackles) —“suffering from a misconception of the law is that it was misrepresented to you. But that is not a bar to a malicious prosecution case.”
Carter cited more case law having to do with the acceptance of any amount of payment, adding, “In this case we didn’t give up any [?...?] and we have a money judgment against Mr. Aiken.”
More case law quoted: “Allowing unscrupulous parties or their lawyers to hide behind […?...]. So they totally and inaccurately mis-cited the law, and I would beseech you to read [the case law cited].”
“I have read it,” Nadel said. “But I don’t agree with you that they [Attila and Turri] misrepresented it.”
Carter launched into more case law about an insurance company that sued its customer and when the customer’s lawyer died, the customer returned to court with a new lawyer and CityWide sued for mal-pros [malicious prosecution], the trial court dismissed it and court of appeals ruled favorably …so to prove a surrender by Mr. Aiken for the right to re-file, all we have to prove is we got a voluntary dismissal. It’s a question of fact, and goes to the jury. The trial court is not to weigh the credibility of the evidence.”
Carter shuffled his papers, and resumed: “I think we can make a convincing case, and here’s the evidence: Mr. Aiken never told MDI (Mark Davis Insurance Agency) he lived in Unit C. In fact, he resided in Unit A. Also, Aiken now admits that there was never an extensive remodel — unless painting a room can be considered such; he says that’s why he was in Unit A. MDI cancelled his insurance because he wasn’t in the unit any longer. Mr. Turri was present when he [Aiken] made the admission. Furthermore, his assertion was contradicted under oath that he was not farming on the property. In fact he engaged in extensive marijuana cultivation in Units B and C, which provoked the home invasion robbery in 2014. — These facts were in the notices of the cancellation of the insurance policy. There were over 100 marijuana plants on the property the day of the home invasion.”
OK, so Mark Davis Insurance Agency is alert to the risks of providing homeowners insurance to marijuana cultivators.
“Mr. Aiken didn’t want to sue, but Mr. Turri said, ‘that’s how it works — you have to sue.’ So it [the suit?] was motivated by more than Mr. Aiken’s medical condition [prostate cancer]. And no doctor said this kind of thing can be debilitating — it’s Mr. Turri and Mr. Aiken saying that it was.”
Attorney David Kendopp [representing attorney Turri, it appeared] weighed in: “If the court goes back to look at the deposition, you’ll find something different there. Mr. Carter’s assertions this morning [?...?] Whether Mr. Aiken was ever engaged in a remodel and residing in Unit A — Aiken was talking about what he did after the home invasion. This is a gross misrepresentation of the facts. You’ve got Mr. Turri’s deposition with a cluster of reasons why the policy was terminated; you’ve got Mr. Aiken diagnosed with prostate cancer — he was extremely ill and the treatment was extremely debilitating; and then we’ve got MDI saying, ‘Sorry, we’re going to trial in a week…’ Considering how onerous the treatment was, nobody would be in any condition to go through such an ordeal — but MDI wanted to go to trial, so they negotiated a settlement — what else were they gonna do!?”
Kindopp continued, “The underlying proposition is that if you get something in exchange for dismissal, they can’t come back and sue you for mal-pros. It’s don’t make sense. They should never have given up the Toyen [?] agreement. But he could do otherwise because of his illness. So, Mr. Turri went out to get his Toyen agreement — and you can’t then file a mal-pros action! And I don’t think myself or Mr. Panczel mis-cited any of the case law… this argument this morning, I’m hearing for the first time and that’s really unfair. One thing I want to point out about the probable cause and favorable terms argument I’m hearing this morning is that you can’t do that!
Kindopp wasn’t finished. “There’s not been any evidence to controvert or dispute Mr. Aiken’s illness… you can attack it, but there’s no evidence to controvert it. As to the Toyen agreement, again, there’s value to that. This action should never have been filed. As to abandoning the case, he never did! He gets to re-file at any time. Where the court looks at my client, Mr. Turri and Mr. Aiken — they have to prove that Aiken was lying to Turri or the information was false and Turri should have known it. The plaintiff can’t prove that and this case never should have been filed.”
Panczel said, “We’ve been consistent with that. They failed to provide any evidence that MDI received any benefit — a very valuable and indispensable requirement, that MDI was innocent. MDI can’t later claim that Mr. Macabee [?] wrote to my client and that Mr. Aiken signed off on it — it goes to the cases cited by Mr. Carter. So I don’t think the court has any evidence that doesn’t meet the first elements of the anti-SLAPP action.”
Carter: “The Supreme Court has thought otherwise for over a hundred years. And let me read you from common law in Chancery going back to before 1066: “If we disallow these malicious prosecution suits we effectively take away the right of the rich to outbid the poor and utterly ruin the poor buggers for ever talking back to their betters.”
(I may not have got that last quote exactly verbatim, but I went by Mr. Carter’s office, was told he was busy, would I like to make an appointment for sometime next month? No, I’ll just leave my contact info and ask him to gimme a call — thank you.)
As for Panczel and Turri — neither one will return my calls.
Judge Nadel’s ruling is pending.
HEALDSBURG WINE SCENE IS MAXED OUT
(Is Boonville next? Or will pot win?)
Wine Country has reached its limit in Healdsburg
The City Council's unanimous vote will also apply to bars and cocktail lounges to avoid a “commercial monoculture.”
‘DUNKIRK’: A WHITEWASHED VERSION OF HISTORY THAT IGNORES THE BRAVERY OF BLACK & MUSLIM SOLDIERS
by Robert Fisk
In my mother’s family scrapbook, there is a tiny box camera snapshot of a very young Robert staring at the Luftwaffe-smashed “mole” leading out to sea from the port of Boulogne – sixteen years after British troops evacuated under fire in May 1940 as their comrades stood on the beaches of neighbouring Dunkirk. In the photograph, the right-hand side of the Boulogne jetty remains, in dilapidated, post-war France, just as it was when British soldiers scrambled aboard the last ships to Britain, the concrete, right-hand side of the mole collapsed into the sea, just a few old hawsers showing where it stood.
I remember that when our car ferry docked from Dover, passengers still had to “walk the plank” across a bridge of duckboards suspended above the water with ropes on each side to cling onto above another bombed-out part of the jetty. A day later, my father drove our Austin up to Dunkirk to see the famous beaches. It was a grey, cold day and the sand was grey and there was some unrecognisable, rusting junk along the promenade and several of the old beach hotels were still under repair. That was it. History had passed this way and the Brits had returned to other beaches 250 miles further west four years later and Hitler killed himself and we dropped atoms bombs on Japan and, by the time I reached Dunkirk, we’d lost soldiers in Korea and the poor old French were just starting their doomed war to hold onto Algeria.
From time to time, during our drive towards the German border that dank summer holiday, there were road bridges still under repair – the war had only ended eleven years earlier – and squads of French soldiers guarding them would stand up and cheer when they saw the little Union flag my father had fixed to the front of our Austin. “Don’t wave to them, fellah,” he would admonish me. “They let us down and surrendered.” So the anti-French contempt briefly witnessed in Christopher Nolan’s new film – as a British officer refuses to allow French troops to join the evacuation – was nothing new in cinematic history. My Dad, who’d fought in France towards the end of the First World War, still felt the betrayal of the country he’d risked his life for when it capitulated to the Germans in 1940, less than three weeks after the last British – and French – soldiers had left Dunkirk.
The Brits had already been softened up to hate their French allies by General Mason-Macfarlane, who gave an off-the-record briefing to journalists in London on 28 May 1940 in which he told them to blame French troops for the demise of the British Expeditionary Force; reporters ran “exclusives” next day – no sources, of course (as usual) – precisely reflecting the words of the general.
Mason-Macfarlane was, I suppose, a Farage of his time. In the decades to come, British historians would denigrate French troops in 1940 as drunkards and cowards although they also wrote of the looting and binge drinking by the Brits in Dunkirk town – a theme clearly hinted at in the magnificent five-and-a-half minute Dunkirk beach “take” in Joe Wright’s Atonement. Intriguingly, there were more French soldiers – shooting their horses, marching with discipline to the beaches, one of them dying in a London hospital – in Wright’s film, in which Dunkirk was only an episode, than in Nolan’s epic.
Much has been made, inevitably in The Guardian, of Nolan’s failure to acknowledge the presence of Muslim troops at Dunkirk – Muslim Indian Commonwealth soldiers (from what is now Pakistan) and, of course, Algerian and Moroccan regiments in the French army. Atonement did contain a black British soldier in the retreat to Dunkirk although no photographs appear to exist of black UK troops in 1940 France – and Leslie Norman’s much older Dunkirk movie, which premiered two years after I first visited the beaches, contained no black soldiers – John Mills’s companions in the retreat to Dunkirk were all white – although in the film French civilians risk their lives to help save British troops. Of course, even in this early stage of the Second World War, ethnic minority British citizens did show enormous courage – one of the bravest ARP men during the Blitz was black, although we have yet to see a film about him.
Disgracefully, the post-war Moroccan and Algerian governments declined – until very recently – to honour their soldiers who fought in the French army against the Nazis. Arab nationalism counted for more than anti-fascism in post-independence Algeria. The French film Indigènes – released in the UK as Days of Glory – recalled the bravery of Algerian soldiers fighting the Nazis after the Allied landings in southern France, and the racism of their French white comrades. As one of the North Africans lies wounded, praying the words of the Quran, he is executed by a German soldier. Intriguingly, the post-independence Muslim nations who deleted their Second World War history – fighting the Japanese as well as the Germans – reflected the First World War amnesia which afflicted the post-independence republican Irish who, until recently, had no time for their men-folk who died on the Somme, at Gallipoli and Passchendaele in British uniform.
A justly cynical revue of Nolan’s Dunkirk by Francois Pédron in Paris Match points out, correctly, that 18,000 French troops paid with their lives to hold the Dunkirk perimeter and 35,000 were made prisoner – almost 140,000 French soldiers were rescued from Dunkirk – but that not only do the victors write history. Filmmakers write the “history” too, Pedron wrote. He is right. The true story of the Algerian and Moroccan units has still to be filmed. It would make a terrifying drama. The Germans threw raw meat into the prison cages of Algerian and African troops – to show cinemagoers how they fought for the food and tore it to pieces like animals. Algerians were massacred by the Nazis on racial grounds – an act which strongly supports the suspicion of some intellectual Arabs today: that Hitler, after destroying the Jews of Europe and the Middle East, would have next turned his exterminating fury against their Semitic Arab brothers.
But of course, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem sought exile in Hitler’s Germany and exhorted Muslims to support the Nazis and thus allowed Israel forever to equate the Arabs with Nazi Germany – even though Arab Palestinians dead lie in the Commonwealth graveyard at El-Alamein alongside Jewish Palestinians. How do you explain this on film? If the French can be humiliated in the latest Dunkirk, what chance for Muslims? Or black soldiers? No wonder Farage urged us to watch Nolan’s movie. The Brits in 1940 were, at last, alone. It took another generation to create a Europe in which there would be no more international slaughter. 72 years of peace.
And now we are committing Dunkirk all over again.
(Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. Courtesy, CounterPunch.org.)
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
You can just feel it everywhere these days can’t you? That feeling of purposelessness is everywhere. Meaningless activities abound and people across the board are feeling it too, not just us attuned doomers.
Nobody gives a shit anymore. You can see it in the quality of products, the service you get at about any business anymore. The cleanliness that is lacking in more and more places. You can feel it as you look into the eyes of many of the people working these low paying, meaningless jobs. Anger lies beneath a thin veneer everywhere.
Add in a president whose life work is buttering up people to grease the skids for extracting whatever it is he wants from them, then leaving them behind like discarded trash, and people are starting to realize they are just marks in this whole game of hustling.
People won’t change their habits easily. But maybe this will all come down because nobody cares anymore. Nobody is willing to show up to the shit job anymore to be treated like shit while being paid like shit. I don’t know the future, but it sure feels like it’s going to get crappy quite soon.
TRACTORS OR HOES
by Spec MacQuayde
Friday afternoon the air in Ukiah valley had turned muggy, with thunderclouds overhead, as I pulled an ancient off-set disk behind an equally antique Ford tractor, attempting to cut star thistles out of a small orchard. At the very least the disk blades chopped the tough stalks. By this time of year it's nearly impossible to cut a star thistle out at the root, even with the heaviest of hoes.
Two nights previously I had run sprinklers between the various fruit trees to soften the soil. Before working it, I'd scattered about fifty pounds of buckwheat seed. The cover crop is somewhat of an experiment. Bunnies have been pruning our late cantaloupe vines. At this point in the season I'm not interested in attaching chicken wire to the entire perimeter deer fence just for a few jackrabbits or cottontails. If I lived at the farm I would have a dog and problem solved, but residing forty-five minutes away somewhat prohibits livestock management. In the past I have planted buckwheat as a smother crop, as it outgrows nearly all weeds, a quick source of grain for chickens that doesn't require more than two or three waterings, and a great bee forage. One observation back at the old Boont Berry Farm, when deer and jackrabbits were wreaking havoc before we got dogs, was that they preferred buckwheat to almost everything else except maybe clover.
I figured there were at least four reasons to plant buckwheat. Aesthetics might be a fifth.
The atmosphere reminded me of Indiana. There was the sweetcorn field, the shorter, earlier stuff ready to pick. There were the clouds, the humidity. There was the sound of an old gas motor. It was great to be running the Ford again. I had hung out with that machine in the late 1990's, and for bachelor farmers tractors can play the same role as lovers--especially the older ones that have more character. You have had moments together. You have a history. You have been intimate as a surgeon which is a level that I have only vicariously shared on the human level.
Those older tractors don't have a slow gear. Not really--they have three or four speeds. Multiple gear ranges came about sometime in the sixties. If you want to drink a beer while mindlessly cruising up and down in endless lines, the newer models are preferrable for various reasons, including power steering. I'm not interested in any tractors manufactured after 1990, but do have to admit that the new machines make it easier to drink at the helm. They provide cup holders.
After working the buckwheat in, slicing as close possible around the tree trunks, I paused to fetch the water bottle from near the gate, in the shade of a live oak. Sipping the well water, I glanced through the deer fence at the field of watermelons, delicata squash, and cantaloupe. Earlier in the morning I had hoed and rowed the vines, and now was the time, I thought, to go ahead and pull the disk between the rows. Now or never.
Back on the saddle, I thrust her into first, and we chopped the morning glories along the outside row of sweetcorn on our way to the gate. It was a tight squeeze, but we came through golden, though ran into trouble already on the roadway between the future carrots and temporary cucumbers that had just gotten the sprinklers the night before.
Please don't let us get hung up in freakin August, I prayed.
Back on the dry path, we rounded a wide corner in an attempt to take out more star thistle. It was like riding a horse at a pretty good pace. I had to think fast which rows to go between. Two sets had an extra furrow or raised bed, three instead of two, so we hit the wider ones first, having decent luck chopping out the morning glories and levelling the ridges, but noticed we were pulling consistently to the right. This was an ancient, off-set disk.
"Have to make another pass the other direction," I told her.
The older tractors are definitely more exciting to drive. They're experienced. Rounding the curve on the higher end of the grade I had to steer quickly to avoid hitting the deer fence without taking out the last plants. In one of those lightning-quick moments, I elected to attempt to pull the disk between rows of watermelons that were only separated by two ridges, instead of three.
This little old disk was barely five feet in width, so I didn't think much of it until it kept pulling to the right. It was pulling UPHILL, to the right.
"Shit!" I said.
We just kept going. It's hard to look backwards and forwards simultaneously. Maybe the Ford had eyes, maybe not. By now we were nearly smashing a row of late seedless watermelons to the left in order to avoid murdering the open-pollenated Crimson Sweet vines to the right.
Halfway through, it got so bad that we were killing vines on both sides.
We stopped. I throttled her way down.
"Goddamit," I said. "Son of a bitch!"
I glanced at the vines ahead, at the ones we'd just done in. There was hardly a good way to go forward. You could tell we'd be butchering everything. Jumping off, I rounded the left tire and had a look at the hitch. The way it appeared, I could maybe adjust the tongue of the disk a foot to the left, to compensate. But the old Fords spit the exhaust out the rear end, so I got my fingers on the switch, shut it off.
Now we had peace and quiet. It probably wouldn't hurt to let her cool off for a minute, though with the cloud cover and humidity it wasn't a bad time to go ahead and get shit done, I told myself. I'm not sure if I said that to her or not. Motivated, I went to work on the rear end. There's two arms on the famous Ford three point hitch, an invention that like the bicycle was never essentially rendered obsolete. Between them stretched a steel bar with about a dozen holes, each of them a few inches apart.
First I had to extract the clip from the end of a four inch pin that for some reason was equpped with a lawn mower blade. That contraption removed, now I had to take her arms and raise both the tongue of the disk and the hitch simultaneously, shifting the tongue two holes to the left, which was all she had in that direction.
It was all I had, too. The last time we'd interacted, I'd been 27. Now I'm 44. Not sure if my back is stronger or weaker after all these years.
"Goddam," I said. "Wish I had a hand."
After several failed attempts, I finally slipped the pin through the worn hole of the tongue and the far left hole of the hitch, complete with the rusted lawn mower blade, which I now realized was there as the only washer wide enough to accomodate the gap in the tongue, which had been reamed in the original Italian vineyard days every spring, no doubt, possibly pulled by draft horses.
By the time I climbed up and stuck my ass on the cupped steel seat she was sizzling but not as bad as it would have been without the cloud cover.
"I don't know if this is a good idea," I said, glancing at the melon rows ahead, thinking maybe we could just veer downhill, take out a few seedless plants, a few delicata squash, get back to the roadway between the cucumbers and future carrots.
I turned the key. After that there's a button you got to push. Right next to her gear shift, to the left, a steel button maybe the diameter of a beer bottle cap.
Carefully, with my left thumb, I pressed it.
"Goddammit!" I said, taking the gear shift lever in my right hand and sliding it back and forth. I released the clutch, then pushed hard with my left flip-flop. "Come on! Not now!"
It was after noon. I figured it was probably time to go for lunch in town. I usually hit Saucy's on the square, get a Run With the Bulls pizza in a to-go box, have a beer. So I called Phil Cool who has been growing vegetables at that ranch for the last few decades. He's had the same phone number and produce truck all this time, a landline and Toyota, with the same message on the machine. That Ford is his tractor. I figured he'd be home that time of day.
"Hey, man, it's Spec. Got that buckwheat planted."
"Cool. What's going on?"
"Does that tractor not want to start if she gets too hot?"
"Long story. Disk pulled to the right."
"Battery's probably dead."
"Well, I'll just jump it. You got cables in the shop?"
"It's complicated. It's positive ground."
I checked, and sure enough, it was positive ground. I'd run across that before, but the last thing I wanted to do was fry her starter. "Hey, man, I'm runnin into town, get some lunch, think about what to do next. It's probably not serious."
After picking up the pizza and eavesdropping on random conversations at Saucy's, I returned to the farm in a better mood. I stopped at the shop, grabbed a half inch socket and the ratchet, and back in the overcast field cheerfully opened her hood to get at the terminals. They were rusted solid. There was no adjusting them either way.
I gave up on that, and was about to abandon the whole catastrophe in the melons, when I finally jumped on the seat, gave it one more try. She fired right up. We left the disk out in the melon field. I think it'll stay there until October.
In the mean time, glancing up and down the rows while I piddled with the Ford, I'd concluded that on the scale I'm farming it's probably more reasonable to use a hoe.
GREEN PARTY MEETING IN BOONVILLE
Help develop a strong and viable Green Party. Now is the time for you to join the momentum toward a progressive and Green political future. Come join us on Sunday, August 20th, from 2pm to 5pm at Anderson Valley Brewery, either inside or outside, 17700 Boonville Rd, Boonville, CA 95415. No food but drinks for sale. Bring your action agenda! Hope to see you there!
For more information: 707-478-8557,
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/240657382618654/
LET ME COUNT THE WAYS....
Subject: Why I love the AVA.
I enjoy the AVA for so many reasons. One is Louis Bedrock's translations of Manuel Vicent's writing. I was interested in not only Manuel Vicent, but also Fernando Vicente, the artist whose illustrations accompany Mr. Bedrock's translations. So, I did what any self-respecting inquisitive person would do... I googled them. And discovered a new favorite artist. I so liked Fernando Vicente's artwork, that I immediately ordered a book of his work, the cover of which is enclosed.
So, thanks once again, Beast and the Major.
P.S. Did LD enjoy the treats?
Name Withheld Ukiah
LD REPLIES, "ARF-ARF!"