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Barbara Howe’s Day In Court

Judge Jeanine Nadel called the case of Tammy Moss-Chandler v. Barbara Howe first thing on Wednesday morning in the Ukiah courthouse. She gave each party a copy of the Standard Settlement Agreement and sent them into the hallway to talk it over and “see if this can be resolved” – either that, or come back and go through with a formal hearing.

Also on the calendar was the case of Mendocino County v. Barbara Howe, and so County Counsel Katherine Elliot and CEO Carmel Angelo were also present.

In the hall, Ms. Howe’s lawyer, John Rarick, was telling Ms. Moss-Chandler’s lawyer, Mr. Christian Curtis of the County Counsel's Office, that his client (Howe) would agree not to call or text Moss-Chandler, or go to the county offices – except on essential business – and stay away from Moss-Chandler’s house. Mr. Curtis was one of Ms. Elliott’s huge County Counsel staff – it appears Elliott does no legal work herself, which is probably a good thing, since she was not a very effective criminal defense attorney, and since her elevation to County Counsel her duties have been reduced to something she’s really good at, prattling away with an effervescent effusiveness, bubbling over with optimistic good humor and blissful euphemisms.

On this day Ms. Elliott appeared to be on a date with County CEO Carmel Angelo, snuggling happily against the CEO’s shoulder and cooing in her ear as they sat side-by-side in the theater seats of the courtroom, or shuffled down to the far end of the hall where I couldn’t hear what was being said.

Mr. Rarick also said that if Curtis and his client Moss-Chandler would not sign the Standard Settlement Agreement, he was going to ask for a continuance so he could better prepare his case, and that he would be suing for a wrongful termination on behalf of Ms. Howe.

Back in the courtroom Judge Nadel was taking care of some other requests for restraining orders and in doing so she explained that the Standard Settlement Agreement was not enforceable, that the police would not respond if either party broke the agreement; but, at the same time, if anything serious happened, they (either) party could bring it back to court. Both parties must sign and date it, and the case would be brought back for review in one year’s time. Both parties would “treat one another in a civil manner, refrain from using foul or threatening language, and put yourself back on the calendar if you feel the other party is not in compliance.”

If everything goes smoothly, neither party needed to come back to court for the review date, and the matter would simply end at that. “We live in small towns and should all try to get along.”

The case of Moss-Chandler v. Howe could not be resolved, so after the other litigants left, the parties from the County came back in the courtroom and Mr. Rarick asked that the TRO for the county be dropped, since the county wasn’t a person, and Judge Nadel agreed to consolidate the county’s case with Moss-Chandler’s. Then Tammy Moss-Chandler took the stand.

Exhibit A was the text messages sent by Barbara Howe to Moss-Chandler and each of these were read by Ms. M-C, at the promptings of her lawyer. We have the text of these messages posted in the ongoing coverage of the Howe matter on our website, so it isn’t necessary to reprint them here, except to say that Ms. Howe suggested to Ms. M-C that she “stop spreading Carmel’s poison, it is killing you.” 

It may be helpful to note that M-C was asked how the texts made her feel, and she replied in such a roundabout way to every question that it was hard to get it all down.

For instance, at one point M-C said that Barbara Howe had either picked her up at her house at one time and taken her to the airport – or maybe she had brought her home from the airport – in any case, when asked if she knew whether Howe knew where she lived, she said she didn’t think so but couldn’t be sure. “But for me it was more the aspect of her seeking out where I lived that made me uncomfortable with that after all the…” Ms. M-C’s voice had a tendency to trail-off into a barely audible murmur, and her wordy way of answering even a simple yes or no question with soft-spoken verbose evasions made any definite response hard to discern.

When asked about how the texts made her feel she said, “I think my reaction initially was that I uh was um uh a little um you know I have a support system and I honestly haven’t experienced this kind of um, you know my friends and my family all know what a fearless person I am and how I’ve done so many things that are really daunting and traveled alone to foreign countries and I’ve never felt afraid to be alone in the office before but now, for the past three weeks I would never go to the office without two or three, at least someone I can and even at the office pot luck I’m afraid of eating any of the food and um uh…”

Like that.

On cross-examination Mr. Rarick tried to get an answer as to where the Letter of Resignation had originated. M-C answered something like this — on the third or fourth try: At first she affected to know nothing about any Letter of Resignation – but finally came through with, “It was a part of the materials provided.”

“From whom did you get the document you allege was a Letter of Resignation?”

“Who? We, uh, well I suppose it must have been from Human Resources.”

“Who from Human Resources?”

“You mean who? Well I think it must have been Heidi Dunham…” [Mendo’s Director of Human Resources.]

“So you and a Human Resources representative came to Ms. Howe’s office with this resignation letter.”

Mr. Curtis objected as to the relevance, saying the line of questioning had “no probative value.”

Rarick said it went to Ms. Moss-Chandler’s credibility and Judge Nadel hurriedly called the lawyers back into her chambers. Judge Nadel, it should be noted, was Mendocino County Counsel before being elevated to Judge. Apparently, the judge didn’t want credibility issues going on the record as it would necessarily tarnish the unsullied way things are done at the county executive offices. They stayed back there in chambers a long time. When the lawyers came out they took their respective clients back into the hall and fell back into the original Standard Settlement Agreement mode, this time with an instruction of some sort from the judge that the best thing do for all concerned was to keep the details private, and the only way to do that was to sign those agreement forms and not put the witness back on the stand with a reporter present. So far, all that had been said was what was already known – the text messages, and the Letter of Resignation.

Having taken up the rest of the morning, the case was called back on the record just before noon. The parties duly turned in their signed and dated Standard Settlement Agreement forms and the terms were kept secret, but I did overhear Rarick tell Howe that it was basically the same as before – no texting, no going to the County Offices except for necessary business, and keep away from Moss-Chandler’s house. A whole year of review dates were set – one each month – and Judge Nadel pronounced it “a good resolution, and I expect everyone to abide by it.”

Mendo successfully avoided having to air much dirty laundry and Ms. Howe doesn’t have a restraining order on her record. Meanwhile, Mendo's remaining senior staffers better hope they don't get any surprise visits from Ms. Dunham.

Deck Chairs & Other Moving Objects

Mendocino County's own travesty of President Trump's former TV persona as a corporate axman, has been adroitly upstaged by our very own great huge beauty of a CEO, Ms. Carmel Angelo.

How often and how tediously have I lectured the readership on this subject: that the county is a microcosm of the macrocosm of the national dysfunction? How many examples do I have to frog-march down a column in the Mighty AVA until you will at last, at long last, see?

Apparently, more is needed, and conveniently, more is certainly available.

A fresh example popped just this morning. Assistant Public Defender Bumstead Bumble-Butte was resigned — no-no, Mr. Editor don't tamper with the verb tense; because as Ms. Chandler-Moss, in an unrelated case going on earlier in the day, I say, as Tammy C-M made as obscure as verbosity is capable of smearing and smudging things, it turns out that the method of firing people is to deliver unto them a letter of resignation, which reminds of a line from Literature, to wit:

"…Then I got into the soup again, pretty badly this time. Happened over in France. They said, 'Now Grimes, you've got to behave like a gentleman. We don't want a court-martial in the regiment. We're going to leave you alone for an hour. There's your revolver. You know what to do. Good-bye, old chap..."

So you see, you no longer get fired, you get resigned. A Euphemism like the police use, "Interview" when they do an Interrogation; it's a new way of saying it: it's like saying Thank You when you mean Fuck You — a smug little verbal dismissal our Supes have developed over the County Supes adopted over the last year...

And so the word came down in a subtle way, via a lawyer from the Alternate Public Defender's office, Jan Cole-Wilson, who told Judge John Behnke that she would be leaving the Alternate's office July 1st, to take over the suddenly vacant Assistant Public Defender job.

Keep in mind that Ms. Cole-Wilson, some 20 years ago, was an eager young lawyer at the Office of the Public Defender, that she worked with various defense firms over the intervening years, and that it was her, incidentally, she was this newspaper's choice for the Public Defender's job when the late Linda Thompson retired, last July, and the job came open.

The new Public Defender, Jeffery Aaron had brought in a "friend" of his, a fellow who always seemed a thousand miles away, on the few occasions he made it to court. And, if I'm not mistaken, this pawn was axed by St. Angelo, and Cole-Wilson elevated to the Assistant slot to mollify the county's only critics, the Mighty AVA.

It seems like a toxic job, though, not only Linda Thompson, but Judge Ron Brown, also out of the Public Defender’s office have both gone under the sod from that job.

On a more cheerful note, our wonderfully versatile Josh Rosenfeld is back in Mendocino County working as Officer Rosenfeld at the Willits Police Department; he has worked with the Willits PD in the past, was on the Ukiah force for a couple of years, and before that a prosecutor in the DA’s Office. He worked as a Deputy DA in Eureka, and as a cop in Fortuna. The guy is on his way to being one of the most qualified candidates for District Attorney any county could wish for.

I can personally attest that his ego is the model of modesty and his honesty as brutal as Socrates'; he has the heart of a lion, the strength of a bear, and we'll never forget how he used the speech of Mark Antony from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar to such stunning and decisive effect in his closing arguments agains the wannabe lawyer, Starsky (I shall never forget Old Whatsisname, if I live to a hundred!.

Congrats to Jan and Josh. 

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