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Mendocino County Today: October 26, 2012

Returning to 2010 World Series form Giants starting left-hander Madison Bumgarner backed up by some stellar defense (plus another touch of good fortune) combine to shut out the Detroit Tigers and give the Giants a 2-0 lead in the 2012 World Series

IT'S BEEN A TOUGH WEEK for Mendo law enforcement, men and women doing an impossible job at an impossible juncture of our ever more chaotic history. Several years ago a Fort Bragg friend of mine, a retired fisherman and not an easily intimidated person, told me that there was a new breed of street person roaming Fort Bragg. “They're younger and meaner and a lot more aggressive,” he said. A Fort Bragg Police officer confirmed the old fisherman's suspicions. “Yes, they are younger and they are a lot more aggressive. And we've got gangs, too.”

I VISIT UKIAH more often where I see for myself that there are some pretty bad dudes on the prowl over there, especially along the railroad tracks and in and around the WalMart parking lot.

CASE IN POINT. The Fort Bragg Police were called out to the 1100 block of South Main Tuesday to deal with three belligerent drunks who chose to fight the cops rather than move along. In the ensuing melee an officer was injured, not seriously but badly enough to require medical attention. Instead of shuffling off with maybe a citation, police were forced to arrest Dylan Swartout, 41, Shon Foote, 40, and William Cady, 62, all of Fort Bragg, and one would think that Cady would be a little long in the fang to be fighting cops. Swartout took it even further. He said he was going to kill a cop and his family.

Swartout, Foote & Cady

SWARTOUT was booked into the County Jail on suspicion of threats to a peace officer, battery on a peace officer and vandalism, Foote was booked on suspicion of resisting arrest and public intoxication, and Cady was booked on suspicion of public intoxication.

CASE IN POINT TWO: In Ukiah, Councilman Phil Baldwin has asked that the City Council find the money to hire more police. Justine Frederickson of the Ukiah Daily Journal quoted Ukiah Police Chief Dewey: “The transient population we're finding is much more violent than anything we've encountered in the past. They're really here because of the marijuana culture,” Dewey said, adding that they congregate near Ukiah Natural Foods, Safeway and Walmart, and the Sun House Park… “I'm now beginning to be worried about our officers' safety in a way I haven't been before… These transients aggressively panhandle, and when people feel threatened they give them money just so they'll go away… Many said they came here because they felt Ukiah had a lack of regulations and they could get services here they couldn't get elsewhere… If you come into this county and are indigent for any reason, you can go to Social Services and receive $200 a month for food… you used to actually get food stamps; today they give you an ATM card with $200 loaded on it. While the card can only be used for food products, people will sell those cards for $100, then buy booze or drugs.”

CASE IN POINT THREE: A CHP officer shot and killed a Southern California man who apparently assaulted her during a traffic stop near Lower Lake Wednesday afternoon. According to Lake County DA Don Anderson, “The man choked the officer and tried to grab her gun during the struggle. Anderson said investigators had conducted a preliminary interview with the officer and that witnesses confirmed her version of events. Neither the name of the officer nor the shooting victim have yet been released.

THE INCIDENT began at about 2pm when the officer spotted a car in a turnout along Highway 29. The officer was outside her vehicle, calling in information about the vehicle when the man approached and “started choking her,” Anderson said. They fell to the ground and struggled as the man tried to grab the officer's gun. She apparently beat her attacker to the draw, firing one shot into the man's chest. The mortally wounded assailant got back into his car, drove about 30 or 40 yards before he car veered off the road, through a fence and into a vineyard where he was found dead inside his rolling casket. The car had been reported stolen in Anaheim. The dead man had a criminal record that includes arrests for violence on peace officers, sexual assaults and drug offenses.

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NORBURY IS SCHIZOPHRENIC, psychologist testifies at murder trial. By Tiffany Revelle

A psychologist testified in Mendocino County Superior Court Wednesday that he had diagnosed convicted killer Billy M. Norbury as a paranoid schizophrenic. A jury on Monday convicted Norbury, 34, of shooting and killing his Redwood Valley neighbor, Jamal Andrews, 30, on the night of Jan. 24. Norbury faces 50 years to life in prison for the first-degree murder charge and a special allegation that he used a 30-30 Winchester rifle to kill Andrews that night, shooting him twice in front of Andrews' girlfriend in the couple's front yard. “This is a brain-damaged individual (who was) not medicated,” Dr. John Podboy said on the witness stand Wednesday afternoon. “His thought process is not linear, it's nonsensical. He has big blocks of time he can't account for -- not hours but days.” He was called to the stand in the second phase of the murder trial, where Norbury's Ukiah defense attorney, Al Kubanis, is making his case to the jury that it was more likely than not that Norbury was legally insane at the time of the shooting. Norbury in July changed his not-guilty plea to one of not guilty by reason of insanity (commonly called an NGI plea). Insanity is a legal term under state law meaning that because of a mental defect or disorder, the defendant didn't understand the nature or quality of the act, or was incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong. If he is found not guilty by reason of insanity, Norbury will be referred to spend his sentence at a mental health facility, and could at some point qualify for an outpatient program and live in the community, according to Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster, who is prosecuting the case. Podboy, a clinical forensic psychologist, said he had interviewed Norbury three times for a total of about six hours to prepare for the trial, and had used several tests to assess Norbury. Podboy said Norbury had showed signs of having “persecutory delusions,” being “disconnected from reality” and having “auditory hallucinations.” Schizophrenia is exacerbated by drug or alcohol use, according to Podboy, who also had noted that Norbury, who he acknowledged was an alcoholic, drank to lessen the effects of voices telling him to “do bad things.” The condition worsened, he said, when Norbury's now-estranged wife left him and filed for divorce. “Once she left with the three children, he lost his grasp on contextual reality,” Podboy said. At Kubanis' urging, Podboy clarified that meant Norbury could not “agree on what's going on.” Podboy continued, “His inner world would overtake him. His inner world was very disturbing for the most part, and it's something he can't control.” At one point in his questioning, Kubanis picked up the murder weapon and showed it to Podboy and the jury, making a point that the rifle required lever-action cocking for each of the three shots Norbury fired that night. Eyster had said in his closing arguments during the guilt phase of the trial that the action required to fire the rifle showed Norbury was able to think through what he was doing. “He was striking first so he could avoid his own death,” Podboy said, asked by Kubanis about the matter. “You might say that's nonsensical, but again, that's what you've got with a schizophrenic; it doesn't make sense.” Podboy also testified that he didn't think Norbury could care for himself or his children. Knowing Eyster intended to read for the jury transcripts of testimony given during Norbury's child custody hearing, Kubanis asked Podboy what he would think of previous testimony to the contrary. “His self-import does not impress me in that regard,” Podboy said. Near the end of his direct examination, Kubanis asked Podboy for his opinion on Norbury's state of mind regarding the legal definition of insanity. “I feel he could not appreciate the nature and quality of his acts,” Podboy answered.

Eyster began his cross-examination by paraphrasing one of the Ten Commandments. “Thou shall not kill,” Eyster said, and asked Podboy about Norbury's Christian upbringing. “Did anyone tell you he wasn't schooled about that?” Eyster said. “No,” Podboy answered. Questioning Podboy about methods he had testified could be used to diagnose the physical component of schizophrenia, Podboy said no MRI or isotope test had been done on Norbury. Eyster ran down a list of questions on a questionnaire of Podboy's design that the psychologist had asked Norbury, asking Podboy in each case if he had any reason to believe Norbury's answer wasn't true. Podboy confirmed that Norbury had told him on that questionnaire that he wasn't paranoid and had no violent fantasies, among other things, and that he'd been hospitalized for two hours in 2010 when a nail had gone through his foot. Eyster also asked Podboy to confirm that he had documented no blackouts during his first interview with Norbury. At one point, Podboy said he had been on the stand for three hours without his notes, and that Eyster was “ambushing” him, as he'd been told not to bring his materials concerning Norbury to the stand. Judge John Behnke, who has refereed numerous interruptions by both attorneys and some witnesses during the trial, later clarified that Podboy could ask to look at his materials to refresh his memory. Eyster said family members had testified that Norbury had experienced “crying or wailing episodes,” a symptom Podboy had said supported his schizophrenia diagnosis. During his opening statements for the insanity phase, Eyster told the jury Tuesday that Mendocino County Jail staff would testify Norbury had not needed medication or counseling. “Has (Norbury) had any crying or wailing bouts in the Mendocino County Jail (since his January arrest)?” Eyster asked. Podboy said he didn't know. Eyster asked him if he knew two members of the jail staff by name and was familiar with the process jail staff used to check on Norbury. “What kind of question is this?” Podboy said. He explained that he checks with jail staffs in the counties in which he testifies for criminal cases, and that he knew how the process worked in Sonoma County, but not for Mendocino County. “It doesn't have a very good track record, are you aware of that, Mr. Eyster?” Podboy said. Eyster asked Podboy about another test that used true/false questions, saying there was an F by the statement, “There's something wrong with my mind,” and clarified that Podboy had written that letter. Podboy explained that he had given the tests at different times and wasn't sure of the dates. Behnke said at the end of the day that clarity would be needed on the dates when Podboy resumes the stand today. (Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)

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COAST HOSPITAL Files for Bankrupty. But — Hino Had A Plan! by Mark Scaramella

Last Tuesday as Mendocino Coast District Hospital's 320 unionized employees overwhelmingly rejected concessions sought by management, the Hospital's Board of Directors was meeting in closed session to fire CEO Ray Hino.

The next day Mendocino County's only community-owned hospital filed for bankruptcy and Chief Financial Officer Wayne Allen — who has presided over the bankruptcy of two prior hospitals — had been appointed interim CEO.

Hino opposed the bankruptcy filing as did two Board members. He had worked with union representatives to structure a compromise aimed at averting bankruptcy.

But Allen and a three-person Hospital board majority are dead set on bankruptcy — apparently because they either see the union contract as “too generous” and the sole reason for the Hospital's financial difficulties or, as some speculate, they see bankruptcy as a path to privatization of the County's only publicly owned and operated hospital.

Whatever the Board majority's true intentions are, Hino had become an obstacle to them and, because his contract was up, Hino was unceremonially pushed out the door although he is widely credited as having saved Coast Hospital from bankruptcy when he was hired in 2006 to replace the profligate Bryan Ballard.

According to a Coast Hospital press release announc­ing the dramatic developments late last week, “Wayne C. Allen, 67, of Mendocino, current chief financial officer (CFO) of Mendocino Coast District Hospital, has been appointed interim CEO, effective October 24. Allen will retain his position as CFO. Allen replaces CEO Ray­mond T. Hino, whose employment contract ends on Tuesday. The hospital is running a deficit and filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 17. The hospital board of directors unanimously voted in favor of Allen, who has more than 35 years experience as a healthcare executive and has successfully guided two hospitals through the bankruptcy process.”

Translation: A bankruptcy expert sees bankruptcy as the first and best solution to financial difficulties.

“Given my experience as a CEO/CFO and Chief Oper­ating Officer in hospitals ranging from 25 to 300 beds, I'm comfortable and confident about guiding the hospital through the bankruptcy process to assure sus­tainable operating performance into the future whereby access to local healthcare is available,” Allen said, serenely gliding past the difficulties bankruptcy presents and without so much as a mention of other strategies.

“The hospital board,” Allen continued, “has directed the hospital's human resources director to begin a search for a new, permanent CEO.”

That search seems to have found Mr. Allen.

In a move seen by many as an insult to the widely popular Hino, the Board, insulting Hino a second time, offered Hino a temporary consulting position to “help Mr. Allen get through this difficult time.” But Allen quickly nixed that idea saying he didn't need any help from Hino and the Board's offer to Hino was withdrawn.

Further irritation for the Board's critics was found in this item on the Board's October 22 special meeting agenda: “1. DISCUSSION/ACTION: Board consideration of Management Transition Issues.”

As the press release announcing Allen as CEO says, Allen has plenty of bankruptcy experience. What the press release didn't say was that the success of Allen's self-alleged bankruptcy strategy resulted in both of the “small hospitals” he referenced being absorbed in larger private chains.

Critics of Allen's appointment fear that privatization is Allen's ultimate goal in Fort Bragg.

Nobody disputes that the Hospital's revenues are down and that something needs to be done. But is bankruptcy the only way out?

For the last few weeks Hino had been working feverishly with all the Hospital's creditors — the union, the State of California's Cal-Mortgage office, and the doctors with their lucrative contracts — to assemble a bankruptcy avoidance plan which involved across-the-board cutbacks. But the doctors, two of whom sit on the Hospital's board, not only rejected it, some of them have said they want pay increases.

Under Hino's proposal, the union had agreed to forgo their 3% pay increase which kicked in last July and a paid holiday or two. They were also willing to negotiate temporary reductions which would be reinstated when the Hospital recovered financially — if the State and the doctors shared in the cuts.

In addition, Hino had convinced Cal-Mortgage to forgive a $1 million loan the Hospital had obtained last summer to help the Hospital cover an earlier cash-flow gap.

Hino's compromise package also included a proposal to switch to a less-expensive health insurance carrier at an estimated savings of about $400k a year.

“Mr. Hino had a workable deal that should have been given a chance to work,” said one senior employee, “but the Board said no. We don't know why the Board said no. Now, it looks like the Board simply wants to eviscerate our union.”

Which is why 98% of Hospital employees voted to reject the take-aways the Hospital wanted and to declare their overwhelming intent to go on strike if the Hospital or the bankruptcy judge tries to “cram” the take-aways down their throats.

(“Cram-down” is no euphemism. There's a specific provision in municipal [Chapter 9] bankruptcy law that provides a mechanism for a municipal debtor to “cram-down” a “plan of adjustment on non-consenting creditor classes” [i.e., employees] “so long as at least one of the other creditors agrees with the bankruptcy recovery plan” — if the bankruptcy judge determines that debtor's (i.e., Hospital management's) plan “does not discriminate unfairly and is fair and equitable.”

Fourteen years ago this same Hospital Employees Union struck under roughly similar circumstances when Hospital management attempted to take away their health care benefits. Last Tuesday's lopsided strike vote represents a serious threat that employees will again strike. The 1998 strike lasted for almost two weeks and cost the Hospital over $1 million in lost revenue and scab replacements.

In the wake of last week's dramatic developments, management has been told to cancel any vacation plans in apparent anticipation of a strike.

The bankruptcy process is expected to take a mini­mum of five months.

An employee group has approached the Coast's two local AM radio stations to publicize the situation. They also hope to have a full page dedicated to letters to the editor in the two interchangeable Coast newspapers next week regarding the labor dispute and the pending bankruptcy.

Employee representatives emphasize they are not asking for anything and are not making any demands. They just want to maintain the contract more or less as is — they are willing to negotiate some cutbacks with the Hospital board, as long as everyone, including doctors and administration, is treated equally.

Last week's rush decision to file for bankruptcy — it was originally scheduled to be filed November 16 — also pre-empts other longer-term options such as pre­paring a ballot measure for an increase in the District's parcel tax. And, since the bankruptcy option arose only in the last few weeks, the August filing deadline for the two Board seats — the seats currently being held by Fort Bragg CPA/tax attorney Sean Hogan and former Silicon Valley corporate accountant Tom Birdsell — which are up for election came and went with no one filing to run against the bankruptcy-leaning incumbents.

After 98% of the employees voted to reject the pro­posed take-aways and authorize a strike if they are imposed, several employees said that they thought such a lopsided vote “would bring the Board to their senses and bring the Board members back to the negotiating table.”

Instead, the Board fired Hino and filed for bankruptcy.

“It looks like they're hell-bent on this bankruptcy path,” said one senior employee.

One of the most objectionable provisions that management wants to impose on the union is to eliminate health insurance coverage for part-time employees. The union sees this as the first step toward elimination of health insurance for everyone. “If they take health insurance away from part-time employees, it won't be long before full-time employees have their hours cut back to part-time with similar loss of benefits,” is how one long-time Hospital employee puts it.

It's all shaping up as a replay of the strike of 1998.

It's possible the current crop of managers is unaware of how seriously their employees take the threat of losing their health insurance. If so, they are in for the proverbial rude awakening.

Management should have seen this financial crisis coming. They've known for months if not years that pa­tient admissions were down. They know the depressed local economy on the Coast has cut into the number of people who will seek medical care and who can pay for it or have insurance that will pay for it. They know that they could do more to collect on unpaid bills to insurance companies and state and federal agencies like MediCal and MediCare. They also are aware that for months now they've been unable to sterilize their surgical instruments due to an autoclave failure which has not only cost more to work around (instruments must be taken to the Adventist hospital in Willits for sterilization), but the problem has reduced good paying surgery patient admissions. (A new autoclave has been installed, but as of last week still was not operating properly and instruments are still going to Willits for sterilization.)

Some employees at the all-day union meeting last Tuesday speculated that the Board and the newly promoted Allen may be considering a possible merger with the Adventist hospital chain which already operates the County's two other hospitals in Willits and Ukiah. Both of the Adventist hospitals are expanding and looking for increasing patient admissions; they may see a downsized Coast Hospital as to their advantage as more patients are funneled to Willits and Ukiah for care. Any downsizing of Coast Hospital would be opposed by the employee union and would also require approval by a majority of the Hospital District's voters.

Jeri Erickson is responsible for the hospital's non-profit fundraising foundation. She told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat last week, “I'm not worried” about the hospital's future, adding that she was certain the community could somehow “save the hospital.” After all, Ms. Erickson's Hospital Foundation just made $600,000 on this year's Winesong festival.

In the larger picture, several Coast residents have pointed out that the Hospital is an important part of the northcoast economy, and if it closes or is substantially cut back it will further damage Fort Bragg's already precarious financial well-being. “The City Council should be very concerned about this,” said an employee who was at the union meeting last week. “We are going to lobby the Fort Bragg City Council to get involved to pressure the Hospital Board to negotiate in good faith. The union is willing to negotiate. And Ray Hino's package would still be a good place to start. We've already made it clear that we're willing to forgo the raise and make other concessions — if everybody, including management, Cal-Mortgage and the doctors take comparable cuts. A strike would be a public relations nightmare and would cost even more money. But if they try to force these take-aways on us we will strike. We've done it before and, if we have to, we'll do it again.” ¥¥

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COMMENT OF THE DAY (Paul Craig Roberts): “God help them if Obama and Romney ever had to participate in a real debate about a real issue at the Oxford Union. They would be massacred. The ‘debates’ revealed that not only the candidates but also the entire country is completely tuned out to every real problem and dangerous development. For example, you would never know that US citizens can now be imprisoned and executed without due process. All that is required to terminate the liberty and life of an American citizen by his own government is an unaccountable decision somewhere in the executive branch. No doubt that Americans, if they think of this at all, believe that it will only happen to terrorists who deserve it. But as no evidence or due process is required, how would we know that it only happens to terrorists? Can we really trust a government that has started wars in seven countries on the basis of falsehoods? If the US government will lie about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in order to invade a country, why won’t it lie about who is a terrorist?”

A NEW BOOK which is scheduled for publication in January would seem to substantiate Roberts’ worries. According to the publisher’s description “The Terror Factor: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on Terror” is “a groundbreaking work of investigative journalism which shows how the FBI has, under the guise of engaging in counterterrorism since 9/11, built a network of more than 15,000 informants whose primary purpose is to infiltrate Muslim communities to create and facilitate phony terrorist plots so that the bureau can then claim victory in the War on Terror. An outgrowth of Trevor Aaronson's work as an investigative reporting fellow at the University of California, Berkeley — which culminated in an award-winning cover story in Mother Jones magazine — “The Terror Factory” reveals shocking information about the criminals, con men, and liars the FBI uses as paid informants, as well as documenting the extreme methods the FBI uses to ensnare Muslims in terrorist plots — which are in reality conceived and financed by the FBI. The book offers unprecedented detail into how the FBI has transformed from a reactive law enforcement agency to a proactive counterterrorism organization — including the story of an accused murderer who became one of the FBI's most prolific terrorism informants — and how so-called terrorism consultants and experts have made fortunes by exaggerating the threat of Islamic terrorism in the United States. (Trevor Aaronson is associate director and co-founder of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit journalism organization that produces reporting about Florida and Latin America. He was a 2010–11 investigative reporting fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, where his reporting about the FBI's informants in US Muslim communities resulted in a Mother Jones cover story that won the John Jay College/Harry Frank Guggenheim 2012 Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award.)”

WHAT PRICE CAN YOU PUT ON LOVE? The Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) Animal Care Services announces the “Name your own adoption fee for any cat or kitten” 60-day program. This is for cats and kittens currently living at the Ukiah Shelter. This adoption program will run from November 1 to December 31, 2012. A cat or kitten can bring you so much joy! During this event we would like everyone who has ever hoped to find a feline friend to come to the Ukiah Shelter at 298 Plant and adopt a cat or kitten. All cats and kittens will be spayed and neutered, up to date on their vaccines, have a feline leukemia test and be micro-chipped. You will decide what you can afford to pay as an adoption fee. The Ukiah Animal Care shelter is open to do adoptions on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday's 10am through 4:30pm and Wednesday's 10am to 6:30pm. A friendly bundle of joy is waiting for you and your family!

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