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Mendocino County Today: December 18, 2012

Breit
Breit

STILL AS CROOKED as a brokeback snake, Luke Breit, is again in the news. An occasional resident of Mendocino, and a former chief aide to then-assemblyman Dan Hauser, Breit was last in the news when the State of California paid a former state worker, a married woman, a large amount of money when it was established that Breit's persistent and unwelcome sexual advances drove her from her job.

EVEN BY THE SLEAZY standards of Sacramento, this guy stands out and, it probably goes without saying, got his political start here on the Northcoast back in the days of the Big Naked Piles, in which — furtive and grasping — Mendolib was born. Someone out there is certain to remember the details but, as I recall, Breit emerged from one of those piles with a pregnant 14-year-old. The Democrats of the Northcoast immediately saw his leadership potential, and Breit was soon launched and on his way to Sacramento. Breit and Chesbro! Class of '72!

INCIDENTALLY, and it all comes back to me now, I remember the fun we had at this newspaper when we spotted Breit, then at work for Dan Hauser, with an over-sized, gold-plated nameplate on his chest that said, “Luke Breit. Chief of Staff,” like he was adjutant to General Patton or someone. We soon had the great good fun of disrupting an event Hauser and his Chief of Staff threw for Willie Brown at the Mendocino Hotel, the glassed-in extension of the building that we bombarded with bullhorned insults for a merry couple of hours. Brown and the rest of that grisly crew were not amused, but we sure had a good time doing it. These characters had just conspired to undo Mendocino County's ban on the aerial applications of herbicides, undoing the will of Mendo voters in return for scads of cash from corporate ag, and by the goddess, we were there to let them know we were unhappy about it.

BACK TO BREIT or, as he was known around the office, “Half” or “Halfie.” He's just agreed to a stipulated settlement with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) pegged to his admission that he and another pimp named Michael Gunter, acting as treasurers for Californians for Privacy, a political campaign committee created by them to legalize prostitution, diverted, to themselves, thousands of dollars intended for their noble effort. Dos Chulos also failed to maintain records and accounts and did not make required filings.

SOME $3,000 in donations were diverted by Breit to his close friend, Allyssa Pierce, whom he met while she was wrapped naked around a fireman's pole at Centerfolds, a Sacramento strip club. Breit gave Ms. Pierce some non-profit cash for… well, we'll get to that. Breit's pal, Gunter, used $11,000 of the non-profit's donated funds to start his own business.

PoleDancer1BREIT CLAIMED THE PAYMENTS to Ms. Pierce, doled out in $500 increments, were a “loan,” although there were no records to show the money was a loan, and Ms. Pierce certainly didn't consider the payments as a loan. But Breit says he ultimately and magnanimously “forgave” it, the money not being his to begin with, hence his magnanimity. Investigators, we can surmise, responded to this initial story of Breit's with a great big laugh.

AWARE that his explanations were being met with silent exclamations of “Bullshit!,” Breit then explained to FPPC investigators that he met Ms. Pierce when she was working as a stripper. He said he thought the money was going to pay for an attorney for a child support case, but soon had to amend that version of events to say he was pretty sure that Ms. Pierce “got a boob job and had another kid” with the money. Breit then denied paying his reconfigured lady friend the $3,000 in cash.

WHEN BREIT ISN'T gyno-gazing ringside at Centerfolds and other Sacto venues preferred by that city's Democratic Party pud-pullers, he functions as Chair of the Environmental Caucus of the Democratic Party. He likes to be referred to as “the environmental conscience of the Democratic Party.” He milks this purely symbolic and self-appointed post in a variety of ways, simultaneously holding down a series of interlocking sinecures in state government from which he allies himself with an array of jive “non-profit” organizations.

BREIT'S resume includes Deputy Director of Member Services for former Assembly Speaker Hertzberg, Deputy Director of the California State Assembly Democratic Caucus, lobbyist for Forests Forever, and public relations consultant and lobbyist for Californians Against Waste, all of them devices for funneling money for Democratic Party interests, among them, apparently, lap dances.

THE INVESTIGATION into Breit's latest ripoff began when the Secretary of State referred the case to the FPPC. The charge was failure to file campaign finance statements. Breit told the investigators his non-profit committee of two did not keep records of contributors — no surprise there — because the money was raised at “cash-only mixers” where, according to Madam Breit, “working ladies would come and, you know, the guys would come to meet them.”

Ravel
Ravel

FPPC CHAIR Ann Ravel tweeted that it was “the most amazing case involving improper use of campaign funds this year,” a statement only a life-long resident of a remote convent could make, but I guess we all have to at least pretend we're surprised at government hijinks.

THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OCTOPUS reaches out to include the FPPC, which exists to protect the political bigwigs of both parties from full accountability for their financial crimes. In this case of The Two Pimps, instead of demanding a prosecution and jail time, the FPPC assessed nominal fines of $7,000 against Breit and Gunter's phony committee; $7,500 against Gunther and $9,500 against Breit for a total of $24,000. But when Breit's well-placed, lap-dancing customers got the FPPC to re-do their math, Breit and Gunter only owed $5,000 each.

THE FPPC posted the following excerpt on its website: "CALIFORNIANS FOR PRIVACY, Luke Breit and Michael Gunter. Californians for Privacy is a state general purpose committee organized for the purpose of decriminalizing prostitution. Luke Breit was the treasurer of the committee from April 2008, through the termination of the committee, on or about November 9, 2012. Michael Gunter took over the treasurer duties from approximately June 2008, through approximately April 29, 2009, when Mr. Breit resumed the treasurer duties. Mr. Gunter and the committee failed to file an amended statement of organization regarding a change of the committee's treasurer; Between October 15, 2008, and March 11, 2009, Mr. Gunter caused the committee to make expenditures of campaign funds, which conferred a substantial personal benefit on him, for purposes other than directly related to a political, legislative, or governmental purpose; On or about December 2, 2009, Mr. Breit made a loan of committee campaign funds for purposes other than reasonably related to a political, legislative, or governmental purpose; the committee and Mr. Breit failed to timely file a semi-annual campaign statement for the reporting period January 1, 2010, through June 30, 2010, which was due by August 2, 2010; the committee and Mr. Breit failed to maintain the detailed accounts, records, bills, and receipts necessary to prepare the semi-annual campaign statement, for the reporting period of July 1, 2009, through December 31, 2009, to establish that the campaign statement was properly filed, and to comply with the campaign reporting provisions of the Act. $17,000 fine.”

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GRAPHIC OF THE WEEK on the UC logo flap by Michael Eisen:

UCLogoSprayPOT POLICY SPECULATION: “Yes. Don't waste money going after the users. The feds will wait for the state to set up their permit/regulate system and then go after the producers and distributors. That's the best and most efficient plan. And these idiots will actually sign up providing their names and addresses. Easy pickin's! The fact remains that it IS a federal issue as marijuana produced in one state is illegally shipped over borders into other states that don't want it. That is why we should be expecting a federal crackdown on these outrageous greenhouses here, even if they have a bunch of photocopied prescriptions signed by the weed-doctors with the billboard ads (for $150 when they don't even see you). I don't see the feds stopping until their corporate buddies have this thing under control. It's really a lot of money to just let go!” (on-line comment)

COMMENT OF THE DAY From James Kunstler: “I used to crack a joke when showing a particular slide in my visiting college lectures that “we're a wicked people who deserve to be punished.”

Kunstler1It's not so funny anymore. Look around at the squalid mess that America has made of its own terrain: the endless wastelands of free parking and slumping strip malls, the wilderness of tract housing subdivisions, the cities left cored, rotting, and stinking in the fall drizzle, the countless redundant roadways -- and while you're at it, take a good hard look at the depressing and disgraceful industrial boxes that school is conducted in, these euphemistically-named "facilities." We live in physical surroundings that are the perfect growth medium for serial killers, mass murderers, psychopaths with no feeling, and sado-masochists preoccupied only with the ritual orchestration of their own shame and guilt in the service of inflicting pain.

A READER WRITES: When you mentioned that the SMART Train people wanted the additional $6.6 million for additional train cars, you missed the irony...the money they wanted was earmarked for pedestrian/bicycle improvements and safety. The Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition provided the push to get the SMART Train tax approved at 1/4 cent, after the try for a 1/2 cent tax failed. These people just got ripped off, because the earmarked money was transferred to SMART with little discussion. Here's the details: www.bikesonoma.org/article/201212/well-smarts-little  I'm sadly confident that the SMART people will be back for a lot more taxpayer money.

PENSION ADMIN OUT OF CONTROL: “To my friends who encouraged me to take on the MCERA (Mendocino County Employees Retirement Association) challenge, after two years I now believe MCERA will only continue to increase our County's debt, forcing a continuation of decreased County services.

Last week we had a special purpose, closed session, confidential meeting. While I may not disclose the discussions, it was with very high priced legal counsel and MCERA is wordsmithing a statement to communicate the outcome of that meeting on past practices.

This week's meeting was primarily on our just released Actuarial Valuation Report. The upshot is that our funding ratio decreased from 75% to 70%. Our Unfunded Liability went up from $125 million to $127 million (this does not include the Pension Obligation Bonds balances). The Employer Rate on each dollar of payroll (and many other non-payroll items) will go from 24% to 26%. The Employee Rate will go up from 9.73% to 9.76 % (yes, you read that correctly and is why we have the problem we have). Additionally, we can expect our Employer Rate to go up at least another 0.5% next year without any other surprises.

We then voted on a couple of spending items that I believe is indicative of the culture, the problem and why I now believe this system is incapable of self correction. I have been naive enough to think the discipline of the private sector could be brought to a County association where they were conditioned for someone else to pay each and every bill. I thought the low funding of the Plan and condition of the Sponsor would present an opportunity where we could bring discipline to expenditures and oversight. I was wrong. I now know the situation we have did not happen by accident and with the current culture it can only continue to grow.

I say this because today, just after the two items above, our association voted not once, but twice, for increased spending. This is noteworthy as to date I have never seen a SINGLE expenditure the association did not welcome with open arms, no matter how it may impact the Sponsor or jeopardize future funding for participants. In every instance the justifications for the expenditure had phrases like “I think we should have this” or “other systems have this” (we are the smallest system). One of today's increases appears to be at odds with the new State pension reform law; our board voted for it basically because “they didn't feel benefits should be reduced for current employees” no matter what the new law may suggest on this issue. The second item was adding an unbudgeted medical review consultant, with an expected cost of $20,000, regardless of where we were with our fiscal year budget or any real cost/benefit analysis. This contract may make financial sense, but there was absolutely NO INTEREST in reviewing where we were with our current budget or studying the savings before voting on this item. MCERA, and the new Administrator, are so bold they do not even need to look like they are concerned by any budget. If they “want it” they get it. As in almost every other spending item, I was the lone dissenting vote in both cases; neither of the two independents (Mirada or Sakowicz) could find the courage to stand tall and at least go through the motions of window dressing for prudent fiscal management — the momentum was to SPEND! I find it doubtful these two “independent seats” would or could ever vote against the momentum of the board.

This is absolutely remarkable as I have NEVER, EVER experienced this lack of discipline on ANY other board I have been around (not for profit, church or private company). I can only explain it by the “other people's money” phenomenon. I now have a very firm conviction that MCERA, that brought us the lion's share of the debt of our County, will continue to expand this debt and there does not appear to be any simple way to stop the continuing growth of this debt. Maybe more outside board members could help, but I believe you would need to change the CERL and they may turn out to be sitters in the mold of the two that we have. An effective, but even more difficult change would be a defined contribution system where it would be their personal dollars at risk. I am certain there would be a new attention to detail and austerity from that change, but it won't happen in time to save us from the onslaught of increased debt!

If you would like to experience my sense of hopelessness please watch the video of today's meeting when it becomes available on the MCERA website. Don't be shocked when you hear my rhetorical question to the board, “Why do we even have a budget if we are going to just approve any new item that comes up?” and board member Tim Knudsen says, “That is something I can agree with you on” — meaning: get rid of the !@#$%^&*() budget! This is the thinking that has brought us to the financial condition we are in.

I guess a Leopard can't change it's spots. — Ted Stephens, MS-Taxation, MBA-Finance, Santa Rosa/Yorkville

HOSPICE FAMILY VOLUNTEER TRAINING COURSE: Hospice of Ukiah is having its Hospice Volunteer Training Course for eight sessions on starting Thursday, January 17th through March 7th, from 2:30p, to 5pm. This 8-week course is designed to prepare Hospice volunteers in providing support to the terminally and chronically ill and their caregivers. Areas for focus include a history of Hospice, exploring feelings and fears about dying, defining palliative & terminal care, grief, mourning and spiritual issues, bedside care, care for the caregivers, medical aspects including pain and symptom management, communication skills, bereavement, funerals- both home and standard, and the business of dying, legal issues, and community resources. Volunteering is a meaningful way to give to others and your community as we are funded 100% by community donations. You will genuinely enjoy being a Hospice Family Volunteer. Hospice of Ukiah has been serving as a volunteer Hospice in our community since 1980. We are your local, end-of-life, health care provider. Course Facilitator is Leah Middleton RN, CHPN. Class is held at 620 So. Dora St., Ste. 101. To register call: 462-4038.

One Comment

  1. David Gurney December 18, 2012

    .
    Unbelievable stuff on Luke Brite. I guess imagination is the limit, in the comic-opera of corruption that Sacramento has become. As Dan Bacher says, “you can’t make this stuff up…”

    But Breit looks like he’s getting up there in years. Must take an awful lot of Viagra to keep his ho’s from calling him “Luke Erect.”

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