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Off the Record (Jan 13, 2016)

TOM PINIZZOTTO HAS RESIGNED as Health and Human Services Agency Assistant Director effective February 5. The former Ortner Management Group (OMG) employee, in an obvious conflict of interest, used his position as County Mental Health Director to steer the MH privatization contract to OMG and shielded OMG from any serious scrutiny or accountability. Pinizzotto gave no reason for his resignation but took credit for a long list of self-alleged achievements, all of them invisible.

SUPERVISOR DAN HAMBURG is the County rep on the Mental Health Board (MHB), with Supervisor John McCowen as the alternate. Hamburg has been in Pinizzotto's pocket ever since they teamed up with County Counsel to leapfrog Hamburg's troubled son past a half-dozen troubled County Jail inmates to get Hamburg's son into an Ortner operated Mental Health treatment facility in Yuba City. Judge Moorman later authorized County funds to pay for young Hamburg's stay with Ortner although Hamburg is a wealthy man capable of full reimbursement. Hamburg has never hesitated to use his elected positions for personal benefit. From his seat on the Mental Health Board, Hamburg, busily texting throughout meetings, seldom even looks up or has anything to say.

AN INFORMED MENTAL HEALTH observer credits Supervisors Tom Woodhouse and McCowen for the slo-mo departure of Pinizzotto. Woodhouse has been openly critical of County Mental Health but voted to approve a renewal of the privatization contract with OMG. Hamburg's motion to slam dunk approval of the contract passed on a 3-2 vote back in July with McCowen and Supervisor Dan Gjerde voting "no" because of the many unanswered questions about the excess fees being raked in by OMG with no accountability as to what, why and when.

AT MENTAL HEALTH BOARD meetings McCowen was sharply critical of Pinizzotto's decision to refuse a grant for Crisis Residential Facility funding and for failing to include the public or the Mental Health Board in the decision making process for over a million dollars in Mental Health Services Act housing money. Under fire from McCowen, Pinizzotto reversed himself and accepted the crisis residential grant funding although a specific project has not been identified.

WITH HIS POLITICAL SUPPORT rapidly eroding, Pinizzotto was relieved of his duties as Mental Health Director and bumped up to HHSA Assistant Director a couple of months ago. HHSA Director Stacey Cryer was named as interim Mental Health Director. Pinizzotto was said to be out of the loop on Mental Health admin but no one believed it.

Cryer, Pinizzotto
Cryer, Pinizzotto

WITH PINIZZOTTO soon to be completely outtahere, will Ortner finally be called to account for the millions in Mental Health funding annually shoveled their way? Will the Kemper report on Mental Health, originally promised for December, ever be released? Will it be a whitewash of the current system or will it provide an honest assessment of the tattered state of Mental Health services in Mendocino County?

A READER WRITES: "Mr. Pinizzotto came to Mendocino County and fulfilled his mission to get a contract for Ortner. Now that he is on his way out, I wonder if/when the BOS will remove their blinders and publicly acknowledge their mistake and correct the mess from the top on down. If Ortner loses their contract, what will happen to Ortner’s subcontractors (i.e. the Hospitality Center, who got the huge grant for 5 rooms for the mentally ill at the Old Coast Hotel and potential clients stay away in droves)? With Ms. Shaw at the helm the situation on the coast will never improve. She has one personality for people she wants something (money) from and another not-so-nice one for people in need. Talk to the people living on the streets, not just those who are making money off of the misery of those who are down and out – it’s not good. Maybe the Mental Health Board members could talk with people on the streets when they go to the coast for their next meeting if the weather isn’t too bad. There are plenty of them out there with mental health and substance abuse problems who are not getting any help. The Old Coast Hotel has lead paint in it (no surprise there). The request for bids for remodeling includes lead paint abatement, a very expensive proposition when done legally. I don’t see how they can afford the upkeep on the building. It’s already showing signs of needing an exterior paint job. Most of the money spent on upkeep could be used to help people if one of the more modest or newer buildings available were accepted. Sometimes maintenance on a gift makes it too expensive to keep. I’d rather that my taxes go for helping clients, not historical building upkeep where the clients who need help the most avoid it. Another costly mistake by those in power. But maybe the Fort Bragg City Council has in the back of their minds that they will end up with the building in the end after the Hospitality Center runs out of available grants to pursue. The losers, besides the taxpayers, are the ones who were said to be helped by the acquisition."


Last week, I sent out a note stating that my goal for 2016 was to work with concerned Mendocino County citizens to improve our mental health services. I received over 150 Private Messages and was overjoyed with the energy that is ever present. I will be posting next week about an organizational meeting that will be focused on building a new mental health facility in our county. If you sent me a PM, and I didn't respond, please understand that I just didn't have time to respond to each PM but you will be included in all of the information. If you are interested in being on the organizational committee, I need you to PM me your email address.

We live in a wonderful county. Our weakest link, in my personal and professional opinion, is the lack of adequate crisis services for people in crisis.

Thank you for your obligation to help. We are a smart county. We can come up with our own good solution.

People + ideas + energy = solution

THE SHERIFF'S RIGHT. It's up to us to establish a facility outside the County's existing homeless industrial complex, which presently spends upwards of $20 million a year while habitual drunks, the drug addicted and the mentally ill are repeatedly recycled by the courts back out on to the streets. Our free range population of persons unable and unwilling to care for themselves is small but, thanks to entrenched self-interest (cf Ortner and much of the County's existing mental health apparatus) they've been allowed to become a problem for everyone.

I KNOW of at least two mental health people who are really good at their work — Joy Kinion and Beverly Bennett, to name two. There are other capable people like them in the present failed apparatus, but that apparatus is hopelessly dominated by people, including Supervisor Hamburg, who think privatization has worked just swell.

WHOOPEE! We can all now access Supervisor meetings through the county’s website and YouTube. According to CEO Angelo, Mendocino Access TV, which broadcast the meetings live and posted the videos on their website a few days (sometimes weeks) later, Mendocino Access declined to renew their contract with the County. Later this year, Angelo added, some kind of combined Public Access video service is planned which will cover Ukiah, Fort Bragg and the County’s video coverage.

OUTLAW FORD READING, Malcolm Macdonald writes: "I will be reading from my novel, Outlaw Ford, and signing copies at Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino in ten days. Hope to see many of you there Saturday, January 16th at 6:30 P.M.

Though heavy sales of Outlaw Ford recently diminished copies available in Mendocino County book stores, there's good news: a new shipment has arrived. Plenty of copies for your New Year's resolution shopping.

SPEAKING of book sales, the drawings of 'M,' the ava's cartoonist of yesteryear was, as of last week, going for $89.50 on Amazon, and there was only one copy left. Our crime books, plus the Mendocino Papers (which I hope to update and, ahem, do a better job editing), have proven to be steady sellers. 'M's' work is sui generis, as they say, and represent the true history of this odd county circa 1985 or so through the early 1990's. Absolutely brilliant stuff. Still makes me laugh.

HAPPY TO HEAR my old friend Tommy Wayne Kramer is recovering at home from a serious heart attack two weeks ago. You know it's serious when you get the chopper ride to Santa Rosa. Mr. K's rollicking account of his near death experience is available in Sunday's Ukiah Daily Journal.

NOT TO GO all woo-woo and personal on you here, but my near death experience four years ago not only propelled me into proverbial white light, I saw and heard people from my early childhood I hadn't thought about since childhood. It was all rather like a benign acid trip, but the doctors said it was close. I've had several other near death experiences I will write about some day, but I was wide awake and upright for those, and not fully aware of how close they were until they ended. Numerous threats over the years, too, but threats come with this territory, and not much of anyone even bothers anymore. Still, though, I was startled into laughter a couple of weeks ago when a certain old bat, drunk type, said she'd kill me if I ever mentioned her again in this fine publication. Funny thing is I never mentioned her in the first gd place; my colleagues did that mentioning while I was in Oregon. Of course people believe what they need to believe...

BADLY NEEDED REFORM for those of you who still think The Beast is reformable, is called the Voters' Right To Know Act. It would reveal the top three funders of every ad "in clear, readable type." So, like, then what?

IN SEPTEMBER of 2015, an attractive young woman named Asha Kreimer, 26, a native of Australia, went missing from a cafe near Point Arena. Her boy friend, Jamai Gayle, subsequently drove into a redwood near Navarro. We were informed that Gayle had died in a Santa Rosa hospital from his injuries. He's not. He's alive, and was charged with a DUI for his encounter with the tree. Miss Kreimer remains missing.

Asha & Jamai
Asha & Jamai

ROSS LIBERTY, the Ukiah-based owner of the small motor exhaust system manufacturing operation called Factory Pipe based on the old Masonite plant site north of Ukiah, has bought the rest of the site — 63 acres with major water rights — for  $1.65 million. According to a 2013 account in the North Bay Business Journal, Liberty spent $6 million to remodel the first ten acres he bought at Masonite, and now he owns all of it at the bargain price of about $25k per acre. Liberty says he has an industrial park in mind.


COLIN ROACH of Fort Bragg was convicted of shooting an unarmed man in the back about ten years ago. The young guy was biking to work when Roach and several other yobbos drove past him and, just for the heck of it, cranked off a shotgun blast in his direction, perhaps only to scare the bicyclist but the shot hit the man in the back. Roach did nine years in prison for his errant hijinks. But Roach was recently arrested in possession of a sawed off shot gun and ammo but was magically released from the County Jail on his own recognizance. An indignant Fort Bragg reader understandably asks: How does a convicted felon get released from jail after being found in possession of ammo and firearm?

JUST IN FROM the DA: Following a review by DA Eyster, Colin Roach now faces a felony charge of a felon in possession of ammunition. Also faces having a strike with a prior conviction. Court appearance set for 9 a.m. Jan. 25.

THE OWNERS of the Redwood Valley Market have filed suit against Mendocino County over the County’s waiver of Dollar Store’s environmental review requirement. Let us hope the suit is successful.

THE CONTROVERSY RAGING on Facebook re the County Animal Shelter in Ukiah boils down to those who think Shelter boss Sage Mountainfire is doing a great job and those who think Sage needs to retreat permanently to her mountain fire.

WHEN THE ISSUE reached the Board of Supes, direction was given to do an RFP — request for proposal — to see who might be interested in running the Shelter. Petaluma Animal Shelter reps, backed by Mark and Linda Mountanos, were present to say they would be happy to apply.

BOTH SIDES of the Mountain, so to speak, casually slandered the Sheriff as they framed the discussion as saving the shelter from law enforcement, although there was no proposal to turn Shelter management over to the Sheriff. (The Sheriff already runs Animal Control, separate from the shelter.)

"DON'T let the Sheriff run the shelter, he will euthanize all the animals." Etc. In the anthromorph context, Sheriff Allman would probably prefer to euthanize the animal people rather than dogs and cats, but the Sheriff calmly pointed out that he would do whatever the Supes directed him to do. He said he would like to institute a dog grooming training program for female inmates and use inmates in other capacities at the Shelter. He would also seek to reduce the euthanasia rate. As is often the case, the Sheriff was the only person present with practical proposals. In the end the Board gave direction inviting a Request For Proposal, knowing that the Petaluma contingent is ready to step in.

ANY PROPOSAL for the Shelter is received by the Animal Advocates as comparable to throwing a human child to a pack of pit bulls. The animal advocates tend to be locked into emotional positions that are immune to facts and logic — and part of the facts and logic seem to show that there are real problems with the way the shelter is presently run.

THE UPSHOT is that any recommendation will first go to the Health and Human Services Agency standing committee and then on to the full board — so it will not be on an agenda for a decision until at least the second Board meeting in February. Yes, the shelter is within HHSA and Stacey Cryer would love to have someone else (the Sheriff, PAS, the 50 doctors who signed the MH letter, anyone) be responsible for it.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Can't say enough about Netflix's important documentary, “Making a Murderer,” a careful step-by-step account of one of the worst legal system screw jobs you will see. Turned down by HBO and PBS, “Making a Murderer” has made a huge splash because everyone who sees it is shocked that the two men, the younger developmentally disabled and the other barely able to defend himself, could be convicted and put away for life on obviously planted evidence. Two young women, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, spent years assembling this absolutely brilliant and shocking film.

HERE IN MENDOCINO COUNTY, the top three screw jobs we've seen over thirty-plus years covering Mendo crime are the John Dalton case; People vs. Mark Sprinkle; and the utterly deplorable life without job Public Defender Linda Thompson did on Tai Abreu. We've linked summaries of each of the three. All three guys are still in prison.




THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE is an HBO series based on the novel of the same name by Phillip K. Dick. Wonderfully acted, it's based on an assumption that the Germans and the Japanese won World War Two, splitting the United States into two jurisdictions with a "neutral zone" between them. The Japanese get the West Coast, making their headquarters in San Francisco, while the Germans take over the East Coast with the Big Apple converted to an adjunct of the Reich. Americans, at least a tiny portion of them, carry out a futile guerrilla war against both fascist powers, perhaps confirming the author's pessimistic opinion that most people in the grim circumstance of a foreign occupation would simply hunker down and try to stay out of the way, more or less like the French did under the Nazi occupation.

THE FASCIST IMPULSE in this country at this time is pretty much confined to Fox News and three Republican candidates for president — Trump; Cruz; Rubio. Carson is nuts, Kasich irrelevant, Bush looks and acts like the confused assistant vicar in a Masterpiece Theater production. Rubio's a smart, sinister little bastard who really is dangerous and will probably be the Republican candidate because he's slick enough to conceal his deep dish evil from the rubes who vote Republican.

I'VE ALWAYS THOUGHT that when we get fascism its front person is much more likely to be somebody like the Clintons backed up by a charismatic general. Trump is too wacky to bring off fascism. Unlike Trump, the great fascisti, Mussolini and Hitler, were, in their way, intellectuals with definite plans,  and they attracted intellectuals to the dark side. The Japanese were medieval monarchists (and racists) with a high tech capacity. I can't imagine Americans going for anything resembling World War Two fascism. It'll be a smiley-faced version.

YOUR BELOVED Boonville newspaper is probably too sanguine about America's capacity for the full fascist monte but we think Americans are too anarchistic, too ungovernable to ever lurch into full goose step mode. Fox News, Trump and the rest of it are just stupid and nasty, and too all-round incompetent to bring it off even if they wanted to, for which there is no evidence that they do. Besides which, well, that's enough pessimism for now, but it Won't Happen Here because a lot of our oligarchs are libs.

WHAT'S going to happen here — please take notes — is a financial meltdown against a backdrop of ecological disaster. How that plays out no one can predict, but I'm glad I live in Boonville.

RONALD CANNON, a member of the Mendocino County Museum Advisory Board from Potter Valley has filed a claim against Mendocino County alleging that the County owes him $375 because “a reproduction of an 1860 Remington revolver on loan to the [County] Museum [in Willits] was stolen sometime between June and September of 2015.” These long-barreled pistols were beautes. Standard issue for civil war Union soldiers. We found a similar reproduction for sale on line for $306.

BLACK OAK BOOKS, Berkeley, is closing. I read the bad news in this morning's Chronicle. The store's owner, Gary Cornell, made the pre-internet Black Oak a major Bay Area cultural hub, cultural as in book-based culture. And he sold the mighty AVA, one of about 20 Bay Area bookstores that sold the paper. We're down to five anymore, and only one in the East Bay, Walden Pond Books. I remember when lots of us thought the book world was crumbling when Moe's installed an elevator, and now the book stores themselves are disappearing, and the wider culture seems dumber by the day. I know I'm not the only book person who feels more and more a stranger in a strange land, a strange land whose culture holds little interest for him apart from the occasional movie. Riots and bookstores were the only reason I ever went to Berkeley. With Black Oak gone, and being too old to riot, there's no reason for this wheeze to go there anymore.


WHAT CAN I SAY about journalism? It has the greatest virtue and the greatest evil. It is the first thing the dictator controls. It is the mother of literature and the perpetrator of crap. In many cases it is the only history we have and yet it is the tool of the worst men. But over a long period of time and because it is the product of so many men, it is perhaps the purest thing we have. Honesty has a way of creeping in even when it was not intended. — John Steinbeck

JESUS SAVE US from New Yorker fiction. A story in the current edition begins, "She visits others. Before they're up, dawn, she walks to the lake, listening to Bach, the first clavichord exercise…" And so on and on and on. The rest of the mag? We get stories about Saudi Arabia's female lawyers, a rock climber, a museum's “conservation methods,” and a long piece about a Hollywood mogul. The book review about the origins of the John Birch Society is actually interesting, the only thing that is this week.

ACCORDING TO A STORY by Mike A’Dair in last week’s Willits Weekly, Health and Human Services Director Stacey Cryer has been given leave by the regional director of the California Public Health Department to ignore the recent audit critical of Mendo’s privatized mental health services.

MS. CRYER doesn’t dispute the content of the report and admits it had to do with Ortner’s mental health crisis center (ICMS) in Ukiah, but instead takes issue with the report’s use of the term “partial hospitalization program” which, according to Cryer, Mendo doesn’t have. (Mendo doesn’t have an intensive outpatient service program? That’s a problem right there, one would think.)

CRYER told A’Dair that she had spoken to the Santa Rosa-based regional state office that supervises the inspecting nurses. The office run by a Ms. Fornay, and was told that “the inspection was immaterial and the proper response is to do nothing.”

HUH? They do inspections for the heck of it? A’Dair added, “This is fortunate for the providers involved because the report highlights some major failures.” Indeed. The “failures” included a pathetic lack of coordination which the report said lead to the death of a client, “Client 10.” (Our earlier coverage of the report already described the particular failures cited therein.)

A’DAIR'S report concludes with Cryer’s claim that the death of a "client" and other problems identified in the report were trivial and required very little in the way of remediation. Cryer said she and her staff “have spoken with representatives from [Ortner] about these issues,” and “regardless of whether or not the report was valid or not [sic], it certainly exposed some flaws in the medication management portion of [Ortner’s] program here. [It exposed a lot more than that.] We have spoken to them about these flaws and I think it is fair to say that 98% of them have been corrected or are in the process of being corrected.”

A MENTALLY TROUBLED vet dies as a result of being mishandled by Ortner and what happens? Ortner is spoken to. Too bad nobody “spoke to” the vet before he was discovered dead in his home.

DESPITE RECENT RAINS, Lake Mendocino’s water level remains far below normal, mostly because of upstream work. Since the middle of October, about 15 inches had fallen on the Ukiah Valley, but the lake depends on the Potter Valley diversion for its liquid life; PG&E is working on the ancient tunnel that diverts Eel River water to the headwaters of the Russian and on into Lake Mendocino. Not much water is flowing through the mile-long tunnel at present.

THE NATIONAL Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says its recent study of coastal communities in Sonoma, Mendocino and Marin counties demonstrates the cash benefits of marine sanctuaries. The study claims that tourists have dropped $1.2 billion on coastal NorCal. How much of the booty was dropped on the national monument just north of Point Arena was not specified.

SOME OF THE 2,000 solar panels planned for the roof of Factory Pipe at the old Masonite site north of Ukiah have been installed. Ross Liberty, owner of Factory Pipe, says the solar installation will cut the company’s power bill, presently $46,000 a month, by more than half. Liberty's panels will generate 656 kilowatts of energy at full build out.

CONGRESSMAN CORK TOP THOMPSON, Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force at the White House supports Obama' s announced executive actions to reduce and prevent gun violence. "Commonsense steps will reduce gun violence and save lives," Thompson declared on the off chance somebody was listening. Always good for a sonorous cliche, Thompson says the move is aimed at keeping guns away from people who shouldn’t have them which, strictly considered, would be about 90% of the adult population of the country.

AN ORDER OF STONER NUNS in the Central Valley, the Sisters of the Valley, is in a big fight to continue growing medical marijuana. The Merced City Council wants to put the nuns out of business. Two of the self-alleged nuns, Sister Kate and Sister Darcy, create products with CBD oil, which they claim is useful in treating all sorts of medical ailments, including cancer. Although the nuns have no official religious affiliation to the church, they say they feel they’re doing divine work.


by Marco McClean

The AVA asked Marco Maclean for his views on the recent management changes at KZYX:

* * *

Ms. Dechter's resume that I read makes her sound pretty good, but that's the job of a resume. I'd like to talk with her; that involves a half-day side-trip and a visit to a place full of bad memories for me. I don't believe in ghosts and curses or any supernatural nonsense, but to me the place has always been electric with menace, entirely the opposite of the way KMFB felt, or the way KNYO or KMEC feel.

Even if Ms. Dechter is the right sort of person, she's boxed in by the obfuscatory organizational apparatus around her.

The problem is, the people we're all glad are gone are not gone at all. Mary Aigner is on the programming committee. I think Stuart Campbell is on the personnel committee. John Coate is still controlling the website. The cheerleader/pimp/thugs are still cheerleading and pimping and thugging. And there's still no way to be certain that an email to the trustees actually reaches them, nor to explain where half a million dollars-plus really goes to (or comes from, for that matter) every year there, except for two faked-up sheets of paper for the annual report. It's an educational band nonprofit station, meaning that the law requiring that letters to a radio station go into the public inspection file doesn't apply; they don't have to disseminate or keep or even acknowledge any correspondence. To the recommendation that they add an open forum to the website so listeners and members and the public and the airpeople can communicate regarding the station, its operation, opinions, dreams, aspirations, complaints, etc., without interference, and let a little light in, Meg Courtney's response was to write, and I quote: "It would take staff time to moderate a interactive forum, because we could not just allow anyone to post anything they wanted; it could become a free-for-all. As for posting information about the KZYXTalk listserv on our station webpage, wouldn't this establish a bad precedent? Wouldn't we then have to do the same for any other group? What would the standard be? The station webpage should be for official station business only."

Meaning: no.

Meg, here's how you do it. Cut and paste.

Kzyxtalk archives:

Subscribe to kzyxtalk:

When I talked to Mary Aigner four years ago, I told her that the way I determine whether a radio station is worthwhile or crap is, can I play with it? Is there anyone there who is at all like me? If yes, worthwhile; if no, crap. And she said, pursed-lipped, calculating, cementing this moment and her evaluation of me in her mind: "Crap."

Long ago I reached the point of not being able to even glancingly think about KZYX without going unngh. Today I was thinking about solving problems with the radio stations that I can happily play with, and other things, and KZYX crossed my mind, result: unngh. Juanita said, "What's the matter?" I said, "Three things. My mother wants me to drive her all over California next week so she can visit Mimi's new grandkids in Fresno and go to the dentist she likes in Sacramento (!) and I don't want to do it but of course I have to. And the telephone company promised they'd have your phone line fixed by Wednesday and last night it was still fucked up and I could tell by the buffer graph while I was doing my show that it was clicking on and off like a crazy monkey. And I was just reading about KZYX…"

Juanita said, "Marco, what would you do if a meteor fell on KZYX?"

I thought, "Depends on who was inside," but I said, "I see your point, but still-- unngh."

She called the phone company, used some trick she knows to actually talk to the right real person right now, talked gently but firmly about what she expected them to do, and fifteen minutes later a phone truck man named Jeff knocked on the door. I described the symptoms (phone ringing, nobody there but torrents of static; police visits to several people in the neighborhood at 3am answering 911 calls nobody made; erratic DSL internet service). He nodded, said, "Got it," went out, fixed it, phoned to report and check. Now: perfect clean signal, flawless DSL connection. He explained that it was water in the wires under the street. So, done. Good. The system works.

As for KZYX, I recall the page from Walt Kelly's Pogo, Stepmother Goose, where innocent toddler versions of the familiar Pogo characters are poling a pole-boat into a swamp forest where even though it's a static drawing it conveys mounting menace, and the caption reads:

The gentle journey jars to stop.

The drifting dream is done.

The long gone goblins loom ahead.

The deadly, that we thought were dead,

Stand waiting — every one.

In other words: like you, Bruce, I worry for Ms. Dechter.

PS. I read all of 2015, the Year in Review on my show last night, and the material about poor Dennis Boardman, killed by someone he'd been kind to. Your paper serves the county better than any other, and works very well on the radio as-is. Suggest it to the new manager of KZYX. (Unngh.)

PPS. I recommend the 2006 film The Fall, by Tarsem Singh. It's set in 1916, in a Southern California hospital. It's about the storytelling and story-interpreting relationship between a heartbroken film stuntman and a little Hungarian girl with a broken arm. The stuntman was played by Lee Pace, who later played Ned in two years of Pushing Daisies (with Anna Friel, Swoosie Kurtz, Kristin Chenoweth, etc.)

Marco McClean

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