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Off the Record 3/24/2010

 THE ONE TRUE GREEN, Richard Johnson, occasional publisher out of Ukiah, appeared before the supervisors the other day where he made the folloing statement: “It is my sad duty to tell you this morning that the man who has been selected by your Sheriff, Shannon Barney, to be Chief Deputy Coroner and to be coordinator of the Emergency Services Office is a habitual alcoholic and a sex predator. All this information is contained in a sworn and a verified lawsuit which is lodged in the Mendocino County courthouse by Jason Cox a couple years ago and recently settled by your County Counsel. County Counsel is also sitting on an investigative report which was commissioned a few years ago by acting Sheriff Kevin Broin and she has refused to release it to anyone. I'm suggesting you go into closed session with the Sheriff and County Counsel to review that report. The suit alleges that Shannon Barney as chief, as deputy Sergeant in Covelo, over a period of a decade has required his deputies to have sex with his wife, Deanna, and urged their wives to have sex with him. It's not just that he had a voracious appetite, but rather he used the relationships thus developed to control his deputies and to keep them from reporting on his abuses of power, which included customary inebriation on and off the job as well as unequal enforcement of the law and association with known marijuana growers. Reviewing state criminal codes I, not being a lawyer, but having the curse of being well educated, have formed an opinion that in this behavior Sgt. Barney may have committed violations of statutes including rape, prostitution, extortion, and pandering. The investigative report which you should review will probably, or may, provide evidence of those violations. So I urge you to do that. Consider the possibility that in a flood or fire or terrorist attack, the man in charge of the Sheriff's situation room might be inebriated. Think about that. I urge you to take action on this. Two deputies committed suicide a year apart.”

HAVING PERFORMED his “sad duty,” and solemnly tucking his “curse of being well-educated” into his pocket, Johnson referred board members and the public to his randomly published newspaper, the Mendocino Country Independent, copies of which he offered to the supervisors, all of whom were indifferent to the gift. The Board had no reaction to Johnson's indictment. Johnson has dug through the thick case file containing deputy Jason Cox’s allegations, most of which has already been made public here. But Johnson's report did reveal some new facts:

In the two-year course of Cox’s suit (before it was quietly settled by Cox and County Counsel Jeanine Nadel), Mendocino County judge John Behnke ruled that only the county could be sued for job discrimination and dismissed the complaints against Barney and Allman, saying their actions in disciplining and not promoting Cox were within their discretion and they were immune from liability for their official actions.
  • Cox told various officers that Barney was intoxicated while on duty and was engaged in other illegal behavior. In return, Barney allegedly retaliated against Cox by filing false negative performance evaluations and refusing to back him up on calls involving armed suspects.
  • On July 9, 2006, Deputy Gore (who subsequently committed suicide after being assigned to the County Jail in Ukiah) went missing in the middle of his shift. Cox found Gore at home passed out with a shotgun at his side, apparently a trial run at premature oblivion.
  • Cox charged that Barney was so favored by former sheriff Craver, his political ally former DA Norm Vroman, and by Sheriff Allman, that he could stop investigations, get charges dropped and spring people from jail.
  • Covelo's resident deputies had been aware fully five years ago that recently convicted meth dealer, grandmother Nancie Henthorne, aka Grandma Crank, was Round Valley’s largest volume meth dealer. Deputies had resolved to investigate her and seek a warrant. But according to Cox’s declarations, Barney thwarted the effort by warning her granddaughter, Round Valley tribal employee Yvonne Galardo that Nancie would be busted if she did not stop dealing. At the time, the apparently perpetually priapic Barney was allegedly involved in a sexual relationship with Galardo.
  • Cox also cited as an example Barney’s social and alleged business association with a known marijuana grower named Tim Hurt who was arrested in Covelo in 2005 for possession of firearms in violation of probation and driving on an expired or suspended license. Within days, DA Vroman withdrew all charges and Hurt was released from jail, apparently through Barney’s pull.
  • In a 2009 deposition in the Cox matter, (Sheriff) Allman acknowledged the severity of the Covelo situation, and admitted he moved Barney to Ukiah in order to defuse it. “We had to get Shannon out of Covelo right now because we have to figure out how to rebuild Covelo. We have a deputy who’s drunk on duty. We have a deputy who’s sleeping with a lot of women, including another deputy’s wife. We have that deputy with the other deputy’s wife. We have a sergeant’s wife who has slept with several people and we have an internal affairs investigation supposedly against a sergeant that was never opened. And we have a lieutenant, me, that is not being told of a major investigation, investigations that are occurring in my sector…” Allman declares he was “out of the loop” on the complaints about and investigations of Sergeant Barney’s activities in Covelo, during which time he was not yet Sheriff, but north sector commander. Kevin Broin, now about to retire, who ran against Allman, has said he was denied access to the report on the independent investigation of Barney and other deputies. But he is certain it exists in county counsel Jeanine Nadel’s office.
  • BOARD CHAIR CARRE BROWN, adhering more strictly to the public’s allotted three minutes than she does the free form meanderings of her colleagues, and perhaps because Johnson’s reputation for lunacy precedes his public appearances, broke in to announce, “Mr. Johnson, your time is up,” as Johnson concluded with, “Two dead deputies are trying to tell us something.”

    MAYBE. But their messages from the other side might say to Johnson that if the chronology of these sordid series of events is carefully considered what we find is two troubled young men who seemed bedeviled by a variety of demons over a long period of time that might have driven them to suicide without Sgt. Barney “requiring” one of them to wife-swap. Both had also developed a dependence on alcohol. One despaired over his alcoholism and his wife's abandoment of him for another cop. The other's life had gone to hell in multiples of personal disasters. The prospect of sexual relations with Mrs. Barney, grisly as it may have been, was just one more added bit of pressure. Obviously, if deputies didn’t care for off-duty boff-a-thons with their supervisor's wife there’s no way that supervisor could have compelled them to enjoy her company. The whole sad series of events was in fact investigated by the Justice Department. Since the Justice Department didn’t indict anyone they probably concluded that “Yeah, it’s all weird as hell, but Mendocino County is weird as hell, and so it goes behind The Green Curtain.” Deputy Cox’s suit was, basically, pegged to sexual harassment, that of Barney’s lust for Cox’s former wife. He settled for reimbursement of his legal fees, relative peanuts.

    SOMEONE still not identified has bought a Mega Millions lottery ticket at the Little River Market worth $158,106. The lucky gambler matched five of six numbers, a digit away from $20 mil. Winners of amounts over a hundred thousand are required to identify themselves to the public for Mega Mil advertising hype. So far as we're aware, this is the biggest win for Mendocino County ever.

    MENDOCINO COUNTY'S updated and expanded “very extensive” County Code for Marijuana Regulation is very, very long. How long?

    THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS is 278 words, the Bill of Rights 725, the Declaration of Independence 1,337, Martin Luther King's “I Have a Dream” speech comes in at 1780 words, the US Constitution is 4450 words, the Magna Carta 4800, the Communist Manifesto 17,170 words.

    MENDOCINO COUNTY'S proposed Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance? 18,635 words.

    OUR SUPERVISORS will spend countless hours fine-tuning this insane document — McCowen lives for these opportunities — which is mooted prior to its unlikely adoption ever by both federal law and local police practice. Feds are zero tolerance all the way, and much of the local police effort comes with a federal component, meaning no change in police practices because the cops and the DA's office make a lot of money on pot busts via asset seizures. They don't care if our deluded supervisors put the legal number of pot plants at 24 or 24,000.

    THE CURRENT Rolling Stone features a long piece on the burgeoning national marijuana business. The article is called MarijuanAmerica, the gist of which is that pot is just about the country’s last growth industry, and certainly one of the few businesses that ordinary people can get into without large amounts of start-up capital. For less than a thousand bucks you can get the equipment for an indoor grow and, as the economy disappears for increasing numbers of people, increasing numbers of people are getting into the production end of altered states.

    NATURALLY, the Emerald Triangle gets heavy play in the story. After all, Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties are to cannabis what Dearborn, Michigan is to mass-produced automobiles. It was our pioneer hippies, their unending quests for higher highs that spurred those otherwise repellently hairy beasts to upgrade the mild buzz of Mexican weed to today's mentally obliterating Mendo Not So Mellow. NorCal weed became so much in demand that it seemed to create a literally insatiable market. And where there are markets there are producers — more and more of them all the time.

    THE ROLLING STONE story (by the excellent Mark Binelli) only touches on what the numbers of novice producers foretell for prices. Millions of Americans smoke marijuana but millions more don’t. The market may not be all that elastic. From what we hear at our listening post at the Emerald Triangle’s ground zero, Boonville, the ‘09 harvest was so large that prices are down to $800 a pound if you can find a buyer. Our sources blame the glut on “the Mexicans,” claiming that the Mexicans are now planting so much dope they’re depressing prices.

    MAYBE, but if you’ve got medical marijuana centers in places like Coldwater, Michigan, and the hard-pressed people of Detroit are busy setting up large-scale warehouse grows, at some point marijuana is going to become so prevalent that pot-dependent economies like the one we have going here in Mendocino County will be further harmed. Unless…

    UNLESS THE COPS step up their annual price-support efforts. Did you say more marijuana raids? Yes. Drop that doob and pay attention! I'm trying to help here. Every year law enforcement takes off tens of thousands of plants. If they took off more, bulk pot prices might again rise to respectable free enterprise levels. As busy as they are, the cops can't begin to get at even a fraction of it, hence the price drop. And only a fraction of the people popped for pot get prosecuted; there’s too many of them. The DA often contents herself with seizing their assets. Therefore, the political goal of the pot producing community, which in Mendocino County might be as many as a quarter of the adult population one way or the other, ought to be to increase confiscations.

    BUT NO, what does Mendolib do? Wastes hundreds of man hours debating possible ordinances, which is such a huge waste of time you’ve got to wonder at the sanity of the people engaged in the argument. It doesn’t matter what rules the supervisors and the police agree to unless the supervisors and the cops agree to a reasonable legal number of plants the average starving grower can grow, and why not Humboldt County’s magic 99?

    MENDOCINO COUNTY, of course, with professional obfuscators like supervisor McCowen dominating the discussion, wastes hundred of hours of public time debating ordinances (and lots of other stuff) that have zero impact on police practices because federal law overrides anything local jurisdictions come up with. Sure, HumCo’s supervisors set HumCo’s legal limit at 99 but raids continue up there as always. What doesn’t continue as always in HumCo is the devotion of hundreds of hours of supervisor’s time to nutball fine-tunes of meaningless local pot ordinances.

    THE MENDOCINO TRANSIT AUTHORITY says it expects to be $742,000 short this budget year, a figure that nearly matches that odd agency’s announcement a month ago that it was devoting almost that amount to a new admin center for itself.

    SPEAKING OF ODD, months ago I wrote to the DA’s office to complain that public notice of the seizure of dope suspects’ assets in the Laytonville newspaper don’t constitute public notice unless the money and property seized happens to have occurred to a resident of Laytonville. The DA said she agreed with me, and the practice continued unabated. Last week, then, we learn that $40,845.35 cash confiscated in the 200 block of North State Street, Ukiah is about to become the property of Mendocino County law enforcement. Ditto for another $16 grand grabbed in Ukiah. The Laytonville paper is not circulated in Ukiah.

    BRIAN NEWMAN is the deputy DA in charge of asset forfeitures. His very job is funded by the confiscation of the cash and, typically, vehicles of persons arrested for drug offenses, and Mendocino County, proportionately, does more asset grabs than any county in the state, more even than LA. Few local seizures are contested, but still one would think that the DA would want to adhere to the letter of the law, wouldn’t one?

    POT TOURISM is starting to get a little traction in Humboldt County. Even Mendo's Lodging Association Director mentioned it a couple of months ago, although he quickly retreated. Vancouver, British Columbia, has been actively soliciting pot tourists for several years now. Advocates say it could indeed bring “CannabiTourists” to the Northcoast, a whole new traveling demographic heretofore ignored. CA-NORML’s website has a substantial list of possible CannabiTourist destinations on the northcoast: Humboldt Patient Resource Center, Arcata; Arcata iCenter; Herban Legend, Fort Bragg; Sonoma Patient Group, Santa Rosa; Organic Cannabis Foundation, Santa Rosa; Peace in Medicine, Sebastopol; Sonoma Alliance for Med MJ; Lake Co D & M Compassion Center, Clearlake; The Patient's Choice, Upper Lake; Good Karma Growers Collective, Lucerne; The Humboldt Cooperative, Arcata; Northern California Collective & Vapor Lounge, Lower Lake; Compassionate Heart, Ukiah; Going Green, Napa; Triple C Collective, Kelseyville; Triple C Collective, Clearlake; Sonoma County Compassionate Collective, Santa Rosa; Marvin's Garden, Guerneville; 420 Herbal Street, Santa Rosa; The Green House Wellness Center, Sebastopol; Native Herbs Collective, Cotati; and Alternatives, a Health Collective, Santa Rosa.

    A HUMBOLDT BLOGGER commented, “I was having a moment of visualizaion — ferris wheels with big pot leafs in the middle, boat trips down the rivers with a barker pointing out grows, and growers coming out and shooting at them. Re-enactment of raids with helicopters dropping in on grows. The tourists could choose to either be on the side of law enforcement or the growers and take part in the action. I think you get the picture!”

    MEET THE CANDIDATE: “Dan Hamburg for Fifth District Supervisor, Saturday, March 27, 2-4pm at the Albion Tea House, just uphill from the Albion Grocery. Information: 937-4295. Dan Hamburg has worked for many years of at the local, state, and federal level of government and is now bringing his rich experience and savvy to bear as a candidate for 5th District Supervisor. This will be an informal meet and greet, a time for Dan to speak about his vision for the future of Mendocino County, as well as an opportunity for people to share their questions, concerns, and issues with both Dan and their neighbors. Please join us.” — Chris Skyhawk

    A READER WRITES: “I heard from a totally reliable person, who in turn heard it from another person, also an honest soul, who heard it from an “impeccable source” that Jared and Bonnie Carter will be hosting a fundraising dinner at their home for 5th District Supervisor candidate Wendy Roberts, to take place Monday or Tuesday, March 22 or 23. For readers who may not be familiar with the Carter story, Jared Carter represented Maxxam in its takeover of Pacific Lumber and later became the CEO of Pacific Lumber itself as it was bled to its bankrupted end. Bonnie Carter is a supporter of inland cultural events. This report, assuming it is true, pretty much shows just whose interests Ms. Roberts would represent if she were to get elected, which, as the AVA recently pointed out, is more than just a remote possibility. There you have it: pillaging natural resources while bringing affluent high-brow types to Mendocino to be lulled into quiescence while the pillagers strip the Fifth District of its remaining natural charms. To verify the dinner date I suggest anyone interested call Wendy Roberts herself at 937-4702.”

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