Feb. 19, 2004
AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED
Nearly a year ago, the county Board of Supervisors rebuffed District
Attorney Paul Gallegos' request for outside legal help in his
lawsuit against the Pacific Lumber Co. Earlier this month, the
Fair Political Practices Commission, a state agency charged with
ensuring that election and conflict of interest laws are adhered
to, determined, in effect, that Gallegos doesn't need the Supes
-- he can solicit funds from individuals and organizations to
help cover legal costs. In a seven-page letter to Assistant District
Attorney Tim Stoen, who's handling the PL suit, the FPPC's Natalie
Bocanegra said that such fund-raising does not fall under the
limits that apply to campaign contributions -- which means that
Gallegos can raise as much money to finance the lawsuit as he's
capable of. He also has wide latitude when it comes to the manner
in which he solicits funds -- one permissible way would be to
hold concerts. Stoen, reached late Tuesday, said $20,000 to $60,000
is needed, primarily for depositions. "This will allow us
to make a very strong case before a judge," Stoen said.
TEACHER NABBED FOR CHILD PORN: A former teacher in local elementary schools who recently earned a master's from Humboldt State was arrested by Blue Lake police Sunday on suspicion of possession of child pornography and marijuana. Brian Paul O'Donnell, 44, was a substitute teacher in 2001 and 2002, worked as a student teacher at Jefferson and Dow's Prairie elementary schools, and worked as an aide for Northcoast Children's Services in 2002, according to police. He also worked last year for the HSU Foundation, and was a docent at the Natural History Museum, an HSU spokeswoman said. (His contact with children there was always in the open, the spokeswoman said.) Also arrested on the same charge last week was Christopher Patrick Woody, 45, of Blue Lake, who works for Ray's Food Place as a shoplifting investigator, police said. Police confiscated computers from both men's homes, and video tapes from O'Donnell's, which allegedly contained images of men having sex with children as young as 3. "It is very sick stuff," said Blue Lake Police Chief Dave Gunderson. "Two of us tried to look at it, and they don't pay me enough to do this crap." Local officials were alerted to the cases last week by the U.S. Customs Department, which had begun investigating them in April 2003. The Customs Department is again in charge of the investigation, Gunderson said.
CHALLENGES MANNE: Steve
Schectman, who is running as a "pro-Gallegos" candidate
in the DA recall election, renewed his challenge Tuesday to Pacific
Lumber Co. President Robert Manne to publicly debate him on PL's
role in the recall and specifically the issues Schectman raised
in last week's interview with the Journal. "I intend
to have this debate," Schectman wrote. "You can expect
to see me at your office door if you do not respond to this letter.
The truth demands it, and I will do what I can to oblige."
by HANK SIMS
Rob Flanigan, the new campaign manager for the Safety First! Recall Paul Gallegos Committee, was in his headquarters at 413 Fifth St., Eureka, Monday afternoon, taking stock of flyers and signs and directing the activities of volunteers. Water slowly dripped down onto the floor from a leak in the roof.
"I've had worse offices," remarked Flanigan, who worked on the recall campaign against Gray Davis.
He said he'd been in politics since he was 17 and is handling a couple of other races right now. But the campaign against the district attorney is his top priority.
A 27-year-old, self-described beer-drinker whose vanity plates advertise his love of surfing, Flanigan said that he'd probably like Gallegos if he had run across him under different circumstances. But since being hired by the Safety Yes! campaign, Flanigan expresses disgust at the DA.
"I'm going to take him out," Flanigan told the Sacramento Bee last week, employing jargon more common to gangster rap records than political campaigns.
The laid-back look Flanigan sported Monday -- black stocking cap, nylon Adidas pants, slightly beaten-up Nike jogging shoes -- belied his own status as an up-and-comer in state politics, and the large role his family has played in California's Republican establishment.
Flanigan's father and his uncles together run the Flanigan Law Firm, a Sacramento-based lobbyist organization that counts General Motors, Exxon Mobil and RJR Reynolds Tobacco Company among its clients. In January, the San Francisco Chronicle tapped Flanigan Law as one of the coterie of Sacramento lobbying firms whose stock is expected to rise under the Schwarzenegger administration.
Their newest client, hired on Jan. 15 of this year according to the California Secretary of State's office: Maxxam Corp. and its affiliate, the Pacific Lumber Company. Flanigan has been staying in Scotia, and the Friends of Paul Gallegos issued a press release on Tuesday saying that an out-of-town reporter met with Flanigan at PL's offices.
But Flanigan insisted that his hiring by Safety First! and PL's hiring of his family's firm is pure coincidence. There are lots of Flanigans in Sacramento, he said, and clients who hire one Flanigan do not necessarily hire them all.
Safety First! Flanigan said, is a group that represents police officers and victims of crimes, and not one that is concerned solely with the DA's fraud suit against PL. Flanigan himself is a registered lobbyist for the California Union of Safety Employees, a group that represents police interests in state government.
He brought up the case of Evans "Chompers" Cook, a former logger who has appeared in a pro-Gallegos ad and has had several run-ins with the law.
"He's the district attorney of the county," Flanigan says. "He is funded by people who have gone to jail on felony counts. You have to ask yourself what side this crooked DA is on."
Flanigan considered this for a moment.
"The goddamned district attorney of Humboldt County is being supported by criminals," he said. "That says a lot."
Flanigan promised to issue press releases each day until the March 2 election, and said that there was plenty of "ammunition" out there to keep both himself and the media busy reporting Gallegos' malfeasance.
"Usually I'd do a campaign for 10 months and never get one-tenth of the stuff that I've gotten in one week here," Flanigan said. He said that there was a rising tide against Gallegos, and that he felt confident of his victory.
"It's an uphill battle for the DA," he said.
by HANK SIMS
A series of e-mails chronicling the genesis of District Attorney Paul Gallegos' multi-million dollar lawsuit against the Pacific Lumber Co. were given to the press last week by a proponent of the recall.
The leaked e-mails were written by Assistant District Attorney Tim Stoen between Feb. 10 and Feb. 27 of last year. Most of them are addressed to Dr. Ken Miller, a physician and founding member of the Humboldt Watershed Council, and they illustrate the role Miller played in formulating the suit -- essentially educating Stoen about the alleged fraud that became the cornerstone of the legal action.
Rob Flanigan, campaign manager for the Safety Yes! Recall Paul Gallegos Committee, noted that Miller donated $5,000 to the Friends of Paul Gallegos in the last quarter of 2003. He said the e-mails prove that the office had been hijacked by special interests.
"Here is a documented example of a major donor to the Gallegos campaign writing a fraudulent lawsuit," he said. "This is completely unethical and irresponsible."
That's a debatable statement given that Miller was not a financial backer of Gallegos' at the time the suit was filed. Moreover, while Miller played a role in the drafting of the suit, the e-mails make clear that Stoen crafted and wrote the suit's legal argument.
In the e-mails, Stoen discusses with Miller the drafting of the complaint against PL. At one point, he asks Miller to fact-check a draft of the case, and notes that he has, in places, used Miller's work verbatim. He notes that Gallegos was going to ask Deputy DA Worth Dikeman -- one of the candidates competing as a replacement candidate in the event Gallegos is recalled -- to review the complaint.
As for the donor issue, Miller said Tuesday that he had not given money to Gallegos' campaign in 2002, when Gallegos beat incumbent Terry Farmer -- which, if true, may weaken Flanigan's charge that the suit was filed at Miller's behest.
Stoen said Tuesday that he could not discuss the contents of the e-mails, as to do so would be to "open the door" to allowing them to be admitted into court. As it stands, he said, Miller was listed in the suit as a consultant to the DA's office on the case -- a fact already disclosed to PL -- thus the correspondence would be considered confidential and exempt from discovery rules. Miller, too, declined to comment.
However, Stoen did say that it was common practice -- and an essential one -- for a prosecutor to seek out and talk to people familiar with a case when filing an unfair business practices suit.
"You can't file a case unless you have someone who has the facts," he said. "You go where the goods are. Your job [as a prosecutor] is to sift out the chaff from the wheat, and to determine where the applicable law is."
Stoen added that it was he who had sought out Miller when preparing the case, and not the other way around.
The leaked e-mails between Stoen and Miller marked the second time in as many weeks that internal documents from the District Attorney's Office were given to recall proponents or the press.
Last week, a "felony filing evaluation" concerning the case of child molester Pedro Martinez-Hernandez and written by Deputy DA Wes Keat was given to the Times-Standard and KIEM-TV News. In it, Keat wrote that Martinez-Hernandez could likely be prosecuted on multiple counts of child molestation and would be eligible for a sentence in excess of 100 years. Martinez-Hernandez eventually pleaded guilty to a single charge of "continuous" molestation and received a 16-year sentence.
by EMILY GURNON
Dave Griffith Sr. shook the hot water off his hands Monday morning after washing dishes at Ruby's Coffee Shop in Rio Dell. Looking over the counter, he talked at length about why he planned to vote for the recall of District Attorney Paul Gallegos on March 2.
"He's too soft on crime," said Griffith, 63, commenting on Gallegos' handling of the case involving the Ferndale child molester, who recently got a much-publicized sentence of 16 years. "He should've gotten life in prison. And look at all the dope in Humboldt County, and he wanted to up [the medical marijuana limits] to 99 plants. I'm gonna go into business myself," he laughed. "`Humboldt Homegrown' -- it's the No. 1 industry in Humboldt County and he wants to keep it that way."
There are other issues for Griffith, who has spent his entire life in Rio Dell and worked for Pacific Lumber for 38 years. "[Assistant District Attorney] Tim Stoen ought to be down there in San Francisco where he belongs. That's the trouble with Humboldt County. We get too many Southern California people up here who ruin our way of life."
Griffith bussed a back table, bringing the dishes up to the counter. He said he works in the coffee shop not as an employee, but to help out his sister, who owns the place. The two cooks and a customer joined in the conversation about Gallegos, saying that they too felt he was soft on crime. Griffith said he'd be voting for Gloria Albin Sheets, one of the three attorneys running as a replacement for Gallegos.
Down the street, at DJ's Burger Bar, John Hower of Pepperwood said he, too, wanted Gallegos out. "The biggest thing -- and I'm not a PL employee -- but when he placed that lawsuit against one of the big taxpayers and employers of the county, that affects me and my family," said Hower, 70, who works as an independent logger. "That's it." He said he planned to vote for Sheets.
The lunch crowd was thinning out at Adel's Restaurant in Eureka when W.H. "Bud" Nees was finishing his coffee. A former PL swing shift foreman who later worked for the postal service, Nees, 70, said he's against the recall and will not vote for any of the Gallegos replacements. "What has he done to deserve it? All he's done is press that [Pacific Lumber] lawsuit," the Eureka resident said.
As for the "soft on crime" charge, Nees said Gallegos' hands are tied. "Like other prosecutors, he has guidelines to go by and he has a budget to stay within. He can't read every indictment and everything that goes in. And the plea bargaining -- all prosecutors do that, because they have to stay within their budget."
But the main issue for Nees is PL's funding of the recall. "No one would have recalled him without the guys with all the backing. They got the signatures. When I see somebody doing that it scares me -- they're taking the vote away from the people. Why don't they just fight it in court? That tells me that there's something wrong." He described Pacific Lumber as "a good company back before Maxxam bought `em out. They've gone way beyond what is right for the area and the people here. Rather than do the right thing environmentally, they took a lot of shortcuts, and they got away with it for years."
When he was a boy, he said, families would gather at Salmon Creek (south of Eureka) at night with lanterns, pitchforks and buckets. "There were so many salmon a family could catch as many as they wanted in an hour," he said. The fish were big, anywhere from 12 to 20 pounds. No more: The creeks and rivers have been decimated by decades of logging. "It's really sad what they've done to this county. When you've lived here all your life, you can see these things pass."
At the other end of the counter, Jerry Hayes and Paul Lindner of Eureka said their lunch crew -- a group of six or eight men who meet daily at Adel's -- had hashed out the recall issue.
"It was decided in here," said Hayes, a youthful 58-year-old who recently retired from the postal service. "In my opinion, it doesn't have so much to do with PL. A lot of it has to do with law and order. Eureka is going to hell in a hand basket quick, and I'm not blaming it all on [Gallegos]. We need better law enforcement around here, stricter law enforcement around here. Once they pop `em, they need to do something to `em."
Lindner, 56, added, "It's the DA's fault, not the cops'. He's too lenient on everything, wanting everyone to have all that dope. The way he's letting everyone off, slapping everyone's hand."
He erroneously cited Julia "Butterfly" Hill as the tree-sitter who received a light sentence from Gallegos.
"That was Remedy," Hayes said. (Hill's stay in the tree was during the administration of Terry Farmer, who did not prosecute her.)
"It's the whole deal of him letting everybody off," Lindner continued, referring again to Gallegos. "And Gallegos did up the amount of pot they could have for `medical purposes.' Bullshit! A hundred plants?"
His friend laughed. "We could take a big vacation if we had 100 plants and we sold the buds."
Perry Clevenger of Eureka [photo at right] called the recall "a damn good thing." The 70-year-old former seafood restaurant owner said he was upset by several things. "The leniency with the two guys who shot up the town, that's No. 1," he said, referring to the seven-year sentence received by the men involved in the drive-by shooting in Eureka last year, in which no one was injured. "No. 2 is, I don't care for his marijuana thing-a-ma-jig."
He wondered aloud whether Gallegos had been planning to file the lawsuit against PL when he was running for office, and didn't talk about it. "People might have been mad at Terry Farmer, but I think we got hoodwinked with what we got." He'll probably vote for Worth Dikeman, Clevenger said.
Clevenger's wife, Maureen, said she believes the recall is "the people's right," and that she has no problem with PL funding it. "They have a right to defend themselves, and I don't think there's anything wrong with it."
Predictably, the rhetoric was decidedly different at Sacred Grounds coffee shop in Arcata, with a unanimous no-on-the-recall sentiment among a half-dozen people interviewed Monday.
Tallie Spiller, 21 [photo at left] , took a break from her French textbook to talk about the recall attempt. "It seems like if you have enough money, you can get rid of a politician, just through propaganda, and it doesn't seem like it has to do with whether or not they're doing a good job," said the HSU political science major.
"I'm definitely against it. It's only on the ballot because Pacific Lumber has put so much money into it. I don't think Gallegos has done anything deserving of being recalled." Spiller said she was impressed with what he had to say during an appearance on campus. "He seemed committed to fairness," she said. She wasn't sure which, if any, of the replacement candidates she would vote for.
Christa Dickman, 23, of Arcata, said she opposes the recall on principle. "What, it's now gonna become a fad, to recall all these public officials? It's not fair. If someone's elected, you should let them serve their term out."
© Copyright 2004, North Coast Journal, Inc.