County Social Services Director John Frank resigned Tuesday, three weeks
after being involved in an alcohol-related injury accident. It was the second
such accident in less than three years but the most recent one was on county
time a fact that Frank apparently tried to cover up after the fact by attempting
to change payroll records.
The first accident on Oct. 6, 1996 occurred when Frank left the Elks Lodge in Eureka with a blood alcohol in excess of .20, rolled his vehicle and was transported to the hospital for treatment by Eureka Fire Department rescue workers. He was treated and released but Frank's name and his arrest were never reported by the local media. He eventually pleaded guilty to drunken driving, was fined $2,000 and placed on probation. That probation may be revoked.
Frank would not return telephone calls. County Administrative Officer John Murray declined to comment, referring all questions to Personnel Director Rick Haeg.
Haeg said, "It's a personnel matter. I can't comment."
The most recent accident occurred Tuesday, June 22 at 3 p.m. Frank had been expected to be attending a welfare director's training session at University of California, Davis that started at 12:30 p.m. The accident was on a remote Forest Service Road two hours travel time from Davis. Frank's blood alcohol was .19, according to the California Highway Patrol report.
Using the Public Records Act, the Journal obtained a county Timesheet Correction Form dated June 25 that Frank submitted changing June 22 through June 25 to vacation from regular time.
District Attorney Terry Farmer said he was unaware of Frank's action.
"No one has referred this to me as a criminal matter," he said.
Farmer wouldn't comment on a specific incident but said, "It may be that the county paid for training that they never got the benefits from," which might be considered a misuse of county time. Such an offense by an employee may be cause for disciplinarian action, Farmer suggested.
Frank has been on leave since the accident. In a press release Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors accepted his resignation with an effective date of Dec. 31, 1999 a date that could prove expensive to the county.
Frank, 49, is a 12-year veteran of the department but he does not turn 50 the minimum retirement age until December.
In addition, remaining on active payroll status until then could allow him to use sick, vacation, administrative and other leave in the meantime. Payment for medical leave upon retirement is only available for employees with 14 or more years of public service, according to one county official.
Frank's salary alone for the next six months is approximately $36,000, according to Haeg.
In the press release, the county supervisors express appreciation "for the many contributions" Frank has made during his tenure with the county.
The board will be recruiting a replacement to fill the vacancy and will be seeking an interim director in the meantime.
Gov. Gray Davis has tapped Humboldt County 1st District Supervisor Stan Dixon to serve on the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, a closely watched panel among environmental groups and the timber industry.
Dixon, 60, of Eureka, has logged much experience on boards related to resources management issues. Beyond his service as chairman on the Eel Russian River Commission and the North Coast Air Quality Management District, he will have served 12 years on the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors.
He's seeking another four-year term in the seat, along with two other candidates John Fullerton, a certified public accountant, and Chris Crawford, a technology and court management consultant.
Dixon's focus for the 1st District varies, from saving the Northwestern Pacific Railroad to restoring Eel River flows. His new Board of Forestry post provides him with the challenge and responsibility of managing forest resources in the state's wilderness areas.
"(Forest resources are) very important to the North Coast," he said.
Eureka native Max Bridges is moving back to Humboldt County at the end of the month. He has been named executive director of the North Coast Railroad Authority effective July 26.
After years of storm damage, mounting debt and struggles with regulatory agencies that closed the 300-mile line from Eureka to Schellville, prospects for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad appear to be improving. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently released funds needed to repair the line.
The railroad board is considering relocating its headquarters from Eureka to the historic Cloverdale Depot. If it does, it expects to keep a satellite office in Eureka.
The new director will "meet all the players" as his first order of business, he said from his San Benito County office Monday. He currently serves as county public works director at a salary of $90,000. His new position comes with a pay raise, but the amount is to be determined by the authority's board of
directors, he said.
Bridges first came to the North Coast as a student at Humboldt State University. He later served as assistant public works director for Del Norte County.
Bridges said he's "looking forward" to bringing his background in public works and training as a civil engineer to the job.
"Things are certainly turning around much better than they were a few months ago," he said. "Travel up (here) is difficult. It's a long ways from the rest of the world."
The Promise Keepers, a controversial men's ministry calling on adult males to live by biblical standards and take responsibility for their roles in the family, is coming to Ferndale Aug. 7 for a "wake-up call."
It will be held at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds at 8 a.m. and is expected to draw men from across Northern California and Southern Oregon.
This is the third year the county has hosted the regional conference for the Northern California Men of Integrity. In 1997 Humboldt State University was the venue. A year later, the group gathered at College of the Redwoods, with crowd estimates ranging from several hundred to a few thousand.
The ministry formed in 1990 and quickly grew to fill football stadiums to capacity by the mid-'90s. In recent years declining attendance led organizers to book smaller venues.
Whatever venue, the event sometimes attract picketers, confirmed Director of Public Affairs Steve Ruppe by telephone from Promise Keepers headquarters in Denver, Colo.
Some groups such as the National Organization for Women call Promise Keepers a "militaristic, anti-women" group.
California NOW President Helen Grieco said
Promise Keepers' leaders actually have political aspirations.
"It's not just a religious organization," she said in a telephone interview from San Francisco. She pointed to a 1997 television interview in which leader Bill McCarthy said he would run for political office "if God asked him to."
Ruppe said in response, "We have never endorsed a candidate. We have never lobbied for a candidate. The political accusation is just a red herring thrown out to obscure the idea that men should be responsible in their homes, community and should go to church."
Grieco agreed with the responsibility message.
"Everybody can see there's a crisis in the family in the United States," she said. "From a public relations standpoint, what they're doing makes sense. There is concern about family values." But she objects to the Promise Keepers' message of family hierarchy based on male domination, she said.
"Men can be spiritual leaders in the family without women losing responsibility and authority in the family," Ruppe countered. "Men are not better than women."
A handful of speakers will appear at next month's event. Further information is available from the Northcoast Christian Fellowship at 442-2607. Registration is $15.
Animal shelters were given a little breathing room Monday night when Gov. Gray Davis signed into a law a bill to delay implementation of costly new animal control laws.
The closely watched legislation, introduced by Assemblywoman Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, and co-authored by Sen. Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, passed the Legislature two weeks ago.
Chesbro said Tuesday he was relieved the governor took the "serious financial" burden off local governments, including Humboldt County and its cities which had contracted with the Sequoia Humane Society in Eureka until last month.
"The original mandate (sponsored by Sen. Tom Hayden, D-Santa Monica) carries a heavy price tag for cities and counties and they need the additional time to prepare for the extra animals they expect to have as a result of the longer holding period," Chesbro said in an issued statement.
While the law delays the effect of the mandate for one year, it does require shelters to stay open at least one night a week to spur adoption rates and to present a report on performance.
The one-year reprieve still dictates the need for a contract between the county and its designated shelter. Currently, Sequoia Humane Society Director Ron Lapham said he only has a "handshake agreement" with the county. A three-month, $60,000 arrangement is still on the table.
County Agricultural Commissioner John Falkenstrom has been looking elsewhere for animal impound services.
Come New Year's 2000, culture vultures may have more to celebrate in Eureka than the turning of the millennium.
A $100,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation has brought Humboldt Arts Council closer to its $1.34 million local-match goal to restore the Carnegie building. The ultimate goal is to create an arts and culture center in the Eureka architectural landmark.
Just over $1 million has been raised for the renovation so far. The community arts nonprofit plans a grand opening of the newly restored Carnegie building New Year's Day. The capital campaign for building renovation will accept donations through December.
Once improvements are made, the center will bring to the North Coast a venue for special events in the arts, visual and performance galleries and the Arts Council's permanent collection. The building will also house a Young Artists Academy for children.
Don't expect to see a drop in high gas prices on the North Coast this summer, according to the American Automobile Association of Northern California.
Coming off the busiest Fourth of July travel holiday in 13 years, demand remains high and is expected to stay high through the summer, AAA spokesman Paul Moreno said from his San Francisco office Monday. And he predicts prices may even increase slightly by the time Labor Day weekend rolls around.
As of AAA's last survey issued June 22, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded, self-serve gasoline was $1.58 in Eureka, just nine cents less than April's spike in price and two cents higher than San Francisco's current price. The city by the bay usually has the highest prices in the state, in contrast to California's Southern California metropolis Los Angeles at $1.34 a gallon.
Why are L.A. prices lower? The oil companies cite more stations per capita, Moreno said.
The squeeze in surplus has suppliers vying for position with the refineries, he added. In short, the bidding war on gas along with high crude prices imposed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to curb production amounts to no relief at the gas pumps for consumers.
But talk is cheap, says U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, blasting the oil industry. The California Democrat recently called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether anti-competitive activities are to blame for slower than anticipated reductions in gas prices.
Property owners and conservation agencies rarely meet on common ground.
But it's a different story in the Mattole River headwaters, where old-growth forests and tributaries connect to create a unique coastal ecosystem in southern Humboldt County. Landowners and public agencies have united to ensure protection of habitat and threatened species like the King salmon on private and public land.
The group met at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management King Range office in Whitethorn last month to sign the document that places its intention into writing.
The Memorandum of Understanding officially created the Upper Mattole River and Forest Cooperative, which will be followed by BLM, California State Parks, California Department of Fish and Game, state Wildlife Conservation Board, California Coastal Conservancy, California Department of Forestry, Restoration Forestry, Save-the-Redwoods-League and the Sanctuary Forest Inc.
In 1997 the Mattole watershed land trust brought together the cooperative group that manages 3,500 acres. These lands form a link between the Lost Coast in the BLM-managed King Range National Conservation Area southwest of Garberville and the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park farther south.
"I am enthusiastic about restoration across political boundaries," said Tim Metz of Redway, who owns property adjacent to the state park established in 1977.
Sanctuary Forest Executive Director Rondal Snodgrass said the model program manages property with "seamless boundaries," without added regulations that often accompany land management plans.
The land trust will host a restoration work weekend July 24-25 to clear the Mattole River watershed from debris that blocks steelhead and salmon runs.
Volunteers are asked to call the Sanctuary Forest office at 986-1087.