North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News

August 28, 2003

The recall you haven't heard about

The man who would be governor
Darin Price is Humboldt's only candidate in the Davis recall

Tax scandal

Sund settlement

Talking Klamath

Dyerville shooting

Still missing

Still closed

Impeachment meeting


The recall you haven't heard about


LOLETA -- The recall election people are talking about in these parts has nothing to do with the governor or the District Attorney.

The Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria will vote soon on a recall of two members of its tribal council -- a dispute involving two half-sisters who live just down the street from each other on the 60-acre parcel these Native Americans call home.

The tribal council was expected to hold a meeting Wednesday so that the recall petition could be handed over to a representative of the League of Women Voters, which has been asked to handle the election.

Brenda Bowie, the recall's main proponent, alleges that her half-sister, Aileen Meyer, and Meyer's fellow tribal council member, Margaret Thomas, Bowie's niece, have overstepped their power by abolishing committees and changing the tribal enrollment procedures.

"It's disbanding the entire way the tribe runs its operations," Bowie said.

On the flip side, Meyer denies any power-grabbing and maintains that Bowie started the recall after the tribal council decided she made too much money to stay in her low-rent tribal house -- one of 19 homes on the tribe's land off Singley Road in Loleta.

"That's what sparked it off," Meyer said. "In 1997, the tribe got a grant from HUD [the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development]. That grant specifically stated it was for low-income people to receive that housing."

Bowie was allowed to move in temporarily at $250 a month, at a time when she was in transition between homes, even though her Caltrans job put her above the income limit. (Her rent has since been doubled.)

The trouble is, she never left.

The council determined that Bowie could buy the three-bedroom house if she wanted (but not the land, held in trust by the tribe). However, they said the sale would require a vote of all 237 members of the tribe, most of whom are scattered outside the Loleta property. Bowie opposes such a vote.

Meanwhile, HUD has told the tribe it must resolve the status of Bowie's house soon, Meyer said. She said future grants, like one slated for development of a 33-unit apartment complex in Fortuna, depend on it.

"If we lose that money, those apartments will not be built," she said.

Complicating matters is a dispute over a casino that the tribe hoped to build. Construction actually started on a site, but stalled after the project hit a legal snag involving the title of the property. The tribe was left with a $3 million debt to investors.

According to Meyer, the debt is the fault of the previous administration -- which includes Bowie, who served as tribal chairperson.

Bowie said she had nothing to do with the casino -- and, in fact, resigned from her position when the project started.

Now, Bowie said, Meyer has alienated tribal members by notifying them that it is their responsibility to pay back the $3 million -- at a cost of about $8,000 a piece.

"The money was mismanaged completely, and now look at us," Bowie said.

For tribal members, the whole thing reeks of corruption.

"There's some crazy things going on up here," said Leslie Bowie Sr., 37, a nephew of Brenda Bowie and Meyer. "We started a pad out there [for the casino], then the backers backed out for some reason. How hard is it to get an investor in here? There's some bad business going on somewhere. Somebody getting paid off."

Like Californians who cringe at the attention the governor's recall has brought to the "fruit and nut" state, tribal members -- including Meyer and Bowie -- expressed regret that outsiders had heard about their internal squabble.

"The whole future depends on the tribe doing their economic development," Meyer said. "The things that come out in the papers make it look bad, that the tribal council can't run the business. You should keep your dirty laundry at home."

The man who would be governor
Darin Price is Humboldt's only candidate in the Davis recall


Darin Price smiling and wearing tropical shirtIn the carnival that has become the effort to recall Gov. Gray Davis, Darin Price is, at best, a minor sideshow, someone whose name recognition is anemic even on his home turf, Humboldt County.

Still, the 40-year-old, Birkenstock-wearing Humboldt State chemistry instructor has the confidence of a heavyweight contender and no fear of getting in the recall ring with former Mr. Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"Arnold would be foolish to debate me. I would terminate him. I would out-speak him on every issue there is," Price said.

The only Humboldt candidate in the recall race, and one of just two from the Natural Law Party, Price said he simply couldn't resist the temptation to run for California's highest elected office.

"I had this compulsion that ate at me for a week before I decided to do it," he explained. "It was just calling at me and I couldn't fight it. In my life I go with my intuition, I follow my heart and my gut."

Price is running even though he is opposed to the recall. "I think Davis is doing a horrific job but I don't think that he has done anything criminal to deserve being recalled.

"The state made the decision to elect Davis," he went on. "When you decide to put a dirty sock in your mouth you need to live with the foul taste."

So why is Price in the race?

"I'm running because [the recall] was going to happen anyway and the North Coast needs representation," Price said. "I think that it's important to get someone in Sacramento who can make changes and do a better job, and I can do both those things."

OK, so much for motivation. Now what about the issues?

Following the mantra of the Natural Law Party, which is partially based in the practice of Transcendental Meditation and has 43,000 members in California, Price advocates organic agriculture, preventative health care and renewable energy among other "progressive" causes.

Control over North Coast water is a big issue for Price. In particular, he doesn't like the fact that water from the North Coast is diverted to Central Valley irrigators. "Sacramento is hot, it's like a desert. [You see] huge fields flooded with water to grow rice in the central valley. That's just plain wrong; it's not the right crop for that area. It's just not cost efficient to take water from one watershed and put it into another.

"They could switch crops, go to organic farming and the water would never have to be diverted to another place. It's just another example of a lose-lose-lose situation that could be win-win-win."

While Price shares many of his viewpoints with Natural Law members -- a party he describes as a mixture of Republicans, Greens and a sprinkling of Libertarian -- he insists that he is not a mouthpiece for the party.

While he is well within the party's platform on abortion -- he's pro-choice -- he's beyond the pale when it comes to the death penalty, which he supports.

Above all, Price says he is qualified to tackle California's budget mess. Why? Because he has served on a finance committee at HSU. And because he is, by nature, thrifty.

"If you have a leader like me, who is a truly frugal person, who uses creativity and comes up with new ideas, you can make changes," Price said.

"Truly frugal" is evidenced by his 1990 Geo Metro, which, he brags, gets 35 miles to the gallon.

His plan of action regarding the state budget is to not spend one penny unless a penny is taken from another program -- the $99 billion that taxpayers shell out for government programs is enough, he said. With that tack, he argued, the $12 billion budget shortfall foreseen for next year could be easily balanced if no new funds are spent.

As the Oct. 7 vote approaches, Price seems likely to remain hopeful.

"If every voter chooses who they think is the best candidate, if they read the entire voter's pamphlet and can see beyond choice A or B, then there's no telling what will happen."

Tax scandal

The owner of the Eureka Inn, John Edward Biord, has been charged with misappropriating over $117,000 in transient taxes collected at the hotel and owed to the city of Eureka.

The felony violations allegedly took place between Jan. 1, 2002, and June 30, 2003.

Assistant District Attorney Tim Stoen, head of the office's White Collar Fraud and Economic Crimes Unit, said that owners of hotels hold transient tax receipts in trust for local government, but otherwise may not touch them.

"Under the law, the transient tax is a debt owed by a guest directly to the city or county," Stoen said. "Once this trust money is used by an innkeeper for his own purpose, a crime has been committed."

The investigation that led to the charges against Biord was conducted jointly by the DA's office and the Eureka Police Department.

Biord will be arraigned in Humboldt County Superior Court on Sept. 10. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison.

Sund settlement

The family of Carole and Juli Sund, two of the three tourists killed by Cary Stayner at Yosemite National Park, will receive $1 million in a settlement reached last week with Stayner's employer.

Jens Sund of Eureka filed a wrongful death suit in 1999, several months after the murders, against the Cedar Lodge, the motel where the Sunds were staying with their friend, Silvina Pelosso of Argentina.

Zach Zwerdling, attorney for the Sunds, said his client was "very relieved" with the ending of the case.

"This has been a very difficult, emotional experience for him, just keeping the case alive and having to rehear the facts," Zwerdling said of Jens Sund.

The suit alleged that the Cedar Lodge was negligent in allowing Stayner, a seasonal employee, to have access to a master key on the day of the killings -- even though he had been laid off that morning, Zwerdling said.

Though Stayner was let into the room by Carole Sund, and did not use the key to enter, he confessed that he entered other rooms as part of a ruse, Zwerdling said.

"He pretended he was talking to people in adjacent rooms, to lull Mrs. Sund into a sense of security that he was who he said he was. That was really the most important factual issue we had," he said.

The money will go to Jens Sund and the couple's three remaining children, who are now 18, 17 and 15. Juli Sund was 15 when she was killed.

Zwerdling said they would probably use the funds for college and counseling.

The Pelosso family reportedly rejected another settlement offer for a much smaller amount.

Stayner was convicted last year of the three murders, for which he received the death penalty. He also received a life sentence for the Yosemite killing of park nature guide Joie Armstrong, 26.

Talking Klamath

On a swing though the region Tuesday, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Napa) thanked the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors for supporting his efforts in the fight over Klamath River water issues.

"We would have gotten nowhere without a strong cadre of allies throughout the state," he told the board. "Your good work is to be commended."

Thompson said good progress was being made to avoid a repeat of last year's tragic fish kill on the Klamath, in which over 30,000 salmon died due to low flows on the river.

The congressman told the board that tensions over the issue -- which pits inland farmers with coastal fishing interests -- are not as acute in Washington, D.C., as people are led to believe.

"It's sometimes portrayed as the nasty, rotten environmentalists versus the good, God-fearing farmers," Thompson said. "But no one on the Hill actually believes that."

A recent Wall Street Journal article on the Klamath water fight, which described how the Bush administration played a large role in last year's water allocation negotiations, effectively showed how the final allocation of water was based more on politics than science, Thompson said.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Reclamation last week said that it would release an additional 33,000 acre-feet of Trinity River water into the Klamath-Trinity river system this fall in an attempt to prevent another fish kill.

Dyerville shooting

The Humboldt County Sheriff's Department has issued an arrest warrant for area resident Blake Edward Chase following a double attempted homicide and carjacking episode in Southern Humboldt on Aug. 21.

According to the two victims -- one of whom was Michael Osborne, 24, of Fresno -- they had been relaxing near the river in Dyerville when they fell into conversation with a man who called himself "Blake."

When the two got into their car to leave, the man later identified as Chase jumped into the back seat of their car, pulled out a gun and opened fire. The second victim escaped injury, but Osborne was shot in the neck. "Chase" then drove off in the victims' vehicle.

The two hitchhiked to the Redcrest Store, where they notified authorities. Osborne was later treated for his wounds and released from the hospital the next day.

The suspect, is described as 20 years of age, 6 feet, 3 inches tall, 240 pounds, with a shaved head and a stubble beard. He was last seen wearing a black baseball cap, a blue basketball jersey, blue polo shorts and black Nike Air Jordans.

The stolen car is a white, four-door 2003 Hyundai Sonata, California license plate number 5CBA044.

Chase was described by the Sheriff's Department as armed and dangerous. Anyone with information should contact the department immediately at 445-7251.

Still missing

The family of missing marijuana activist Chris Giauque has issued a public plea for people in the Spy Rock Road area of northern Mendocino County to come forward with any information about the missing man.

Giauque, a Southern Humboldt resident, was last seen in the Spy Rock area, where he had driven to meet a friend on Aug. 9.

Last weekend, Giauque's brother Clint, a resident of Arcata, drove to Spy Rock Road with about 10 of Chris's friends to introduce himself to the community and ask for their assistance.

"I know Chris wouldn't want a big law enforcement presence in the Spy Rock community," Clint Giauque said. "I'm hoping anyone with information would offer it up so we could avoid having a bunch of officers running around down there."

Brenda Gainey, spokesperson for the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department, said on Monday that department heads and detectives were meeting to discuss what they had learned so far in the case.

Chris Giauque is 6 feet, 2 inches tall, weighs approximately 150 pounds, has a full beard and mustache and 4-foot dreadlocks. At the time of his disappearance, he was driving a 1994 blue Toyota four-wheel-drive pickup.

Anyone with any information is urged to call the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department or -- in the event that they may be uncomfortable talking to law enforcement -- Clint Giauque. His number is 822-4415.

The Giauque family is offering a reward of $50,000 for information that leads to the discovery of Giauque's whereabouts.

Still closed

Trinidad's Wagner Street Trail, the subject of a long and costly dispute between the city and resident John Frame, will remain closed for the time being.

On Tuesday, Judge J. Michael Brown of the Humboldt County Superior Court denied an emergency motion to reopen the trail brought by the state of California last week.

In papers filed with the court, Deputy Attorney General Christine Tiedemann -- who represents the California Coastal Commission and the California State Coastal Conservancy -- argued that the city made an "egregiously illegal decision" when it decided to block public access to the trail earlier this month.

The Coastal Conservancy owns a public access easement on the land that the closed trail passes through. State officials have charged that the City Council had no right to unilaterally take that access away.

In addition, Tiedemann wrote that the city violated the Brown Act when it declared the trail a "public nuisance," given that no notice was given to residents that such a declaration was imminent, and that calling the trail a nuisance was merely a convenient fiction used by the city to settle the Frame lawsuit.

"I don't want to be pejorative, but it's a backroom deal without notice to the proper parties," she said.

A June 18 proclamation that authorized Councilmember Chi-Wei Lin to pursue a settlement with Frame said "the city does not have the financial resources to take the case of Frame v. Trinidad and related actions to trial." No mention was made of a public nuisance, which Frame and now the city allege could come from geological collapse of the hill on which the trail sits.

Brown denied the state's emergency request on the grounds that leaving the trail closed while the case is heard causes no irreparable damage to the state, but said that the state's arguments were "interesting" and may well prevail, eventually.

But after the hearing, Frame attorney Bill Barnum disputed the idea that abatement of a public nuisance required full notification as required by the Brown Act. If a sewer main breaks, he said, the city is entitled to enter private property and repair it with or without the owner's permission.

"There are times when a municipality is entitled to act summarily," Barnum said.

Impeachment meeting

The city of Arcata will hold a town forum Tuesday on whether the City Council should call for the impeachment of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Senior Dining Room of the Community Center.

The City Council discussed the matter at its meeting last week, when Councilmember Dave Meserve proposed it. Meserve said the president and vice president deserve to be kicked out for "high crimes and misdemeanors" involving the war on Iraq.

Meserve and Mayor Bob Ornelas were outspoken in favor of the resolution.

The three other council members -- Elizabeth Conner, Connie Stewart and Michael Machi -- agreed to endorse a town meeting on the issue if it did not involve the expenditure of city money or staff time.

The forum will be televised on public access Channel 12, and viewers will have an opportunity to call in with comments, Meserve said.


In last week's cover story ("Mistaking the Enemy," Aug. 21) and in an accompanying photo caption, Dr. Ted Humphry's name was misspelled. [The online version has been corrected.]



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