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December 22, 2005

The Weekly Wrap

Case closed on the Salzman matter

The Weekly Wrap

WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA? A little over a year ago, Cherie Arkley was not sure what she and husband Rob Arkley, owners of Security National, might someday build on Eureka's abandoned rail yard known as the Balloon Track. "But," she said in a Nov. 14 article in the Times-Standard, "it's not going to be a big box. Repeat: It's not going to be a big box."

Well, things appear to have changed in a big way. Cherie Arkley, along with members of Security National Servicing Corp., met with Eureka City Council members last week to discuss development plans for the site, namely accommodating a big-box like Home Depot and Best Buy.

The Balloon Track property is currently owned by Union Pacific Railroad. Security National has been negotiating a purchase of the site since October of last year and recently came to a purchase agreement on the condition that Security National will clean up hazardous chemicals at the site, though the sale will reportedly not be complete until the spring of next year, at least. Plans for a park and residential units were proposed for the area before the extent of the toxic cleanup was known.

The waterfront site is zoned public, which means if the Arkleys are to get their big-box, city officials need to change the zoning to light-industrial or commercial, and that will likely need to occur before the purchase is finalized. City Manager Dave Tyson has expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of having the long-vacant site developed. Eureka City Councilmember Chris Kerrigan is not convinced that a large retail store should, or will, come to the waterfront. "It's definitely going to be a huge fight," he said. "I'd like to see their development drop the idea of a big-box and move forward."

Six years ago Wal-Mart looked into putting a store on the coveted property and was vociferously pushed out by area residents and public officials including Assemblymember Patty Berg.


$ SIGNS IN THEIR EYES: Eight logging protesters swabbed in the eyes with pepper spray in 1997 agreed to a settlement of $750,000 to cover expenses of their years-long legal battle against Humboldt County and the City of Eureka. The plaintiffs were seeking close to $2 million. The matter went to court three times in eight years, with two mistrials and a final ruling by a federal jury in San Francisco in April that awarded each plaintiff $1 in damages for excessive force used against them by police during logging protests.


GOOD GRIEF! We just know that the Voice of Linus Van Pelt wanders these Humboldt hills, talking about this and that with them and us (well, we wish with us). Sure, the Voice of Linus is 40 years older now than when it issued, at age 7, from the scribbly mouth of that droll, intellectual whippersnapper clutching a security blanket in the 1965 TV special "A Charlie Brown Christmas" to offer such cherished and timeless observations as "Charlie Brown, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem," and "Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest," and "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

But that's just it -- we wanted to know, once we discovered that actor Chris Shea has a home (or two?) in Humboldt County, how it feels after all these years to know that his younger self is still making people all warm and weepy around this time every year? Shea was the voice of Linus in Peanuts shows produced between 1965 and 1969 (his brother took on the voice in the 1970s). Did being the voice of Linus affect his own life? Is there, perhaps, a bit of Linus Van Pelt in Mr. Shea? Does he have a security blanket? What's up with Honeydew?

We had other (predictable) sorts of questions like that. So, a couple weeks ago, we did our darnedest to reach him in a timely fashion. We'd heard he lived in Honeydew, so we called the Honeydew Store whose clerk said to try the Honeydew Post Office and ask for Paula. Sure enough, Paula at the post office knew of Shea, said he picks his mail up once a week. "He has property here, but he lives in Westhaven." She said she'd give him a message to phone us when he came in for his mail. And we, stupidly-and-in-a-shortsighted-panic, said: "OK, but he has to call us by deadline!"

Meanwhile, we expanded our harassment to Westhaven, calling businesses at random. Nobody up there had heard of Shea. And now, just days before Christmas, we find upon phoning up the Honeydew Post Office that Shea did in fact wander in for his mail that week we called, but it was after our deadline. And, respecting our panicky instructions, he did not call us. Rats!


HCAOG SNUB: For nearly two decades, the Hoopa Valley Tribe has sought membership on the board of the Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG), and been repeatedly denied. The tribe's latest bid for membership was met with a split 4-4 vote by the HCAOG board on Dec. 12. Since the board has no rule for dealing with a tie, the split vote equates to a rejection.

HCAOG is a joint powers agency whose membership includes Humboldt County and the seven incorporated cities of Arcata, Blue Lake, Eureka, Ferndale, Fortuna, Rio Dell, Trinidad. Serving as the Regional Transportation Planning Agency as well as the Service Authority for Freeway Emergencies, HCAOG makes important decisions on transportation planning -- and allocation of transportation funds -- for local road improvements, public transportation and even those roadside call boxes placed alongside the highway.

Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman Lyle Marshall, on a visit to Arcata last Friday, expressed disgust at yet another snubbing by HCAOG. "I think there are some communities in HCAOG who don't want to share that money with an Indian tribe," Marshall said. "But we would not be in HCAOG as a tribe. We would be in it as a government. If McKinleyville incorporated, they would automatically be on."

Marshall said the tribe, with 90 miles of roads within its reservation that link eventually to other roads in the county, provides the same sort of vital services as other agencies on the HCAOG board: Tribal law enforcement officers are cross-deputized to work with the county Sheriff's department, tribal ambulances transport patients to hospitals on the coast, and so on.

Furthermore, Marshall noted that a state statute, resulting from legislation sponsored by former Assemblyman Dan Hauser (now Arcata's city manager) in the 1980s, specifically recognizes the Hoopa Valley Tribe's Business Council as a public agency qualified to participate on HCAOG. "And we've been trying to get on it for 18 years," Marshall said. The tribe is pondering legal action against HCAOG.


HO-HUM, A HALF-MIL: No, no, no, no, no. Never, ever say in the press that you're less-than-excited about that half million bucks you just won after slinging your humble Lincolns into the Aristocrat Millioniser penny slot machine at the Bear River Casino in Loleta. Especially if you're a precedent-setting second winner of $500,000 from that jingly machinery in the amazing span of just one month (on Nov. 13, Nancy Harlan of Fortuna pulled a $500,000 jackpot from the Loleta casino Millioniser).

The casino's marketing manager, Art Collins, sent out a buoyant news release about the happy event. That, however, was followed by a lugubrious report in the Times-Standard by Ann Johnson-Stromberg, who quoted Dec. 16 jackpot winner Sharon Badostain, of Garberville, as saying that while she knew she should be "jumping up and down and screaming" with joy over her winnings, instead she just felt an underwhelming sense of "Wow" -- she had personal trouble on her mind. Ah, but ambivalence, even depression -- nay, that isn't the message a casino wants to get out there, even if you are feeling so sad about a personal relationship gone bad that all the money in the world couldn't buy back your happiness. What visage will they put on the "Sharon won $500,000" billboard?

Now, it'd be easy to cry "sore winner!" at this point, and suggest that Badostain maybe could ship those winnings off to a happier person. But instead it's more fun to wonder what the casino PR-machinery will make of it all. And to re-quote Badostain's own wisdom: "Money can't buy happiness." Still, we hope Badostain forgets the chump who made her unhappy and enjoys her windfall.

Case Closed
State prosecutor says he won't take the Salzman matter to court


In a letter to the Trinidad Police Department, an attorney with the California Attorney General's Office wrote last week that while it seems Richard Salzman is guilty of using other people's names to write letters for publication in newspapers, any attempt to prosecute him would likely be unsuccessful.

The letter appears to bring the three-month-old investigation of Salzman to an end, with no charges filed against the political campaigner.

The word came down in a Dec. 12 letter from Deputy Attorney General Keith Lyon to Trinidad Police Chief Ken Thrailkill, who led the initial investigation against Salzman, a Trinidad resident.

Lyon wrote that Salzman "technically violated" and undermined the "spirit" of California Penal Code 538(a), the "False Personation and Cheats" section of the code. The section makes it is a misdemeanor for a person to sign "any letter addressed to a newspaper with the name of a person other than himself ... with intent to lead the newspaper to believe that such letter was written by the person whose name is signed thereto."

"However," Lyons wrote, "I do not believe that there is a reasonable probability of a unanimous conviction by a jury of 12 individuals." He went on to state that attempting to prosecute Salzman "would not be a wise use of resources." Thrailkill said the estimated cost for state lawyers to prosecute the case in Humboldt County would have been $30,000.

It was also Lyon's opinion that Salzman did not commit identity theft -- a felony charge -- because he "had, or arguably had, permission to sign for others [in his letters to editors]."

Lyon also notes that Salzman used the name of his dog, Sarah Salzman to submit one letter.

"This is not a crime because Sarah Salzman is not a person," he wrote.

When the Journal revealed Sept. 1 that Salzman used the name of Dick Wyatt, a Fortuna resident, as well as the names R. Trent Williams and R. Johnson to publish letters, a number of left-leaning local residents defended his actions. But defense later turned to public pillory at a Trinidad Town Hall meeting, where Chief Thrailkill said he was dubbed a "Gestapo" for pursuing the case.

"There's a thought out there, that [public criticism] is all part of the job," Thrailkill said. "It does not mean that when you are personally attacked it doesn't affect you. But as a professional department you have to move on and do what you are hired to do."

The criminal investigation began after Eureka Reporter Managing Editor Glenn Franco Simmons filed an official complaint against Salzman.

Salzman e-mailed area media outlets on Dec. 15, issuing the first press release this paper has received from him since Aug. 28, when he admitted to submitting letters to the editor using a "pen name."

"I'm pleased that the matter has been resolved and I look forward to returning my attention to the vital quality-of-life issues facing Humboldt County.

"As my lawyer explained to me, the refusal of the Attorney General's office to file any charges indicates that the allegation didn't even clear the first hurdle for entry into the criminal justice system."

Salzman's Arcata attorney, Russ Clanton, has handled local high-profile cases, including the 2000 win against the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department for illegally seizing the medical marijuana of Chris Giauque.

A Tuesday morning phone call to Clanton was not returned before deadline. Power was out at his Arcata office following a rainstorm.

Salzman's case was forwarded to the state Attorney General on Nov. 15, after the Humboldt County District Attorney's office declined to investigate, citing DA Paul Gallegos' potential conflict of interest in the matter.

Salzman, the coordinator of the Alliance for Ethical Business, was Gallegos' campaign manager, directing a successful battle against a Pacific Lumber Co.-sponsored attempt to recall the DA in 2004.

"I don't see Richard working on my [2006] campaign at this point," Gallegos said on Monday. "Richard is a great friend, he has been a great friend to me. I have great strong feelings for him but I don't think it would be appropriate."

Both Councilmember Chris Kerrigan and Fifth District Supervisor Jill Geist have since distanced themselves from the man who worked to get them into office. For the most part, Gallegos seems to be following suit, though he still considers Salzman a friend. Still, they have not spoken in recent months, save for a passing "hello" and "happy holidays" during a chance encounter in an Arcata restaurant.

"There's a sadness you feel when a bad thing happens to your friend, when you don't get to talk to your friend anymore because of what's going on in their lives," Gallegos said. "That was painful, in all candor. It was sad for me. It's like losing someone."

In recent months would-be campaign managers have offered to take over Gallegos' next run, but the DA mentioned no names.

"My campaign is next year, not this year," he said.



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