Government

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

County Moves Forward with Tax Hike

Posted By on Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 12:15 PM

click to enlarge supes.jpg
There’s a tax measure coming to a ballot near you. In fact, if you live in a city, you’re likely to see a couple of them.

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this morning to move forward with putting a county-wide sales tax before voters in November, though there’s still some questions as to whether the board will opt for a .5 percent or a .75 percent levy.

County Administrative Officer Philip Smith-Hanes told the board that polling commissioned by the county found 63 percent of probable voters said they would likely vote in favor of such a measure and that the number didn’t vary much when asking voters about a tax of .25 percent, .5 percent or .75 percent. Smith-Hanes said a .25 percent tax is projected to bring in about $3 million in additional revenue for the cash-strapped county, while a .75 percent sales tax would generate a projected $9 million.

The tax would be implemented county-wide, meaning it would be levied in cities as well as unincorporated areas, and would be tacked on top of existing sales taxes. For example, Trinidad and Arcata currently have local sales taxes of .75 percent that they impose on top of the state’s 7.5 percent sales tax, bringing the total tax rate for purchases in the cities to 8.25 percent. The county tax would fall on top of that and, potentially, bring the tax rates there up to as high as 9 percent.

Smith-Hanes noted that the county tax will not be the only one on November ballots, noting that Fortuna is proposing a 1 percent sales tax hike, Blue Lake is putting a utility users tax on the ballot, Eureka is pushing to renew its .5 percent transaction and use tax and Rio Dell is also mulling putting forward a revenue-generating measure.

The board’s discussion Tuesday made clear the board is moving forward with gnashed teeth. Board Chair and 1st District Supervisor Rex Bohn, at one point, proclaimed that he hates both taxes and government but that he appreciates governmental services, which are in dire need of additional revenue. Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace countered that he likes government and doesn’t resent taxes any more than he does paying for something at the store. Taxes, Lovelace said, are simply a payment for services.

Lovelace and Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell both voiced support for moving forward with a .75 percent sales tax, but the balance of the board preferred the .5 percent version. The board agreed to return to the issue next week, when it will vote on a first reading of the proposed measure. For more on the county’s budget situation, read past Journal coverage here. And for more on the board’s tax options and polling done on the issue, see the county staff report from today's agenda packet here.
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Monday, July 7, 2014

Eureka Denies Release of Controversial Memo

Posted By on Mon, Jul 7, 2014 at 3:17 PM

click to enlarge City_Seal_Eureka_California.png
After conferring with an outside attorney, the city of Eureka has denied a Journal request seeking the release of a controversial memo penned by former City Manager Bill Panos on the day he left his employment with the city.

The Oct. 4 memo — or, more specifically, the controversy surrounding it — was thrust into public light by a declaration former Eureka City Councilman Lance Madsen penned on his deathbed, alleging that City Attorney Cydny Day-Wilson improperly distributed Panos’ memo to City Hall employees and then lied about having done so.

In the declaration and an accompanying investigative report, Madsen said Panos sent the memo to city council members, making clear it was confidential and contained personnel information. Nonetheless, Madsen said city employees quickly became aware of the memo, which Panos dubbed a “reorganization blueprint” but city attorneys reportedly began referring to as “Panos’ hit list” because it was sharply critical of some city department heads.

In his investigation report, Madsen details a number of interviews he conducted with city employees and a council member trying to ascertain how the document began circulating through City Hall. Madsen concluded that Councilwoman Melinda Ciarabellini had turned the document over to Day-Wilson, concerned that it might open the city up to some form of litigation. Day-Wilson, Madsen alleges, then made copies of the document and gave them to at least two city employees, reportedly telling them that the document was emailed to the council and therefore was a public document and did not warrant the protections normally granted personnel matters. For a full story on Madsen’s allegations, read past Journal coverage here.

The Journal submitted a California Public Records Act seeking the release of Panos’ memo, but the request was recently denied by the city, which found “the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interested served by disclosure,” according to an email from City Clerk Pam Powell. In response to a follow up question, Powell said current City Manager Greg Sparks reached the determination after consulting with outside counsel.
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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Postal Consolidation Back on the Table

Posted By on Wed, Jul 2, 2014 at 4:43 PM

click to enlarge 76800451__1_.jpg
Eureka’s mail processing center is once again on the chopping block.

It seems the United States Postal Service has once again put forward a proposal to consolidate Eureka’s processing facility into one in Medford, Oregon, which would cause a loss of local jobs and delay incoming and outgoing mail service for the North Coast. North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) both sent a letter opposing the move to the postmaster general today and issued a press release. Both can be found below.

For Immediate Release
July 2, 2014

Huffman, Thompson to USPS: Don’t Close Petaluma and Eureka Mail Processing Centers

Huffman & Thompson: “We are again opposing this misguided consolidation as a means to solve the USPS financial crisis”

WASHINGTON¬—Reps. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) today sent a letter to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe expressing their strong opposition to the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) announcement of a plan to close both the North Bay Processing and Distribution Center in Petaluma and the Eureka Customer Service Mail Processing Center. Huffman and Thompson previously opposed the consolidation plan when it was first proposed in 2011, citing that this plan would cause disruption of mail delivery, cause job loss, and damage local economies.

“In 2011, we opposed this same consolidation proposal because we knew then that such a proposal would hurt the local economy and be detrimental to mail delivery in the region,” Huffman and Thompson wrote. “We are again opposing this misguided consolidation as a means to solve the USPS financial crisis. It is our understanding that this decision will result in the loss of hundreds of postal staff positions, and our constituents will face a 2 to 3 day service standard for First-Class Mail, instead of 1 to 3 days. This change would be especially difficult for seniors, veterans, and our rural communities, who rely on timely delivery of prescriptions and other postal services.”

The full text of the letter can be found HERE or below:
July 2, 2014

Patrick R. Donahoe
Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer
United States Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, D.C. 20260

Dear Postmaster General Donahoe:

We write to express our strong opposition to the recently announced plan by the United States Postal Service (USPS) to consolidate mail processing operations from both the North Bay Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) in Petaluma, CA and the Eureka Customer Service Mail Processing Center (CSMPC) in Eureka, CA. Such actions will decrease mail service, result in job loss, and negatively impact our communities.

In 2011, we opposed this same consolidation proposal because we knew then that such a proposal would hurt the local economy and be detrimental to mail delivery in the region. While we appreciated your initial postponement of this plan after hearing strong opposition from the public, we are disappointed to learn that you continued to quietly move operations to the facilities in Oakland, CA and Medford, OR. We are again opposing this misguided consolidation as a means to solve the USPS financial crisis. It is our understanding that this decision will result in the loss of hundreds of postal staff positions, and residents of the counties we represent will face a 2 to 3 day service standard for First-Class Mail, instead of 1 to 3 days. This change would be especially difficult for seniors, veterans, and our rural communities, who rely on the timely delivery of prescriptions and other postal services.

We support the USPS reexamining its business model and finding new ways to maximize efficiency, improve service, and reduce costs. However, reducing much-needed services and delaying mail delivery is counterproductive to making the Postal Service a global competitor in the 21st century. We understand that the USPS cannot sustain itself under its current system, and we agree it is up to Congress to act. However, your unilateral decision to take action against the expressed intent of Members of Congress and the public is unacceptable.

We strongly urge you to retain the North Bay P&DC in Petaluma and the Eureka CSMPC, and look forward to working with you to find an alternative course of action.

Sincerely,

Jared Huffman Mike Thompson
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Cc: David Stowe, District Manager
San Francisco District, United States Postal Service

###



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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Huffman Down!

Posted By on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge We imagine Huffman's spill looked something like this.
  • We imagine Huffman's spill looked something like this.
North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman separated his shoulder Wednesday while, in his words, “trying to be 25 years old.”

More specifically, the congressman was practicing with his fellow Democrats for the 53rd annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game when he dove for a ball and came crashing down on the hard infield dirt, according to a report on the capitol blog Heard on the Hill. The injury left the Democrats’ squad without its starting shortstop Wednesday night but, undaunted, the donkeys beat their Republican counterparts 15-6 — a squeaker compared to last year’s 22-0 romp — to push their streak to six games.
click to enlarge Huffman
  • Huffman

Huffman, who dons a Humboldt State University jersey for the annual partisan ballgame, sounded like he wasn’t letting the injury get him down when talking to Heard on the Hill. “I am going to enjoy being a lightly medicated spectator and cheering for my time,” he said. “And I’m confident that we’re going to be very strong.” That confidence proved warranted, as Republican starting pitcher Marlin Stutzman walked the first three batters he faced and hit the fourth. The Democrats never looked back.

The Huff’s bum shoulder will likely keep him from throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the Humboldt Crabs’ July 1 game, as he was slated to do, but is not expected to impact the other tours, meetings and visits he has planned in Humboldt County next week.
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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Army Corps Halts Bypass Work

Posted By on Tue, Jun 24, 2014 at 2:26 PM

If you’ve driven though Willits lately, you’ve noticed the tan swaths of fill swooping through pasture along the east side of U.S. 101 and the spindly wooden forms revealing the future configuration of the Willits Bypass.

Yes, the project’s substantially underway. And yet it continues to be riddled with problems. Most recently, the Army Corps of Engineers suspended its permit to Caltrans for construction of the bypass, saying in a notice dated June 20 that Caltrans has failed to follow the mitigation and monitoring plan agreed upon in February 2012, despite repeated urging by the Corps in emails and in-person visits over the past two years.

The plan details how Caltrans will protect wetlands and other waters in the project area, or mitigate for their loss. Caltrans also is required to submit mitigation and monitoring plans to state agencies, and in fact on June 13 the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board approved one of them.

The Corps says Caltrans is behind schedule in implementing mitigations for impacts to wetlands already occurring; hasn’t set up a mechanism to pay for ongoing mitigation and monitoring; and hasn’t updated the mitigation plan to reflect changes in scheduling.

Among the mitigations that was supposed to have begun is rehabilitation of some 345 acres of off-site ranchland and restoration of another roughly 70 acres of wetland and streams, all to compensate for some 65 acres of wetland impacted directly by the bypass. 

Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie said Tuesday that while Caltrans has been updating the Corps about changes in the schedule through emails and in person, it has not formally updated the mitigation plan itself. He said Caltrans plans to meet with the Army Corps this afternoon to find out exactly what the Corps wants. In the meantime, he says, Caltrans can, with permission from the Corps, continue to work on areas of the project where wetlands won’t be further impacted.

The suspension is conditional upon Caltrans meeting the Corps’ demands. 

You can read previous Journal coverage here. And here is a copy of the suspension notice:

WillitsBypassSuspend20JUN2014.pdf


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Friday, June 20, 2014

State Launches Insurance Investigation

Posted By on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 at 10:23 AM

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Regulators have launched an investigation into whether Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California violated state law by misleading consumers with inaccurate provider lists, the Los Angeles Times is reporting this morning.

The California Department of Managed Care has begun a review looking into provider access issues with the two insurance giants' plans offered under Covered California, the state insurance exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act. "Our preliminary investigation gave us good cause to believe there are violations of the law," agency spokeswoman Marta Green told the Times.

According to the report, the department is expected to wrap its investigation within 60 days after which the companies will have 45 days to respond to its findings.

The Journal covered issues with Anthem Blue Cross' flawed in-network provider lists in Humboldt County in our June 12 cover story, "Bait and Switch," and followed up with a guest views piece in the June 19 edition, "The Insurance Leech," in which local physician Emily Dalton shares her frustrations. The full Los Angeles Times story can be found here.
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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Brinton Resigns Arcata Council Seat

Posted By on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 10:15 AM

click to enlarge Brinton, center, with his mother, Susan Brinton (left), and Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap on the night of his 2012 re-election. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Brinton, center, with his mother, Susan Brinton (left), and Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap on the night of his 2012 re-election.
Arcata City Councilman Shane Brinton has announced that he will resign his seat on the council effective tomorrow.

In a brief statement at the start of Wednesday night’s council meeting, Brinton said he was stepping down to devote more time to his family, and specifically to caring for his ill mother.

First elected to the council as a 21-year-old in 2008, Brinton was re-elected in 2012 for a term that runs through 2016.

Brinton’s resignation leaves the five-member council potentially with three seats coming up for election in November, as both Mayor Mark Wheetley and Councilwoman Alex Stillman’s seats are up. The council has a couple of options as to how to fill Brinton’s seat: It could let the voters pick Brinton’s successor in November or it could opt to appoint a replacement itself. Brinton urged the council to go the election route. If the council opts to let voters fill the seat, it would have to do so before July 13 to get it on the November ballot. If the council makes the decision after July 13, the city would have to hold — and pay for — a special election in March to fill the vacant seat.

A call to Brinton this morning was not immediately returned. For more information on Brinton’s resignation, check out the Mad River Union’s story here.
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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sundberg Taps Paine for Planning Commission

Posted By on Tue, Jun 17, 2014 at 2:55 PM

click to enlarge Steve Paine - TWO RIVERS TRIBUNE
  • Two Rivers Tribune
  • Steve Paine
Humboldt County has a new planning commissioner.

This morning, 5th District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg advised the board that he has appointed former long-time Willow Creek Community Services District Manager Steve Paine to the county planning commission to fill the post vacated by his last appointee, Susan Masten, who has resigned after serving for three years.

Journal attempts today to contact Masten and Sundberg to learn the reason for Masten’s resignation have been unsuccessful. However, Paine said Masten has recently accepted the “tremendous commitment” to serve as the Yurok Tribe’s vice chair and felt she was too busy to fulfill her duties to the commission, noting that Masten has been unable to attend several recent meetings.

Paine, who served as the WCCSD director from 1999 to 2004 and its manager from 2004 until his retirement in October, said Sundberg contacted him about the appointment some time ago. Initially, Paine said he was reticent to step forward and instead offered Sundberg a few other suggestions. But he said the supervisor came back and asked: “’Can you do this for now, Steve?’ And, I said, ‘Certainly.’”

Paine said he was leery of stepping into the world of controversial planning politics, but ultimately decided to do it to serve his community and give Willow Creek a voice on the commission. “I feel like if there’s anyone who can represent Willow Creek, it’s probably me,” he said, noting his long tenure with the WCCSD, his multiple stints as president of the area’s Lions and Kiwanis club and his current roles as director of both the local fire safe council and fire district.

But Paine said the new position will be a bit of a paradigm shift for him. “My job for the last decade has been to keep a board informed and make sure they make good decisions, and now I’m going to be sitting on a board,” he said. Over the years, Paine said he’s tried to help WCCSD board members work toward consensus, encouraging them to set aside differences and find pieces of middle ground all could live with. He said he’ll try to carry that mind set to the planning commission, which has recently been a contentious battle ground for a number of politically divisive issues, including the county General Plan Update and a long-awaited medical marijuana growing ordinance.

Asked if he views his appointment as a temporary position, Paine chuckled and said he’ll have to see how things go. “Much like my last job, I told my wife that if it gets political or difficult or becomes something where I come home and don’t have a smile on my face, then we’ll look at doing something else,” he said.

Masten’s resignation and Paine’s subsequent appointment continue a spate of turnover on the commission in recent years. With the exception of Commissioner Dave Edmonds, an at large appointee who joined the commission in 2011, all the current commissioners been appointed since January 2013, with three signing on in the last four months.

So, what’s the first order of business for Paine and the new commission? Coming up with a recommendation for the board on the county’s long-in-the-works outdoor medical marijuana growing ordinance at the commission’s Thursday meeting. Today, the board voted unanimously to send the commission a relatively sternly worded letter asking the commission, which has repeatedly asked for more time and additional public meetings on the ordinance, to make a recommendation — whether it be approval, denial or approval with modifications — on the ordinance by the end of Thursday’s meeting.
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Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Councilman's 'Dying Declaration'

Posted By on Thu, Jun 12, 2014 at 2:25 PM

click to enlarge Late Eureka City Councilman Lance Madsen. - RYAN BURNS
  • Ryan Burns
  • Late Eureka City Councilman Lance Madsen.
In what appears to be a sworn declaration signed less than a month before he died, former Eureka City Councilman Lance Madsen claims Eureka City Attorney Cyndy Day-Wilson lied to him and tried to get another city hall employee to do the same in an effort to cover up her allegedly distributing a confidential and explosive memo to city employees.

The declaration and an accompanying six-page investigative report, both of which Madsen apparently made a top priority during the last months of his battle with lung disease, were delivered by certified mail to the city on June 5 by Daniel Cooper, Madsen’s probate attorney. Together, the documents shed new light on an apparently toxic environment in city hall and a rift on the city council. And they raise serious questions about Day-Wilson’s honesty, ethics and job performance.

“Mr. Madsen requested that I provide this information to the city council after his death so that its present members would follow through on the investigation his declining health prevented him from completing,” reads a cover letter to the city from Cooper. “Mr. Madsen’s request also directed that I allow his family ‘private time’ to grieve and adjust to his passing before this affidavit was delivered to the city council.”
Madsen, who resigned his post with the council in December due to his prolonged battle with lung disease, was in hospice care when he signed the affidavit on March 6. He died April 5.

A two-time council member who was awarded the city’s first ever Mayor’s Community Service Award of Merit, Madsen was also a former cop and detective, and it shows in his investigation report. At issue was the handling of a memo penned by former City Manager Bill Panos and emailed to city council members on Oct. 4, 2013, Panos’ last day in office after just nine months on the job. The email — which the Journal has requested a copy of, a request that’s currently pending city review — was critical of some department heads and included suggestions to the council for future planning, according to Madsen’s report.

Madsen says he was immediately concerned upon opening the email, which was marked as confidential and dubbed a “reorganization blueprint.” Madsen says he stopped reading the document after its first line: “The information contained in the document is confidential as it involves personnel matters. As such, please use discretion with the information in this email and attached document.” In his declaration, Madsen wrote that he still had not read the rest of the email or the attached ‘reorganization blueprint’ at the time of signing the affidavit.

“Because of my health and resulting absences from the city and city hall; I was not aware of how divisive [Panos’ email] was to the council and until the latter part of October, I was not aware that it had been released to staff,” Madsen writes, adding that he began hearing “mutterings about the document” from city employees the week of Oct. 20.

On Oct. 30, Madsen says he sat down with City Clerk Pam Powell, who told him that “almost everyone in City Hall was aware of the documents and had knowledge of at least the essence of its contents,” adding that she believed city Personnel Director Gary Bird had a copy, or had at least seen one. Madsen says he then spoke to Bird.

Madsen says Bird told him that he was sitting in his office with Community Development Director Rob Wall discussing the “rumored email document” from Panos. As their meeting broke up, Bird said they ran into Day-Wilson at the office’s front counter, where she was “collating a document into several stacks.” Bird said, according to Madsen, that Day-Wilson told he and Wall to “hold up,” that she had something they needed to see.”
click to enlarge Day-Wilson
  • Day-Wilson

“She took them into Gary’s office,” Madsen says. “She gave a copy to Gary and she started reading or referring to statements about Rob from a separate copy at which point Rob asked for a copy and was provided one.” The three continued to discuss the document for a period, according to Madsen, then left, each with their own copy. Bird told Madsen, according to the declaration, that Day-Wilson “was clear to them that it was not a confidential document but a public document because of its email delivery and it did not qualify as such under personnel matter rules.” Nonetheless, Bird said he shredded the memo after reading it.

The following day, Madsen met with Day-Wilson in her office and asked her directly how she got Panos’ memo. “She was hesitant to give me an answer,” Madsen says, adding that he pressed, noting that as a councilman and one of Day-Wilson’s “five bosses,” he had a right to know. Madsen says Day-Wilson then told him that Mayor Frank Jager “already knew,” and that it was Councilwoman Melinda Ciarabellini who provided her with the copy. “I expressed that was unfortunate,” Madsen says, adding that he and Day-Wilson then discussed the memo, which she felt was “very negative about her and a number of department heads.” Madsen says Day-Wilson told him she was unsure how the memo got distributed to other staff members, adding that her copy was in Bird’s personnel files, “locked away with a hostile workplace complaint filed on (Day-Wilson’s) behalf by (Councilwoman Linda) Atkins .”

Madsen says he then went to meet again with Bird, who told him “the only copy of the document he had was the one he destroyed. … He said that a hostile workplace complaint filed on (Day-Wilson’s) behalf by Councilperson Atkins did not and had never existed. He further informed me that Councilperson Atkins had never asked for such a file to be created and only (Day-Wilson) could ask for such a file to be created, which she had not.”

On Nov. 1, Madsen sat down with Ciarabellini, who said she turned Panos’ memo over to Day-Wilson because she was concerned that the document could result in litigation by those named in it “and because the city attorney was one of those addressed in the document. Melinda did not express any knowledge as to how it had been distributed to staff.”

Madsen says that when he told Ciarabellini about Bird’s statements, “she said she didn’t believe it and clearly accused Gary of making the whole story up… she insisted that (Day-Wilson) would not have distributed the document.”

Feeling someone was clearly lying to him, Madsen then turned to Wall, who he interviewed on Nov. 4, according to his investigation report.

Wall told Madsen that he first became aware of Panos’ memo the night of Sunday, Oct. 6, when he got a phone call from an anonymous woman at his home. “This person told him about what she described as Bill Panos’ ‘hit list’ and that he held a prominent position on that list,” Madsen says. “She went into some detail describing the contents of the ‘hit list.’” Madsen says Wall told him the phone caused him to lose sleep that night. When he arrived at work the following day, Wall said it seemed like everyone at City Hall knew about the document and its contents, according to Madsen’s report. Wall said he then went and met with Bird. Following that meeting, Wall said he and Bird found Day-Wilson at the personnel counter and another meeting ensued. According to Madsen’s report, Wall’s recounting of events was the same as Bird’s, and he relayed that Day-Wilson had provided both men with copies of Panos’ memo.

Madsen says he then consulted an attorney specializing in human resources litigation, “Rick Bolzano’s,” who said the council should discuss the matter in closed session due to potential legal exposure over the document. “His advice was sought after it became clear that the city attorney could be one of the possible litigants as she had threatened lawsuits against the city in the past,” Madsen writes. “ The agenda item never got addressed as two council persons walked out in defense of the city attorney and in protest over using Rich Bolzano’s.”

click to enlarge The Eureka City Council
  • The Eureka City Council
While Madsen repeatedly refers to the attorney he consulted as “Bolzano’s,” there’s no one registered with the California State Bar Association by that name, nor “Bolzano” or “Bolzanos.” It seems likely Madsen was referring to Richard Bolanos, a partner specializing in city labor relations and employment law for the San Francisco firm Liebert, Cassidy and Whitmore. A call placed to Bolanos to confirm this was not immediately returned.

On Nov. 7, Madsen writes, he again sat down with Wall after receiving some new information. Madsen says he asked Wall to confirm that he’d met with Day-Wilson the day before. “He told me that a meeting had taken place,” Madsen says. “That the city attorney had entered his office that morning and told him that ‘he had to have her back.’” Wall, according to Madsen’s report, said the city attorney instructed him that if anyone asked him about seeing Panos’ memo, he should say that he had walked into Day-Wilson’s office on some other city business while she was not there, and that, while waiting for her to return, he’d found a copy of the memo on her desk and read it. “He told (Day-Wilson) he could not comply with her request as her story was not what happened and it was not the truth,” Madsen says.

Madsen also notes in his report that he spoke to Finance Director Paul Rodrigues about the document, which Rodrigues said he’d never seen. However, Rodrigues said he got a phone call from a former city employee, a female, in the days after Panos sent the memo to council members informing him of the “hit list” and its contents.

That concluded Madsen’s investigation.

“Consider this my dying declaration,” he writes in the report. “I do. I am dying and doubt I will see the far end of the estimated time span provided by my doctors; around April 1, 2014. The actual time is in God’s hands but I will be surprised if I am still here mid-March 2014. … I declare that everything in this document is truthful and correct to the best of my ability and I am aware of the potential ramifications it may have on the person(s) named within and as a practicing Roman Catholic, the impact it would have on my own after life. I do not do this out of any feelings of spite or some unresolved contest but solely out of concern for the people of the city of Eureka, its council and its employees.”

In closing, Madsen makes clear that he believes Day-Wilson was dishonest with him and attempted to convince Wall to lie on her behalf. “To lie to me as a sitting council person is to lie to the whole council and an attempt to further conceal the original lie is another act against the whole council,” he writes. “I believe the city attorney’s behavior was/is unethical and is a breach of good faith and of the contract with the council.”

Madsen also appears to have taken issue with the possibility that Day-Wilson informed Jager that she’d received a copy of Panos’ memo but not the city council. “The fact that she wanted to refuse to give me the source of the document and I had to be as assertive as I was surprised me,” Madsen writes. “Then she said that Mayor Frank Jager already knew as a part of the reasoning for telling me, which made me wonder for whom she was working. Seems like a charter issue was well as a contract violation. It is for that reason that I provide this document.”

Under the city’s charter, the city attorney works for and serves at the pleasure of the city council, of which the mayor is not a member. It appears that while Madsen specifically directed Cooper to send his report to the sitting city council, he did not ask that Jager be served with a copy.

If the information contained in Madsen’s affidavit and report is accurate, it seems the city would have little trouble firing Day-Wilson with cause for violating her duties, both in disseminating the confidential document to other city employees, and in lying about it and it and encouraging others to do the same. Further, according to University of California Hastings College of Law professor David Levine, the California State Bar could potentially take disciplinary action against Day-Wilson for violating the duties owed to her client if an independent bar investigation corroborated Madsen’s claims.

It’s also worth noting that Day-Wilson’s alleged stance that Panos’ memo was a public document simply because it was delivered to the council via email is completely inaccurate, according to Californians Aware founder and chief legal counsel Terry Francke, who said that would have no bearing on whether the document would be exempt from public disclosure because it dealt with personnel matters.

Panos — who resigned his post to take a position with the Wyoming Governor’s Office after just nine months on the job in Eureka — was a controversial figure in City Hall, esteemed by some and criticized by others as a micromanager who pushed to “modernize and streamline” city services by merging multiple city departments without having a firm understanding of how they operated. The push — which resulted in the merging of both the city’s public works and engineering departments, and its community development and building departments — reduced both the total number of city employees and the number of city boards and commissions.

Day-Wilson took Eureka's city attorney position in September 2011, coming to the city from San Diego. She also currently serves as counsel to the Humboldt County Fair Association.

So far, the Journal has been unable to independently verify Madsen’s role in creating the documents. Calls placed to Cooper and Madsen’s family were not immediately returned, but the documents appear to bear Madsen’s signature and contain Cooper’s notary public stamp. Numerous city sources have also confirmed that Madsen was conducting an inquiry into Day-Wilson’s conduct during the time period covered in the report recently submitted to the city.

Messages left for Panos, Day-Wilson, Jager and Councilwoman Linda Atkins were not immediately returned. Wall and council members Melinda Ciarabellini and Marian Brady declined to comment. Councilman Mike Newman said he can't say much about the situation, but said he knew Madsen was "working on something regarding things" and that the council will have to discuss the matter and the best way for the city to move forward.

Reached this afternoon, new City Manager Greg Sparks said the council has been in strategic visioning sessions recently and is really intent on focusing on the future direction of the city and the community. But, he said the council received Madsen’s letter sometime late Friday and is taking it under advisement.

“They haven’t directed anything as a result of this,” he said. “Obviously, they view it as an employer-employee issue and it’s probably a little bit of uncharted territory for a council to deal with when you have an affidavit from a deceased former council member. I think the council will be determining a course of action herein the weeks ahead.”

In both his report and affidavit, Madsen makes clear he is putting the ball in the council’s court.

“What I present to you, you can read, toss; act on it or ignore it,” Madsen says, adding that his health prevented him from seeing the matter through on his own and opening meeting laws prevented him from talking to each of the council members personally about it.

But, it’s also clear that Madsen felt some action should be taken.

“To me, a willful or malicious misrepresentation of the truth, no matter how artful the words used, is one of the acts of human behavior I hold in the lowest esteem,” he states in his report. “A lie told by a trusted employee in a position of power and responsibility should not be tolerated. … You can also be assured that the first lie will be followed by another and another, etc.”

The Journal will update this story as more information becomes available. To read Madsen's full affidavit and report, click  here.
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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Election Day!

Posted By on Tue, Jun 3, 2014 at 8:03 AM

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After months of politicking, door knocking, lawn signs, glad handing and debating, Election Day is finally here.

North Coast voters have some big choices before them today, including who will be the county's next district attorney and who will represent the 4th and 5th districts on the county board of supervisors. There's also a field of state representatives and candidates for U.S. Congress to whittle down for runoff elections in November.

If you're unsure of your polling place or want a little more time to peruse your options, visit the Humboldt County Elections Office website and click on the "sample ballot and polling place lookup link."

Having trouble deciding which of the four district attorney candidates deserves your vote? Bone up on the issues with past Journal coverage here. Not sure what to make of the 5th District supervisor race? See where incumbent Ryan Sundberg and challenger Sharon Latour stand on the major issues here. Struggling over which former Eureka City Council member to tap for 4th DIstrict supervisor? Check out their takes on everything from homelessness to the General Plan Update here.

And for those just planning on bypassing this election entirely, read the comprehensive case for why your vote might well swing the outcome here.

There, Humboldt. Consider yourselves primed. Now get out there and vote, and check back to www.northcoastjournal.com after the polls close tonight to start getting real-time results and dispatches from election night soirees around town. 
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