MCSD RECOUNT NETS LAWSUIT
David Elsebusch is hopping mad and he wants his money back.
Elsebusch, a private insurance claims adjuster, narrowly lost a seat on the McKinleyville Community Services District board in November. When he requested and paid $2,000 for a recount, he claims the job was bungled. And he now has a letter from the secretary of state to back him.
Elsebusch said when he was watching the recount Nov. 20 he discovered that some of the ballots had been "overscored" or re-marked by the staff of the elections department.
"I couldn't believe it," he said. "They were clearly tampered with."
Elsebusch was referring to a procedure by staff to "overscore" or darken the oval circle for a candidate with a No. 2 pencil. The new mark obliterates the voter's original mark and that is illegal, Elsebusch said.
Humboldt County Registrar of Voters Lindsey McWilliams said the practice, a matter of expediency, is common not only here but in other counties. McWilliams said he had instructed his staff that when the computer rejects a ballot, the operator should examine it, darken the oval if necessary and try to process the ballot again.
A March 6 letter to Elsebusch from Secretary of State Bill Jones reads, "Although the law is clear that only the voter should mark his or her ballot, there is a provision in the Elections Code that gives elections officials the authority to make a duplicate copy of the ballot if the ballot has been torn, bent or mutilated.
"There are no procedures approved by the state which allow county elections officials to place marks on an original ballot," Jones wrote.
"I think we have been as clear as we can be," said John Mott-Smith, chief of the state's elections department. "The practice of overscoring is inappropriate."
Mott-Smith, in a telephone interview from Sacramento, said it is necessary to create a duplicate ballot "so that if there is ever any question, there is an absolute physical record" that would hold up to court scrutiny.
As of presstime, McWilliams said he had not made up his mind what procedure he would be following June 2.
"I am still evaluating alternatives we can either overstrike, duplicate ballots or not count (those ballots rejected by the computer)," he said.
Not counting the ballots at all, he said, would "disenfranchise voters."
Elsebusch, who is acting as his own attorney in the lawsuit, said he's not pursuing the issue for the money.
"I want them to follow the law," he said.
And Elsebusch said he wants his money for the recount refunded.
PULP MILL FUTURE UNCERTAIN
A month after it was announced that Louisiana-Pacific Corp. had sold most of its Northern California timber holdings, the fate of 230 employees at the company's Samoa pulp mill remains uncertain.
The $615 million sale of more than 300,000 acres of timberland and three sawmills in Humboldt, Mendocino and Sonoma counties did not include the pulp mill nor the Arcata particle board plant, which was not up for sale. The pulp facility will be "repackaged" as a stand-alone property, said L-P's Bill Windes, and put back on the market.
"Most people looking at the properties were interested in timber. ... They were not pulp people," he said. But "this (pulp) mill is really an outstanding one. The rules that the (Environmental Protection Agency) came out with in November gave other mills six or eight years to come into compliance. We're already there. Whoever buys it won't have to spend the money."
The largest chunk of L-P holdings went to members of San Francisco's Fisher family, founders of The Gap clothing store chain. They purchased 235,000 acres of timberland in Mendocino and northern Sonoma counties, three sawmills and two distribution centers. Simpson Investment Co. of Seattle picked up the remaining 74,000 acres in Humboldt County, a sawmill and dry kiln facilities near Eureka, as well as the Samoa Cookhouse and company town of Samoa.
WINTER WEATHER RECORD
The winter storms and endless spring showers unleashed by El Niño made this the fourth wettest season for Humboldt County since the National Weather Service began keeping records in 1889.
Seasonal rainfall from July 1 through May 25 was 57.45 inches 156 percent of normal.
The wettest year on record was 1889-90 when the North Coast had 74.1 inches. In 1903-04 that number was 65.2 inches. The third wettest year on record was 1982-83 the most recent big El Niño year 59.38 inches of rain.
As of May 25, there had been a seasonal total of 154 days with measurable rain. A normal year would see 121 days of rain.
John Lovegrove, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Eureka, said El Niño has caused snowfall to increase in areas that normally get snowfall, but that the snow level has not dropped dramatically.
BAND BARRED FROM FESTIVAL
The Jewish Wedding Band and the Redwood Coast Dixieland Jazz Festival are having a spat.
The band, one of the first North Coast groups to play at the festival, has been denied an invitation by the festival board of directors to play at future festivals.
In an April 28 letter on jazz festival stationery sent to band leader Joseph Byrd, event director Robert Brenman called Byrd a "contentious son-of-a-bitch" and stated that "the governing (and working) board ... was (and still is) furious when your recent letter appeared in the Times-Standard."
In the April 6 letter, Byrd criticized festival organizers for denying free companion passes to spouses of local band members and for denying festival volunteers access to all venues.
Brenman said it's the festival's policy that companion passes be given only to the spouses of headliner band members. He said the festival cannot afford to give additional passes because it would decrease funds available to organizations the festival benefits.
Volunteers are given a pass to attend all venues on a day that they are not scheduled to volunteer, he said.
Byrd said Brenman has a "personal vendetta" against him because he "doesn't like the idea of local bands being professional."
Brenman denied the accusation.
"It's just his anger," he said. "I'm the one who championed the band, who hired the band (originally). I don't harbor any resentment at all."
LADY JACKS END SEASON
After winning two games and advancing to the championship game at the NCAA West Regionals May 8-9, the Humboldt State University women's softball team was defeated by Cal State Bakersfield, 4-0.
HSU had the bases loaded in the first inning before Bakersfield's starting pitcher Felena Puentas struck out Taiisha Pleasant and Laura Hansen to end the inning. The Bakersfield Roadrunners scored in the third, fifth and sixth innings unanswered by the Lady Jacks.
The national championship was held May 15-16 in Florida.
FISHERIES CHAMPION DIES
Nathaniel Shaw Bingham, nationally known advocate for the West Coast salmon industry, was found dead at his Mendocino County home May 9.
An autopsy conducted May 11 failed to find a cause of death. The Mendocino County coroner ordered further lab tests, the results of which will not be available until later this month.
Bingham, 59, was found in his bed at his rural home on Comptche-Ukiah Road. Sheriff's Capt. Kevin Broin said renters on Bingham's property entered the house after becoming concerned about Bingham's well being.
Several days earlier Bingham told his tenants and friends that he wanted time alone to grieve for his wife Kathryn, 52, who died of pancreatic cancer April 25 following a brief illness.
Broin said no notes were found and there were no signs of foul play.
Bingham was a member of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, a key federal agency that sets fishing policies for the West Coast. He was also involved with the Salmon Trollers Marketing Association and was a past president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.
During his post as president of the PCFFA, he focused his efforts on eliminating offshore oil drilling and improving salmon runs in the Central Valley and the Klamath-Trinity river system.
Jimmy Smith, 1st District harbor commissioner and president of the Humboldt Fisherman's Marketing Association, was a friend of Bingham's.
"Nat's death really shook the whole fishing industry," he said. "He was the most knowledgeable individual in California on anadromous fish."
Bingham is survived by his son Eli, a UC Berkeley student, and his daughter Jolena, a San Francisco Bay area attorney.
FLIGHTS TO SACRAMENTO
Planning a trip to Sacramento this month? Don't plan on flying.
Sky West Airlines, a United Express service carrier that took over service from the Arcata-Eureka Airport to San Francisco, Crescent City and Sacramento June 1, will not offer flights to Sacramento in June.
The airline will also drop one flight to San Francisco for the month of June, leaving seven daily round-trip flights available to travelers. Sky West plans to increase the number of round-trip flights to San Francisco to 10 beginning July 1.
One daily round-trip flight between Eureka and Crescent City will be maintained in June, increasing to two July 1. It is unknown when and if the new carrier will resume flights to Sacramento.
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