North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News

July 8, 2004

The Weekly Wrap

Pesticide use underreported
But Humboldt schools score better than most

Codes of ethics needed, Grand Jury says
County also criticized in death of disabled woman


 T H E  W E E K L Y  W R A P

TUTTLE OUT AS CDF HEAD: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger dismissed Arcata's Andrea Tuttle, 57, as director of the California Department of Forestry last week. Tuttle, a natural resource planner by trade, was appointed to the position in 1999 by Gov. Gray Davis and had long been expecting to be replaced. Her successor is Dale Geldert of Oceanside, one of the few CDF directors in history to come from a firefighting background; pundits are pointing to last year's devastating southern California wildfires as the reason for the switch in focus at the top of the department, which is both the state's firefighting agency and regulator of the timber industry. Tuttle was out of town and unavailable for comment, but Don Tuttle, the county's former director of environmental services, said that his wife would spend the coming two or three months planning the next stage of her career.

MURDER, STABBING IN EUREKA: Eureka police are saying one suspect, arrested early Sunday, may be responsible for two separate crimes, a murder and an attempted murder, committed last week. On July 3 police responded to a report that a man had been stabbed at 422 West Henderson St. The 28-year-old male victim, whose name was being withheld Tuesday pending notification of his children, died of his wounds at St. Joseph Hospital. In a strikingly similar incident June 29, Alfonso Otero, 44, a Mexican national and a resident of Oregon, was stabbed at the Greyhound Bus Terminal on Fourth Street in Eureka and transported to the hospital. His condition is unknown. The suspect in both crimes, Hector Tripp, 31, of Hoopa, was stopped just past midnight July 4 while riding a bicycle near McDonald's on Broadway. He was arrested and was booked into the Humboldt County Jail on charges of murder.

ANTI-GMO MEASURE QUALIFIES: The county elections office checked a sample of 500 anti-GMO signatures and found enough were valid to qualify a measure for the November ballot. The initiative would ban the growth of genetically modified organisms. Mendocino County voters passed a similar ban last year despite a heavy-spending effort from agricultural lobbyists. Butte, Marin and San Luis Obispo counties have similar measures already qualified for the fall ballot.

HURWITZ IN COURT: Charles Hurwitz, chairman and CEO of Maxxam, Inc., appeared close to winning his lawsuit against the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. last week, according to the Houston Chronicle. Hurwitz is suing the agency for the $40 million he spent defending himself against charges stemming from the failure of the United Savings Association of Texas, plus $21 million in interest. United Savings was one of the more spectacular episodes in the savings and loan scandals of the `80s -- the federal government spent $1.6 billion to bail out people who deposited money in it -- but Hurwitz has argued that he was not to blame for the thrift's collapse, despite the fact that he controlled it at the time. The Chronicle reports that U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Hughes appears to agree: "I think the FDIC is through picking on Mr. Hurwitz," the judge said. Maxxam bought the Pacific Lumber Co. in 1986.

BASS-JACKSON ANNOUNCES: Eureka City Councilperson Virginia Bass-Jackson has announced that she will seek a second term. No challengers for Bass-Jackson's seat have yet stepped forward. Bass-Jackson's colleague, Chris Kerrigan, will be facing Rex Bohn on the November ballot.

AUGUST CLEARED: Humboldt County Judge J. Michael Brown last week dismissed three of the five counts -- the most serious charges -- filed against Fortuna City Councilperson Debi August. A Grand Jury accusation charged August with conflict of interest in her purported role as agent for the developer of a subdivision that was subject to approval by the Fortuna City Council.

FHYRED UP: Another candidate for Arcata City Council has surfaced. Fhyre Pah Tah Wah Phoenix, 50, announced that he would enter the race last week. Phoenix's latest plan is to "tunnelize" the stretch of Highway 101 that passes through Arcata in order to provide the city with new land on which to build affordable housing. Phoenix founded the Community Currency Project -- an alternative, community-based form of money -- in 2003, but earlier this year turned the project over to Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County. In a recent edition of the project's newsletter, Humboldt Exchange, the editors note that the community currency project was $5,000 in debt when DUHC assumed control.

REDWOOD TIMES DEBUTS: The Redwood Times, a free newspaper serving southern Humboldt, made its debut on Tuesday with a 12-page edition that was mailed to addresses around the area. The paper isn't quite new -- it is a continuation of the old Life & Times, which shut its doors earlier this year. The paper was bought and resurrected by the Times-Standard and its parent corporation, Colorado's MediaNews Group. General Manager Susan Gardner said that all the old staff of the Life & Times had returned, and the paper brought one more person on board -- new publisher Skip Stone, formerly of Six Rivers Bank. Ted Kirby, editor of the rival Independent newspaper, said early Tuesday that he hadn't seen the new paper yet, but he didn't foresee making any changes to the content of his paper in response. There would probably have to be some changes made on the business end, though. "Whether this market is big enough to maintain two papers is an open question," he said. "Stay tuned, I guess." Gardner said that the Redwood Times would strive to cover more local events and would be more "middle of the road" than the Independent in its coverage.

1 PERCENT TO NONPROFITS: The North Coast Co-op recently distributed $13,300 to 38 area nonprofits. Shoppers may designate a specific group by member number at the time of purchase. Cashiers automatically add 1 percent on the purchase total and those funds are disbursed to the nonprofits every six months.

TENANTS PLAN PROTEST: Tenants who are dissatisfied with their landlords are invited to attend a protest scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, July 9, outside the new Redwood Capital Bank building. Organizer Michael Cooksey said he is working with the Tenants Union of Humboldt County on the event, which is being held at the bank because of Cooksey's complaints against his own landlord, Steve Strombeck, a member of Redwood Capital's board.

Pesticide use underreported
But Humboldt schools score better than most


A local watchdog group has given Northern California schools low marks for failing to follow the rules when it comes to using pesticides and reporting their use.

After a three-year study, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, a Eureka-based organization, released a report last week that says schools in Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Del Norte and Sonoma counties are not adhering to a state law that requires officials to document the use of all pesticides in public schools.

"The biggest thing that emerged is that schools don't understand [the Healthy Schools Act]," said Patty Clary, executive director of CATs. "Generally, even schools that are keeping records are not keeping good records, and they don't realize that they must make them available to the public."

The California Healthy Schools Act of 2000 requires schools to record all sprayings and provide records to the public upon request. Schools must also have a registry for parents who want to be notified 72 hours in advance of pesticide applications. Products like the weed-killer Roundup, according to the state law, are toxic enough that they need to be accounted for by school officials. Chemicals classified as "least-toxic," like boric acid, do not have to be reported.

Children are more susceptible to the harsh chemicals found in pesticides than adults and have more hand to mouth contact, increasing their chances of ingesting residues from pesticides, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Eighty-nine school districts were surveyed, 32 from Humboldt County. Each district received a letter grade based upon three criteria: the amount and toxicity of pesticides used, public accessibility to the pesticide-use records, and implementation of an integrated pest management (IPM) plan.

Humboldt fared better on average than the other counties, with most districts passing: There were two A's, 11 B's, 14 C's, three D's and 2 F's. Eureka City Unified received an A- and Fieldbrook scored the only straight A. F's were given to Mattole Unified and Fortuna Union High School District. A committee of CATs researchers, including Clary, decided upon the grading, which was, to some extent, subjective. Clary said that in her opinion, Eureka City Unified was graded too harshly, and referred to them as Humboldt's "star" district for their compliance with the CATs survey.

The report however, is not perfect. For instance, Clary said that many schools initially documented that they did not use any pesticides but later admitted to using products like Roundup and Weed & Feed. The schools did not realize that over-the-counter bug and weed killers are classified as pesticides. Other schools, like Freshwater Elementary, scored well for using no pesticides, but received F's for inadequate reports and not releasing information on a pest control strategy. The school received a C- for a final grade.

Freshwater Elementary Principal Elaine Gray said that small districts are hard-pressed to find the time to fill out extra paperwork like the CATs survey. There are 45 employees at the 310-student school, many of them part-time.

"So many layers of regulations creates problems to fulfill tasks," Gray said. "Every one of us runs all day."

A county Office of Education spokeswoman referred questions about the report to Kimberly Comet, risk manager for the North Coast School Insurance Group. Comet said that although she hasn't yet read the report cover-to-cover, she thinks that generally schools are complying with pesticide laws, and was surprised by the low marks. While the insurance group is not obligated to take action based upon CATs' independent study, Comet said that Office of Education officials will hold talks on pesticide use with schools throughout the summer and at the start of the school year.

"We want to provide healthy schools for staff, students and the general public. We can't ignore [the report]" Comet said.

Comet added that some schools thought that the CATs researchers were salespeople. Other districts told Comet that the environmental group requested information when the schools were working on their budgets, so they didn't have the time to respond to the requests.

The CATs report said that some schools were suspicious of the survey and did not take the requests seriously.

"It wasn't just our agenda. This whole report is based on the state law. That's an important issue for schools," Clary said.

CATs plans to continue the pesticide survey next year. Clary said that at the request of some districts throughout the five counties surveyed, the organization will help schools cut back on their pesticide use and start pest management plans.


Arcata Union Elementary B
Big Lagoon B
Blue Lake Union Elementary C
Bridgeville Elementary C-
Cuddeback C
Cutten B
Eureka City Unified A-
Ferndale Unified C-
Fieldbrook A
Fortuna Union Elementary C-
Fortuna Union High F
Freshwater Elementary C-
Garfield C-
Green Point C-
Hydesville C+
Jacoby Creek Charter School District B-
Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified D
Kneeland D
Loleta Union C-
Maple Creek B-
Mattole Unified F
McKinleyville Union Elementary B
Northern Humboldt Union High C+
Orick  B
Pacific Union B-
Peninsula Union B-
Rio Dell Elementary B
Rohnerville Union Elementary C
Scotia Union C-
Southern Humboldt Joint Unified B+
South Bay Union  D
Trinidad Union Elementary C

Codes of ethics needed, Grand Jury says
County also criticized in death of disabled woman


Local governments should adopt codes of ethics that would prevent elected officials from making votes that have the "appearance of impropriety," according to the yearly final report of the Humboldt County Grand Jury.

In one section of the report, titled "Absence of Ethics Codes in Humboldt County," the Grand Jury finds that the county and all local cities -- with the exception of Arcata -- lack a code of ethical conduct for elected officials. Such a lack has led, in some cases, to "controversy and distrust in the community over the conduct of elected officials," it states.

Elsewhere, the report criticizes the Sheriff's Office and the County Department of Health and Human Services for their handling of a case that resulted in the 2002 death by neglect of a 42-year-old Orick woman who suffered from multiple sclerosis.

The Grand Jury unveiled the report at a regular meeting of the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning.

According to the report, the Grand Jury conducted an investigation into ethical codes because of the controversy generated by two recent cases: Fortuna City Councilmember Debi August's allegedly improper work on behalf of a local developer and Supervisor Roger Rodoni's vote, in May 2003, to deny the district attorney's request for additional funding for its suit against the Pacific Lumber Co. Rodoni has long leased a 9,000-acre southern Humboldt property -- the "Rainbow Ranch" -- from Pacific Lumber. As of last year, he paid $350 per month for the lease.

The report does not mention either elected official by name.

The investigation found that many California counties and some cities have instituted ethical codes of conduct that would have prevented controversies such as these, even though the behavior of the officials in question may not cross the line into illegality. One such code, adopted by the city of Mountain View, mandates members of its City Council to recuse themselves from a vote if voting would carry an "appearance of impropriety."

"For the public to have faith and confidence that government authority will be implemented in an evenhanded and ethical manner, public officials need to step aside even though no technical conflict exists," the Mountain View code reads. Another code, employed by the city of Sunnyvale, bans members from representing third parties in the conduct of city business.

The Grand Jury report asks county government and all local cities to review codes of ethics employed by other California cities and counties and to draft and adopt their own codes, in cooperation with citizens.

In her presentation to the Board of Supervisors, Grand Jury foreperson Judith Schmidt noted that members of the County Administrator's Office had already asked the Grand Jury for copies of the sample codes of ethics it had studied.

"We're extremely pleased and encouraged at that proactive step, and we thank you," she told CAO Loretta Nickolaus.

The report sharply criticizes both the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Sheriff's Office for the role they played in events that led to the death of Orick resident Joi Henderson-Wright.

Henderson-Wright became a client of the DHHS' Adult Protective Services (APS) in August 2000, after that agency received a report that she could not care for herself. She soon began receiving financial help from another DHHS agency -- In-Home Support Services (IHSS) -- which paid for a caregiver to tend to her needs. At her insistence, Henderson-Wright was allowed to hire an acquaintance for the purpose.

In the following months, the new caregiver, Joseph Pierre Rollins, reportedly threatened DHHS staff, and Henderson-Wright eventually told the department that other services were not wanted, as Rollins would take care of all her needs. The department closed the case, despite an APS caseworker's misgivings about Rollins and the concerns of Henderson-Wright's out-of-town family members.

The same family members requested the Sheriff's Office to check on Henderson-Wright, as they were concerned for her safety. The Grand Jury report calls the checks that were eventually done inadequate.

"The deputy's report documenting those two visits was written from memory one week following the individual's death and one month after the deputy's last visit," the report reads, adding that the report was also inconsistent with photographs taken of Henderson- Wright's trailer shortly after her death in March 2002.

In its examination, the Humboldt County Coroner's Office found that Henderson-Wright weighed only 60 pounds and was covered with bedsores at the time of her death.

Rollins was scheduled to go on trial Tuesday on felony charges of abuse of a dependent adult and theft from a dependent adult.

In a third section of the report, the Grand Jury reiterates its demand -- first made last month -- that the county Board of Supervisors re-examine the annual bonuses paid to its managers and elected officials. The report calls for the suspension of the bonuses during the county budget crisis, which would result in savings of about $850,000 per year.

The Grand Jury is an appointed body of citizens that examines the actions of local government. It is charged with hearing citizen complaints and is given broad powers to initiate and conduct investigations. Agencies targeted by the Grand Jury report are required by law to respond to its recommendations.



North Coast Journal Weekly

© Copyright 2004, North Coast Journal, Inc.