North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

September 6, 2001

Charges filed in Sterns case

Commission meets in Eureka

Underage protestors

Wanna buy a parcel?

Conviction in Yurok site case

Cattle truck length reprieve?

There IS a free lunch

No cameras for Plaza?

Jacoby Creek purchase

$500,000 for sheriff

Check's in mail for tribes

Candidates throw in hats

Charges filed in Sterns case

The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office filed felony criminal charges last week against John Sterns, a Humboldt State University official who was in charge of fund-raising, alumni relations, radio station KHSU and several off-campus programs.

Sterns, who has been residing in San Diego, is expected to be in court Sept. 20 for arraignment.

The charges include two counts of embezzlement --$46,000 from two accounts --counts of falsifying government records and four counts of forgery.

An audit report by the California State University Chancellor's Office released last month detailed Sterns' activities over the last three years including false claims for travel, meals and gifts to donors, preparing false audit reports for KHSU, depleting trust fund accounts to make university purchases and inflating donation reports by $15 million. (See cover story, "The case against John Sterns and HSU," Aug. 16.)

Sterns faces a potential sentence of up to seven years if convicted of all charges.

Following Sterns dismissal in March, university officials have restructured his department and a replacement has been hired. Oversight of KHSU, the Natural History Museum in Arcata and the First Street Gallery in Eureka has been assigned to the director of University Relations, Elizabeth Hans. Maggie Hardy, formerly associate director of the Big Sur Land Trust, has replaced Sterns as director of university advancement.

Hardy said in a press release last week, "I'm committed to re-establishing an advancement program based on integrity."

Commission meets in Eureka

A tour of the Eureka waterfront boardwalk project, a workshop on tsunamis and a ceremony recognizing local coastal heroes are just three items on the agenda when the California Coastal Commission meets here next week.

Also on the agenda is a permit for the restoration of 6.8 acres of beach near the now-defunct Simpson paper mill on the Samoa Peninsula. Simpson proposes to remove fill soils, pilings and concrete rubble and replace them with up to 750 cubic yards of sand.

The commission will meet Sept. 11 through 14 at the Eureka Inn. For more information, call the commission's Eureka office at 445-7833.

Underage protestors

David Wehrer, 19, of San Francisco, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child abuse fortransporting a number of Bay Area youths to Humboldt County to protest against Pacific Lumber Co. at an active logging sight. He was placed on probation for two years.

The juveniles, one of whom allegedly sought assistance from sheriff deputies after spending the night in the woods, were taken into custody and released. They had been left in the woods by Wehrer with inadequate food or supplies, according to the district attorney's office.

District Attorney Terry Farmer said he supported the plea bargain, reducing the charges from felony to misdemeanor, because of Wehrer's age and inexperience.

"This is a fair result," Farmer said. "A felony conviction is not necessary to make our point. However, by this prosecution we wish to reinforce the message that unlawful timber trespass protests are not only illegal, they're dangerous. One protest death is one too many," he added, referring to the 1998 death of protestor David Chain.

There were further protests in the area this week, with one protestor arrested.

Wanna buy a parcel?

Humboldt County Tax Collector Steve Strawn is preparing to auction off 47 parcels of land Sept. 27 at 9 a.m. for nonpayment of taxes.

The parcels are located in Eureka, Benbow, Stafford, Rio Dell, Samoa, Manila, McKinleyville, Elk River, King Salmon, Alderpoint, Bridgeville, Dinsmore, Myers Flat, Blocksburg and Hoopa.

Parcels may be withdrawn from the sale if the owner pays the tax due by the day prior to the auction.

For a list of parcels and general auction information, contact the Tax Collectors office in the County Courthouse or visit the website at

Conviction in Yurok site case

James L. Nelson, 44, of Eureka, was sentenced last week to 30 days in jail, fined $675 and required to make restitution for damages following his guilty plea to tampering with a Native American sacred burial site.

Nelson was observed Aug. 28, 2000, by two Yurok tribal members digging into a previously disturbed archeological site within the boundaries of Stone Lagoon State Park.

Cattle truck length reprieve?

Livestock trucks that are 70 feet in length -- five feet over the legal limit -- may be allowed to continue to use Highway 101 from Leggett to the Oregon border until 2007.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Virginia Strom Martin, unanimously passed the state Senate last week and will be reconciled with a bill from the Assembly before being sent to the governor for signature.

There IS a free lunch

Yes, there is a free lunch -- and snacks, too -- available to children in participating child-care homes and the Humboldt Child Care Council's centers.

The goal of the federal program is to feed children a variety of food to establish positive eating habits and promote healthy development.

For information on the Child Care Food Program, call 445-1195.

No cameras for Plaza?

A plan to place surveillance cameras around the Arcata Plaza has been criticized by one of the people who first suggested it: Police Chief Chris Gallagher.

"Given that the price was too high and we didn't know exactly how it was going to be put together, I just decided this probably wasn't the best time to go through with this project," Gallagher said.

Gallagher said bids for the cameras' installation were at least $5,000 more than the city had estimated. Contractors also failed to answer questions about how the technology would perform crucial functions like identifying license plates, he said.

There was also concern from some Arcata residents about the intrusion on civil liberties that the cameras represented, he said.

"People have a certain feeling about Arcata and the Plaza -- they want to be able to be independent," he said.

Gallagher has recommended the City Council reject the bids and look for other ways to deal with crime and nuisance behavior on the Plaza. The council will vote on the issue Sept. 5, after press time.

Jacoby Creek purchase

"The city of Arcata has a long history of concern about watersheds and water quality," said City Manager Dan Hauser.

That concern is being expressed in the form of a $2 million land purchase by the city. The buy would add approximately 650 acres along Jacoby Creek to the city's holdings of undeveloped space. The purchases are being funded by grants from the Wildlife Conservation Board, a state agency.

Half the land is located along the upper Jacoby Creek, adjacent to the city's already-established Jacoby Creek forest. Already logged once, it contains a few old-growth cedar trees.

The remaining land is a former ranch south of Arcata close to Humboldt Bay. It will remain open for grazing but will be allowed to return to a more natural state, Hauser said.

"The ability to purchase both headwaters areas such as the forest and estuary areas such as the ranch gives Arcata the ability to further protect and enhance the streams and water quality," he said. By planting native plant species and allowing the riparian areas to return to their natural state, the city can help to improve habitat for the fish that use the stream, Hauser said.

"The bottom line," he said, "is that we will have a lot more fish going up Jacoby Creek."

Also receiving a grant is the Save-the-Redwoods League, which will buy 280 acres of old-growth Douglas fir in the Mattole River watershed.

$500,000 for sheriff

"California's rural counties continually struggle to get funding to address local law enforcement needs," said 2nd District State Sen. Wesley Chesbro in a written statement.

That's why he, along with the Legislature, has passed a bill that will give each of California's 37 smallest counties $500,000 a year in additional funding.

The money will probably be used for "a combination of extra deputies and extra equipment," said Sheriff Dennis Lewis. He wasn't sure how the money would be allocated, as that decision rests with the board of supervisors, but "our most critical need is support positions."

"We don't have a person answering telephones for the detectives' bureau, for example," he said.

Lewis said he was worried the additional money would be used to replace current funding for the sheriff's department. The county is in a perpetual budget crunch, and Lewis said it was important the money isn't "used to pay for something we already do."

"It's supposed to be supplemental," he said.

The sheriff's department may be in line for additional state moneys in the near future. Approximately $121 million is being spent on juvenile crime prevention, $116 million is going toward community policing and $30 million has been budgeted to fight methamphetamine production and use. Lewis said it isn't yet clear how much if any of that money Humboldt County will get.

Check's in mail for tribes

The state controller's office sent $300,000 payments to a number of California Indian tribes and all of Humboldt County's seven tribes will receive a check.

The $22.5 million released statewide is the first payment to the California Gambling Control Commission established under terms of a compact negotiated by gaming tribes with Gov. Grey Davis.

The share-the-wealth plan calls for tribes who own video slot machines to make a one-time payment of $1,250 per machine. Additionally fees based on a percentage of revenues are assessed for big casinos, those owning 350 or more machines.

Among the Humboldt tribes who got checks are two who operate casinos, the Cher-Ae-Heights Indian Community and the Hoopa Valley tribe. Even though they have gaming facilities they are considered non-gaming tribes since they have fewer than 350 slot machines.

This provision is of particular concern to the Blue Lake Rancheria, which is constructing a new gaming facility, and to Cher-Ae-Heights, since it is in the midst of a major expansion project. (See Journal story, "Gambling on Casinos," June 15, 2000.) Both tribes plan on limiting the number of machines in their facilities to under 350, thus avoiding an ongoing assessment and assuring a continued flow of checks under the provisions of the compact.

Candidates throw in hats

The pool of candidates running for office in the fall of 2002 is filling up with familiar faces as people interested in running for the positions of 5th District Humboldt County Supervisor and 1st District State Assemblymember announce their candidacies.

Four Democrats and a Republican are vying for the 1st District seat occupied by Assemblymember Virginia Strom-Martin. The district runs from Humboldt County in the north to Sonoma County in the south. Candidates Ed Robey and Jim Mastin are both members of local government in the south end of the district and may be unfamiliar. The only Republican who has announced is Clay Romero, a gun dealer from Laytonville.

Bob Jehn and Patty Berg, on the other hand, have been active in Humboldt County. Berg founded the Area Agency on Aging and led it for 19 years; Jehn, mayor of Cloverdale, was the chairman of the North Coast Railroad Authority until last year.

The name Jill Geist might also ring some bells. Geist, who announced her candidacy to be 5th District supervisor Sept. 3, has served on the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Supervisors for four years. Her only opponent so far is Mike Harvey, who owns and operates an insurance agency in McKinleyville.

The deadline for registering as a candidate is Nov. 26.


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