North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

December 20, 2001

County settles complaint

March 5 election shapes up

The season's first flooding

Unemployment up 1 percent

Guadagno bill passes House

Comment/no comment

600 acres for King Range

Another anthrax hoax

Sturgeon endangered?

Airport fence out to bid

New services for women

$2 million from Forest Service

Sales tax increase Jan. 1

County settles complaint

Janelle Jackson, a single mother and the first female deputy assigned to the Hoopa substation, said she loved her job.

"Then I got a new sergeant," she said.

Jackson claims that when Sgt. Dave Morey took over as her superior, he created a hostile work environment and eventually fired her a month before her probationary period ended -- and that made Jackson claim sexual discrimination.

Jackson, who picked up a check for $30,000 this week as part of a mediated settlement of her complaint against the county, said she would have been satisfied with getting her job back, "but they wouldn't reinstate me."

The official reason for Jackson's termination was failure to meet the standards for a sheriff's deputy. Jackson claims she was held up to different standards than her male counterparts.

Neither Morey nor Sheriff Dennis Lewis would comment for this report. Deputy County Administrative Officer Kim Kerr said the settlement does not mean the county is admitting wrongdoing and the complaint was resolved through mediation before it could be judged on its merits.

Another facet of the settlement stipulates that the county must provide the sheriff's department with classes on how to avoid "a hostile work environment and sexual harassment" for the next three years.

Jackson said she doesn't know what her next step will be.

"It's a hard thing to get in the door somewhere as a law enforcement officer" once you've been terminated, she said.

March 5 election shapes up

The outcome of three key county races March 5 could signal a shift in Humboldt County's law enforcement priorities.

The county's two top law enforcement officers, District Attorney Terry Farmer and Sheriff Dennis Lewis, have drawn challengers. And a third race -- to replace 5th District Supervisor Paul Kirk who represents an area stretching from Orleans to the ocean and the Mad River to the Del Norte border --being closely watched.

The March election will serve two purposes: It is a primary for state and national races with more than one candidate from a given party as well as a general election for county offices, which are nonpartisan.

Eureka attorney Paul Gallegos filed just prior to the deadline last week to challenge Farmer, claiming the 16-year veteran DA spends too much time on what Gallegos calls "victimless crimes," such as marijuana possession. Sheriff Lewis will go up against a challenger from within the ranks of his own department, sheriff's deputy Gary Philp.

The contest in the 5th District has turned into a northern Humboldt battle royale. The six candidates are Jill Geist, John Corbett, Daniel Pierce, Victor Taylor, Ben Shepard and Michael Harvey.

The outcome could potentially have as much of an effect on some aspects of law enforcement as the elections for DA and sheriff. The board's vote to accept funds for the state's annual Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, for example, has been 3 to 2 in recent years. A new 5th District Supervisor could represent the swing vote.

The large field nearly guarantees that no one candidate will achieve a majority of votes, meaning the top two vote-getters would face off in a runoff election next November.

In county elections, only six of the 13 possible seats are being contested. Incumbents who drew no challengers are 4th District County Supervisor Bonnie Neely, Coroner Frank Jager, County Recorder-Clerk Carolyn Crnich and Treasurer-Tax Collector Stephen Strawn. Humboldt County Superior Court Judges Marilyn Miles, J. Michael Brown and John Feeney were all up for reelection, and all three will run unopposed.

The race for county assessor pits Linda Hill against William Thomas; Assessor Ray Jerland is retiring. The vacancy created by the retirement of Auditor-Controller Neil Prince will be filled by either John Friedenbach or Michael Giacone. Either Carl Del Grande or Garry Eagles will replace retiring County School Superintendent Louie Bucher.

A primary will only be necessary in two statewide contests. In the election for 2nd District state senator, Dennis Purification of Vallejo is facing Peggy Redfearn of Lake County for the right to run as a Republican against Democratic incumbent Wesley Chesbro.

The election for the 1st District State Assembly seat, being vacated by Democrat Virginia Strom-Martin because of term limits, is considerably more crowded. Patty Berg of Eureka, Bob Jehn of Cloverdale, Jim Mastin of Ukiah and Ed Robey of Lake County all want to run as Democrats in what is considered a heavily Democratic district.

Rob Brown of Kelseyville, Clay Romero of Willits and Timothy Stoen of Ukiah are hoping to win the Republican spot for Assembly on the November ballot.

The seven candidates from the larger parties are being joined by Doug Riley-Thron of Arcata, running as a Green party member.

The season's first flooding

Flooding along the Elk River closed Berta Road to traffic last week. The river escaped its banks after a record-breaking storm hit Humboldt Dec. 13. More than 2 inches of rain were dumped during the 24-hour period.

Additional rainstorms worked through the area over the weekend, and although none were as big as the storm last Thursday night, "The ground is so moist, anything can cause flooding or puddling," said Doug Boushey of the National Weather Service.
Boushey said Eureka has already received 25 percent more rain than average for December, with a week and a half left to go in the month. While the rain has been severe, "It's not unheard of," he said. "We do live on the North Coast."

Unemployment up 1 percent

The unemployment rate for Humboldt County, which has held steady at less than 5 percent in contrast to rising state and nation rates, increased 1 percent last month.

The rise may not mean the county is being swept into a wider pattern of recession, said Anita Alexander, a labor market consultant for the Eureka office of the state Employment Development Department.

"I think it may just be a seasonal jump in unemployment, because the sectors that are really down are construction and manufacturing," she said. In Humboldt, manufacturing still mostly means logging -- and timber harvesting, like construction, slows during the rainy months.

It won't be possible to tell if the jump in unemployment is related to the national economic climate or the local weather forecast until next year, Alexander said. "If we don't see rehiring after the typical seasonal decline, that would shine some light on the subject."

Underlying the seasonal swings in logging employment is a bigger trend, however. While the number of people employed in harvesting trees is the same as at this time last year, employment at Humboldt County's sawmills dropped 10 percent.

"The trend there has been down for 20 years," she said.

Guadagno bill passes House

Rep. Mike Thompson thought it would be an easy thing to pay tribute local hero Richard Guadagno by naming the recently completed headquarters for the Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge in his honor. Guadagno, the driving force behind the new building, was a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93, the hijacked plane that crashed on Sept. 11 in Pennsylvania.

In comments at a fund-raising dinner at the Eureka Inn Monday night, Thompson said he discovered that changing the name requires an act of Congress.

No problem. Thompson's legislation passed in the House Tuesday by unanimous consent. It goes to the Senate for consideration, with Sen. Barbara Boxer as a sponsor. Barring complications, the building should be dedicated in Guadagno's name in April.

Comment/no comment

While Humboldt State University officials won't comment on a lawsuit brought against it by three faculty members in the Native American Studies department, the institution did address concerns about the department's future last week.

College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Karen Carlton told students the department will continue at current staffing levels, regardless of decisions made about individual members.

Some students have expressed fears that a recent recommendation by a personnel committee not to reappoint two of the three teachers involved, Joseph Dupris and Kathleen Hill, was part of a broader plan to cut the department's size. That recommendation, by the CAHSS Personnel Committee, came after the faculty members filed suit in September.

Hill, Dupris, and fellow NAS faculty member Joseph Giovanetti allege they are the victims of discrimination, retaliation and conspiracy.

Campus opinion about Dupris and Hill is far from unanimous. Last week the University Faculty Personnel Committee wrote a letter in support of the Hill and Dupris. The university committee represents faculty from the entire campus, not just the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

600 acres for King Range

The King Range National Conservation Area got an early Christmas gift this year: 600 acres of land, some of it old-growth Douglas fir.

Two purchases, totalling $720,000, were made by the Bureau of Land Management, the Save-the-Redwoods League and the state Wildlife Conservation Board. They not only will help protect old-growth Douglas fir but also consolidate a corridor of protected land between the Conservation Area and Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Another anthrax hoax

Another anthrax scare surfaced in Eureka this week after a man with a grudge against his landlord allegedly mailed her an envelope containing white powder and a threatening letter.

According to police reports, Roger Hudnall sent an envelope marked "return to sender" to the FBI offices in San Francisco. The return address turned out to be his former landlord's residence. When she opened the letter, a white substance later identified as talcum powder spilled out.

Hudnall was arrested Dec. 7 for using the mail to deliver a threat, a crime punishable by fines and up to five years in prison.

It isn't the first time Hudnall has been accused of using the FBI in an attempt to intimidate his landlord. In July he was discovered trying to impersonate an FBI agent as part of a scheme to prevent himself from being evicted. He reportedly tried to convince the landlord that his eviction would interfere with a undercover operation.

Sturgeon endangered?

The green sturgeon may be endangered and in need of protection in Humboldt County rivers, according to a finding by the National Marine Fisheries Service released Dec. 14.

That finding is the first step toward listing the fish as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. It comes in response to a petition filed by the Environmental Protection Information Center in Garberville and the Center for Biological Diversity, located in Tucson, Ariz.

Green sturgeon are large, reaching up to seven feet in length and 350 pounds. An ancient species that has remained evolutionarily unchanged for 200 million years, the fish is thought to be especially susceptible to overfishing because it reproduces late in life.

The species, which uses the Klamath and Trinity river systems, is also very likely suffering from habitat loss, the service said. The finding means NMFS will investigate the fish's condition more closely and issue a preliminary finding next summer. A final ruling could come in 2003.

Airport fence out to bid

A controversial deer fence at the Arcata-Eureka Airport has been approved by the last regulatory agency.

Deer, which run out onto the runway and into the path of planes, have posed a serious problem for the airport for years. Attempts have been made to control the deer population by shooting them, but plane-damaging collisions continued.

The California Coastal Commission on Dec. 14 unanimously approved a chain link fence topped with three strands of barbed wire. Nearby residents had opposed the fence, claiming the bluffs on which it would be built are unstable.

The fence, which will also help increase security at the airport, has already been put out to bid. The Dec. 17 issue of the Humboldt Builders' Exchange bulletin contains a request for bids, with the project's estimated price at $564,000.

New services for women

Health services for low-income women are expanding, thanks to two new government programs.

A residential drug and alcohol treatment facility for women who are pregnant or have young children will open in February as part of the county's Healthy Moms program.

The facility, which is being funded by $425,000 from the federal government, will allow women to remain in the area and near their family support networks while they undergo intensive treatment. The treatment center, which will accommodate up to five women, will be administered by the county in cooperation with Redwood Community Action Agency's Family Service Division.

In other health news, women without health insurance no longer have to go without treatment for breast or cervical cancer under a new statewide program.

California already provides free cancer screenings to low-income women. But until now, there was no guarantee that the women diagnosed with cancer would be able to afford treatment. The new program will provide free or low-cost treatment to women earning less than $1,432 per month.

Call 1-800-942-1054 for more information on subsidized cancer screening and treatment.

$2 million from Forest Service

Humboldt County got a shot in the arm last week from the U.S. Forest Service: $2,037,852 was transferred to the county under a 2000 adaptation of a 1908 law.

The original 1908 law mandated that 25 percent of the revenues from logging, grazing, recreation and mining on national forests would be filtered to the counties.

But as revenues from National Forest logging along the North Coast declined over the last 10 years, that annual payment began to dwindle. Under a 2000 law, the payment amount became based on historic high amounts, independent of the current Forest Service land use receipts.

Counties to the north and west of Humboldt with even more public land received even greater benefits: Del Norte county netted almost $3 million, Siskiyou about $9 million, and Trinity more than $7 million.

Sales tax increase Jan. 1

Retail prices may be discounted after Christmas, but the "governor's cut" is growing. The statewide sales tax will increase a quarter of a percent on Jan. 1 to 7.25 percent.

The tax is an important source of revenue for the county, but the increase won't bring any extra money our way, said Humboldt County Auditor Neil Prince.

"It's making up for a reduction in the state's share" that happened during the days of a flush state budget, he said.



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