Friday, July 9, 2010

Pennisi Tree-Trimmer: 'I Did The Job I Was Hired To Do'

Posted By on Fri, Jul 9, 2010 at 2:35 PM

Tom Head, owner of Coastal Tree Service, called into the Journal this morning to give his side of the illegal clearcut that happened last month on the Trinidad Bluffs, at the top corner of the city-owned archaeological site known as Tsurai Village and directly beneath the home of Trinidad Planning Commissioner Sam Pennisi and his wife, Sharon. (The story of the clearcut was featured in this week's Journal.)

What did Head have to say? To paraphrase: He charged that Sharon Pennisi was simply lying when she told the Times-Standard that the cutting on the Tsurai site was the result of a "misunderstanding" -- in other words, not a matter of her family clearing city trees to improve their view of the ocean but the result of a rogue landscaper doing work he was not hired to do. Head rejected this understanding of events in the most strenuous possible terms.

"I did exactly what she told me to do," he told the Journal. "I didn't do anything that they didn't tell me to do. We were told to cut everything on that hillside down to a certain point."

Head said that Sharon Pennisi contacted him about the job on June 15. This would have been just four days after Sam Pennisi came into City Hall complaining that city staff had stopped another company -- Professional Tree Services -- from performing the same work, according to an internal city of Trinidad memo obtained by a member of the Tsurai Ancestral Society. At the time, according to the memo, Pennisi complained about the trees beneath his home obstructing his view of the ocean.

Head and Coastal Tree Services started work on the job the day after Sharon Pennisi contacted him. Further contradicting Sharon Pennisi's story to the Times-Standard, Head said that she was at the job site off and on throughout the day and a half that Coastal Tree Service worked before being shut down by Trinidad City Manager Steve Albright. Head said that Sharon Pennisi was well aware of the work that was being performed. Several times, he said, he went to her door to inquire about the work that was underway.

"She was telling us, 'Keep going further. Go lower. Go lower,'" Head said.

In the end, none of Coastal Tree Service's landscaping work had been performed on Pennisi property; all of it was on the city-owned Tsurai site. Head said that Sharon Pennisi had told him that the land he was working belonged to the Pennisi family, rather than the public, and that all the relevant permits had been seen to.

"She said her husband was on the planning council, and everything had been taken care of," he said. "So I didn't question it. Do you know what I mean?"

Head said that he had already been interviewed by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, which is currently investigating the matter. He said that he could not speak about that interview, but he reiterated that the Pennisi family was incorrect in suggesting that Coastal Tree Service had somehow decided to clear that section of the bluffs on its own.

"I was called, I was hired to do a project, I did the project I was hired to do," Head said.

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Hank Sims

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