Saturday, October 21, 2017

Eureka Mayor Slams County, Legal Cannabis

Posted By on Sat, Oct 21, 2017 at 12:46 PM

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The Eureka City Council unanimously approved several hot-button issues on Tuesday night despite an unprecedented amount of pushback from Mayor Frank Jager and a smatter of spirited public comment.

The first item to be pulled from the consent calendar for discussion, and the least  controversial, was the official swearing-in of Police Chief Steve Watson. City Manager Greg Sparks, speaking about the decision to choose the former captain as Eureka’s top cop job, said it can be “difficult to recruit people into Humboldt County.” Of the 10 candidates for the position, Watson was the most qualified, according to Sparks.

“We decided to end the recruitment process when it became clear that Chief Watson was our best candidate,” said Sparks.

The council voted unanimously to accept Sparks’ recommendation and stood to applaud after Jager swore Watson in. After taking the oath of office, Watson said the appointment was “very humbling.”


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Friday, October 20, 2017

Hearing Set in Public Defender Case Amid Settlement Offer, Allegations of Delay Tactics

Posted By on Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 2:28 PM

Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus in his sparsely decorated Eureka office. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus in his sparsely decorated Eureka office.
The Humboldt County Superior Court has set a hearing next month to determine whether embattled Public Defender David Marcus meets the minimum state qualifications to hold his job. But Patrik Griego, the attorney who brought the lawsuit challenging Marcus’ hire, is worried the county is engaging in a pattern of “gamesmanship” intended to delay the lawsuit until it becomes moot.

On Sept. 22, visiting Judge Marjorie Carter denied a county request to dismiss the lawsuit, which alleges Marcus didn’t meet the minimum state qualification for the position requiring any candidate to have been a “practicing attorney in all the courts of the state for at least the year preceding” his or her hire.

Marcus, whom the board of supervisors hired Feb. 8, was living in Florida at the time of his hire and had been primarily working as an insurance adjuster for the year prior. During a deposition in the case, Marcus testified that during that year he also worked as a contract attorney for the Walnut Creek law firm Cella, Lange and Cella, which is owned by his good friend, but conceded he didn’t appear in court or author any legal pleadings during that span. He also also testified that he had no contract with the law firm and no records of his hours worked.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

UPDATE: Two Juveniles Arrested in Dinsmore Homicide

Posted By on Tue, Oct 17, 2017 at 3:57 PM

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2nd UPDATE:

The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, in conjunction with the Arcata Police Department, arrested two juveniles on Monday, Oct. 16 in connection with the homicide of Richard Falk. The Journal has reached out to the sheriff's office to confirm whether or not the juveniles, one male, one female, were related to Falk, and will update when we have more information.

UPDATE:
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office has identified the 68-year-old man found dead in the front yard of his Buck Mountain home as Richard Dennis Falk and is officially investigating the case as a homicide.

An autopsy performed on Falk determined he died of multiple gunshot wounds. Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Fridley said there are no indications that the killing was a robbery or burglary gone wrong and said there are multiple persons of interest in the case. He declined to offer any further details, saying the investigation is still in its infancy.

The sheriff’s office asks anyone with information about the case to call 445-7251.

The full press release is copied below our original post.

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Potential Pot Farm Becomes Equine Therapy Center

Posted By on Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 2:14 PM

FILE
  • File
Savanah McCarty, founder of the nonprofit Wild Souls Ranch, is preparing to move six horses, one pony and a whole lot of tack from Loleta to Fortuna. The nonprofit, which helps provide at-risk youth with equine-assisted growth and learning opportunities, is working out the terms of a donated piece of property just off of Hillside Drive. The property, in the 2800 block of Nelson Lane, was a source of concern for neighbors in the mostly residential area when, last spring, a cannabis entrepreneur applied for a permit to create a 55,000-square-foot cannabis farm and processing facility.

Because the area was "an island" within Fortuna's sphere of influence, technically county land zoned for agricultural use, it met the standards for the county's cannabis cultivation ordinance. But Hillside residents concerned about odor, road traffic and crime, flooded public meetings to voice their opposition and eventually formed a neighborhood association to challenge the permit. In May, the Nelson-Hillside Association filed a civil complaint against the county in Humboldt County Superior Court. (The Times Standard's Will Houston reported on the association and its lawsuit.)

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Willow Creek Man Killed in Truck-Horse Collision

Posted By on Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 1:06 PM

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A Hoopa man traveling northbound on Country Club Road in Willow Creek struck and killed a horse and its rider Sunday night. Timothy Robert Ulrich, 50, was crossing a bridge approaching Seeley McIntosh Road in a Ford F150 and failed to notice Kenneth Wayne Brock, 67, astride a horse traveling south in the northbound lane of the bridge.

According to the press release from the California Highway Patrol, Ulrich noticed an unrelated vehicle in the southbound lane, also crossing the bridge, but did not see the white horse, which was on the bridge's east shoulder. When he did see the horse, he attempted to swerve away but ultimately hit the horse's side and shoulder, ejecting Brock. Brock hit the bridge, sustaining major injuries. The Willow Creek man was transported to Mad River Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The horse died at the scene.

DUI is not believed to be a factor in the collision.

The crash brings the total number of roadway deaths in Humboldt County in 2017 up to 26.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Eureka Council to Ponder True Ward Map, Watson's Hiring and Another Chinn Village Tuesday

Posted By on Sat, Oct 14, 2017 at 10:36 AM

New, true wards? - CITY OF EUREKA
  • CITY OF EUREKA
  • New, true wards?
On Tuesday the Eureka City Council will decide whether to approve new ward boundaries under the city’s True Ward system and whether to move forward with a new transitional housing project spearheaded by Betty Chinn.

Included on the city’s consent calendar (items to be passed in one motion without discussion) are a change to the salary system for the city’s police chief, a renewal of the city’s partnership with Betty’s Blue Angel Village and the formal appointment of Police Chief Steve Watson.

Watson, whose annual salary as a captain in 2016 was $121,203, according to TransparentCalifornia.com, will be entering the position with a base salary of $135,713 and a standard at-will employment agreement. A new resolution, scheduled to be approved by the council along with his appointment, would institute a five step salary range for his position, with a 5-percent differential between steps, capping the chief’s salary at $149,625. Watson’s predecessor, Andrew Mills, earned $157,302 in 2016. The rationale for the change in salary classification, according to the language of the resolution, is that the police chief’s position is currently “the only city manager appointed at-will position without a five step range.”

Gary Bird, the city’s personnel director, emailed the Journal to clarify that while Watson’s salary is currently capped at $149K, the council has at times “authorized changes in compensation and benefits” and thus it might be subject to some loosening in the future. Watson’s position is classified as “unrepresented,” meaning he won’t be represented in collective bargaining by his agency’s union.



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Friday, October 13, 2017

EHS Alum, Mother, Triple Amputee Wendi Locatelli Inspires Students

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 1:12 PM

Cadence and Calahan Figas help their aunt Wendi Locatelli remove her prosthetic leg. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Linda Stansberry
  • Cadence and Calahan Figas help their aunt Wendi Locatelli remove her prosthetic leg.
The last thing Wendi Figas Locatelli remembered was falling asleep. The 34-year old mother of three, who grew up in Freshwater and attended Eureka High School, did not know that her body was fighting off a lethal infection, that doctors had told her husband to notify the family to come visit her one last time and that she had a 1 percent chance of surviving.

“My husband sat by my side and said, ‘Just take care of yourself, I’ll take care of the kids,’” she told a rapt auditorium of elementary school students at Pacific Union School on Monday, Oct. 8. “I remember him saying that over and over again. I was in a coma. I didn’t understand what he was talking about. I just remembered going to sleep.”

When Locatelli woke up that day in early May of 2016, her right arm was dark black, and her fingers were “shriveled.” Her kidneys no longer worked. She had been struck with a septic infection several days earlier, the cause of which is still unknown. Surgeons removed both of her legs, her right arm below the elbow and the fingers of her left hand.

“You can see that I look a little different than most people look,” she told the students, gesturing towards her prosthetic legs, which are attached to her muscular thighs and allow her to stand, walk and run at a fast shuffle. “I have robot legs, a robot hand and what we call ‘my paw.’”

She waves her left hand at the students and a ripple of laughter breaks out across the auditorium. Locatelli smiles with them. The speech, her first since her surgery a year and a half ago, was a favor to family friend Barb Hooper, secretary at Pacific Union. Locatelli, who was working as a dental hygienist in Woodland, hasn’t returned to work since her illness but is interested becoming an inspirational speaker who can help demystify disability and prosthetics for children. Hooper and others were active in organizing a fundraiser to help Locatelli and her family with medical expenses. She wore a T-shirt with the word “G.L.O.W.” on the front, an acronym for “God Loves Our Wendi,” the slogan for Locatelli’s boosters.

"She is the kind of girl who's an inspiration for everyone," said Hooper. "She's always been a leader."


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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Garberville Man Found Dead in Eel River

Posted By on Wed, Oct 11, 2017 at 2:47 PM

Humboldt County Sheriff's Office - FILE
  • FILE
  • Humboldt County Sheriff's Office
The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of a 33-year-old man whose body was found in the South Fork of the Eel River north of Redway last week.

Deputies responded shortly after 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 6 to a report of a body in the river and found it just upstream of the bridge used to access Eel River Conservation Camp No. 31. The body has been identified as that of a Garberville man, according to Sheriff's Lt. Mike Fridley, but his next of kin is out of the country and officials are holding off on releasing his name until she can be notified.

Fridley said it appears the man's body had been in the water "a while" and it's currently unclear what circumstances led to his death. "There's a lot of things it could be," Fridley said, adding that there's an autopsy scheduled for tomorrow.

Officials ask that anyone with information about the case call the sheriff's office at 445-7251.

See the full press release from the sheriff's office copied below:


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McKinleyville Man Suspected of Triple Homicide in Nevada Arrested

Posted By on Wed, Oct 11, 2017 at 12:56 PM

Scott Baskette - HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Humboldt County Sheriff's Office
  • Scott Baskette
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a McKinleyville native who is wanted in Nevada for allegedly killing a woman and her parents at two different locations over the weekend.

According to news reports out of Silver Springs, the suspect, Scott Alan Baskette, 48, had been in a long-term relationship with homicide victim Rebecca Driver, 46. When authorities went to notify her parents, Frank and Coral Evans, they were also found dead in their home.

KOLO TV in Nevada reports that Baskette and Driver, a mother of four ages 14 to 25, had ended their 12 year relationship just a few weeks before the homicides. She was found unconscious by her children, but died before officials arrived. Her death was deemed suspicious. The Evans died of gunshot wounds, the station reports.

Nevada authorities contacted the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office to report he might be in the area and a deputy spotted the vehicle Baskette was believed to be driving in the Willow Creek area yesterday just before 5:30 p.m.

After a brief chase down a dirt road, Baskette hit a locked gate and was taken into custody without incident.

The release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:


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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

UPDATED: No Report Out of Closed Door Evaluation of Public Defender

Posted By on Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 5:08 PM

Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus in his sparsely decorated Eureka office. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus in his sparsely decorated Eureka office.
UPDATE:
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors announced no final actions when reconvening out of closed session today.

PREVIOUSLY (Oct. 8):
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will meet in closed session Tuesday to review the job performance of embattled Public Defender David Marcus.

The closed-session review comes eight months into Marcus’ tenure and about two weeks after a visiting Humboldt County Superior Court judge denied a county request to dismiss a lawsuit alleging Marcus doesn’t meet minimum state qualifications for his job. It also comes as staffing issues in the office have bubbled into public view, with the departure of four experienced attorneys in an eight-week period, which prompted a four-month continuance in a high-profile murder case. (One of the exiting attorneys, Heidi Holmquist, was highly critical of Marcus on her way out the door.)

It’s unclear exactly why Marcus is up for review this week. He underwent a closed session performance evaluation back in April, when the board emerged with a statement of support for him. At the time, county spokesman Sean Quincey said department head reviews typically occur annually in the fall but that sometimes the board will opt to do them early in a new employee’s tenure to “outline goals and objectives” soon after the hiring process. (This is apparently the case with the county’s new human resources director, Lisa DeMatteo, who’s also being evaluated Tuesday after a couple months on the job.)

We’ll update this post with any reports out of closed session on Tuesday. In the meantime, find more on Marcus’ background here and more on the lawsuit and conditions in the office here.

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