Sunday, 21 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – A federal marijuana charge stemming from an arrest earlier this month has been dropped against an Upper Lake man, but a federal case filed against him and several co-defendants last year continues to move forward, accompanied by a growing amount of discovery.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrested Thomas Lee Carter, 59, on Sept. 1, alleging possession with intent to distribute marijuana and violation of previous release terms, as Lake County News has reported.

Carter had been arrested in August 2009, along with one of his employees, Brett Bassignani, 44, of Nice; Scott Feil, 44, and his wife, Diana, 29, of Upper Lake and Redwood Valley; Diana Feil's stepfather, Steven Swanson, 60, of Sebastopol. They're charged with various counts stemming from the government's allegations that they were connected in a marijuana distribution operation.

On Tuesday the US Attorney's Office filed a notice of dismissal on the charge relating to Carter's Sept. 1 arrest, according to court documents.

An unsigned copy of that dismissal notice was filed online by the court. The notice must be signed by U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth D. LaPorte before it's official, based on court protocol. The San Francisco Clerk of the Courts said Thursday that a signed version had not yet been filed with that office.

Geoffrey Hansen, a federal public defender who is working on Carter's case, said a federal grand jury chose not to indict Carter on the charge.

“One never knows why the grand jury does or does not indict in a particular case,” as the proceedings are sealed, Hansen told Lake County News.

The US Attorney's Office could not offer comment on the case. Spokesman Jack Gillund said they could neither confirm or deny the actions taken Tuesday. In the interest of fairness, the agency does not comment on cases until after they are adjudicated.

The dismissal notice states that the complaint was dismissed “without prejudice,” which Hansen said leaves the door open for the US Attorney's Office to refile the case.

Hansen said the government clearly indicated that it was trying to get Carter back in custody and revoke his bond with the new arrest, a strategy which he said was spelled out in a Sept. 8 hearing. But federal Judge Bernard Zimmerman “would have none of it,” Hansen said.

While the Sept. 1 arrest complaint is gone, still moving forward is the case from the August 2009 arrests, Hansen said. In that case Carter and his co-defendants were released on property-secured bond last year.

If convicted in that case, all of the defendants are looking at multiple years in federal prison and loss of millions of dollars in property to federal forfeiture, based on information in case filings.

The charges against Carter include a single count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, which carries a minimum 10-year sentence and $4 million fine, and two counts of distributing or possessing with intent to distribute marijuana, each charge carrying a five-year minimum and a $2 million fine.

Bassignani is charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana and one count of distributing or possessing with intent to distribute marijuana.

Carter and Bassignani are alleged to have been involved in agreeing to sell 500 rooted marijuana plant clones to an informant, who is alleged to have made direct contact with Bassignani but not Carter.

The government's case alleges that Bassignani told undercover agents that he was Carter's “plant manager,” and that he was employed “for the sole purpose of caring for marijuana plants, and that his salary was paid for entirely with proceeds from the sale of marijuana.”

Scott and Diana Feil and Swanson are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, distributing or possessing with intent to distribute marijuana, conspiracy to launder money and engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specific unlawful activity. Scott Feil is facing two counts of filing false tax returns, and Swanson two counts of tax evasion.

A superseding indictment handed down in July added another defendant, Mark Leonard Garcia, in connection to a San Diego dispensary. Court documents indicate Garcia is charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana.

Hansen said the substantive motions in that case will be in court in December, with the defendants themselves set to appear in federal court the following month. That's when the judge will hold a status hearing on the motions and the issues with the significant amount of discovery in the case, now estimated to be well over 100,000 pages of case documents.

Hansen said the judge has allowed the two sides to do serial filings due to the amount of discovery that continues to come in on an ongoing basis.

“We've had a number of discovery issues with the government,” said Hansen, a complaint he has made in motions to the court, stating that the US Attorney's Office has not been forthcoming with some of the information it's required to share with the defense.

A Tuesday afternoon hearing was held to discuss some of those issues, Hansen said, with the judge taking various arguments under discussion.

Attorneys allege flaws in government's case

In its case filings, the US Attorney's Office is alleging that Carter, Bassignani, the Feils, Swanson and Garcia were part of a marijuana distribution operation with bases of operation in Lake County, Los Angeles and San Diego.

“They've endeavored to make some connection,” said Hansen, suggesting there is an attempt to make Carter something he is not.

Hansen said that, from his perspective, there is no relationship whatsoever between Carter and Scott Feil. His main evidence to support that belief is that the government has never charged Carter with conspiracy relating to Feil's case.

He said he believes that if the case goes to trial it will be sometime in the middle of 2011.

“Motions are going to be very important here,” he said.

Hansen said Feil's lawyers are making very strong arguments that a search of Feil's Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensary in 2005 was illegal and that it has tainted the entire prosecution.

“If they're right, this case goes away,” said Hansen.

He added that in the Tuesday discovery hearing Zimmerman acknowledged that Feil's attorneys' argument on that point is a substantial one.

Santa Monica attorney Charles Lindner, a member of Feil's defense team, explained that on March 15, 2005, the Los Angeles Police Department raided Feil's medical marijuana dispensary, United Medical Caregivers Clinic, and seized $186,416 in assets.

“They started before they got a search warrant,” Lindner said, explaining that the police later found a judge to sign a warrant and allegedly didn't telling him the search involved a medical marijuana establishment.

In that case, in which Feil was represented by attorney Paul Gabbert, the Ninth Circuit Court reversed a lower court decision and found that the search violated the Fourth Amendment – which guards against unreasonable search and seizure – according to a copy of the ruling, filed in October 2009. The Los Angeles Police Department was ordered to return Feil's assets.

“From that point forward we are under DEA investigation,” said Lindner.

He added, “The whole thing about the feds is, they want money,” noting that the federal government receives large percentages of the property seized in such cases.

Lindner said the portions of the case that rely on that illegal 2005 search are what is problematic.

He explained them in terms of a legal doctrine called “fruit of the poisonous tree,” which requires an exclusion of all evidence obtained illegally.

The doctrine was established in a US Supreme Court ruling in Wong Sun versus the United States in the 1950s, according to legal histories of the case. Illegal arrests was made and the resulting statement made by one the defendants was considered by the court to be illegally obtained, and therefore the “fruit” – or direct result – of an illegal arrest.

Lindner alleges that in the 2009 case against Feil and Carter, the unlawful search warrant in 2005 was the start of the investigation.

If the court agrees the government has got a big problem in its case, Lindner said.

Lindner said if the case holds to its schedule, evidentiary hearings in the case should start in January.

However, he's not certain about a time frame for trial.

“These cases can get really, really, really complicated,” he said.

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This pickup was wrecked when its driver allegedly pulled in front of another driver on Highway 20 in Nice, Calif., on Tuesday, September 21, 2010. Photo by Gary McAuley.


NICE, Calif. – Three people went to area hospitals and Highway 20 was briefly closed down following a head-on collision in Nice Tuesday evening.

The crash, reported shortly after 6:30 p.m., occurred on Highway 20 and Lakeshore Boulevard, according to the California Highway Patrol.

A pickup towing a small trailer and heading westbound pulled into the path of a Toyota Land Cruiser while attempting to turn onto Lakeshore Boulevard, according to CHP Officer Josh Dye.

The CHP and Northshore Fire Protection District responded to the scene.

Northshore Fire sent two battalion chiefs, two medic units and three engines to the crash site, according to Battalion Chief Pat Brown.

He said one person from the Land Cruiser was transported by REACH Air Ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, while another from the same vehicle was transported by ambulance to Sutter Lakeside.

One subject from the pickup went to Sutter Lakeside, also via ambulance, and a fourth person denied medical help, Brown said.

Firefighters were helping to control traffic as cleanup at the site continued at around 8 p.m. The CHP reported that the roadway was clear 15 minutes later.

Dye did not have the names of those involved immediately available.

The CHP reported that the crash victims suffered minor injuries.

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A Toyota Land Cruiser that was damaged in a head-on collision in Nice, Calif., on Tuesday, September 21, 2010. Photo by Gary McAuley.




The California Highway Patrol investigates the scene of a crash on Highway 20 at Lakeshore Boulevard in Nice, Calif., on Tuesday, September 21, 2010. Photo by Gary McAuley.

California Highway Patrol officers check near Queen of the Rosary Church in Lucerne, Calif., during a manhunt for Johnny Colcleaser of Vallejo, Calif., on Monday, September 20, 2010. Photo by Frank Hodges.


LUCERNE, Calif. – Late Monday, the Lake County Sheriff's Office continued to search for a suspect who had been the focus of a manhunt earlier in the day and was said to be armed and dangerous.

Shortly before 5 p.m. Lake County Central Dispatch warned local law enforcement officers to be on the lookout for Johnny Merritt Colcleaser, 27, of Vallejo.

Colcleaser, who has an active warrant for a parole violation, was last seen Monday morning in Lucerne wearing a blue t-shirt and blue jeans and carrying a 9 millimeter handgun, according to sheriff's officials. He is 6 feet tall, 150 pounds, has brown eyes and long brown hair in a pony tail.

The be on the lookout notification also warned that Colcleaser could be in possession of an additional firearm – an AK-47.

Colcleaser had fled from deputies earlier in the day after allegedly making threats to a cousin at a Ninth Avenue residence, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Bauman said at about 9 a.m. a 24-year-old Lucerne man called 911 and reported his cousin – later identified as Colcleaser – had threatened to kill him. Colcleaser was reported to have had a 9 millimeter handgun and was last seen walking on 11th Avenue towards Highway 20 in Lucerne.

Several deputies responded to the area, and Bauman said the first on scene spotted Colcleaser, who then took off running.

The deputy chased Colcleaser on foot over fences and through yards, and during the chase Colcleaser dropped a handgun but turned around and picked it back up before he took off running again, Bauman said.

The foot chase ended in the area of Ninth Avenue and Highway 20 when Colcleaser disappeared into a creek bed and the deputy lost sight of him. Bauman said the suspect was seen again momentarily emerging from the creek bed but disappeared again when deputies converged on him.

During the four hours that followed, numerous sheriff's deputies and sheriff's detectives searched for Colcleaser, according to Bauman.

Bauman said the California Highway Patrol responded to the area to close it off while the search went on. CHP officers also helped search for Colcleaser, including checking the area of Queen of the Rosary Church on Country Club Drive.

A Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department helicopter was requested to come to the area to assist with the search, Bauman said.

The sheriff's SWAT team was called when it was believed Colcleaser may be in a residence on Ninth Avenue, according to Bauman.




A Lake County Sheriff's deputy aims a weapon at a home on Ninth Avenue where Johnny Colcleaser was believed to have been hiding in Lucerne, Calif., on Monday, September 20, 2010. Photo by Tera DeVroede.



Bauman said deputies secured the Ninth Avenue home where Colcleaser was believed to be located while the SWAT team was en route to the scene, and evacuated several nearby businesses, including Lucerne Pharmacy and Foster's Freeze. The sheriff's office also issued a reverse 911 telephone notification about the situation.

Lucerne Elementary School also was locked down for a few hours late in the morning, according to school secretary Angela Austin.

The CHP closed Highway 20 between Seventh and 13th avenues as the sheriff's SWAT team arrived on scene, staged and prepared to search the home on Ninth Avenue where Colcleaser was believed to be located, Bauman said.. However, when the SWAT team entered and searched the house and its outbuildings at about 11 a.m. Colcleaser wasn't found.

Bauman said deputies continued searching Lucerne's neighborhoods for several more hours but, as of 2 p.m., Colcleaser was not located.

During that time, Bauman said sheriff's deputies also went out on reports of several suspects that they thought might have been Colcleaser, with no luck.

“The last time and place we saw him was when he popped out of the creek momentarily,” Bauman said.

The search wasn't completely fruitless – deputies found in the creek bed a blue plaid shirt Colcleaser had been wearing, Bauman said.

The bigger find – they located an unoccupied 2002 Ford pickup truck 13th Avenue that they believe Colcleaser drove to Lake County, Bauman said. The pickup was reported stolen out of San Pablo.

Bauman said the motive for Colcleaser's alleged threats against his cousin's life remain under investigation.

Community members should by no means confront Colcleaser, Bauman said.

Anyone with information on Colcleaser’s whereabouts should immediately call the Lake County Sheriff’s Office by dialing 911.

For footage of the day's search, see Lake County News' YouTube channel,

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .




A Motor Vehicles photo of 27-year-old Johnny Colcleaser of Vallejo, Calif., wanted for questioning in connection to alleged threats he made while armed on Monday, September 20, 2010.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Although autumn is now officially under way, Mother Nature is about to throw an atmospheric curve ball at Northern California that will extend the game of summer just a bit longer.

Temperatures are forecast to climb back in to the high 90s and near 100 over the next few days, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

A strong high pressure system is building over Northern California, including Lake County, which will push temperatures a little higher each day with the hottest days predicted on Monday and Tuesday, forecaster said.

Overnight temperatures will warm up as well, the National Weather Service predicts, with overnight lows 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the last few nights, when temperatures dipped in to the low 40s, and cool off to the upper 50s and low 60s.

Forecasters state that Friday's high will reach in to the upper 80s, with both Saturday and Sunday expected to reach well in to the 90s.

Prepare for summer weather if you are planning on attending one of the many outdoor events scheduled this weekend, including the Kelseyville Pear Festival, the Clear Lake Splash-In in Lakeport or the People's Choice Wine Awards in Lower Lake.

Morning events, such as parade at the pear festival, the guided walks at both Rodman Slough Preserve and Clear Lake State Park, should have ideal temperatures in the mid 60s and low 70s.

Temperatures will continue to increase early next week, according to forecasters, with daytime highs in the upper 90s near 100 on both Monday and Tuesday, with a cooling trend beginning on Wednesday.

Although temperatures are expected to trend downward beginning on Wednesday as the high pressure system moves out, it will still remain slightly warmer than the average temperature of 82, according to the forecast.

For up-to-the minute weather information, please visit the Lake County News homepage.

E-mail Terre Logsdon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

Johnny Colcleaser of Vallejo, Calif., was arrested late Monday, September 20, 2010, after deputies searched fro him following his alleged threat to kill a cousin. Lake County Jail photo.

LUCERNE, Calif. – A Vallejo man who managed to evade local law enforcement for most of Monday ended up spending the night in jail.

Johnny Colcleaser, 27, was arrested just after 9 p.m. and booked into the Lake County Jail an hour later, according to jail records.

Colcleaser was arrested at a home on Fourth Avenue in Lucerne on Monday evening, according to a report Lake County News received from an area resident.

His arrest came approximately 12 hours after sheriff's deputies were first dispatched to Lucerne on the report of threats, as Lake County News has reported.

Colcleaser reportedly went to the Ninth Avenue home of his cousin, who he allegedly threatened to kill before walking away. Capt. James Bauman said sheriff's deputies responded and Colcleaser took off in a foot chase that lasted several blocks, with Colcleaser eventually disappearing into the creek bed at Ninth Avenue.

The Lake County Sheriff's SWAT Team, the California Highway Patrol and the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office's helicopter assisted with the search, which lasted several hours Monday, as Lake County News has reported.

Some area businesses were temporarily closed and Lucerne Elementary School was locked down for part of the day.

During the search for Colcleaser deputies located a 2002 Ford pickup stolen from San Pablo that he is alleged to have driven to Lake County, according to Bauman.

Colcleaser was arrested on a felony parole violation and a felony charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, as well as misdemeanor resisting arrest.

He is being held without bail due to the parole violation.

Jail records indicate that Colcleaser is due to appear in Lake County Superior Court on Wednesday.

For footage of the day's search, see Lake County News' YouTube channel,

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

Lake County Sheriff's deputies involved in a search for an armed suspect gather behind the Lucerne Pharmacy in Lucerne, Calif., on the morning of Monday, September 20, 2010. Photo by Tera DeVroede.



LUCERNE, Calif. – Authorities spent Monday morning scouring the Northshore town of Lucerne for an armed man who allegedly had run from a deputy.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office identified the suspect as 27-year-old Johnny Colcleaser of Vallejo, who is wanted for questioning regarding threats he allegedly made while armed.

Shortly after 2:30 p.m. Monday, sheriff's officials confirmed that the search for Colcleaser was still under way.

Colcleaser had allegedly run from a deputy – who saw that he had a pistol in the waist of his pants – and headed into the creek bed between Eighth and Ninth avenues, according to initial reports at the scene.

The sheriff's office reported that Colcleaser was last seen at about 9:20 a.m.

A Sonoma County Sheriff's helicopter, California Highway Patrol and the Lake County SWAT Team were called in to assist the sheriff's office with the search, and perimeter controls were set up around the town.

One area resident reported that the helicopter's loudspeakers warned residents to stay inside and keep their doors locks, and that deputies also drove through neighborhoods warning residents to keep indoors.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office also reportedly sent out a reverse 911 call warning area residents of the situation.




Lake County Sheriff's deputies expanded their search for 27-year-old Johnny Colcleaser of Vallejo, Calif., to Foothill Drive in Lucerne, Calif., on Monday, September 20, 2010. Photo by John Jensen.



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Deputies and officers staged in an alley between Ninth and 10th avenues behind the Lucerne Pharmacy and Foster's Freeze as the helicopter circled overhead.


A report of movement in the trees above Foothill Drive drew deputies to the hillside there, where they expanded the search for Colcleaser, who they did not locate at that time.

CHP officers also searched the area of the Queen of the Rosary Catholic Church on Country Club Drive.

Angela Austin, secretary at Lucerne Elementary School, said the school started receiving calls Monday morning from concerned parents, and she called the sheriff's office to ask what to do.

The result was that the school was locked down for a few hours, with children kept inside classrooms from about 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., she said.

Kindergärtners were allowed to go home at 12:30 p.m., while older students were to be released at their normal times later in the afternoon, according to Austin.

The Lucerne Pharmacy – located in the midst of the search area – confirmed that it closed its doors for a few hours in the morning but had reopened by early afternoon.

By early afternoon the helicopter was no longer at the scene and the large law enforcement presence was no longer evident.

Colcleaser is described as a white male adult, 6 feet tall and 150 pounds. Officials said he has long dark hair in a pony tail.

Residents in the area were requested to lock their doors and immediately report suspicious activity to the Sheriff's Department Dispatch at 707-263-2690.

Officials emphasized that community members should not attempt to apprehend Colcleaser if they encounter him.




A Motor Vehicles photo of 27-year-old Johnny Colcleaser of Vallejo, Calif., wanted for questioning in connection to alleged threats he made while armed on Monday, September 20, 2010.



Colcleaser was allegedly involved in an incident in American Canyon three years ago this month in which he and two accomplices – one of whom was wanted at the time – were spotted getting into a stolen car, according to the Napa Valley Register.

In that September 2007 situation, Napa Sheriff's deputies apprehended Colcleaser after a foot chase and charged him with resisting arrest, violation of parole and possession of stolen property, the Napa Valley Register reported.

For video of the morning search, see the Lake County News YouTube channel,, or the Lake County News Facebook page,

Tera DeVroede and John Jensen contributed to this report.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

It’s easy to imagine awkward moments on college campuses these days as veterans of the Iraq/ Afghanistan era mix with another category of student also using generous education benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

“What’s your service and where did you serve?”

“I didn’t. My dad (mom) did.”

More than 38,000 military children and spouses have gone to college this past year on benefits transferred to them from military careerists and recent retirees. And that flow has just begun.

Through early September, the services had approved requests from 145,000 service members to transfer GI Bill benefits to 331,000 children and spouses. Congressional auditors two years ago estimated the transferability feature alone would add $10 billion to program costs over the first decade.

Benefits can be transferred to a spouse if the member has served at least six years and commits to four more. Transfer to children, in return for that extra time, is allowed after 10 years’ service.

But GI Bill transfers are in overdrive right now because Defense officials made almost the entire career force eligible, and eliminated or reduced that extra service obligation for those near to retirement.

As a result, awkward moments over transferability are occurring on Capitol Hill too. In July, at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) said the Department of Defense “has too broadly extended this benefit.”

Akaka said Congress believed transferability would be used selectively, to retain members with critical skills, and not to reward all careerists.

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), chief architect of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, in a brief interview Friday, recalled how he hesitated to accept transferability when pushed by the Bush administration in final GI Bill negotiations.

“My personal focus was on the citizen soldier who spends a tour and then returns to civilian life. They are the ones who were to benefit, as they did from the original GI bill, the World War II GI Bill. To help these people get on with the rest of their lives has been my main focus,” Webb said.

“I would like to see the numbers on transferability,” he said. “I’m not saying I’m opposed but I would be very curious to see the numbers.”

And on his visits to the Pentagon, Webb added, “I’d like to see senior leaders over there spend more time talking about how great this benefit is for the people who leave the military. Yet every time I come over they want to talk to me about transferability … I remind them they ought to be just as happy about those people who have gotten out” after fewer than six years.

The first bill Webb introduced as a new senator in 2007 was a GI Bill to rival the post-World War II benefit, paying the full cost of college for a new generation of warriors, at least at state-run schools. When his idea gained steam in early 2008, Republican leaders countered with a more modest plan to beef up the Montgomery GI Bill. Defense leaders preferred this, fearing Webb’s more generous plan would put force readiness at risk, enticing many to leave for college after a single hitch or mid-career.

Then-Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) proposed a compromise, a transferability test to allow members to give half of their new GI Bill benefit to family members. Bush had endorsed transferability in his 2008 State of the Union address, so it snowballed into a very robust feature of Webb’s bill.

Eligibility would depend on how Defense officials wrote the implementing regulation. What they produced was far more inclusive than many observers had expected. Even some veterans’ service organizations were surprised at how expansive they made GI Bill transferability.

“DoD got this great retention tool. Instead of managing it by specific military occupational specialty or hard-target skill sets, DoD says ‘It doesn’t come out of our budget so we’re going to give it to everybody,’” complained an education expert for one vet organization. “They made the application for transferability so liberal it was perceived as a retiree benefit. That, very clearly, was not the intent of the legislation. It’s the equivalent of paying new retirees a retention bonus for being retired.”

Akaka thought he had a partial solution in May when he introduced a comprehensive bill to reform the Post-9/11 GI Bill. He tucked in a provision to shift the cost of transferability from the VA budget to DoD, so Defense officials would tighten eligibility or suffer the fiscal consequences. By August Akaka had pulled that provision at the request of Defense officials.

DoD has no plans to tighten transferability rules.

“Transferability will help us continue to recruit and retain highly qualified American youth,” said Robert E. Clark, assistant director for accession policy at DoD.

It’s a tool, he said, “to address the force management goals of the services, while allowing career service members to share the benefits they've earned with their families.”

Members qualified for transferability only if they were on active duty on or after Aug. 1, 2009. In opening it to the entire career force, Defense officials relaxed the four-year added service obligation for anyone eligible to retire from August 2009 through July 2012. This had to be done, officials said, to preserve force structure and promotion opportunity.

That very large wave of eligible families with older children will pass with time and won’t be seen again. One official put it this way:

“The old-guys-get-the-money stuff pretty much happens in the first year or two,” he said. “After that, they're all signed up and it's the people completing six years who are your new class of [transfer] takers. So in the end, all warriors will have benefited … but it will grow to become applicable only to those completing their sixth year – a retention sensitive group – exactly as Senator Akaka suggests.”

To comment, send e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to Military Update, P. O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120-1111.

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Silent auction items and bid sheets line the tasting room bar during the Lake County Wine Auction on Saturday, September 18, 2010, at Ceago Vinegarden in Nice, Calif. Proceeds from the silent auction totaled $6,179, an average of more than $100 for each of the 57 items. Photo by Esther Oertel.





NICE, Calif. – The shimmer of the late afternoon sun on Clear Lake was a fitting backdrop for the arrival of hundreds of guests to the 11th annual Lake County Wine Auction on Saturday.

Ceago Vinegarden, surrounded by gardens and perched on the shores of the lake in Nice, was the venue for this year’s event.

All available tickets – 350 of them – were sold out a month in advance, a first for the Wine Auction, and the rambling Mediterranean-inspired courtyards and various tasting rooms of the winery provided ample space for the sellout crowd.

The Lake County Wine Alliance has sponsored the auction since its inception in 2000 for the purpose of raising money for nonprofit organizations throughout Lake County.




This year

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – As the recipient of stimulus funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the county of Lake will soon realize significant energy savings through cost-effective projects that will be completed on publicly-owned facilities, while at the same helping to stimulate the local economy; create and retain jobs; reduce fossil fuel emissions; reduce total energy usage, and improve energy efficiency.

The contract between the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the county of Lake, which will provide nearly $259,000 in funds from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG), became fully encumbered on Sept. 21 which means the county can begin work on the projects, which must be completed before September of 2012.

Staff in the Lake County Public Services Department submitted an application to the CEC to receive funds for cost-effective energy efficiency projects on county facilities in January of this year in an effort to make better use of taxpayer money.

After a few updates initiated by the CEC, the notice to proceed was issued on Sept. 21.

“The Public Services Department is committed to seeking every opportunity to save energy in county-owned facilities, which in turn will allow government dollars to be allocated to other important programs,” said Public Services Director Kim Clymire.

Clymire further noted that, “Our deputy director, Caroline Chavez, has worked tirelessly with the state to fulfill all requirements and requests that will allow our staff to begin these important energy-saving projects.”

Projects funded by the EECBG include replacing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units at Juvenile Hall, Probation, and the Courthouse in Lakeport, as well as at the Mental Health/AODS in Clearlake.

In addition to HVAC units, regular thermostats will be replaced with MAMAC remote systems – which allow the thermostats to be monitored and adjusted remotely – saving staff travel time and money.

Occupancy sensors installed will turn off lights when rooms are unoccupied and automatically turn lights on when occupied.

Contractors will be hired to replace the larger HVAC units in the Courthouse, all other projects will be completed by staff in the Public Services Department, Building and Grounds Division. Funding from this grant will help retain county staff, as well as stimulate the local economy by hiring local contractors.

For more information, contact Terre Logsdon with the Lake County Public Services Department at 707-262-1760.

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UKIAH, Calif. – Solar 
annual renewable 
will be held at the 
Empire Fairgrounds
 Ukiah on Saturday, Sept. 25, and Sunday, Sept. 26.

The event is back after a one-year hiatus.

For more than 14 years SolFest has attracted up to 10,000 attendees due to dynamic keynotes speakers, education panels and workshops, music and celebration as a way to demonstrate solar and sustainability applications, said Solar Living Institute Executive Director Ross Beck.

of more than 50 informative 
workshops and
 opportunities, celebrations
 sustainable living enthusiasts 
in attendance.

the MoonDance
 location 12 

 Kennedy Jr.
 this year's event. He 
will speak
 on the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 25.

 Kennedy,” said Beck.

Other notable speakers at the event include Arianna Huffington, Ed Begley Jr., David Blume, David Orr, Rhone Resch, virtual Bill McKibben, AG Kawamura, Paul Dolan and Congressman Mike Thompson.

Panels cover solar electric cars, off-grid solar in the third world, youth for green schools, green building for the 21st century and community resilience and localization.

Workshops range from Alcohol as Fuel and Starting a Solar Business, to Beekeeping, Eco Home Remodeling and Greywater Systems. Demonstrations illustrate Wind Turbines, PV System Performance, Eco-bricks and Medicinal Herbs.

For musical entertainment there's Poor Man's Whiskey, DGINN on the Main Stage. Sila, DJ Dragonfly and The Jug Dealers for Moondance, and non-stop music at the Solar Stage: Keegan Smith, Bucky Walters, Trailer Park Rangers, Misner & Smith, Linda Ferro Band, Alexis Harte, The Mighty Chiplings, Bruce Klein's Galactic Band, Festival of Friends, DJ Kevin West and Charlie Vaughan & Friends.

Children ages 12 and under may attend for free. Family stage programming has hands-on pottery making, hula hooping, tumbling and juggling workshops, puppetry, Native American storytelling, songs and music.

KRCB's Film Pavilion features the Natural Heroes series: the Brower Youth Awards, Global Oneness, Voyage of the Veizo, The Story of Stuff and How Cuba Survived Peak Oil and more.

The Network Cafe offers up to date information on green career options in today's economic climate and tips on writing a resume. Stop by and start a conversation with both experts and fellow citizens. Be inspired by the notable achievements of past Solar Living Institute Interns.

Visit hundreds of exhibits and booths showcasing green businesses and products. Enjoy organic and biodynamic wine, beer and fine food.



Tickets are now on sale. For ticket information and pricing visit

For more information about 
Solar Living
 Institute visit

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LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – State and national unemployment rates increased slightly in August, while Lake County's rate dropped, according to the state's latest labor statistics report.

The Employment Development Department reported that Lake County's unemployment rate dropped from an unadjusted rate of 17.3 percent in July to 16.8 percent in August. The county registered 14.8 percent unemployment in August 2009.

Lake ranked 53 out of the state's 58 counties for its August unemployment rate, the report showed.

Statewide, unemployment edged up to 12.4 percent in August from 12.3 percent in July, with nonfarm payroll jobs decreasing by 33,500 during the month, based on data derived from two separate surveys that the Employment Development Department released. The August 2009 unemployment rate was 12 percent.

The U.S. unemployment rate also increased in August to 9.6 percent, up from 9.5 percent in July, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That national rate for August actually is slightly lower than in August 2009, when nationwide unemployment reached 9.7 percent.

A federal survey of 5,500 households, done with a smaller sample than the survey of employers, showed an increase in the number of employed people during the month. It estimated the number of Californians holding jobs in August was 15,968,000, a decrease of 49,000 from July, and down 71,000 from the employment total in August of last year.

The number of people unemployed in California was 2,261,000, up by 11,000 over the month, and up by 81,000 compared with August of last year, the state reported.

“The latest job numbers show that Californians are continuing to suffer from slow job growth, and things will only improve when there is strong hiring in the private sector,” said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “That is the No. 1 reason I went on my trade mission – to drum up support for California’s products and services and create jobs.”

Schwarzenegger said it must be made easier for businesses to invest and hire to help turn the economy around.

The Employment Development Department reported that there were 620,844 people receiving regular

unemployment insurance benefits during the August survey week, compared with 666,502 in July and 790,099 in August 2009. At the same time, new claims for unemployment insurance were 65,261 in August, compared with 73,817 in July and 69,488 in August of last year.

This past August, Imperial County registered the highest unemployment rate, at 30.4 percent, with Marin having the lowest rate, with 8.4 percent, according to the report.

Lake County's labor force was composed of 26,360 people in August, of which 4,430 were unemployed. That's compared to 26,120 workers and 4,520 unemployed the previous month, based on state labor statistics.

Lake's neighboring counties posted the following rates and state rankings: Glenn, 17 percent, No. 55; Yolo, 11.6 percent, No. 22; Mendocino, 10.8 percent, No. 14; Sonoma, 10.5 percent, No. 11; and Napa, 9.4 percent, No. 4.

Within Lake County, Upper Lake had the lowest unemployment in August, with 8.7 percent, while Clearlake Oaks registered a 24.9 percent rate.

The following unemployment rates were reported for other areas of the county, from highest to lowest: Nice, 24.4 percent; city of Clearlake, 24 percent; Lucerne, 17.7 percent; Kelseyville, 17.1 percent; Middletown, 17 percent; city of Lakeport, 16.2 percent; Cobb, 15 percent; Lower Lake, 14.1 percent; Hidden Valley Lake, 13.9 percent; and north Lakeport, 13.3 percent.

State data shows lost jobs over the month

The Employment Development Department's report on payroll employment – wage and salary jobs – in the nonfarm industries of California showed that jobs totaled 13,827,900 in August, a net loss of 33,500 jobs since the July survey. This followed revised data that showed a loss of 22,900 jobs in July.

The report showed that two categories – mining and logging; and professional and business services – added jobs from July to August, gaining 500 jobs. Professional and business services posted the largest increase over the month, adding 300 jobs.

At the same time, the state reported that nine categories – construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; financial activities; educational and health services; leisure and hospitality; other services; and government – reported job declines this month, down 34,000 jobs.

Of that group, government posted the largest jobs decline over the month, down by 9,200 jobs, which the state said included the loss of 7,700 temporary federal Census jobs.

In a year-over-year comparison – August 2009 to August 2010 – nonfarm payroll employment in California decreased by 113,100 jobs (down 0.8 percent), the Employment Development Department said.

Three industry divisions – mining and logging; professional and business services; and educational and health services – posted job gains over the year, adding 61,500 jobs. At the same time, the state said professional and business services recorded the largest increase over the year on a numerical basis, up 38,700 jobs, a 1.9 percent increase.

Mining and logging recorded the largest increase over the year on a percentage basis, up 2.4 percent, or an increase of 600 jobs, the state reported.

State data showed six categories – construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; financial activities; leisure and hospitality; other services; and government – posted job declines over the year, down 174,600 jobs.

Based on the report, government employment showed the largest decline over the year on a numerical basis, down by 47,700 jobs, a decline of 1.9 percent, while construction showed the largest decline over the year on a percentage basis, down by 7.6 percent or 44,700 jobs.

One sector, information, reported no change over the month, the state report showed.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

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