Friday, 03 February 2023

News

LAKE COUNTY – In only the first week of summer operations to eradicate illegal marijuana, the Lake County Sheriff's Office and other local and state agencies have seized in the county more than 53,000 plants valued at more than $240 million.


With such a start to the season, officials believe 2008 could match or surpass 2007, which proved a record-breaking year for illegal marijuana eradications both in Lake County and across the state.


Lt. Dave Garzoli of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported Monday that the Sheriff’s Marijuana Eradication Program kicked off its annual effort to eradicate illegal marijuana grows on July 7. The program is funded through federal grants.


Garzoli said in the first three days of eradication approximately 53,472 marijuana plants were found and destroyed in areas around Highland Springs Reservoir, the Glen Eden Trail head and White Rock Mountain.


Estimated street value of the marijuana seized is more than $240 million, said Garzoli, a figure calculated at $4,500 per pound at a 1-pound-per-plant yield.


The multi-agency effort includes participation from the state's California’s Multi Jurisdictional Marijuana Eradication Task Force – known as the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, or CAMP – the Lakeport Police Department, Lake County Narcotics Task Force and the California Department of Fish and Game.


During the eradications officials found at least one firearm left behind when growers fled the area and in other sites located ammunition and shell casings, according to Garzoli.


Officials made no arrests during last week's eradications, Garzoli said. During the operations, one law enforcement officer suffered a heat-related injury and was transported to the hospital.


Based on the first week of operations, Garzoli said 2008 appears to be shaping up much like 2007 in terms of illicit marijuana finds.


Last year, Lake County led the state with the highest number of plants eradicated in a single season – 507,000, a state record – as Lake County News has reported. Plants were seized on private lands but public lands – primarily the Mendocino National Forest – proved a primary discovery area.


Statewide, more than 2.9 million plants were seized with an overall value of $11.6 billion, the California Attorney General's Office reported.


Garzoli said virtually every illegal grow site discovered in Lake County last year had evidence that indicated that it was directed by Mexican organized crime. He said the sites almost always were inhabited by armed Hispanic growers and the environment surrounding these grow sites was devastated with trash, chemicals and plastic pipe.


The same conditions were discovered last week, he added.


Garzoli said the illicit grow sites discovered last week were located in extremely rugged terrain at elevations of 2,400 feet.


Because of the remoteness of the areas, Garzoli said efficient access to the grow sites was possible only

by helicopter via a Short Term Airborne Operation, or STABO.


He said STABO is a technique in which two officers at a time are lifted on the end of a 100-foot rope by a helicopter and flown to and lowered into the marijuana grow site.


Once all officers are deployed on the ground, Garzoli said a search of the grow site for suspects is

conducted. Once it's determined to be clear, they begin eradication, with the marijuana hauled out on the long line.


Once a garden is eradicated, the officers are then lifted to the next site, said Garzoli, continuing on until each illicit garden is destroyed.


The illegal grows on public lands haven't just been destructive to the environment, they've also posed safety hazards for the public and those working on public lands.


On the morning of July 10 firefighters battling the Soda Complex near Lake Pillsbury were patrolling the northern flank of the Mill Fire to identify areas where fire crews should put in containment lines, said Mendocino National Forest spokesperson Phebe Brown.


As they were traveling through the area, firefighters were confronted by two armed men who spoke to them in a threatening manner in a foreign language, she said.


Brown said the firefighters left the area and notified Forest Service law enforcement officials and the Lake County Sheriff's Office, who responded to the Lake Pillsbury area.


“Fire crews did not work that location for a day and a half until the area was secured by law enforcement for firefighter safety,” said Brown.


Brown said neither the growers nor their weapons were discovered; however, officials located and eradicated a small illegal marijuana garden – consisting of 47 plants – on National Forest land in the Sanhedrin Wilderness.


She said law enforcement officials have continued to patrol the area since then while firefighters are on the line.


Garzoli said the illicit marijuana eradications will continue for the rest of the summer.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Southern California Incident Management No. 3 is managing the Soda Complex of fires in the Mendocino National Forest from Upper Lake High School. Photo by Lenny Matthews.

 


UPPER LAKE – A new incident management team has taken over supervision of the Soda Complex, which officials have estimated could be contained in the coming week.


Southern California Incident Management No. 3 took over the fire's management on Saturday afternoon, said Forest Service spokesman Marc Peebles.


“We're still getting our arms around it,” he said.


The team is working from a headquarters camp at Upper Lake High School, Peebles said Sunday. There is also a remote camp at Soda Spike for firefighters.


The four-fire complex has burned 7,020 acres to date, Peebles said. It was sparked by a lightning storm that passed over Northern California on June 21.


Over the past weekend the two fires that are still burning – the Monkey Rock Fire and the Mill Fire – continued to grow, said Peebles, causing the containment estimates to roll back from 78 percent on Saturday to 64 percent on Sunday. Peebles said 330 firefighters remain assigned to the two remaining fires.


The Monkey Rock Fire, at 1,630 acres and 65-percent contained, is estimated for full containment on Monday, according to Peebles. The Mill Fire has burned 1,600 acres and is 40-percent contained. Peebles said the Mill Fire's estimated containment date is next Saturday.


“There's a lot of line to construct that they're working on it diligently,” Peebles said of efforts to contain the fires.


The fires are located on the forest's Upper Lake Ranger District, in remote lands to the north and northwest of Lake Pillsbury.


Conditions there are very hot, Peebles said. In addition, firefighters are dealing with steep, rugged terrain. “There's all sorts of hazards out there.”


The 1,600-acre Back Fire and the 2,190-acre Big Fire already have been contained, but patrols remain on the areas they burned in case of flareups, Peebles reported.


On Friday a firefighter was taken to emergency care, said Peebles.


“There was a firefight that they thought might have had a heart attack or heard condition,” he said.


However, it was later found out that the firefighter hadn't suffered a heart attack, and the person was treated and released, and is doing OK, Peebles said.


Peebles said the current incident command expects to finish out the fire, and said the headquarters will stay in place Upper Lake until the complex is wrapped up.


Pogie Point Campground at Lake Pillsbury remains closed and is being used as a sleeping area for firefighters, according to officials. They're also asking hunters to be especially careful of fire equipment moving through the forest, with archery season having begun over the weekend.


Peebles didn't have an updated cost estimate for suppression, which on Saturday had been placed at $6.8 million.


In other fire news around the region, the Mendocino Lightning Complex is expected to be contained on Wednesday. So far, it's burned 53,300 acres and is 85-percent contained, according to Cal Fire. Suppression efforts have cost more than $36.5 million, with 2,154 firefighters assigned to the complex.


While evacuations remain in effect in certain communities, an evacuation order was lifted Sunday morning for the community of Rockport.


Cal Fire reported Sunday that the lightning fires around the state have burned a total of 825,218 acres since June 20. There are still 288 active fires around the state, 16 of which are in Cal Fire jurisdiction.


In all, 21,447 fire personnel, 1,593 fire engines, 473 hand crews, 293 dozers, 406 water tenders and 126 helicopters remain committed to the fires, according to Cal Fire.


For more information about the forest fires visit Forest Service Web site at www.fs.fed.us/r5/mendocino or www.inciweb.org. For information about other fires around the state, visit www.cdf.ca.gov.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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I’ve admitted it in the past, I can be a food snob. I want the best of everything; e.g., I pay more for a can of anchovies than most people would pay for a dinner (it may sound extravagant, but they’re really good anchovies!).


However, even for me, there are days when I’m feeling lazy and I don’t want to spend hours preparing dinner, and that’s when I fall back on the old standbys, like a casserole.


That’s when I reach for what we call at our house “Cream of Soup.” That’s right, those wonderful little cans of cream of ... mushroom, chicken, broccoli, asparagus, all the different varieties they make.


If I reach back into my cupboard and my hand rests on a Cream of Soup with broccoli, then I look in the freezer for some broccoli to add to it, maybe some cheddar cheese, some rice, a little milk and leftover chicken, toss it all into a casserole dish and poof! Dinner almost makes itself. And the great thing is that cream of soup is an item that you can keep in your pantry and forget about until that night where you just say “I don’t wanna cook!” Whoosh! Cream of Soup swoops in and saves the day.


I always get a giggle out of recipes that call for a certain type of cream of soup. Would adding cream of broccoli soup to a recipe that calls for cream of mushroom ruin it? No, of course not! It simply adds a new dimension to whatever dish you’re making.


So I don’t even ask for any specific type anymore. If you were looking on my grocery list, all you would see among the items is “Cream of soup.” Try it: if you find a recipe calling for a particular cream of soup, rebel a little, go out on a limb and use a different flavor and see if it doesn’t just add a little something more to the dish.


I normally don’t endorse any particular brand of mass-produced product because I have the fundamental belief that if you have a good product then I’ll use it, and if you have a good product and pay me, I’ll endorse it.


But this is one time that I will break that rule and say that I use Campbell’s soups for these needs, just because of their Labels For Education program. I have a manila envelope taped to the side of my refrigerator that I collect labels in, along with the associated box tops and wrappers from various other products. I gather them for a year and then turn them in to the local school. Even if you don’t have children in school, you should save these Labels For Education so we can improve our local schools. One snowflake doesn’t make an avalanche, but somehow it still happens, eh?


Cream of mushroom soup was created by Campbell’s in 1934 and came to be known as “Lutheran binder” because of its ability to bind casseroles and hot dishes together. Growing up in Minnesota, that Lutheran, Scandinavian, agricultural, ice fortress, we had a casserole (actually, in Minnesota they are called “hotdish,” one word) at least every week, if not several times a week. Cream of soup was something that families bought monthly by the case. Not only is the “hotdish” something that you eat at home regularly, but it is a staple at the church potluck.


If you would like to learn to speak with a fluent Minnesotan accent, just try your best to sound like Edie McClurg in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and answer every question with “Yah, sure you betcha!” and end every sentence with “Don’tcha know!” (Yes, “don’tcha” is also one word). You’ll sound like a native. Whip up a “cream of soup” hotdish and you’re in!


Put “Cream of soup” on your grocery list, and even if you don’t use it for months, on that one day you do pull it out, it will feel like gold.


Cream of soup hot dish (casserole)


4 ounce wide egg noodles

1 can cream of soup

2 Six ounce cans of tuna

½ cup milk

3 tablespoons grated cheese (Parmesan, Asiago or crumbled feta work well)

3 tablespoons onion, chopped

Black pepper

2 tablespoons melted butter

4 teaspoons bread crumbs (or Panko)

¼ teaspoon Herbs de Provence (Dried thyme or oregano may be substituted for the Herbs de Provence)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Cook noodles according to the package instructions and drain. It’s best if the noodles are slightly undercooked as they will soften more as they bake later. Set aside.


In a casserole, place drained tuna and break up the large pieces. Add soup, milk, grated cheese and chopped onion. Mix together. Season with black pepper to taste. Fold in cooked noodles and gently stir until combined.


In a small bowl, mix melted butter and bread crumbs. Crush the Herbs de Provence into fine pieces and mix into breadcrumb mixture. Sprinkle evenly over the tuna noodle casserole.


Put casserole into oven for 30 minutes or until crumb topping is golden brown. Serves four.


Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


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CLEARLAKE – A case last week originally believed to have involved the discovery of a cockfighting ring in Clearlake was not as reported, an Animal Care and Control officer said Monday.


An Animal Care and Control dispatcher had told Lake County News last week that the discovery of dead and neglected chickens at a 30th Avenue residence had involved the discovery of numerous roosters outfitted with fighting spurs, or gaffs.


However, Animal Care and Control Officer Terrie Flynn said Monday that no fighting implements were found.


While the investigation is ongoing, Flynn said she does not believe it involved cockfighting.


She said during a welfare check at the residence she found 25 birds with no food or water, with some dead birds mixed in among them. Many of the birds also were injured, she said.


Flynn said she took the birds into protective custody.


“I have located the owner and I'm dealing with that person now,” she said.


The original story reporting the incorrect information has been removed from this site.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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MIDDLETOWN – A motorcycle rider was seriously injured in a crash that took place Sunday afternoon.


The California Highway Patrol reported that the crash took place at 1:41 p.m. on Highway 175, a quarter-mile south of Arroyo Vista and two miles north of Socrates Mine Road.


Cal Fire emergency personnel responded to the scene along with CHP.


The victim – whose name has so far not been released – was flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for treatment of major, unspecified injuries.


No further information was available on the crash late Sunday night.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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LAKE COUNTY – Containment on the Soda Complex has increased with the fires expected to be fully surrounded by fire lines this week, while fires in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness have show marked growth.


Forest Service spokesman Marc Peebles reported Monday that the Soda Complex was at 72-percent containment.


The fire complex has burned 7,567 acres in remote areas to the north and northwest of Lake Pillsbury. There are 326 firefighters assigned to the complex, which is being managed by Southern California Incident Management No. 3, based at Upper Lake High School.


The two fires continuing to burn in the complex are the Mill, at 1,978 acres and 55-percent containment, which is expected to be contained next Saturday, and the Monkey Rock Fire, which Peebles reported has burned 1,829 acres and is 92-percent contained, with full containment estimated for Wednesday.


Elsewhere on the forest, the Yolla Bolly Complex, which has been rolled into the Lime Complex, has grown to a total of 20,988 acres, Forest Service spokesperson Phebe Brown reported Monday. Overall percentage of containment wasn't clear Monday.

 

Fire restrictions went into effect on Monday across the entire Mendocino National Forest through the end of fire season, Brown reported. Restrictions include requiring spark-arresting devices on all vehicles and chain saws.


Campfires are limited to developed campgrounds, with a campfire permit required to have lanterns or portable stoves using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel in other forest areas, officials reported.


Elsewhere on the North Coast, the Mendocino Lightning Complex remained at a standstill Monday, with Cal Fire reporting that containment was still at 85 percent, and burned acreage at 53,300. Total suppression costs are at $37.9 million.


As of Monday evening, all evacuation orders for Mendocino County were lifted, according to Cal Fire. Air quality is still in the unhealthy range in some parts of Mendocino County, although Ukiah's air quality is in the “good” range.


Lake County's air basin was looking better Monday, with blue skies appearing in parts of the county once more. Air Pollution Control Officer Bob Reynolds reported that air quality conditions are expected to move into the good to moderate range on Tuesday.


For more information about the forest fires visit Forest Service Web site at www.fs.fed.us/r5/mendocino or www.inciweb.org. For information about other fires around the state, visit www.cdf.ca.gov.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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LAKEPORT – Lakeport Police are asking area residents to be on their guard in the wake of a woman reporting that she lost thousands of dollars in an Internet fraud case.


Lt. Brad Rasmussen reported that Lakeport Police received a report on July 10 from a local woman who said she'd lost $8,300 after receiving an e-mail that offered her an in-home business opportunity.


According to Rasmussen, the suspects offered to send the victim checks with a request that she cash them and keep 10 percent of the funds for her service.


The woman cashed $8,300 in checks through her bank and forwarded the suspects $7,470 before discovering the checks were fraudulent, Rasmussen said.


Since the woman originally reported the crime, Rasmussen said the fraud suspects have attempted to obtain another $18,600 from her.


“This could be a very large scam,” Rasmussen said.


Rasmussen said the Lakeport Police Department has identified four possible suspects in the case from South Carolina and is currently working with an agency from that state in an effort to develop additional evidence.


“The IDs appear good at this time because some of the suspect names are well known to the agency in South Carolina where the checks came from,” Rasmussen said.


It's a fortunate development in the case. “Usually we are not able to get a good lead on a case like this, but with the possible suspect IDs we might be able to make a case here or turn it over to another agency,” said Rasmussen.


Rasmussen said in many such cases of Internet fraud, the suspects cannot be identified or are operating from outside the country, making it difficult for law enforcement to investigate.


He said police are asking citizens to be aware of Internet and telephone frauds scams and not accept or cash checks from unknown persons or give out personal information over the telephone.


“On cases like this we like to get the information out to the public to hopefully prevent others from becoming victims of these scams,” he said.


If you live in Lakeport and believe you've been a victim of a similar scam, call Lakeport Police at 263-5491.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Miss Lake County Amanda Betat (left) and Miss Lake County Outstanding Teen Lauren Berlinn. Courtesy photo.

 


LAKE COUNTY – Two young local women represented Lake County in style in scholarshp pageants late last month.


The Miss California Scholarship Pageant was held from June 20 to June 28 in Fresno. Lake County’s local representative, Amanda Betat, did extremely well, receiving the non-finalist talent award for her classical piano “Fantasie-Impromptu Opus 66.”


Betat did well in each phase of competition and had a wonderful experience meeting and working with the 54 other talented and intelligent young women from across the state.


The Miss California’s Outstanding Teen Pageant was held in conjunction with the Miss California Pageant in Fresno.


Lauren Berlinn, Lake County’s Outstanding Teen, did an excellent job of representing Lake County. This was the first year that Lake County has had a teen representative.


The Miss Lake County Scholarship Committee is extremely proud of both of these young ladies and has thoroughly enjoyed working with each one.


Accompanying Miss Lake County was Princes Shannyn Magana also accompanying Miss Gavilan Hills Saundra Combs was Princes Rachel Kelly.


The Miss Lake County Scholarship Organization announces its newest scholarship fundraiser, the “From New York to Lakeport” fashion show, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 19 at the Soper-Reese Community Theater. Special guests will include Miss California 2008 Jackie Geist, Miss Lake County Amanda Betat and Miss Lake County’s Outstanding Teen Lauren Berlinn. Presale admission is $45, $50 at the door. Call 263-1631 for tickets.


Due to the fires this year, The Miss Lake County Scholarship Organization was not able to sell fireworks over the Fourth of July. Fireworks sales are usually the largest fundraiser and provider of scholarship money for the pageant.


It is the committee’s hope that the “From New York to Lakeport” fashion show will be able to provide enough money to award the young women who compete in this year’s pageant with a substantial scholarship. Community support is greatly encouraged and will be much appreciated.


This year, due to generous support, the Miss Lake County Pageant will be held on Aug. 8 at Robinson Rancheria Resort and Casino. This will allow for more scholarship money and will aid in furthering the education of the young women who compete in the program and teaching them skills needed to help in their future success.


Miss Lake County Amanda Betat, Miss Lake County’s Outstanding Teen Lauren Berlinn, and the young ladies competing this year hope to see you there.


Call 800-809-3636 for reserve your seats now.

 

 

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Amanda Betat received the non-finalist talent award for her classical piano

MIDDLETOWN – The California Highway Patrol on Monday offered further details on a Sunday motorcycle crash that injured a man.


CHP Officer Adam Garcia said a 31-year-old Willits man – whose name was not available Monday – was injured in the collision, which occurred at 1:35 p.m. Sunday, a quarter-mile south of Arroyo Vista and two miles north of Socrates Mine Road.


Garcia said the man was riding a motorcycle westbound on Highway 175 when he lost control on a sharp left curve and went down onto the asphalt. He then slid into the guardrail that borders the south side of the roadway.


The man sustained major injuries and was flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Garcia said, adding he had no further information on the man's condition.


Garcia said CHP Officer Brian Engle is investigating the collision.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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NORTH COAST – A firefighter working in the Mendocino National Forest was injured on Friday as efforts to contain the Soda Complex continue.


As of Saturday, the Soda Complex had burned 7,020 acres to the north and northwest of Lake Pillsbury, on the Mendocino National Forest's Upper Lake Ranger District.


Forest Service spokesman Brian LaMoure reported that late on Friday a firefighter was air evacuated at the end of the shift, complaining of chest pain. No further information on the firefighter's condition was available Saturday.


Containment on Saturday was at 78 percent, another slight rollback in progress for firefighters, according to LaMoure.


Two fires out of the original four in the complex, which began on June 21 due to lightning storms, continue to burn – the Mill Fire, at 1,600 acres, with estimated containment on July 16; and the Monkey Rock Fire, at 1,630 acres, with containment expected on July 14, LaMoure reported.


Also on Friday, the Mill Fire's northwest flank continued to spread, while resources patrolled the areas of the contained Big and Back fires, where LaMoure said smoke had been observed.


Officials urged caution for hunters in the forest, as archery season began on Saturday. Hunters are cautioned to be aware of road closures in the area and the presence of fire traffic.


Suppression costs for the Soda Complex so far are estimated at $6.8 million.


The Yolla Bolly Complex in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness is now being managed as part of the Lime Complex. One of its largest fires, the Yellow, has burned more than 8,200 acres and has no estimate for containment. No other specifics on the complex were available late Saturday.


Mendocino County's lightning complex jumped to 85-percent containment at 53,200 acres burned, according to Cal Fire.


There are 2,102 firefighters continuing to work on the six remaining blazes in the complex, which originally had included a total of 127 fires, officials reported.


So far, there have been 42 injuries and one firefighter death in the Mendocino Lightning Complex, which Cal Fire reported has cost $33.1 million to fight.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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LAKE COUNTY – The Lake County Office of Education is the object of an ongoing investigation by Lake County's grand jury, whose newly released report looks at allegations of overspending, jobs awarded to individuals without qualifications and retaliation by administrators against employees.


Chris Thomas, the Lake County Office of Education's deputy superintendent of education services, said Friday that the agency was disappointed with “a lot of very general allegations” made in the report, to which it plans to quickly respond.


“There are two sides to every story,” said Thomas, adding that the report “blindsided” the agency.


Lake County's latest grand jury report, released to the general public on Friday, stated that its Public Services Committee “received several complaints alleging a wide range of violations against the Lake County Office of Education.”


The agency, which is independent of the county government, supports local school districts with technical and advisory services while also overseeing the Aspire Program and Clearlake Community Day School.


The Lake County Office of Education is overseen by Superintendent Dave Geck, who was elected to his four-year office in June 2006 and sworn in during the fall of that year following the early retirement of his predecessor, Bill Cornelison.


The complaints submitted to the grand jury included “falsifying documents, receiving credentials under false pretenses, exorbitant spending, misuse of grant funding, wrongful dismissal, violation of policies and procedures, employee abuse, and negligence involving a student,” according to the report.


The report stated that the grand jury's Public Services Committee began investigating the allegations last December, and the inquiry was still ongoing when the report was prepared last month.


“The committee interviewed numerous witnesses, received and reviewed copies of reimbursement vouchers and documents relating to the investigation, and interviewed members of the LCOE administration,” the report stated, adding that the investigation had “grown significantly.”


Geck was interviewed, the report stated. Also interviewed was Thomas, who confirmed she was among those who appeared before the committee.


The investigation is ongoing and will continue this coming year, according to the report.


Chief among the allegations is that an individual within the agency was granted an administrative position and a $25,000-per-year salary increase yet lacked the qualifications for the job, which was created in 2007 and wasn't posted publicly before it was awarded.


The individual who received the job was not named in the report, and Thomas would not confirm the person's identity, saying it's a personnel matter.


Other complaints included a “pattern of exorbitant spending” by an administrator responsible for grant funds, although “documentation has not been discovered to prove misappropriation of grant funding,” according to the report; “hostile conditions,” including verbal and mental abuse; termination of some employees without representation; and reports regarding a student's academic achievements and placement which were allegedly altered to justify the student's placement in a class at the Clearlake Community School.


There also was the matter of fear of recrimination. “Several current employees of LCOE revealed, under oath, fear of administration and fear of repercussions for appearing before the committee,” the report stated.


Asked about that reference, Thomas said the agency's administration would not know who was appearing before the committee, so the accusation was baseless.


Did administration receive any complaints from employees about hostile work environment conditions or specific administrators? Thomas said she couldn't answer the question because it was a personnel matter.


Because the investigation is ongoing, the grand jury report offers no recommendations on the situation.


The report was released to county department heads and other agency administrators, such as Geck, on Wednesday, after the new grand jury was impaneled.


Thomas said Geck saw a copy of the report on Wednesday afternoon. The following day, he left for a planned Alaskan vacation. He's scheduled to return to the office July 28.


“The timing is bad,” said Thomas.


Before he left, Geck discussed the report with Thomas, she said.


“The superintendent has said he will be looking at these issues,” said Thomas.


She said the agency wants to speak to the grand jury about the report's findings and provide an immediate response. Thomas said the Lake County Office of Education disagrees with portions of the report, although she did not specify which parts of the report with which they did agree.


Will they investigate allegations of overspending of funds in responding to the grand jury report?


“What I can tell you is we're looking at all the allegations written here, and we're taking them very seriously,” Thomas said during an interview with Lake County News in her office Friday afternoon.


The report on the Lake County Office of Education is just one of many investigations contained in this year's grand jury report, which is 254 pages long and considered one of the most extensive ever produced.


Bron Locke, the grand jury's foreman, could not comment on the specifics of the report's contents. Generally, however, he said that the report was more extensive this year because the grand jury wanted to be as thorough as possible.


The Lake County Office of Education inquiry is one of several that will continue in the year ahead, said Locke.


“The grand jury has a responsibility to let people know we are actually watching,” he said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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