Monday, 22 July 2024


A particularly nettlesome area of estate planning – one fraught with potential danger – is the area of substantial gifts transferred in California by “dependent persons” [as California residents] in favor of an unrelated “care custodian” (e.g., a caregiver who is not related by blood or marriage to the dependent person).

For example, consider an elderly person aged 65 years or older, or a disabled non-elderly person, who makes a large gift to an unrelated person who provides care by driving them to the hospital, preparing their meals, assisting them with their other personal needs – taking medicine, bathing – and so on.

This scenario frequently applies to elderly persons who are neglected by their natural family while alive.

Public awareness of this nettlesome rule is important because the proposed transfer, when legitimate, can be validated if independently reviewed in advance by a disinterested (unbiased) attorney who issues a certificate of independent review. Obviously, this must occur while the “dependent adult” is still alive. This review requires proactive action.

Now, let’s examine Probate Code section 21350.

In order to prevent abuse and fraud being perpetrated by caregivers upon their presumably vulnerable dependent persons, section 21350 of the Probate Code presumptively invalidates transfers (or gifts) made by dependent persons to these unrelated care custodians unless the transfer is reviewed by an independent attorney who issues a “certificate of independent review.”

The certificate validates the transfer. Knowing when a transfer might later on become susceptible to being subsequently characterized by an adverse party, such as the dependent’s heirs who lost out, as being an invalid transfer is important.

Recognition should prompt a certificate of independent review being obtained out of prudence. Often the certificate of independent review is requested of the dependent adult’s own attorney when drafting their will or trust, which includes the substantial gift. The drafting attorney will then usually advise their client to see a second neutral attorney to review the matter and issue a certificate.

When might the rule apply to invalidate a gift? First you need a “dependent person”. That means anyone age 65 or older and younger persons with significant disabilities.

Second, you need a transfer whose value exceeds $3,000 in the case of a person whose estate is greater than $100,000 or a transfer of any amount in estates under $100,000.

Third, you need an unrelated care giver – that is someone who is unrelated by blood or marriage to the dependent person.

Fourth you need a “care custodian,” also known as a “caregiver.” Whether the recipient is a “care giver” is where the litigation controversy abounds (usually after the dependent person is dead).

The concept of “caregiver” is broadly defined and includes, “persons providing care or services for elders or dependent adults."

If the foregoing pattern appears relevant to a situation then a certificate of independent review should be obtained, and, in some other instances a court ordered “substituted judgment” order approving the proposed gratuitous transfer (involving conservatorships).

The attorney drafting that certificate must be someone who is so entirely disassociated from the transaction and the care giver as to be able to independently and confidentially advise the dependent adult who is their client as to the nature and consequences of the proposed transfer.

The whole purpose of the second attorney’s independent review is to ensure that the proposed transfer is not, “the product of fraud, menace, duress, or undue influence.”

Presumably, if the certificate itself were to be challenged as being a “rubber stamp” issued by the reviewing attorney then the certificate itself will likely only be as good as the second attorney’s underlying independent review upon critical examination.

Dennis A. Fordham is an attorney licensed to practice law in California and New York. He earned his BA at Columbia University, his JD at the State University of New York at Buffalo,and his LL.M in Taxation at New York University. He concentrates his practice in the areas of estate planning and aspects of elder law. He can be reached at dennis@dennisfordhamlaw, by phone at 263-3235 or at his office at 55 First St., Lakeport.

Stoney Prior was arrested March 28, 2009, in Nevada. Courtesy photo.


CLEARLAKE – A parolee who allegedly cut off a GPS tracking bracelet and fled the county earlier this month has been arrested.

Stoney Martin Prior, 31, was arrested Saturday in Humboldt County, Nev., according to officials.

Prior, a high-risk sex offender, had gone missing March 12 after he allegedly took off the bracelet in Lower Lake. Last week officials reported that they believed he was in the area of the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation in northern Nevada, as Lake County News has reported.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Gordon Hinkle said Prior was paroled on March 10.

Hinkle said Prior had been committed to state prison in January of 2005 for assault with the intent to commit a specific sexual offense. As a result Prior was placed on the state's Megan's Law Web site, which tracks convicted sex offenders.

Prior had reported to the Ukiah parole unit at noon on March 12 to be fitted with the GPS bracelet, said Hinkle. The investigation revealed that at about 5:30 p.m. the same day, Prior allegedly removed the device. The device's removal was noticed by a parole officer the next morning.

A officer drove to Lower Lake, Prior's last known location, and attempted to find him by showing his picture at several local businesses, said Hinkle.

An attempt also was made to make telephone contact with Prior's grandparents, who had transported him from San Quentin State Prison to the Ukiah parole unit, but Hinkle said that also was unsuccessful.

Officials used GPS data to determine that 30 minutes before Prior allegedly removed the bracelet he entered a local gas station, said Hinkle. His parole officer contacted the gas station manager to request permission to see the surveillance tapes, which showed Prior getting into a minivan driven by his grandparents.

On the tape, the parole agent was able to get the vehicle's license plate, which was traced to an address in Winnemucca, Nev., said Hinkle. Information on other members of Prior's family also was collected during the investigation.

The Humboldt County, Nev. Sheriff's Office, which finally arrested Prior, got involved when parole officials contacted the agency for help in contacting Prior's grandparents, Hinkle said.

Last week, officials had reported that the van Prior left California in was reportedly found on the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation, home to the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe.

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

LAKE COUNTY – On Monday, be sure to offer a handshake and a thank you to a Vietnam vet.

On March 24, the US House of Representatives approved House Resolution 234, which declares Monday, March 30 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.”

Congresswoman Linda Sánchez (D-Lakewood) introduced the legislation on March 3. Sixty-three members of the House of Representatives co-sponsored the bill.

In a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, Sánchez urged her colleagues to support the legislation (see her speech at

“With this legislation, we can help provide Vietnam veterans the heroes’ welcome they deserve, but that too many never received,” Sánchez said in a written statement. “While today’s resolution may seem like a small gesture-and when compared to what our soldiers and their families sacrificed, it certainly is-it will serve to remind us of their service to our country.”

The March 30 date was chosen because it was on that date in 1973 that the US Armed Forces completed withdrawal of combat troops from Vietnam. The United States became involved in Vietnam in an advisory capacity in 1961 and began sending troops in 1965. More than 58,000 members of the US Armed Forces died in Vietnam, and more than 300,000 were wounded.

Sánchez became involved in the effort in 2003 after meeting Whittier resident Jose Ramos, an Army combat medic in Vietnam who has been advocating for the national recognition. Ramos founded the Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day effort in 2000, according to the Web site

Sánchez introduced the legislation in the 108th, 109th and 110th Congresses.

In 2007, Sen. Barbara Boxer introduced a bill in the Senate supporting the commemoration.

Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day was first commemorated last year, as Lake County News has reported.

Last year, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951 held sales of commemorative clover sales – orange for Agent Orange victims and black for POW/MIAs – as part of a fundraising and education effort.

This year, however, the group didn't receive notice of the commemoration in time to organize an event, said Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951 President Dean Gotham.

The commemoration has yet to be made into a national holiday, which is the ultimate goal for veterans.

Last December, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared Dec. 10 through 14 “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Week.” In his proclamation he noted that Dec. 10, 2008, was the date that the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated as a tribute to the 5,822 residents who died in the war.

“Although many years have passed since the war ended, it is never too late to thank our veterans for their outstanding service,” Schwarzenegger said.

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



KELSEYVILLE – Sheriff's investigators believe an argument was the basis for an early morning shooting in Kelseyville.

Two men were shot after a struggle over a handgun, during which the handgun discharged, striking one man in the hand and the other in the head, according to a report from Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

The gun went off while in the hand of Leroy Thomas Anderson, 27, of Chico. Teodulo “Junior” Tovar of Lakeport, 21, was struck in the hand, while Alvin Waylon Olson, 23, of Kelseyville was hit in the head by the bullet, according to Bauman.

Bauman reported that, late Tuesday morning, Anderson was booked at the Lake County Jail on two felony charges – assault with a firearm and willful discharge of a firearm in a negligent manner. He is still in custody with bail set at $15,000.

At about 1:40 a.m. Tuesday, sheriff's deputies responded to a reported shooting at a residence on Eastlake Drive in Kelseyville, Bauman said. Sheriff’s dispatch received a 911 call from the home reporting that an unidentified male subject showed up at a party there and “randomly” shot another male subject in the head.

Bauman said as many as five sheriff’s units responded to the area and rescue personnel from the Kelseyville Fire District were dispatched to stage until the scene was secured.

When the first sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene, Anderson, the suspected shooter, was detained without incident. Bauman said rescue personnel were then cleared to respond in to treat Osborn for a gunshot wound to the head.

As additional sheriffs units arrived at the scene, dispatch received information that a second victim, later identified as Tovar, had also been shot and was being transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital by friends, Bauman said. Units from the Lakeport Police Department and the California Highway Patrol were requested to respond to Sutter Lakeside pending Tovar’s arrival.

Sheriff’s detectives were called out to assist with processing the scene and to interview witnesses. Bauman said a weapon was recovered and Anderson was later transported from the scene to be interviewed.

Following preliminary treatment by local rescue personnel, Osborn was transported by air ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital in critical condition, said Bauman. Tovar was treated for a gunshot wound to the hand and later released from Sutter Lakeside.

Bauman said much about the shooting has yet to be investigated, but preliminary information indicates that Osborn, Anderson, Tovar and several others had gotten into a verbal argument during the party.

At some point during the argument, Tovar and Anderson engaged each other and Anderson allegedly produced a .45-caliber handgun from his jacket to ward off Tovar’s aggression, Bauman said. As Anderson was backing away from Tovar, he was reportedly struck on the head by a bottle from behind and as he and Tovar began struggling over the gun, the weapon discharged.

Tovar was shot in the hand but the round then struck Osborn in the head as he was apparently trying to help Anderson, Bauman said.

Bauman said investigation into the shooting is continuing, and detectives are currently working with the District Attorney’s Office on a search warrant for the scene on Eastlake Drive

Osborn’s current condition at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital is unknown and further information on the case will be released as soon as practical, Bauman said.

ANGWIN – A North Coast family who died earlier this month in a plane crash in Butte, Mont., will be remembered at a weekend funeral service.

Services for the Jacobson family of St. Helena will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 4, at Pacific Union College Church in Angwin.

The Jacobsons were with two other families traveling to Montana for a vacation when their small plane crashed near a Butte, Mont. cemetery on March 22. In all, 14 people died.

“We are heartbroken and empty at the sudden loss of our beloved Erin, Amy, Taylor, Ava, and Jude, as well as family and friends in the Pullen and Ching families,” said John, Judy, Paul, Brenna and Winston Jacobson in a written statement. They also sent out their condolences to the relatives of the other plane crash victims.

The family added, “The outpouring of prayers and support from family, friends, colleagues, patients, and community has sustained us during this ordeal; we offer our grateful thanks. As we go forward, we will treasure the priceless memories and celebrate the unique goodness of each of our dear, beloved lost ones.”

Messages of condolences can be sent to the Jacobson family in care of St. Helena Hospital, 10 Woodland Road, St. Helena, CA 94574.

Tesoro Flowers in St. Helena is handling floral orders for the family and memorial service. Those who wish to send flowers to the family’s home or to the church, may call 707-963-3316.

The Jacobson family requests that tribute donations be made to the following organizations:

  • The Erin Jacobson Vision Legacy Fund, St. Helena Hospital Foundation, 10 Woodland Road, St. Helena, CA 94574, telephone 707-963-6208;

  • The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Greater San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, 1390 Market St., Suite 1200, San Francisco, CA 94102, telephone 415-625-1100, online donations may be made at;

  • The Smile Train, 41 Madison Ave., 28th Floor, New York, NY 10010, telephone 800-932-9541, online donations may be made at

So you want to eat healthier but you want to remain a carnivore. You feel vegetables are for prey animals to eat or to decorate the side of your plate, not for you. Potatoes are the closest thing you get to eating a plant. Fine, I understand, I’m not here to judge. And I have a recommendation.

Take a look at buffalo meat. The bison, as they are truly called, are actually not related to buffalo.

Buffalo are native to Asia (the water buffalo) and Africa (the cape buffalo), and while bison are members of the bovine family they aren’t closely related to the Asian and African varieties.

There are many stories about how bison got the name “buffalo” but in my research I haven’t found a truly believable one. A popular Internet story tells of French explorers calling bison “les beoufs,” meaning oxen, but this doesn’t seem believable to me since Europe has a bison-like animal called a wisent. French immigrants would have been reminded of the wisent much more than of an ox, and it wouldn’t make sense that they would give it the name of something it doesn’t look like.

The French have a word for bison and it is ... drum roll please ... bison (pronounced bee-SOH). The Latin word for bison is bison, the Greek word for bison is bison, so the appearance of the word buffalo makes no sense since obviously Europeans knew the bison.

The wisent looks similar to the bison but isn’t as big and has a smaller head than the North American bison. There’s a fat, big-headed American joke in that last statement for all of you continentals reading this.

I asked my sister, who is getting her master’s degree in French studies, to see what she could find out. She confirmed that a lot of sources attribute the word “buffalo” to the French, which she said is “weird, because the French use the word 'bison,' so why should they be given credit for a name that they don't use?” She said that the only theory that makes sense is that they used the French words for “water cow” which are “boeuf à l'eau” – pronounced “buf-a-low.” My little sister, she’s so smart.

Everybody knows that you can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd, and I won’t go into the long, damning story most of us learned it in grade school of how they were almost wiped out, but in 1889 there were less than 1,000 head of bison left in the country.

But in 1905 The American Bison Society (ABS) was founded by pioneering conservationists and sportsmen including William T. Hornaday (the director of the Bronx Zoo) and President Theodore Roosevelt to help save the bison from extinction and raise public awareness about the species.

Through their efforts of creating wild bison reserves and stocking them with bison from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo, current populations of the bison are closer to 600,000. More than 90 percent of these bison are being raised for meat in managed circumstances.

Male bison grow to be 1,500 to 2,000 pounds and females reach about 1,000. That makes bison the largest land animal native to North America.

There are three distinct types of bison: the American, the Canadian and the previously mentioned wisent. Bison would migrate from Canada across the Niagara and that is how Buffalo, N.Y. got its name. Shouldn’t we rename it Bison, N.Y.? One last quick fact: the plural for bison is still just bison.

Now I know that we’ve all been warned of the detriments of eating red meat, but there are people that just like it. Bison is a red meat, and it is far and away healthier than beef.

To give you a comparison per 100 grams of meat: Lower in fat, calories and cholesterol, yet higher in protein and iron. Let’s face it, bison is not only health food but also diet food for carnivores.

A visit to a local bison ranch

Lake County residents have the advantage of having two bison farms locally. Many people are familiar with the ranch on Highway 20 on the way out to Ukiah, and we also have one on Bottle Rock Road not far from Kelseyville.

Rob Brown was kind enough to give me a tour of his ranch “Buffalo Hills,” and we went out and looked at his herd of bison. I had never met him previous to this meeting so I felt privileged to be able to take up so much of his time.

Rob told me he has no problems with cougars or bears bothering his herd since the bison are so much larger than any predator in the area. Bison aren’t native to Lake County, but in their native areas such as Montana bison are preyed upon by packs of wolves and grizzly bears. If we ever experience a problem with either of them I think the least of our worries will be the bison losses; besides, bison are very good at protecting themselves.

I kept mentioning to Brown how shocked I was that the ranch doesn’t seem to have a lot of massive beast damage (not an actual technical term, but it gets my point across). The fence around the ranch is merely some low wire fencing with barbed wire at the top. How does such a flimsy thing keep the bison caged? Also, there aren’t any trees missing their bark or uprooted from rutting or rubbing. I mean, bison aren’t considered to be a domesticated creature, these are wild animals, so my comments kept returning to my surprise at how nice the ranch land was.

Brown revealed that the bison themselves are good stewards of the land. If you have ever visited a cattle or sheep ranch you would notice that the animals stomp across the countryside and eat the area bare. Bison, on the other hand, seem to tiptoe across the landscape. On occasion one will get loose and wander over to the neighbor’s, but otherwise they aren’t very bothersome.

In addition to wild grazing, his bison eat an organic feed specifically formulated for bison with alfalfa, corn, wheat, rice and even almond hulls. He’s been raising bison for 12 years now and is looking to increase his steak in the herd (sorry, I know it should be “stake”; “steak” was a cheap shot but I had to do it). There are ponds on the property for the bison to drink from, and in addition Cole Creek runs through the ranch providing plenty of water. There are 300 acres to the family’s ranch and Brown is clearing more of the brush so he can increase the herd. Instead of burning all of this dead brush Brown is leaving it in piles to act as habitat for quail and other smaller critters.

Technically bison meat is kosher, but Lake County bison aren’t slaughtered in a kosher facility as of yet. Bison meat is also permitted by the Qur’an, but Lake County bison meat isn’t slaughtered in a halal fashion (for the curious, the person slaughtering an animal must do so in the name of Allah in order for it to be acceptable to Muslims; otherwise, from what I understand Lake County bison are handled in the method prescribed by Islam). For the vegetarians ... sorry, I can’t help you here, I wasn’t able to find any vegetarian version of bison at all.

A unique taste

It really bothers me when people say that something “tastes like chicken” or “tastes like beef.” To me, that is the last refuge of the lazy palate. You might as well say that all red wines taste alike and all white wines taste alike.

But I have to admit that when it came to describing the flavor of bison I ran into some problems. Bison is similar to beef in texture and taste, I’ll give you that much, but it’s not just like it. Because it is so much leaner than beef it has a different flavor. I purchased a bunch of bison meat and cooked up several cuts for my wife and asked her, “Describe its taste.”

We both hemmed and hawed for a while and surprised ourselves with our lack of perspicacity on the issue. We can taste wine and pick out subtle flavors all day long, but bison was giving us a problem. We said things like, “It’s beefy with a hint of duck or lamb.” But no, that’s not right. “It has a beef-like texture but an earthier flavor.” No, still not what I was looking for; I mean, what is “earthy” anyway? But the best we could do to describe bison is, “It tastes bisony.”

As I showed before, bison is very lean and a great way for people to drop beef from their diet but still eat a hearty red meat. Because it is so lean it is very unforgiving, and the one thing you have to watch for is over-cooking it. Fat makes meat forgiving.

To get around this issue, you should always brine bison meat before cooking. Not only does it add salt into the meat but the water that hitchhikes in with the salt adds a layer of protection from over-cooking. To brine meat, use a ratio of four cups water to 1 tablespoon salt. Marinade the meat in this for a couple hours; if you wish to marinade it overnight, use a ratio of four cups water and one teaspoon salt.

Don’t try to add herbs or spices to the brine. I don’t want to go into a long molecular explanation about how the electrically charged ions in salt and the electrical charge in the herbs are different, and the salt water can’t effectively carry the herbs into the cellular structure of the meat ... see what I mean? It’s all so complicated. Just stick to plain brine.

Some mythology with your dinner

As always I love to add a little mythology to any subject I’m discussing, but this time it very well could be fact. Turn down the lights and insert creepy music here ...

A long time ago there was a bird called Argentavis. It was 6 feet tall when standing on its feet and had a wingspan over 20 feet wide. It looked like a Goliath version of an eagle or vulture. Scientists have its skeleton; we know for a fact that at one time it existed.

Speculation goes that it lived in Argentina, but that in the springtime, when the thunderstorms roll across the Midwest of the United States, the young bison have been born, and the warm upwelling springtime air gave perfect flight conditions for the Argentavis to fly north it would appear in our skies.

They came north to feed on the thousands of young bison. The Plains tribespeople of the time knew that when the thunderstorms came in the spring they brought with them the giant bird that they named “Thunderbird.” Children were warned not to wander from the tribe at this time of year.

While most scientists and ornithologists say Argentavis is long extinct, there are some cryptozoologists that think Argentavis isn’t extinct, though very close. They believe Argentavis still haunt the skies, and every few years there is an alleged sighting of one of these giants in the U.S. Just in the past couple of years there have been alleged sightings in Pennsylvania, Alaska and Texas. Argentavis has become the bird version of Bigfoot, but it is doubtful if the bison population returns to its previous levels that the Argentavis would also return.

In my efforts to cook more healthy foods for my family we are currently in talks to switch completely away from beef to bison (though the petting zoo vegetarian in the family is holding onto her dissenting vote). Have I piqued your interest? Want to try some bison meat? You can call Buffalo Hills Bison Ranch at 707-279-2063.

Just a final note; I fully intended to include J bar S Bison Ranch located out on Highway 20 in the column, but after leaving numerous messages I never heard back from them. I always try to feature everyone relevant on a subject, but this time I wasn’t able to.

A recipe for bison

Now for the recipe of the day.

In the time since I purchased my bison meat I’ve made bison steaks, bison tacos (no need to drain the fat after browning the meat), chankonabe (a stew for sumo wrestlers), hamburgers (bisonburgers?) and I’m looking forward to experimenting with much more.

One of my favorites so far was the bison roast with my Cabernet cream sauce. I went with a Cabernet because it rolls off the tongue better than “Merlot Cream Sauce.” The Cabernet cream sauce is nice and simple and doesn’t overpower the bison, but you could jazz it up and make it your own by finishing it with a little bit of shaved chocolate, sautéed mushrooms, fresh thyme or garlic powder. My wife likes the sauce as is and would like it “in an I.V. pumping into my arm ... but then I couldn’t taste it. Maybe in one of those beer hats with the straw that just hangs down in your mouth.”

And yes, I do catch the humor of taking a healthful, low-calorie meat like bison and covering it in heavy cream, but you have to have some fun once in a while. I won’t tell you how to cook your roast, everyone has their own way of doing that, but here’s the sauce to serve it with. It would also go well with bison steaks if you choose.

Cabernet cream sauce

You’ll need the pan the bison roast cooked in with the all the leftover bits still attached (the French call this “fond”).

¾ cup Cabernet Sauvignon

1 cup heavy or whipping cream

1/3 cup shallot, shredded (onions will work fine)

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and black pepper to taste

While the roast cooks, sauté the shallots in one tablespoon of the butter (reserve the other one tablespoon for later) in a medium-sized saucepan until translucent. Leaving the shallots in the pan, add the other tablespoon of butter. Stir in all of the flour and cook for one minute on medium heat, stirring constantly until fully combined. Remove this shallot roux from the pan and set aside. Turn off the heat and leave pan for later use.

When the roast is finished cooking, remove from the oven and immediately remove it from the pan and set it on a plate to rest. Pour the Cabernet Sauvignon into the pan and stir to deglaze (remove all of the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan).

When the bottom of the pan is clean of all of the fond, pour the wine into the saucepan that the shallots and butter were cooked in, and cook on high heat for one to two minutes until the alcohol is cooked out of the wine (when it doesn’t taste “winey” it’s ready). Then add the shallot roux to the wine and whisk constantly, until the mixture is combined and thickens to look like chocolate pudding. At that point add the cream and continue to whisk until completely combined. Turn off the heat and return to the roast.

Pour any juices that have escaped from the roast as it rested into the sauce and whisk in. Add plenty of black pepper to taste and then finish with salt. Add any personal additions at this time. Pour over the slices of roast bison and serve.

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.


The area near mile post marker 44.19 on Highway 20 has been the site of six serious collisions over the last two years. Courtesy photo.



CLEARLAKE OAKS – As Highway 20 winds out of Lake County, it takes drivers past Walker Ridge Road and mile post marker 44.19, an area that is getting extra attention from officials due to a high number of collisions, including a fatal one last year.

In the past two years six crashes have occurred at the spot, just east of Walker Ridge Road and across the highway from the Abbott and Turkey Run mercury mines, roughly 15 miles east of Clearlake Oaks.

The most recent crash – which occurred on March 16 – sent two women to area hospitals following an extensive rescue effort, as Lake County News has reported.

Northshore Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Pat Brown told Lake County News that there have been six crashes at that site over the last two years. Area firefighters have done a total of four such low-angle rope rescues in the area, where a steep embankment comes off the road. That was the case on March 16.

Phil Frisbie, a spokesman for Caltrans, confirmed that there have been six collisions at the spot, including the March 16 crash.

All of the collisions, Frisbie said, occurred when the road was wet or icy.

He added that speed appears to have been the primary cause of all of the crashes previous to the March 16 incident. The CHP has offered no preliminary finding on that crash's cause yet.

Frisbie said the speed limit in the area is 55 miles per hour, but there is an advisory sign which cautions a slower speed. It's easy to go above the posted speed unless one is breaking or downshifting, he noted.

“Last year we performed an initial investigation of the area,” he said.

As a result, last November Caltrans installed enhanced signage for eastbound travelers and changed the speed advisory sign, reducing the suggested speed from 40 miles per hour down to 35 miles per hour and making the sign larger, Frisbie said. In addition, they added a right arrow to try to get people's attention.

The six collisions is “above what we would expect for that area,” he said.

“That's why it came up on our radar this last year when we started the investigation,” said Frisbie.

A fatal collision took place in the area on Memorial Day 2008, as Lake County News reported last year.

Debra Curtis of Suisun City was driving eastbound mid-afternoon when she lost control of her vehicle during a short rain shower, according to the initial CHP report.

Curtis' Ford Escape spun out and hit a Lexus RX300 driven by Delores Zeni of Santa Rosa. Zeni's passenger, 72-year-old Judith Tilt of Sebastopol, died at the scene.

Both Delores Zeni and Robert Zeni of Santa Rosa were flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with major injuries. Curtis, also suffering major injuries, was flown to Enloe Hospital in Chico.

CHP eventually ruled that the collision's cause was unsafe speed for conditions, said CHP Commander Mark Loveless.

Curtis is now facing prosecution for the crash, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff.

He said Curtis, 50, was charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence. The maximum time she could receive upon conviction is a year in the county jail.

Hinchcliff said he couldn't discuss any previous record Curtis might have, and said such issues are only taken into consideration at the time of sentencing, not when a charging decision is being made.

Neither Hinchcliff nor Loveless had a determination about Curtis' alleged speed at the time of the crash.

Curtis' case is set to be in court April 6 for disposition or setting, said Hinchcliff.

The law firm Carter and Carter of Lower Lake is defending Curtis.

Partner Angela Carter believes that it's the roadway that's the issue – not Curtis' driving.

“We're aware of the problems with the roadway and we believe that once we can prove what's going on with the roadway that it will vindicate our client,” she said.

Frisbie said Caltrans' investigation into the area is continuing.

Loveless said CHP is providing the May 2008 crash report to Caltrans for its investigation.

“We're going to be testing the pavement to see if there is anything we need to do or anything that we can do to enhance the performance of that pavement,” Frisbie said.

They'll also look at other sign improvements, he said.

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

Firefighters work at the fire scene on Sunday evening. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



LAKEPORT – An unoccupied 60-foot mobile home near Lakeport burned to its steel frame early Sunday evening.

Kelseyville and Lakeport Fire Protection districts responded to a reported residential structure fire at an address just northeast of Konocti Vista Casino on Mission Rancheria Road near Soda Bay Road at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

The fire had reduced the home to its floor within 15 minutes.

A Lakeport Fire Protection District staffer said they had been at the same location last October.

Emergency personnel were able in October to extinguish the blaze before the structure had time to burn to the ground.

No electrical or propane gas services appeared to be connected to the structure. Officials at the scene would not offer any conclusion regarding the fire's source.

Debris from the 2008 fire was still visible. A melted toaster, damaged washing machine and several children’s toys littered the area.

As of 8:15 p.m. no apparent injuries to civilians or emergency personnel were reported according to Lakeport personnel.

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



Kelseyville and Lakeport Fire personnel responded to the scene, where a fire also had been reported last October. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

LAKE COUNTY – Here are some cool events to watch for in April.

April 2: Monday Blues, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Blues Farm with Dave Broida will perform. 707-275-2244.

April 3: Girls Just Wanna Have Wine, Wildhurst Vineyards Tasting Room, Kelseyville. 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $5, women only. Theme for the evening is “The Best Eyewear,” come with your fanciest glasses on. 707-279-4302.

April 3: Wine tasting and photography art show. Lake County Wine Studio, Upper Lake. 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dusinberre wines will be poured by winemaker Jeff Smith and the photography of Jim Warren will be on display.

April 3: Meet the Winemaker, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mike and Adawn Wood will be pouring Shed Horn Wines.

April 3: Fondue Fridays, Lake County Wine Studio, Upper Lake. Begins at 6 p.m. Cheese fondue available with wine. 707-275-8030.

April 4: Wine tasting and photography art show. Lake County Wine Studio, Upper Lake, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dusinberre wines will be poured by winemaker Jeff Smith and the photography of Jim Warren will be on display.

April 5: Wine and cheese open house at the Villa Andrea, Clearlake. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Come visit the newest addition to Lake County’s wine industry. RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 707-994-4000.

April 5: Sunday Brunch in the Garden, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. Brunch served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Colby Houston on guitar and vocals, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 707-275-2244.

April 5: All About Shrimp, Chic Le Chef, Hidden Valley Lake. 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Demonstration class. RSVP or for more information: 707-987-9664.

April 6: Monday Blues, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Will Seigel & Friends will perform. 707-275-2244.

April 8: Spring Salad Bar Luncheon. Park Study Clubhouse, Clearlake. 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Benefit for Park Study Club. Admission is $60. Info: 707-995-1807 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

April 10: Fondue Fridays, Lake County Wine Studio, Upper Lake. Begins at 6 p.m. Cheese fondue available with wine. 707-275-8030.

April 12: Sunday Brunch in the Garden, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. A special Easter brunch will be served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Front Porch Blues with Ed Hance, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 707-275-2244.

April 13: Monday Blues, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Blues Farm with Dave Broida will perform. 707-275-2244.

April 15: A Wine Adventure Dinner, The Saw Shop, Kelseyville. Begins at 6 p.m. A six-course meal featuring wine pairings with sommelier Stephanie Green, owner of Focused On Wine. A fun, informative evening. $60 per person, tax and tip are included. 707-278-0129.

April 17: Fondue Fridays, Lake County Wine Studio, Upper Lake. Begins at 6 p.m. Cheese fondue available with wine. 707-275-8030.

April 19: Sunday Brunch in the Garden, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. Brunch served 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Michael Barrish on guitar and vocals, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 707-275-2244.

April 20: Monday Blues, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Memphis Exchange with Randy McGowen will perform. 707-275-2244.

April 24: Concerts with conversations, Tallman Hotel, Upper Lake. Wendy DeWitt and her boogie woogie piano style. Appetizers, dessert, coffee will be served, in addition Joey Luiz will pour wines from Shannon Ridge Vineyards. $40 Tickets to this event can be obtained by calling the Tallman Hotel reception desk at 707-275-2244.

April 24: Fondue Fridays, Lake County Wine Studio, Upper Lake. Begins at 6 p.m. Cheese fondue available with wine. 707-275-8030.

April 25: Spring Wildflower Brunch, Clearlake State Park, Kelseyville, 9 a.m. to noon. RSVP requested, 800-525-3743. Fill-your-own omelet brunch and pastries is the opening part of the annual Blue Heron Festival. The festival continues throughout the weekend.

April 25: Oregon Chai Tea Contest, Chic Le Chef, Hidden Valley Lake. 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Entries accepted through April 15, call store for details and entry forms. Finalists will prepare their various recipes containing Oregon Chai Tea and present for judging. 707-987-9664.

April 26: Sunday Brunch in the Garden, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. Brunch served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sarah Tichava on guitar and vocals, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 707-275-2244.

April 27: Monday Blues, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Bottle Rock Blues Band with Mike Wilhelm will perform. 707-275-2244.

Ongoing activities

The New Cool at Konocti Harbor featuring David Neft

Konocti Harbor hosts “The Piano Man” David Neft, playing the grand piano from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., every Friday and Saturday in the relaunched dining room.

Langtry Estate and Vineyard Tours, Middletown

Langtry Estate and Vineyard is offering exciting and innovative tour programs. Guests ride in battery-operated Global Electric Motorcars. Tours are offered Tuesday through Saturday. The Tephra Vineyard Lunch Tours are offered at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. $40 per person includes lunch and wine tasting. 21000 Butts Canyon Road. Reservations required 24 hours in advance. Info: 707-987-2385.

Tuscan Village Friday Concert Series, Main Street, Lower Lake

Live music, food, wine tasting. Presented by 2Goombas and Terrill Cellars. 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Info: 707-994-3354.

Beer Master Dinner Series

Molly Brennan’s 175 N. Main St., Lakeport. Second Tuesday of each month, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Different brewery featured each month, with beers paired with each course of a five-course meal including dessert. Advance reservations required. Info: 707-262-1600.

If you have a food or wine related event and would like to have it listed in the coming months, call Ross Christensen at 707-998-9550.


CLEARLAKE – This Thursday, a special event to remember those lost to drunk driving collisions and their families will be held in Clearlake.

Team DUI will host the candlelight vigil at 6:30 p.m. at the gazebo in Clearlake's Austin Park, 14077 Lakeshore Drive. The community is invited to attend.

The award-winning group formed a few years ago. It includes local officials and citizens who work together to fight underage drinking and drinking and driving. They've presented programs to more than 1,500 local students.

Speakers at the hour-long vigil will include Lake County Sheriff's Capt. Russell Perdock, Chris Tyner, Konocti Unified School District Superintendent Bill MacDougall and Wendy Jensen.

Plans also include a moment of silence and offering luminaria – small paper lanterns – to remember those who have died in DUI crashes, said Larry Fanning, a Team DUI member and pastor of Clearlake's First Baptist Church. Fanning will serve as the vigil's master of ceremonies.

The genesis of the event, said Fanning, came in January at the Judge's Breakfast, hosted by Judge Richard Freeborn at the Main Street Cafe in Clearlake.

Fanning said local law enforcement officials were discussing the 20th anniversary of a crash that claimed the life of three Lower Lake High School students and top athletes – Joseph Dizon, 18; Joshua Burke,18; and Frank Doyle, 19.

The collision occurred on Jan. 14, 1989.

A chaplain with Clearlake Police for 15 years, Fanning said he's used to seeing law enforcement hide their emotions. But as the men spoke about this case, he could see the emotion. Fanning said the story also brought MacDougall, who was in attendance, to tears.

“Twenty years later and there's all this emotion,” said Fanning. “This needs to be used for something positive.”

Fanning started looking into the case, and found that everyone familiar with the incident had a story. “It was a very powerful event for the high school students of the day.”

The car the three young men were riding in hit a tree a few hundred feet away from a party. The driver of the car survived and went to prison, Fanning said. “It's a very tragic story,” he said. “It was just horrific.”

Team DUI decided to hold an event later in the year, during April, which is a month that focuses on DUI prevention, Fanning explained.

He said some of the speakers at the Thursday vigil will discuss the 1989 crash.

Fanning spends at least one night a week riding with Clearlake Police officers.

He said he's been at crash scenes and watched drunk drivers trying to get out of their cars and walk away. He's also accompanied police to parties where young people were drinking. It's an unusual situation for Fanning, who doesn't drink.

Fanning said part of the emphasis of the Thursday vigil is to commit the community to facing the issue of drunk driving.

“It's not going to go away,” he said.

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

Congressman Mike Thompson (left) and former District 3 Supervisor Louise Talley served up dinner on Saturday, March 28, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




LAKEPORT – Mike Thompson hosted his big annual ravioli feed Saturday and gave residents an update on the latest in Congress and the issues on his plate.

The event took place Saturday evening at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Lakeport.

At the fairgrounds entrance a small group of protesters gathered at 4 p.m. to welcome those who came to the event, which ran from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

James Henderson, Dave Rinker, and David and Nancy Morgan, all of Lakeport, and Lucerne resident Donna Christopher held signs with slogans like “Ron Paul for Liberty”; they also had a pitchfork and Christopher's own homemade “TARP fork” to demonstrate their displeasure with the government in general and, in some cases, Thompson in particular.

“It's like our politicians don't want to hear us,” said Rinker, who added that he wanted the Federal Reserve audited because he said it's the source of 95 percent of the country's problems.

He said his problems were with government at large.

“Mine's with Thompson,” said Christopher.

Relating to the TARP bailout last fall, Christopher said, “First he voted no and then he voted for it.”

She said a better solution would have been to buy the troubled institutions outright, which would have benefited taxpayers more. Anything that's so big it can't be allowed to fail is too big, she said, referring to companies like AIG.

Henderson added that the government shouldn't reward people for being dishonest.

Inside, about 500 people came to participate in the annual event, where Thompson thanked community members for all of their support. “You make doing my job so much easier.”

He said right now – in the face of some of the toughest challenges the country has ever seen – he needed voters' friendship and support more than ever.

Thompson said he believed the country will come out of its current struggles bigger and better than ever. “It's just going to take a while to do it.”

He gave a brief rundown of issues, from unemployment to the health care to the economy, and pointed to what he said are promising signs, among them better results on Wall Street.




From left, James Henderson, Donna Christopher, Nancy and David Morgan, and Dave Rinker protested outside of the event. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




Regarding President Barack Obama's proposed budget, Thompson said, “This is the first honest budget we've had,” a statement which received applause.

Health care, education and renewable energy are three big issues Thompson hears about a lot from constituents.

On the topic of green energy, Thompson gave Lake County kudos for showing the way with its recently launched 2.2-megawatt solar project. That solar project powers the movement of wastewater to The Geysers where it is injected into the steamfields, which in turn replenishes the supply of steam needed to produce geothermal power.

“Thanks for showing us the way to do that,” he said.

Thompson also had some new numbers relating to what the county can expect to see from federal stimulus money.

He said that local education is slated to receive about $4 million, plus more than $1 million for transportation.

The stimulus will help create or save 8,000 jobs throughout the First Congressional District, he said.

To make the recovery work, he said, the country needs to go in “all shoulders to the wheel.”

Thompson also gave a report on his March 25 telephone town hall.

In his 19 years in elected office, Thompson said he's conducted many town halls, and usually gets between 40 and 50 peoples. The telephone town hall – which isn't meant to replace the traditional ones – had an estimated 9,156 who participated. Those numbers were for people who remained on the line for at least 20 minutes.

He also received 200 voice mail messages afterward, most of them offering good, constructive comments and questions.

Asked after the event about his reaction to the protesters outside, Thompson said he understands their concerns and frustrations, but he stood by his choices relating to the TARP bailout.

“You can't just let everything fall off the edge,” which is what would have happened had Congress done nothing, he said.

“If we hadn't passed the stimulus it would have been terrible,” said Thompson.

The stimulus, he added, won't turn everything around. Instead, it will help stabilize the economy.

What gets lost in the numbers discussion, he said, is the toll on people struggling in the current economic climate.

He said he didn't hear from the protesters when President Bush was giving tax cuts to the rich and not including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the federal budget.

Local clubs that assisted with the event included Rotary Interact and 4-H.

Thompson collected e-waste again this year, and nine refurbished computers were donated to local nonprofits through the efforts of Steve Wyatt, owner and chief executive officer of Computer Recycling Co., who collects the older electronics throughout the seven counties in Thompson's district.

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


LAKE COUNTY – Fresh off a well-attended telephone town hall in which thousands of First Congressional District constituents dialed in, Congressman Mike Thompson will visit Lake County this weekend for his annual ravioli feed fundraiser.

The Mike Thompson for Congress Committee will host the fundraiser from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Lewis Hall at the Lake County Fairgrounds, 401 Martin St., Lakeport.

In November, Thompson elected to his sixth term in Congress with 68 percent of the vote.

The annual fundraiser will once again take electronics for recycling, and this year for the first time will donate reconditioned computers to local nonprofits, according to Thompson's staff.

Some local residents have stated that they plan to attend the fundraiser in protest as part of a series of tea parties that are springing up across the nation, targeting members of Congress as a sign of discontent with government performance and proposed new taxes. A nationwide demonstration is being organized for April 15.

The appearance locally follows Thompson's live telephone town hall for his constituents, which took place Wednesday.

More than 9,100 people participated in the call, according to Thompson's office. Thompson called the turnout for the meeting “inspiring.”

Because of high call volume, Thompson will respond in writing to the 200 voice mails left after the call by constituents.

Thompson told listeners on the call, “We're facing some of the toughest challenges that I've ever seen in my lifetime.”

California's unemployment is 10.5 percent, with many areas of his district surpassing that number.

Thompson assured North Coast residents that Washington is working to turn things around with the stimulus legislation, which he said is meant to add 3.5 million jobs to the nation's economy.

The stimulus funds have started to come in, with more than $32 million slated for education in the district, with $30 million set aside for transportation on the North Coast.

“Turning things around is going to be a big lift,” he said.

Thompson took questions from 11 constituents during the hour-long call.

Roberta from Kelseyville was unhappy that AIG's co-insurers were made whole on their investments. “I just feel that Congress has taken care of the wealthiest people in the world.”

She also asked about prosecutions of people who violated the US Constitution during the Bush administration. “We're still waiting.”

Thompson said he understands her frustration, but didn't believe just the rich are being helped.

If the economy had been allowed go go “over the cliff,” the recession would have turned into a depression, he said. AIG's situation is particularly galling due to the millions paid in retention bonuses. “That wasn't the intention,” said Thompson, adding that the government has received back between $50 million and $80 million of the bonus money.

Thompson said he believes the country is starting to see a return on its investment, with housing sales up and other signs of recovery appearing.

During the call Thompson also was confronted by a caller, who identified himself as James from Eureka, who challenged the congressman's votes for Israel, and asked when he was going to put America first rather than Israel.

“I put our district first, I put our country first, and I vote the best that I can” to help the district, state and the world, Thompson responded.

Thompson also was asked about health care – he said he supports affordable, universal health care – and addressing climate change. On the latter subject, Thompson said the stimulus bill has a number of provisions to move the country toward renewable energy. He said if climate change continues, the planet could see increases of between 3 and 10 degrees in temperature, which would lead to the death of three out of every five species, rising oceans, massive floods and dangers to water supply.

Pam from Humboldt said education is suffering, with so many teachers getting pink slips. “It's just devastating,” she said. “What can Congress do to help us?”

Thompson said $8 billion in the federal stimulus bill is meant to help education in California, including the $32 million headed for the First Congressional District. The California Congressional Delegation wrote Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to release the money quickly.

Sheila of Redwood Valley asked Thompson – a member of the Blue Dog Democrats, a coalition of fiscally responsible party members – what he thinks of President Barack Obama's budget.

Thompson said the budget has some things “that worry the heck out of me” but many thing he also supports.

“It's one of the first honest budgets I've seen in many years,” said Thompson, explaining that past budgets have excluded funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, instead tacking on the costs of those operations as emergency funding.

Obama promises that his budget will cut the deficit in half in four years, but Thompson said he's concerned about what happens after that.

John from Trinidad asked Thompson how he justified his vote for the TARP bailout, saying the congressman was in the same boat as the “drunken sailors” who got the country into its current mess.

“I didn't want to vote for that bill” Thompson said, adding that he didn't think anyone else wanted to, either.

At 6 p.m. on a Thursday last fall then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke came to Congress and said, “We have a problem,” Thompson recalled.

The men told Congress that the economy was getting ready to implode and the only way to stop it was to give Paulsen $700 billion, with no strings attached and no oversight, to begin the fix.

Congress came back the next week and started assessing the problem. The alternative to the action Congress ultimately took was to let the entire economy crash, which Thompson said would have been irresponsible.

He voted against the initial bill that would have given Paulsen the money with no oversight. The rewritten bill, for which Thompson voted, has increased FDIC insurance. Thompson said he also received letters of commitment from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and then-Sen. Obama that they would address the greater oversight issues.

Thompson said he met with experts from across the country in making his decision on the bill. “I don't think there was any other choice at the time, as terrible as it seems.”

He said that he's seeing positive signs in the current economy.

The state of California just sold $6.5 billion in government bonds, which is a pretty serious reversal from where the state was last fall, he said.

John from Davis asked how much of the president's budget will help small business, which has historically been shown to be a main creator of jobs.

Thompson said the Obama administration has proposals that would benefit small business, including making the research and development tax credit permanent, billions of funds to be distributed through the Small Business Administration, special funding for rural businesses and allowances that would give small business the ability to write off capital expenses in the same year as purchase.

“As tough as things may be right now, we're going to recover from this and we're going to do great things as we've always done,” Thompson said in concluding the call.

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


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