Sunday, 14 July 2024


The Lake Sands Resort's demolition is being delayed because of nesting barn swallows. Lake County News file photo.


LUCERNE – The effort to remove another blighted building on Lucerne's lakeshore has hit a snag.

On April 28, Robert Affinito removed the Lucerne Motel which was located at 6339 E. Highway 20 on the lakeshore, which sits next door to the Lake Sands Resort, both owned by his family.

The aging Lake Sands resort building, now boarded up, also was slated for removal, but the county's Community Development Department reports that the building's demolition can't go forward due to nesting barn swallows.

The barn swallow, Hirundo rustica, is not an endangered or threatened species; it is, however, protected by the federal Migratory Birds Act, Community Development Director Rick Coel explained.

None of the birds had been found in the Lucerne Motel, but within the last week they've begun building nests on the stucco exterior of the Lake Sands Resort, said Coel. One of his staffers discovered the situation and brought it to his attention.

That caused Community Development to halt the next demolition, because Coel said Affinito could get into serious trouble with US Fish & Wildlife, which the department didn't want to see happen.

US Fish & Wildlife spokesman Steve Martarano told Lake County News that barn swallows have always been included in the Migratory Bird Act, first established in 1918.

“It's the most widespread species of swallow in the world,” said Martarano.

Fish & Wildlife reports that the original 1918 statute implemented a 1916 convention between the US and Great Britain, on behalf of Canada, to protect migratory birds, with later amendments adding in treaties with the US and Mexico, Japan and the Soviet Union/Russia.

The birds pass through Lake County on a seasonal basis, said Coel, who admitted his department doesn't often run into these kinds of issues.

Martarano said the birds have an incubation period of three weeks and two broods. “They should start hatching any time.”

US Fish & Wildlife estimates it will be August before the second brood is gone. The nests will need to be watched to make sure the birds are totally gone before anything can be done with the buildings, Martarano said.

From Lake County, the birds will head south around September, said Martarano.

“It's not all bad in terms of timing,” Coel said of the situation.

He said while they're waiting for the swallows to move on, Affinito can proceed with the prep work, gutting the interior and doing the asbestos study that's necessary on the older building.

Coel said older structures often have asbestos in their insulation and tiles. “That was an issue in the other building.”

“We think these birds out to be out of there sometime in August and we can pick up the pace again,” said Coel.

Affinito said the issue “kind of took me by surprise.”

However, he said he still has plans to draw for a new hotel property he wants to build there. “So it doesn't really affect me in any way.”

Affinito said that, with county permission, he may put up some cyclone fencing and banners to let people know what's going on.

Meanwhile, while it's been an issue for the town's human residents, the old building is a nice place for birds, with plenty of bugs to eat and a nice view of the lake. Coel joked that it's the “original mixed use” structure.

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

T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.


Longevity has its place…

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

April 3, 1968

Many of the “Old Masters” in popular music have infused their career by the inclusion of younger players in their ensembles.

In Jazz, Art Blakey and Betty Carter always had a rotating cast of younger players in their respective bands. In the Funk realm, The Ohio Players, led by Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner and James “Diamond” Williams similarly keep their funky edge by adding new players who weren’t even born when the original music was recorded. Those are just a few examples of a widespread practice in the music biz. There is no shame in it.

The amazing vocal group the Spinners performed here at Robinson Rancheria Saturday night, May 16. Original member and lead singer on the classic hit “That’s What Girls Are Made For,” Bobbie Smith quipped on stage that they have their own stimulus package. Then the group went to work proving that point to the people.

Along with co-original member Henry Fambough, Smith has added young lions Charleton Washington, Spike Delong and Jessie Peck. The Spinners continue to present a dazzling show that features great choreography and great voices rivaling the diverseness of the legendary Temptations.

The backing band, The Spinners Ensemble kicked off the show at 8:10 p.m with a 10-minute instrumental medley of Spinners hits. The vocal ensemble hit the stage at 8:20 p.m. and launched immediately into “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love.” From the outset it was obvious the group still has great polish.

Working their way through many of there hits including “It’s A Shame,” “I’ll Be Around,” “Working My Way Back To You,” “Sadie” and “Mighty Love.”

Many of you connoisseurs of Spinners music know that several of the aforementioned tunes were recorded with the late, great Phillipe Wynne singing lead. I’m here to tell you that young lion Charlton Washington channeled every nuance of Wynne’s delivery. The crowd didn’t mind at all. In fact, they went wild when Washington came off the stage and into the crowd to dance with two different fans.

Founding member Bobbie Lewis was given a standing ovation after performing one of his signature songs.

Spike Delong did a great Sam Cooke medley and the group left the stage to thunderous applause. When they came back for an encore they had been on the stage well over an hour.

They concluded with the great hit “Rubber Band Man” and used giant rubber bands as props in conjunction with special effect lighting to dazzle the senses of the crowd. They finally left the stage again to another thunderous ovation after having been on the stage well over an hour.

Your CyberSoulman was able to secure a great interview with the group after the show – about the history of the Spinners including their stints with Motown and Atlantic Records – which will appear in next Sunday’s column. See you right here next week. Thanks for sharing your Sunday morning coffee with me.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at

LAKE COUNTY – A report released this week shows that high school dropout rates across California have dropped slightly, with local schools showing even greater improvements.

On Tuesday state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell released the annual report on dropout and graduation rates for the 2007-08 school year.

He reported that in 2007-08, 68.3 percent of public school students in California graduated, up from 67.7 percent last year. The adjusted four-year derived dropout rate for the same school year is 20.1 percent, down from 21.1 percent last year.

For the 2007-08 school year, Lake County's overall dropout rate was 16.8 percent, down from 23.07 percent in the previous year.

Local districts posted the following results, with the previous year's percentages included in parentheses: Upper Lake Union High School, 20.1 percent (27.6); Konocti Unified, 19.8 percent (21.4); Lakeport Unified, 15.6 percent (21.7); Middletown Unified, 10.4 percent (21); Kelseyville Unified, 9.6 percent (12.2).

“I am heartened that the graduation rate is up slightly, but California’s dropout rate is still unacceptably high,” said O’Connell.

O'Connell said there are long-term economic repercussions from not graduating for students, for their communities and for our statewide economy. “These data provide even more evidence of the challenge and the moral imperative of closing the achievement gap as well as increasing graduation rates among all students.”

This is the second year that the State Department of Education has calculated student graduation and dropout rates by collecting student-level enrollment and exit data.

The agency said when they have two additional years of data they will be able to produce more accurate student graduation and dropout rates at the school level.

“The data is going to become, I think, more reliable,” said Lake County Superintendent of Schools Dave Geck.

Ethnic groups still pose unique challenges at the state and local levels, despite some improvements.

O'Connell called dropout rates for African American and Hispanic students “alarmingly high.”

In Lake County, American Indians led with the highest dropout percentage, 32.7 percent, down from 35.1 percent in 2007-07.

The next highest group, African Americans, had a 24.1 percent dropout rate in 2007-08, down from 31 percent the previous year.

Other groups, with past year's numbers in parentheses, are: multiple/no response, 22.6 (24.5); Hispanic or Latino, 17.4 percent (22.4); white, 13.8 percent (14.2); Filipino, 12.5 percent (0); Asian, 0 percent (16.7); Pacific Islander, rate can't be calculated for 2007-08 (33.3).

“We have to find ways to engage those students,” Geck said.

Geck said efforts are going on across the county to better engage students and keep them in school. Those efforts include the College-Going Initiative – which this year honored 108 local students accepted at four-year colleges and universities – and career technical programs such as Clear Lake High School's health pathways track and Konocti Unified's technical education courses.

He said they're communicating with students that the difference between a high school diploma and a college diploma is about $1 million in earnings over a lifetime.

Districts have until July 3 to review the data, verify student exit codes, and correct all data, O'Connell's office reported.

The new system of tracking students uses the Statewide Student Identifiers (SSIDs) to help districts identify students who were considered a dropout at a school they left but in fact were enrolled in a different district, according to O'Connell's office. In addition, CDE can identify students reported by a school district as transferring to another California school district but cannot be found subsequently enrolled.

The SSIDs are to be part of the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, or CALPADS, a system to track students that is to be implemented at all districts in the 2009-10 school year.

Frustrations in addressing dropouts

Upper Lake Union High School Principal/Superintendent Pat Iaccino, whose district has the highest dropout rate according to the Tuesday report, said the way the state tracks dropouts has many holes.

While they're now attempting to track student to determine if they turn up in another school, Iaccino said that tracking system doesn't include community colleges, adult education, universities or other states where students could continue their education and turn out not to be dropouts. Also, students who receive certificates of completion but don't pass the exit exam are classified as dropouts, he said.

So he and his staff are attempting to track students themselves. If a student doesn't appear at school for a time, they send someone out to visit their home.

He said a lot of aspects in the system need to be improved to get a clearer idea of the true number of dropouts, which Iaccino said is a figure that's manipulated for political purposes.

“I get extremely frustrated with the state of California and the Department of Education,” said Iaccino. “What would they like us to do?”

If an 18-year-old can legally leave high school and get an associate's degree at a community college without a high school diploma, why do they need a diploma, he asked.

“We have been doing everything in our power to get these kids through school,” he said, noting that it's a constant pain to deal with ambiguous percentages.

Iaccino, who has been in education for decades, said dropout always have been a struggle, with the state constantly changing the way dropouts are monitored.

He said because his school is small, he believes he can raise the graduation rate to the area of 95 to 97 percent.

One way Iaccino would like to address his district's dropout rate is through establishing an adult education program, which also would benefit community members. However, he said the state won't allow him to do that, so students need to drive instead to Kelseyville.

Debra Jones, administrator, for the state Department of Education's Adult Education Office, said Iaccino is correct – “and it's very sad” – that there are new issues that are hampering adult education programs from getting started.

She said the adult education programs, which were established by Proposition 98, don't get average daily attendance (ADA) dollars until they've been operating for two years. However, there is now no longer an ADA system due to the way the recent state budget handles such categorical funds.

Jones said the funds now go directly to school districts, which are using the funds to offset costs in other areas. “There is no a system in place right now until 2013 because of the budget that the legislature put together,” she said. “There won't be a way for a district to start an adult school. There just isn't a mechanism in place.”

There are some other options, she said, such as specific federal dollars and the ability to start fee-based programs.

Jones said Lake County has huge need as far as the dropout rate and the number of residents who are illiterate or who have low reading comprehension levels. “It's even further away right now due to our California state budget challenges than it ever was before.”

Geck said the programs needed to keep students from dropping out are in danger due to the current budget crisis.

“The big challenge with the proposition and the rhetoric around budget cut is we don't have specific information about what it is going to do to the budget,” he said.

To see the reports, visit the state Department of Education Web site at

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

LAKE COUNTY – Several large projects will be under way on area highways this summer.

Caltrans reports that three safety projects – near Walker Ridge east of Clearlake Oaks, east of Robinson Rancheria in Nice and at the intersection of Highway 29 and Spruce Grove Road near Lower Lake – will be continuing in the months ahead.

The Walker Ridge Safety Rehabilitation project is located about 10 miles east of Clearlake Oaks on Highway 20 and is expected to be completed in July.

It's the largest summer highway project in Lake County, said Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie.

The project was awarded in September of 2006 to Argonaut Constructors of Santa Rosa, Frisbie said.

Frisbie said the project is realigning curves, and installing drainage and wider shoulders in that area, which has seen several major vehicle collisions – some of them fatal – over the last two years, as Lake County News has reported.

The high number of collisions in the area triggered an investigation, and the safety project resulted, said Frisbie.

“The main emphasis of that was to increase the site distance and make those curves not quite as severe so we could improve the safety,” said Frisbie.

Frisbie said Caltrans recently completed pavement testing in the area, using a towed trailer skid tester that is pulled behind a vehicle. He said the test involves wetting the pavement and applying brakes to the trailer to check friction on the roadway surface.

“It did not reveal any deficiency in the pavement,” he said.

Week before last, transverse rumble strips were installed across the eastbound lane of Highway 20 near speed advisory signs in the Walker Ridge area, said Frisbie.

He said the goal is that the rumble strips will draw drivers' attention to the 35-mile-per-hour speed advisory signs and slow down as they go through the area. The California Highway Patrol has determined that speed on wet roadways was the cause of many of the crashes in the area.

Frisbie said a passing lane terminates in that area, and Caltrans believes that speed may be an issue there because people are attempting to pass before the lane ends.

“Possibly that is causing them to approach that downhill at a higher speed that they should,” he said.

So sometime in the next few weeks, as soon as striping crews are available, Caltrans will restripe the passing lanes, reducing the number of lanes to one at the crest of the hill.

“We're still going to be continue to evaluate other things that can be done to improve the safety,” he said.

In other road projects, Caltrans reported that the Robinson Rancheria Safety project, located between the communities of Upper Lake and Nice on Highway 20, is on schedule.

Frisbie said the existing highway had very narrow to no shoulders. Contractor Argonaut Constructors of Santa Rosa is widening the highway and providing eight-foot shoulders. Caltrans expects the project to be completed this fall.

The final project is the Spruce Grove Road Safety Project between C Street and Clayton Creek Road outside of Lower Lake, said Frisbie. The contract will be awarded in June, with completion anticipated in the summer of 2010.

Frisbie said the Spruce Grove Road project will add left turn lanes and lighting to the intersection to

improve its safety.

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

CLEARLAKE OAKS – The Clearlake Oaks Catfish Derby hosted the inaugural Catfish Cook-Off Competition on Saturday as part of this year's Catfish Derby festivities.

The competition began at noon with entrants cooking their dishes at the Live Oak Senior Center then transporting them over to the derby headquarters at the Clearlake Oaks Firehouse for judging.

The judges included Dustin Brassfield, owner of High Valley Wines, chef instructor Robert Cabreros from Yuba College and Foodie Freak food columnist Ross A. Christensen.

The first place grand prize, which included a trophy, a $250 cash prize and a wine prize package consisting of several cases of Lake County wines generously donated by local wineries, was won by Glen Marks of Middletown. His dish was a Cajun-style catfish etouffee.

Second place was awarded to Joseph Capilla of Clearlake who made southern catfish with mango salsa. The second place prize consisted of a trophy, a $150 cash prize and a gift basket of wine provided by Lake County Winegrape Commission.

The third place prize was awarded to Rich Adams of Hidden Valley Lake, who made Asian catfish with slaw. His prize was a trophy, a $100 cash prize, and a bottle of Lake County pear champagne, donated by Mt. Konocti Growers.

Trophies also were presented to Rich Adams for most unique dish and to Glen Marks for traveler from the furthest distance.

LAKE COUNTY – A list released Thursday of 789 Chrysler dealers slated to have their agreements terminated spared Lake County's local dealer and most of those located on the North Coast.

Kathy Fowler, who owns Kathy Fowler Chevrolet-Pontiac – which sells General Motors, Chrysler and Jeep vehicles – was breathing a sigh of relief thanks to not being listed.

She said she confirmed it with her Chrysler representative Thursday morning.

Fowler said her business was receiving calls throughout the day from concerned customers fearing the worst.

The 41-page list of dealers slated for contract termination included 32 California dealers.

The only North Coast Chrysler dealer listed was Harvey M. Harper Co. of Eureka. Dealerships in Chico, Oroville, Oakland and Burlingame also received notices of terminations.

On Thursday Chrysler LLC filed a motion with the US Bankruptcy Court seeking to reject some of its US dealer agreements.

It's the latest development for the company, which filed bankruptcy April 30 and is forming a new company with Fiat. Chrysler also temporarily idled most of its manufacturing operations effective May 4 for a period between 30 and 60 days.

“The unprecedented decline in the industry has had a significant impact on our sales and forced us to reduce production levels to better match the needs of the market,” Chrysler Vice Chairman and President Jim Press said in a statement issued Thursday. “With the downsizing of operations after the sale and reduction of plants and production, similar reductions must be made to the size of the dealer body.”

Press said the company regretted the “painful action.”

The 789 dealers who will have their contracts terminated represents 14 percent of Chrysler's sales volume, according to a Thursday statement from Chrysler. They will cease selling Dodge, Chrysler or Jeep vehicles on or about June 9, subject to the US bankruptcy court's approval.

The company chose which dealers to cut based on a “data-driven matrix that assessed a number of

key metrics,” which weren't detailed.

Fowler said the parameters for the selections given to dealers were “very vague.” She said much of it was based on issues liked spacing between franchises and good performance.

The restructuring of the dealer network is “a necessary part of Chrysler’s viability plan” and central to its proposed sale transaction.

Chrysler said the action also is mean to ensure that the remaining 2,392 dealers and the new company “will be stronger and more profitable going forward.”

Chrysler said it will “work to assist in the redistribution of new vehicles and parts to the remaining dealer network.”

Pressure on local car dealers has been a concern for local officials.

During a round table with Congressman Mike Thompson on April 9, County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox raised the issue, noting that he's met with local new car dealers that have been under pressure due to auto bailout, as Lake County News has reported.

Fowler and Holder Ford now are the only two new car dealers remaining in Lake County. Cox was concerned about what appears to be a push to shut down dealerships in rural areas. Thompson said at that time that he had held a conference call with auto dealers throughout the district that resulted in a letter from the California Congressional delegation to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, outlining dealers' concerns.

Thompson had warned that many dealerships would end up being closed because they were larger than the suggested number in the government's business plan.

For many auto dealers, they're not out of the woods yet: On Friday General Motors is expected to begin making cuts to its dealerships as well.

The California dealers slated to have their agreements terminated by Chrysler include the following.

– Atascadero: Ted Miles Jeep Inc.

– Burlingame: T&K Automotive Investments Inc.

– Carson: Carson CJ LLC

– Chico: Courtesy Motors Auto Center Inc.

– El Centro: WR Thomas Inc.

– Escondido: EJE Inc.

– Eureka: Harvey M. Harper Co.

– Folsom: People's Chrysler Jeep Inc.

– Foothill Ranch: Urban Automotive Group LLC

– Garden Grove: Union Dodge Inc.

– Glendale: Los Feliz Ford Inc.

– Grass Valley: GK Alcombrack Inc., Weaver Automotive Inc.

– Hanford: Hanford Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep Inc.

– La Quinta: Sowell Automotive Inc.

– Livermore: Livermore Auto Group Inc.

– Merced: Ron & Ann Enterprises

– Oakdale: LE Richardson Enterprises Inc.

– Oakland: Bay Bridge Dodge Chrysler Jeep

– Oroville: Oroville Motors Inc.

– Redwood City: Autocal LLC, Boardwalk Auto Center Inc.

– San Diego: John Hine Pontiac

– San Fernando: Murphy and Shelby Dodge Inc.

– San Luis Obispo: Hysen-Johnson Ford Inc.

– Seaside: Butts Pontiac-Cadillac Inc., Larry Menke Inc.

– Sonora: Mother Lode Motors

– Van Nuys: Valley Dodge Inc., Valley Dodge Inc./dba Big Valley Chrysler Jeep

– Ventura: Kirby Oldsmobile

– Yuba City – Wheeler Leasing Co. II Inc.

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

LAKEPORT – Held in locations throughout the world, the powerful workshop, “Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream,” is coming to Lakeport on Saturday, May 30, and reservations, which are still being accepted, are recommended.

Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream explores new ways of seeing the big sustainability, spiritual, and social justice challenges and opportunities of our time, according to the Pachamama Alliance.

“What’s different about this workshop is that we dig down to the real, interconnected roots of these challenges, both on a personal and cultural basis,” notes workshop host Sue Stiles in a recent statement.

“Then, we encourage everyone to shift to a whole new frame of reference – to see new solutions – from clean tech and eco-arts to local food and green collar jobs. It’s a transformative process that provides a lot of hope,” added workshop facilitator Alain Desouches.

The Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream Workshop (ATD) is an initiative of The Pachamama Alliance (, a San Francisco-based nonprofit whose mission is to preserve the Earth’s tropical rain forests and contribute to a new global vision of sustainability and equity for all.

Via dynamic, inspirational video, participants hear from far-sighted community leaders including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Julia Butterfly Hill, Van Jones, Paul Hawken and more, on everything from the planet’s dwindling biodiversity to growing socio-economic gaps. The event also includes lively breakout groups and practical tools, according to the Pachamama Alliance.

The Pachamama Alliance was formed in the mid-1990s, when a group of North Americans visited a remote and intact group of indigenous people – the Achuar – located deep in the Amazonian region of Ecuador.

Through this chance meeting, a relationship was formed between the two groups and The Pachamama Alliance, initiated by the indigenous elders and shamans of the Achuar, was begun.

Because of the elders’ and shamans’ deep concern for the growing threat to their ancient way of life, coupled with their recognition that the roots of this threat lay far beyond their rain forest home, they actively sought the partnership of committed individuals living in the modern world the Pachamama Alliance states.

One purpose of the symposium is to “change the dream of the North,” since it is the desires and appetites of the North - “their dream" - which is driving the destruction of the rain forests around the world, according to the Pachamama Allicance.

Another purpose is to, "to bring forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, socially just human presence on this planet," according to an introductory video on the symposium.

The workshop is open to all on Saturday, May 30, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., at the Lakeport Senior Center, 527 Konocti Ave., Lakeport 95453. Call 707-263-9400 or visit for details and to register.

For a video introduction to the symposium, visit:

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

LAKEPORT – A new motion filed Wednesday by the Lake County District Attorney's Office explains the reasons for a request to reschedule the trial of a Carmichael man in connection with a fatal 2006 crash, including new information relating to central figures in the case.

Deputy District Attorney John Langan asked visiting Judge J. Michael Byrne last week to delay the trial of 40-year-old Bismarck Dinius, who is accused of felony vehicular manslaughter with a boat and driving under the influence of alcohol for an April 2006, boat crash that claimed the life of Willows resident Lynn Thornton.

Dinius was piloting a sailboat owned by Thornton's fiance, Mark Weber of Willows, when it was hit by a powerboat driven by off-duty sheriff's chief deputy, Russell Perdock, who was not charged in the case. The vehicular manslaughter charge against Dinius arises, in part, because it is alleged that the sailboat's running lights weren't on.

Langan asked for more time to investigate the case and told Byrne last Friday that he would file a written motion explaining his reasons for not starting the trial on May 19.

The new nine-page motion explains that Langan has received new information about Perdock's activities on the day of the crash, and that another witness has come forward to corroborate statements made by former sheriff's Sgt. James Beland, who said he was ordered not to administer a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) – or breathalyzer – test to Perdock after the crash occurred.

Byrne has scheduled a May 19 hearing on whether or not to change the trial date. At that time he also will consider a motion by Langan to secure Beland's personnel records.

Langan, who last week was denied a request to place a gag order on the case that would have limited comments of witnesses and the attorneys to the media, did not return a call to Lake County News seeking comment on how much more time he would need to prepare for the case. District Attorney Jon Hopkins also did not reply to an e-mail message.

According to the declarations in his motion to continue the trial and its supporting documents, Langan's request hinges on his need to fully investigate the matter, and the investigator assigned to the case can't complete the investigation by May 19.

Dinius’ defense attorney, Victor Haltom of Sacramento, said he opposes any change in trial dates.

“My instructions from my client are, 'Let's go, let's get this trial over and done with,'” Haltom said. “He's sick of dealing with this. He's at his wits' end.”

Motions refer to new, and disputed, information

In his motion, Langan explains that on April 27 he was informed that district attorney's investigators  contacted certain individuals who provided information about Perdock's activities prior to the April 2006 collision “that appears to be in conflict with the information previously provided to the DA's office by other witnesses in this regard.”

“I think that this is significant motion,” said Haltom. “I think there are some significant disclosures in there.”

Haltom said he expects Langan to give more specifics on May 19 about the information he received.

For his part, Haltom said there are people who have told him they saw Perdock at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa in the hours before the crash. “Perdock denies having set foot on the grounds of Konocti on that day,” said Haltom.

Haltom said he and an investigator interviewed Perdock's ex-wife, Donna, in November of 2007, and she said her then-husband had left the house by 5:30 p.m. or 6 p.m. on April 29, 2006, while Perdock himself has said he did not leave with his boat until about two hours later.

“I think the district attorney is coming around to see there is a pretty glaring omission here,” Haltom said.

On Friday, in the wake of the rising speculation about the information Langan received, Perdock himself told Lake County News that he was not on the Konocti Harbor property the day of the crash. “I absolutely deny that information,” he said of the new allegations about his whereabouts.

Perdock said he has withheld making public statements about the case because Dinius deserves a fair trial.

“The information I would have would taint a jury,” he said.

He said he felt Haltom also has a duty to make sure there’s a fair trial for the sake of the victim, Lynn Thornton, and accused a Bay Area reporter of being a “propaganda agent” for the defense.

New information said to support Beland

Another important part of Langan's motion involves new information supporting Beland's contention that Boat Patrol Sgt. Dennis Ostini ordered him not to administer a PAS test to Perdock at the scene of the crash – which contradicts his testimony on the stand in Dinius' preliminary hearing in May of 2008.

Langan’s Wednesday motion states that on April 27 he received information that district attorney's investigators contacted another former sheriff's sergeant who was on duty and at the scene of the

That former sergeant, said Langan, provided information “apparently indicating that former Sgt. Beland may have been 'ordered' not to administer a PAS test to Mr. Perdock.”

Ostini, who was in charge of the collision scene, testified during the preliminary hearing that it was his judgment that it was better to rely on a blood test at the hospital.

A breathalyzer test also wasn't administered to Dinius at the scene, which Beland testified to suggesting to Ostini. Blood draws were conducted on both Dinius and Weber at Sutter Lakeside Hospital.

Ostini's decision to go with blood tests over the breathalyzer may be better understood when considering a research paper by David J. Hanson, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Sociology of the State University of New York at Potsdam, who has studied alcohol and drinking for more than 40 years.

“Because invalid tests can make it more difficult to obtain convictions, many law enforcement agencies now prefer to obtain blood samples, which have fewer sources of invalidity,” Hanson writes.

So Beland – who had testified in court to being among the first sheriff's deputies on scene – drove Perdock to St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake for a blood draw.

Perdock said Friday that he had asked Ostini to have him taken to the hospital as quickly as possible after the crash so that the blood draw could be taken. He said the crash scene was “fairly chaotic” at that point.

He added that he has since voluntarily submitted DNA samples for testing because Haltom questioned whether or not the blood originally tested was actually Perdock’s.

In April Haltom said during a hearing that Beland – who approached him last year after losing his job with the sheriff’s office – stated that he told Langan before the preliminary hearing last year that he was ordered not to give the PAS test.

According to Haltom, Beland's attorney, Scott Lewis, said Langan “shaped” Beland's testimony, which Langan denied. Langan disclosed the conversation with Beland in the judge's chambers during the preliminary hearing.

Lewis, based in Santa Rosa, did not offer comment when Lake County News contacted him regarding the case.

Internal affairs documents reveal Beland’s statements

However, Lewis has shared portions of Beland's personnel records with Haltom. Some of those, including a portion of a June 17, 2008, internal affairs investigation interview, have been filed as part of the case's

In a 35-page transcript, sheriff's Lt. Cecil Brown explains that the investigation covered the period from May 18 through May 22, 2008, the week Dinius' preliminary hearing took place, as well as an unknown date in the fall of 2007.

“It is alleged that during this incident, you violated regulations regarding good conduct and that you failed to comply with performance standards for a sergeant,” Brown stated during the interview.

Sheriff’s office regulations regarding good conduct state: “All members, whether on or off duty, shall be governed by the ordinary and reasonable rules of good conduct and behavior, and shall not commit any act tending to bring reproach or discredit upon the Sheriff’s Department or the County of Lake.”

According to the transcript, on May 18, 2008, Beland had a discussion with Langan about the case, in which he stated that he was ordered not to give Perdock the PAS test following the crash, despite his desire to do so.

During the interview Brown asked Beland, “... after talking to Langan for a minute, didn't you tell him that it was not an order, but more of a discussion?”

“Yes,” Beland replied, who also responded “yes” to a followup question by Brown who asked if the words “order” and “discussion” have different meanings to him.

During the interview Beland maintained that Ostini ordered him not to give the test.

Beland told Brown that he'd told several other sheriff's office staff that he had been told by Ostini not to administer the PAS test. He also stated that at the time he didn't argue against Ostini's decision to seek a blood draw. “I thought it was a good decision.”

Beland – who in the internal investigation transcript noted that he had previously been placed on a performance improvement plan for another matter – was terminated after the internal affairs investigation, according to Langan's Wednesday motion.

Protection sought for personnel records

Langan has filed a Pitchess motion to acquire Beland's personnel files, which both Beland and the Lake County Sheriff's Office are opposing. That motion also will be heard May 19.
County Counsel Anita Grant said her office is representing the sheriff's office in its response to Langan's Pitchess motion for the release of Beland's records.

The Pitchess motion procedure was set up to address officer records, which are protected by a number of rules and laws, Grant explained.

Grant said it's par for the course to oppose releasing a peace officers' records. “We've never not done this,” she said.

“The sheriff's department has an obligation here to protect those records absent a court order,” said Grant.

She added that the threshold that has to be met in releasing the documents for review is now relatively low, although the Supreme Court doesn't allow “fishing expeditions.”

Grant, who has dealt with most of the Pitchess motions against the county over several years, said she doesn't know of another case in which the District Attorney's Office has filed such a motion against the sheriff's office.

Despite the fact that some of Beland's records already have been released in court documents, Grant said she doesn't believe that diminishes the sheriff's office's responsibility to protect them. “Our obligation exists notwithstanding and can only be relieved by the court.”

Grant said there is no present lawsuit by Beland against the county. Due to the peace officer bill of rights, she could not comment on whether or not an administrative appeal of his termination is under way.

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

LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's health officer reported on Thursday that worries about the Novel H1N1 influenza – which has commonly been referred to as the swine flu – appear to be subsiding, but the county continues to plan for possible future appearances of the virus.

Dr. Karen Tait's office reported Thursday that there still remain “lingering possibilities” that the virus could be discovered in Lake County.

However, the likelihood of detecting it in the immediate future appears to be dwindling. As of May 13, the combined number of probable and confirmed cases in California was 473 – none of them in Lake County.

Tait reported that the similarity between symptoms of the Novel H1N1 virus and seasonal influenza, coupled with the fact that sophisticated laboratory tests are needed to identify the new virus, could only be done on a sampling of patients. That means that the virus could have entered the county undetected.

Even so, Tait said local health officials are breathing a collective sigh of relief as the characteristics of the virus have become better understood.

In spite of the fact that the population is susceptible to catching this virus, the resulting illness has been no more severe than seasonal influenza, according to Tait. In addition, it does not appear to be as easily spread person-to-person.

With the influenza season winding down, public health officials are hoping for a break from the recent concerns and uncertainties that go along with discovery of a new health threat. But Tait said that does not mean that efforts to fight this virus will stop.

Despite the relatively benign nature of the new H1N1 virus to date, health officials want to be ready for changes that could occur between now and another wave of infection, which might be expected to coincide with the usual flu season beginning in the fall, or could possibly come sooner, Tait reported.

Consideration needs to be given to the potential for the new virus to further evolve, possibly returning in a more virulent form.

“There is no easy way to predict the behavior of new influenza viruses,” said Tait. “I do not want to be an alarmist, since the virus may weaken as easily as it could worsen. But it is our job in public health to plan for all possibilities.”

The recent intense public health response to the discovery of H1N1 challenged Lake County’s Public Health Division to implement emergency plans simultaneously with state and federal health agencies, Tait said.

“We learned from this experience and had an opportunity to further develop our procedures,” she explained. “Because the Novel H1N1 virus particularly impacted school-age children, we worked closely with the Lake County Office of Education and schools throughout the county.”

Tait said the Public Health Division will be far from idle during the coming months.

Although a vaccine for the Novel H1N1 virus is not yet available, one might be expected by sometime this fall. If so, an unusually busy vaccination schedule can be anticipated.

Other efforts to curtail the spread of flu are likely to intensify again. “It is entirely possible that we will see both seasonal flu strains and the new H1N1 strain circulating at the same time, which is a good reason to be especially diligent about measures to reduce transmission of infection in the community,” she said.

Families should remember the recently emphasized lessons for infection control, namely good hand washing, and covering coughs and sneezes.

To be ready for the next flu season, it is also a good idea to have a thermometer on hand – an important item for taking care of flu patients at home.

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Rob Roy Golf Club and Creekside Grill & Lounge: 16451 Golf Road, Cobb, telephone 928-0121. Lunch, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner, Thursday, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Champagne brunch, Sundays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reservations suggested for dinner and brunch.

I’m pretty stingy. I like to save money and consolidate every chance I get, so when my wife’s birthday came around and I wanted to take her out to dinner somewhere nice I thought to myself, “And if I can take her someplace we haven’t been before and do a review of the restaurant at the same time, that’s being frugal!”

When I was looking to purchase some property years ago I looked at some places on Cobb Mountain, and the one thing that kept going through my mind was, “This looks like Bigfoot country. If I lived here I’d be chasing Sasquatches off my deck every night.”

So I’ll admit that Cobb Mountain has been pretty intimidating to me and that’s one of the main reasons that I haven’t been to Rob Roy sooner. I know, sounds a little screwy but we all have quirks. If you do plan on eating there definitely have your route preplanned before you leave, the roads of Cobb are not accommodating for a seat-of-your-pants kind of navigator.

Reservations are recommended at Rob Roy’s so I made them under a fake name just in case someone would recognize mine. We were shown to our table with a view of trees and dense underbrush ... I could sense that Bigfoot was out there watching me right then.

The décor of the restaurant is nice if a bit spartan. You don’t feel like they are trying to impress you with their paintings or sculptures. It has the look of a typical golf clubhouse. There is a bar overlooking the golf course and a television above the bar. We were seated in the back and couldn’t see any of that from our table which added a more elegant feel to our setting.

The wine list was almost exclusively filled with Lake County wines which I was happy to see. We ordered a bottle of the Six Sigma Cabernet Sauvignon. After all, it’s cheaper than buying it by the glass.

For appetizers, I ordered the crab cakes and my wife went for the bruschetta, and for our entrees we ordered prime rib (available Fridays and Saturdays) and wild mushroom ravioli, respectively.

Our waitress Robyn was fantastic; much more professional than your average Lake County wait staff. She asked how I would like my prime rib and I said “Raw.” She confirmed that I would like it as rare as possible and then was off. She was very intuitive on our needs. It was as if she was present every time we needed her yet nowhere in sight when we didn’t. She was earning a very considerable tip, and if I weren’t such a cheapskate she would have gotten one.

The appetizers arrived faster than I expected, but as we did arrive early in the dinner service, there were very few other diners, however as the evening went on the dining room did fill up but the service was still exceptional.

The crab cakes were – and I’m being completely honest here – the best I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve eaten crab cakes all over the world and have always been disappointed until now.

The plate had four crab cakes drizzled with an aioli set on a mesclun greens salad that was dressed with an almost ethereal dressing. My wife (who’s not a seafood fan) tried the crab cake and said that they were better than ones that she’s had on Chesapeake Bay (where the crab cake is a signature dish).

The exterior of the crab cake was crispy, the interior soft but not doughy. You could taste the crab and red pepper, and the celery was cooked but not soft. I tried, I actually really tried to find fault with them but I couldn’t find any. They were fantastic!

My wife’s bruschetta was grilled and topped with tomatoes, red onion and basil in perfect proportions, nothing overwhelmed the other. There were six to the plate and they were all of good size so she wasn’t able to eat all of them; luckily I finished them for her so nothing went to waste. The only detraction from the appetizer was that tomatoes aren’t in season and so they were very bland. During the summer this would be a stellar item.

The main courses also arrived quite quickly and I was pleased to see that my prime rib was perfectly cooked. Like a balance of just warm and pink yet not quite a health code concern. It was accompanied on the plate with crispy fried cheese polenta and green beans with a roasted red pepper puree, and served with au jus and horseradish sauce on the side. I love horseradish sauce with prime rib because no matter how bad the meat is you can always cover it with horseradish.

I am thrilled to say I didn’t even taste the horseradish sauce for the sole reason that the au jus was – and I said this at the table to my wife – “The best jus I have ever tasted in my life.” I told her that I just wanted to drink the jus like a cup of coffee.

Honestly I felt like I was in sensory overload. The beans were perfectly cooked and the red pepper puree was unique and well matched. The crispy fried cheese polenta was excellent. Normally I expect fried polenta to be a bit oily but this wasn’t at all, and the flavor was perfectly balanced so that you could experience the cheese and the corn without losing one to the other. The exterior had a slight crispness to it without trying to intimidate you with a loud crunch.

Oh yeah and my wife was here also ...

Her plate of wild mushroom ravioli was large enough that as it was set on the table I commented to Robyn, “She’ll need a doggie bag for that.” The ravioli was covered in a tomato cream sauce, which was a nice change from the usual marinara. The pasta had a nice al dente texture, and the wild mushrooms were nicely seasoned, not too woody or wild tasting and still had good body to their texture.

Her ravioli started out as being very good and with a balanced flavor in which no one thing overpowered the rest in the dish, but as she got further into the meal she said it was all a little too balanced and it was becoming a little boring. I still insisted she take the leftover portion home. Waste not, want not!

Once her pasta was boxed up and my plate of food reduced to scraps of fat we looked at having dessert. As always I went for a glass of port, since I’m not a big fan of sweets. The Grahams Six Grapes port was great, a definite must have. My wife was hoping for some sort of flan or crème caramel but that evidently was served the day before. She went for the tiramisu but they were out of that also so she just dropped the idea of dessert altogether. Besides, we still had plenty of the Six Sigma left for her to drink while I had the port.

The prices for everything were high if compared to most Lake County restaurants but were quite fair for the meal and service delivered.

To give the meal a summary, I had the best meal I’ve had in over a decade, and my wife had a very good meal with charming company to pay for it. Israel Gonzales is the chef at Rob Roy and it was difficult for me to not ask to meet him and thank him for the amazing meal. But I will look at attending any events that he cooks for. After all I don’t think I’ve ever used the phrase “best I’ve ever had” twice in one meal EVER before.

So we happily went back to our car in the parking lot, on our way home and – what was that in the trees? It looked like a man, but big and hairy ....

(Note from Ross’ wife: Don’t let him fool you. Ross is a very generous tipper. Robyn was tipped about 30 percent. Ross loves the quote from the movie “My Blue Heaven”: “Actually it’s not tipping I believe in ... It’s over tipping.”)

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.

Student of the Lake County International Charter School along with (left to right) school executive assistant Laura Stalker, School Director Karl Reichman and Alison Talbott of Pacific Gas and Electric on Friday, May 15, 2009. Photo by Glen R. Erspamer Jr.

MIDDLETOWN – A local school received a check for $10,000 on Friday that will assist it with becoming more green and sustainable.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. awarded the Lake County International Charter School the grant as part of its Bright Ideas Grant, as Lake County News reported earlier this month.

Executive assistant Laura Stalker said the grant will provide “a lot more tools to work with” for the school.

Plans include building a solar-powered green house for native plants, which the school will sell. The school also plans to work on local watershed issues, with opportunities for the school's 100 kindergarten through eighth grade students to get their hands dirty in the process.

The new grant also will lay the foundation for a future “seed to table” program where the children will help grow and cook some of their own foods.

School Director Karl Reichman said teacher training will be one of the tools the grant will help bring to the school.




Lake County International Charter School students get a closeup of the check on Friday, May 15, 2009. Adults pictured are, left to right, school executive assistant Laura Stalker, School Director Karl Reichman and Alison Talbott of Pacific Gas and Electric. Photo by Glen R. Erspamer Jr.


Eleven-year-old Arthur Wilkie of Lucerne is heading to the California State Elementary Spelling Championship in Rohnert Park on Saturday, May 16, 2009. Courtesy photo.



LUCERNE – A local spelling whiz will be making his way to Rohnert Park this weekend to represent Lake County in the California State Elementary Spelling Championship.

Arthur Wilkie, 11, a sixth grader who attends Lucerne Elementary School, will be among 62 of the state's top spellers, representing 32 counties, who will compete in the annual competition, to be held this Saturday, May 16, in Sonoma State University's Evert B. Person Theatre.

The competition, coordinated this year by the Sonoma County Office of Education, will begin at 9 a.m. It is free and open to the public.

Six fourth-graders, 24 fifth-graders and 32 sixth-graders will participate. All of them already have won school, region and county spelling bees. Each county’s first- and second-place spellers are eligible to compete for the championship title.

Trophies and savings bonds will be awarded to the top six spellers: $1,000 for first place, $500 for second place, $250 for third place, and $100 for fourth through sixth place.

All spellers will receive a participation ribbon, souvenirs, and certificate signed by Gov. Arnold


At 9 a.m. Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carl Wong will welcome participants and guests to the event, then show a video greeting from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.

Patricia Ehrmann, a teacher at Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park, is the spell master. Serving as spelling judges are Guerneville School teacher Leslie Howell (lead judge); Mark Rasmussen, Napa area captain of the California Highway Patrol; and Sonoma County Office of Education assistant superintendent Don Russell.

The California School Employee Association is sponsoring this year’s spelling championship, which will have a country theme. Country radio station Froggy 92.9 andBuzzard’s Gulch, both of Santa Rosa, are partnering with SCOE to present the event. Radio personalities Rob and Joss will introduce the spellers as they take a virtual tour of the old west town at Buzzard’s Gulch.

The full list of participating spellers, their counties and schools is below.


Emily Deluna – age 12, sixth grade, Alliance Academy, Oakland

Karl Keck – age 11, fifth grade, Anthony Chabot Elementary School, Oakland


Samantha Riviere – age 9, fifth grade, Sutter Creek Elementary School, Sutter Creek

Matthew Spinetta – age 11, sixth grade, Plymouth Elementary School, Plymouth


Zane Harper – age 10, fourth grade, C.O.R.E. Butte Charter, Chico

Jade Holder – age 11, sixth grade, Hooker Oak Elementary School, Chico


Hannah Cutter – age 10, fourth grade, Arbuckle Elementary School, Arbuckle

Sarah Marsh – age 10, fifth grade, Arbuckle Elementary School, Arbuckle

Contra Costa

Ava Gruener – age 10, fifth grade, Murwood Elementary School, Walnut Creek

Zoe Tacderas – age 11, sixth grade, Holy Rosary School, Antioch

Del Norte

Glenn Duncan – age 11, sixth grade, Pine Grove Elementary School, Crescent City


Kathryn Moore – age 12, sixth grade, Quail Lake Environmental Charter School, Clovis

Gobind Puniani – age 10, fifth grade, Valley Oak Elementary School, Fresno


Noah Parham – age 11, sixth grade, Willows Intermediate School, Willows

Danielle Zuppan – age 10, fifth grade, Capay Elementary School, Orland


Katie Fisher – age 11, sixth grade, Scotia School, Scotia

Kayleen Kemp – age 12, sixth grade, Toddy Thomas Elementary School, Fortuna


Katie Doonan – age 11, fifth grade, Pine Street School, Bishop


Quinn Camara – age 12, sixth grade, Pioneer Middle School, Hanford

Simran Dulai – age 11, fifth grade, Mark Twain Elementary School, Corcoran


Arthur Wilkie – age 11, sixth grade, Lucerne Elementary School, Lucerne


Zachary Mah – age 12, sixth grade, Richmond Elementary School, Susanville

Los Angeles

Carina Kan – age 11, sixth grade, Palos Verdes Intermediate School, Palos Verdes Estates

Catherine Velardez – age 12, sixth grade, Will Rogers Middle School, Lawndale


Elijah Armstrong – age 11, fifth grade, Manor Elementary School, Fairfax

Jessica Brown – age 11, sixth grade, San Jose Middle School, Novato


Xiao Jin Jackson – age 11, fifth grade, Mendocino K-8 School, Mendocino

Brawley Parker – age 10, fourth grade, Oak Manor Elementary School, Ukiah


T.J. Bangle – age 10, fifth grade, Charleston Elementary School, Los Banos

Marsha Noeline – age 11, sixth grade, Westside Elementary School, Los Banos


Martin Thompson – age 11, fifth grade, Lee Vining Elementary School, Lee Vining

Glenna Wardlaw – age 11, fifth grade, Mammoth Elementary School, Mammoth Lakes


Jessica Burgess – age 11, fifth grade, Clear Creek Elementary School, Grass Valley

Emma Lauterbach – age 10, fifth grade, Pleasant Valley Elementary School, Penn Valley


Savitri Asokan – age 10, fifth grade, Excelsior School, Roseville

Alexander Chew – age 11, sixth grade, Ridgeview School, Granite Bay


Jessica Khalili – age 11, sixth grade, Susan B. Anthony Elementary School, Corona

Christian Kontaxis – age 9, fourth grade, St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, Palm Desert

San Benito

Andrew Pearson – age 9, fourth grade, Accelerated Achievement Academy at Calaveras, Hollister

San Joaquin

Mashal Chhotani – age 11, sixth grade, George Kelly Elementary School, Tracy

Leandra Evans – age 11, sixth grade, Claudia Landeen School, Stockton

Santa Barbara

Ameet Braganza – age 12, sixth grade, Monte Vista Elementary School, Santa Barbara

Quinn Hensley – age 11, sixth grade, Washington Elementary School, Santa Barbara

Santa Cruz

Andrew Miller – age 11, fifth grade, Ocean Grove Charter School, Placerville

Emily Quinn – age 12, sixth grade, Rio Del Mar Elementary School, Aptos


Hennessy McKenna – age 12, sixth grade, Pacheco Elementary School, Redding

Joe Williams – age 10, fifth grade, Millville Elementary School, Millville


Ashley Cain – age 11, sixth grade, McCloud Elementary School, McCloud

Miranda Velarde – age 11, sixth grade, Jackson Street Elementary School, Yreka


Roopkiran Minhas – age 11, sixth grade, Vacaville Christian School, Vacaville

Keo Jude Sarno – age 11, sixth grade, Rolling Hills Elementary School, Fairfield


Gage Osborne – age 11, fifth grade, Sonoma Charter School, Sonoma

Nadia Tomaszewski – age 11, sixth grade, Live Oak Charter School, Petaluma


Mahima Krishnamoorthi – age 10, fifth grade, Lakewood Elementary School, Modesto

Bowoo Lee – age 9, fourth grade, Fremont Open Plan School, Modesto


Lilyana DeArte – age 10, fifth grade, Lincoln Elementary School, Yuba City


Emalee Kourani – age 11, sixth grade, Lassen View School, Los Molinos

Jillian Strom – age 11, sixth grade, Berrendos Middle School, Red Bluff


Benjamin Harper – age 11, fifth grade, Weaverville Elementary School, Weaverville

Yori Mai-Isa Hook – age 11, sixth grade, Weaverville Elementary School, Weaverville


Darius Rucker-McCarron – age 10, fifth grade, Mary Covillaud Elementary School, Marysville

Zhang Vang – age 10, fifth grade, Linda Elementary School, Marysville

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