Saturday, 27 May 2023


NORTHSHORE – A man was seriously injured in a boating collision that took place along the Northshore Thursday afternoon.

The collision, reported just after 2 p.m., involved two power boats that were located by the Lake County Sheriff's Boat Patrol near Kono Tayee, officials reported.

Along with Boat Patrol, Northshore Fire medics responded to the scene.

There were multiple passengers in both boats, but their names were not available for release Thursday afternoon.

However, Sgt. Dennis Ostini, who supervises the Boat Patrol, confirmed that one out-of-county man was hurt in the crash, sustaining a broken leg and suffering severe bleeding from his head.

Rescuers used Glenhaven's Sea Breeze Resort as a staging area to bring the crash victims to shore, and then transported them to Paradise Cove. There, a REACH air ambulance landed inside the gated community around 3:15 p.m. to pick up the injured man and transport him to the hospital, officials reported.

Boat Patrol towed the two powerboats involved in the crash back to Braito's Marina, where Ostini said they were looking the boats over.

Ostini said investigators didn't believe alcohol was involved.

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


Rich Kirch was one of the festival's opening night performers. Photo by T. Watts.

UPPER LAKE – Perhaps the Stars of Lake County should include a new category for their annual awards banquet. Something like the “Small Town Marketing Genius of the Year.”

The envelope, please.

And the winner is Bernie Butcher of the Tallman Hotel/Blue Wing Saloon and Café.

With Butcher’s second annual Blue Wing Blues Festival, Big Blues have hit Upper Lake one more time. As the legendary star of Wednesday night’s opening show, Charlie Musselwhite, would say, “I ain’t lyin’.”

First things first. Even the opening act on Wednesday night are stars. The great Kathi McDonald with Rich Kirch and David Hayes sport resumes that boast tenure with some of the greatest names in music.

At the tender age of 19 McDonald became the first white woman to be an Ikette. In a post show interview McDonald spoke highly of both Ike and Tina Turner. She actually lived with the Turners and was a witness to the many talents of them both.

McDonald has also worked with Big Brother and The Holding Company, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, The Rolling Stones and many others. She has appeared on more than 150 albums. Her own first solo project, “Insane Asylum,” is a collector’s item.



David Hayes and Kathi McDonald played a dynamic opening set Wednesday night. Photo by T. Watts.


Guitar man Rich Kirch was born in Chicago and learned that style of blues first hand. He became a member of the Jimmy Dawkins Band which secured him a regular spot on the Chicago Blues scene. He has played in Musselwhite’s band and spent 13 years with John Lee Hooker. Visit Kirch at his Web site, 'Nuff said..

David Hayes has played bass for Terry and The Pirates, Van Morrison, Southside Johnny and The Ashbury Jukes, Jesse Colin Young and many others. For more information on his music visit

McDonald, Kirch and Hayes played a dynamic set of tunes to open the show, covering the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, Peter Frampton, Muddy Waters, Freddie King and others. McDonald’s three-and-a-half-octave voice was in fine form and the band’s set was very explosive. They set the stage for local favorites Twice As Good.

Father and son team Rich and Paul Stewart notched up the energy immediately upon taking the stage. They opened their set with their theme song, “2XG,” and followed it with T-Bone Walker’s “T-Bone Shuffle.” Paul lost his porkpie hat while cavorting through the crowd but didn’t miss a lick. The band, featuring Bruce Hodge on drums and Chris Hoke on bass, burned through “Bad Case Of Love,” “Don’t Treat Me Right,” “Shake Your Money Maker,” “Going To Mississippi” and “Shame, Shame, Shame,” among others.

The legendary Charlie Musselwhite joined Twice As Good onstage for the last hour of their set.

Musselwhite, Mississippi born and blues bred, has recorded more than 25 albums and is an elder statesman of the genre. He introduced the crowd to a form of Brazilian blues that he learned on a recent trip there.

The stage marriage of Twice As Good and Musselwhite is seemingly one cast in Blues Heaven. The dance floor was frantic with Lake County dancers and one observer was heard to declare, “Hell, Musselwhite oughta just take Twice As Good on the road with him.”

Sounds like a plan to me.

T. Watts writes on arts and culture for Lake County News, and hosts his own music program on KPFZ 88.1 FM. He's covering the blues festival this week in Upper Lake.



Paul Steward of Twice As Good kept things jumping. Photo by T. Watts.



LUCERNE – After gaining ground in recent months, the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center is once again facing a challenge following the state's seizure of thousands of dollars from the center's bank accounts because of past unpaid state taxes.

Center Executive Director Lee Tyree said the center's accounts were essentially drained last week by a levy from the State Franchise Tax Board's Industrial Health and Safety Collections department.

The State Franchise Tax Board has told the center it owes more than $10,000, said Tyree.

On July 31, without warning, the state took $7,000 out of the center's accounts, said Tyree.

“It wiped us out,” she said. “We couldn't even make payroll.”

A State Franchise Tax Board spokesman told Lake County News on Monday he was looking into the matter to see if the agency could offer a comment on the action this week.

The State Franchise Tax Board is responsible for California's two major tax programs – personal income tax and corporation tax, according to the agency's Web site. It's also responsible for collecting back wages for the state's labor board.

Last August, the center reached a tax settlement of just over $33,000 with the Internal Revenue Service for unpaid federal taxes, an amount the center was able to pay after selling its thrift shop building to the county for $150,000.

Center officials at the time said those taxes had not been paid by Rowland Mosser, 63, who served as the center's executive director from July 2002 to August 2005, as Lake County News has reported.

In April Mosser was arrested for felony embezzlement, grand theft by an employee, grand theft and keeping a false record of government funds in connection with funds that allegedly went missing from the center. Former center board president Jim Swatts said previously he believes as much as $200,000 was unaccounted for in the center's finances.

Mosser's wife, Jayne, 60, also was arrested in April on a felony grand theft charge.

A week before the state levy hit, Tyree said the IRS also levied the center's accounts for $1,800 and required the center show proof that it had paid income tax for 2004 before returning the funds.

Those were taxes that had been settled last year, said Tyree. “And we had to prove it to them again.”

In this latest issue there are labor board claims involved. Tyree said two past employees, hired by Mosser, reported to the board that they were owed for past wages.

Mosser, who has an upcoming court date in his embezzlement case, also has a claim against the center for $5,400 in vacation pay amassed between 2002 and 2005 for which he has claimed he has not been paid, according to Tyree.

“That hasn't gone through yet,” she said.

Brad Onorato, district representative for Congressman Mike Thompson, said Thompson's office and the office of state Assembly member Patty Berg are trying to work with the Franchise Tax Board to see if they can put a hold on the board's actions against the center.

“We're not quite certain if we're going to be successful,” said Onorato. “It's going to take a couple of days until we really know.”

District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing said the county also is monitoring the situation.

Besides buying the thrift shop last year to help the center pay its bills, the county also has been trying to secure the building from further deterioration, said Rushing. That includes setting aside $30,000 earlier this year to help replace the building's leaking roof.

Rushing said the county will look at further action to help the center but needs to make sure it's on a “solid financial footing” before they do much more.

Struggling to keep the center going

Tyree said the state's levy drained all the center's money to support its Meals on Wheels program.

The center serves Meals on Wheels to seniors from Blue Lakes to Paradise Cove, and from Elk Mountain over toward the area of the Passion Play grounds off of Highway 29, Tyree said.

“We're back to square one again,” said Tyree, who called the situation “very, very sad.”

She said it costs at least $1,000 a week to cover expenses for Meals on Wheels and congregate meals served at the center during the week, she said.

Tyree said many people have stepped up to the plate, including volunteers and community members who are making donations out of their own pockets to keep the center going. The center was current on its bills for the levy took place, Tyree noted.

The center has received help on another front, said Tyree.

She said the building's cooling system had broken down and seniors weren't coming for meals because the building was too hot.

Former Supervisor Louise Talley called Piedmont Lumber and spoke to manager Ted Mandrones, who sent out a two-man crew within three hours to install a commercial-grade swamp cooler. Tyree said she was very grateful to the company for its help.

Tyree said the center is seeking contributions and more help in order to keep the doors open. “At the moment we need all the donations we can get,” she said.

For information on how to help call the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center at 274-8779.

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


CLEARLAKE – A Clearlake man was arrested Thursday after allegedly pulling a gun on Animal Care and Control officers.

Lt. Mike Hermann of the Clearlake Police Department reported that Michael Dennis Reid, 62, was arrested Thursday afternoon following the confrontation with officers that allegedly occurred at his home on Reid Lane shortly before 1 p.m.

Hermann said two Animal Care and Control Officers were conducting a welfare check on animals at the residence.

Reid had given the officers permission to enter the property, but after they were there for several minutes Reid was reported to have become upset. He reportedly began yelling at the officers to leave, according to Hermann's report.

Reid then allegedly threatened to shoot the officers and retrieved a rifle, walking towards the officers while continuing the threats and pointing the weapon at them, Hermann said.

The two Animal Care and Control officers got to their vehicles and drove off the property while calling police, said Hermann.

Hermann said when Clearlake Police officers arrived at the scene they arrested Reid without incident.

Reid was booked into the Lake County Jail on two misdemeanor charges of exhibiting a firearm and two felony charges of making criminal threats with the intent to terrorize, according to jail records.

Hermann said the rifle that Reid is alleged to have pointed at the Animal Care and Control officers was retrieved from the scene and taken into evidence.


LAKE COUNTY – Despite what has felt like a hotter-than-average summer in Lake County, Clear Lake's levels are doing better than last year's.

At the end of the day Wednesday the US Geological Survey's gage height in feet placed Clear Lake's depth at 3.20 feet above Zero Rumsey, the lake's natural low water level, which is 1318.256 feet above mean sea level, according to the Lake County Department of Water Resources.

Wednesday's level for the 63-square-mile lake surpassed that of the same date last year, when it measured 2.78 feet above Rumsey. The 3.20 foot measurement Wednesday also is slightly above the lake's annual average height of about 3.00 feet above Rumsey, recorded between 1979 and 2006.

The Solano Decree, first handed down in 1978 and modified in 1995, determines how much water Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District – which owns the water rights to Clear Lake – can take out of the lake based on water levels on May 1, Water Resources reported.

If the lake is full – or 7.56 feet Rumsey – on May 1 Yolo Flood can take its full allotment, according to Water Resources. If the lake is below 3.22 feet Rumsey, no water can be taken.

Water Resources reported that on May 1 the lake was at 6.67 feet Rumsey, following 8,352 acre feet of water being removed from the lake in April, which reduced the lake's level by 0.09 feet Rumsey.

The slightly better water levels this year meant that Yolo Flood was able to take 119,960 acre feet – 80 percent of their annual allocation – out of the lake for irrigation this year, Water Resources reported.

An acre foot of water is 326,000 gallons – the amount of water it takes to cover an acre of land with one foot of water, according to Water Resources.

That means that, this year, Yolo Flood took more than 39 billion gallons of water from Clear Lake. Had the lake been full, they could have taken an allocation of nearly 49 billion gallons.

In 2007, the May 1 measurement was 5.82 feet Rumsey, which meant Yolo Flood only received a 57-percent allocation, which was just over 85,000 acre feet – or nearly 28 billion gallons of water, as Lake County News has reported.

Due to surface evaporation, Clear Lake's levels can drop anywhere from 3 to 6.5 feet in a summer, according to Water Resources.

Lake levels had started off very strong earlier this year thanks to early season rains and runoff from snow in the mountains, with Clear Lake hitting its fullest point – 7.11 feet Rumsey – on March 21, as opposed to its highest level for 2007, 6.13 feet Rumsey.

The area's creeks are running at below average, according to the US Geological Survey. While Kelsey Creek and Cache Creek at Lower Lake show lower-than-normal gage heights and less water discharge, both Putah Creek near Guenoc and Cache Creek near Hough Springs recorded zero discharge.

Although the lake's depth isn't record-breaking, it's in a better position than some other lakes and reservoirs in Northern California.

Indian Valley Reservoir, also owned by Yolo Flood in Lake County, had 37,296 acre feet of storage on Wednesday, down more than 69,000 acre feet from this time last year, according to Yolo Flood measurements.

Late last month, the state Department of Water Resources reported that levels were dropping in Lake Oroville to the point where the agency was going to have to use extensions for the lake's boat launch ramps, which were on dry ground.

That lake is at 49 percent of average for this time of year and is only 62 feet above its historical low point, reached in September of 1977, the state Department of Water Resources reported.

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


Artist Kent Twitchell's Ed Ruscha Monument, pictured here in 1987, was painted over in 2006. Twitchell has won a $1.1 million lawsuit because he wasn't given the required notice before the mural was painted over. Courtesy photo.

UPPER LAKE – An acclaimed muralist whose work can be seen in Upper Lake and in Lakeport has won a $1.1 million art desecration lawsuit for a downtown Los Angeles mural that was painted over.

Kent Twitchell, 65, is known locally for painting Upper Lake antique shop owner Tony Oliveira in western attire on the side of a building in Upper Lake, a town where Twitchell also lived for a time in recent years.

His work also is featured on the ceiling of the former Bank of Italy on Second and Main streets in downtown Lakeport, which now houses the antique shop Traditions.

But Twitchell also is a world-renowned muralist, whose best-known works are on display in Southern California.

One of those works was called the “Ed Ruscha Monument,” a 70-foot-high painting on the side of a building at 1031 S. Hill St. which Twitchell created between 1978 and 1987. The painting depicts an important Los-Angeles-based pop artist.

In 2006, the building – owned by the US Department of Labor and occupied by the Job Corps – underwent repair and the six-story-tall mural was intentionally painted over, according to Sheldon Mak Rose and Anderson PC, the Pasadena law firm that represented Twitchell.

Twitchell sued the US government and 12 other defendants for painting over the mural, citing the Federal Visual Artists Rights Act and California Art Preservation Act, the firm reported.

Under those laws, Twitchell was to have received prior notification of the government's wish to have the mural removed so he could make arrangements to preserve it. The law requires a 90-day notice, said William Brutocao, Twitchell's attorney.

The US Department of Labor did not respond to Lake County News' request for a comment on the case.

Twitchell originally asked for $5.5 million, said Brutocao. The negotiated final settlement reached late in April was for $1.1 million, believed to be the largest settlement ever reached under the Federal Visual Artists Rights and California Art Preservation Acts. The U.S. Government is contributing $250,000 to the settlement amount.

“This settlement sets an important precedent which will benefit other artists,” Twitchell said in a written statement. “This resolution makes it clear that when it comes to public art, you have to respect the artist’s rights, or incur significant liability.”

Brutocao said who is responsible for deciding to paint over the mural “remains kind of a mystery.” While the government owns the building, they have other people running it. He doesn't think there was a conscious decision to set out to destroy the mural, and attributes the painting over of the mural to a “bureaucratic snafu.”

If Twitchell had been given the notice, he would have removed the mural or negotiated to keep it in place, Brutocao said.

Art consultants have determined that it may still be possible to salvage the 11,000 square-foot mural, although it may be difficult and expensive. Brutocao said it will involve a complicated method using a small machine resembling a jack hammer to remove the outer layers of paint.

“It effectively sort of peels off like wallpaper,” he said.

From the time of the ruling going into effect in April, Twitchell – now living primarily in Southern California – has 14 months to remove the mural, Brutocao said.

Twitchell – who Brutocao called “a treasure” – is happy to have the lawsuit behind him. “This has been a distraction and a burden for him,” said Brutocao.

Defacement of Twitchell's art also has been a problem in Lake County. Several years ago Oliveira's portrait was the victim of graffiti. Following Twitchell's restoration of the work, it was covered by a door that protects the painting, which is displayed only at certain times.

The money wasn't what motivated Twitchell in the suit, said Brutocao. “That's not important to him. What's important to him is to create works of art.”

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


KELSEYVILLE – Sheriff's deputies this week arrested a man who has been a fugitive from justice for nearly three decades.

John Arthur McKenzie, 57, has been living in Upper Lake but officials from Virginia have been looking for him for years, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

McKenzie was paroled in 1979 after serving time in prison for exploding a railroad bridge in Massachusetts, Bauman said.

Bauman reported that deputies arrested McKenzie early Monday morning on Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa.

Deputies responded to the resort on a report of a man annoying a 13-year-old girl and her aunt, according to Bauman. Upon their arrival, deputies found Konocti Harbor security officers had a man detained, who had identified himself as 57-year-old Jeffrey Arthur Woodward of Upper Lake.

Bauman said the girl and her aunt told deputies that they were standing near the fountain in front of the lodge when the man approached them and initiated a conversation, asking them where they were from. The two walked away from the man but then he approached them again, asking them where the bathrooms were.

The woman and her niece directed the man to the bathrooms and a short time later, he again approached them and allegedly started asking them if they wanted to “fool around,” Bauman said.

McKenzie was told by the woman to cease his advances and to get away from them but he persisted, asking the girl her age, insisting that she had to be 18 when she told him she was not, and continually asking the two if they wanted to “fool around.” Bauman said when the two walked away from the man to find a security guard, he followed them and was subsequently detained by security.

Bauman said deputies found McKenzie to be intoxicated and belligerent when they attempted to question him. He denied annoying the two female, and when he attempted to walk away from the deputies, he was placed under arrest.

Deputies transported him to the Lake County Jail where he was booked for misdemeanor charges of public intoxication and annoying or molesting a child under 18 years of age, Bauman said.

It was during the booking process that jail staff became suspicious of the man, who Bauman said was evasive in providing information to booking officers and hesitant to look at the camera for his booking photo.

When his fingerprints were submitted electronically to the Department of Justice, that agency notified the jail there was no record for Jeffrey Arthur Woodward, which made correctional staff increasingly suspicious about the identity he was providing, according to Bauman.

It was a short time later that the jail received another notification confirming the staff's suspicions: Bauman said the Federal Bureau of Investigation database matched the man's prints with those of another subject who was wanted for a federal parole violation.

Bauman reported that, as a result of extensive followup with the FBI and the US Marshal’s Office, jail staff were able to confirm the man's actual name was John Arthur McKenzie and that he in fact had been a federal parolee at large for nearly 30 years out of the state of Virginia.

McKenzie had been convicted and sentenced to six years imprisonment for federal offenses relating to the explosion of a railroad bridge in Massachusetts in 1972, Bauman said.

In 1979, McKenzie was paroled but eight months later a warrant was issued for his arrest due to an alleged parole violation, said Bauman. McKenzie has apparently been on the run and evading authorities ever since.

Bauman said McKenzie is currently being held without bail until he is either extradited by the US Marshal’s Service or a disposition is reached by the Lake County Superior Court on his local charges.


KELSEYVILLE – A Kelseyville man was arrested for driving under the influence and causing injury following a collision Saturday night.

Steven Russell Mitten, 18, was arrested late Saturday following a crash that occurred shortly before 10 p.m., according to California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia.

Garcia said Mitten was driving a 1990 Jeep Wrangler eastbound on Soda Bay Road east of Montezuma Way in the Clearlake Riviera when he crossed the double yellow lines. As a result he collided head-on with a 1993 Mercury taxi cab heading westbound and driven by 43-year-old Peter Green of Clearlake.

Green sustained major injuries and was taken by REACH air ambulance to Sutter Lakeside Hospital. From there he was later transferred to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Garcia said.

Mitten also was transported by REACH to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, said Garcia, where he was treated then released into CHP custody.

Garcia said Mitten was suspected of driving while under the influence of alcohol and was arrested on a felony charge of DUI causing bodily injury. He has since posted the $7,000 bail and been released, according to jail records.

Officer Randy Forslund is investigating the incident, Garcia said.

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


LUCERNE – The Lucerne Alpine Senior Center's rough week has taken a dramatic turn for the better.

Last Thursday, the center's bank accounts were drained by a $7,000 levy from the State Franchise Tax Board's Industrial Health and Safety Collections department for back wages to former employees, as Lake County News reported Tuesday.

However, as of midnight Wednesday morning, the funds were returned, said center Executive Director Lee Tyree.

It's a big relief for the center, which found itself unable to cover Meals on Wheels expenses or payroll after the levy hit, Tyree said.

So, what caused the State Franchise Tax Board to change its mind?

For one, the center was getting a lot of help from its friends.

The situation had rallied community members as well as local, state and federal officials – including Supervisor Denise Rushing, Congressman Mike Thompson's district representative Brad Onorato and Assembly member Patty Berg's office – who were doing what they could to intervene on the center's behalf.

Then, on Tuesday morning, Tyree said she received an anonymous phone call from an individual who told her they had seen the article on the center's situation published that day on Lake County News.

She was then instructed about who to call at the State Franchise Tax Board in order to get help in getting the money back. The caller told her that the board can't take funds used for payroll in a case such as this.

Following the caller's instructions, she made a connection with an individual at the tax board who said the money would be returned at midnight Wednesday.

In addition, the board agreed to give the center 30 days to prove it doesn't owe the back wages to the former employees, Tyree said. If it can't prove the wages aren't owed, the center can arrange a payment plan rather than having to pay out a large lump sum.

Tyree on Wednesday was relieved and overjoyed that the funds had been returned. She called the anonymous caller “an angel.”

John Barrett, spokesman for the State Franchise Tax Board, said he couldn't disclose details about the collection action against the center or the levy refund.

Dean Fryer, deputy director of communications for the California Department of Industrial Relations – which also encompasses the state's labor commission – said when employers have judgments against them for delinquent debt such as unpaid wages, the State Franchise Tax Board becomes the collection agency. That's in addition to the board's regular state tax collection duties.

“We have several items in for collections against the senior center,” said Fryer, but those items don't include delinquent taxes.

Altogether, he said the state believes the center owes more than $13,000 for unpaid wages, unreimbursed business expenses, interest and penalties.

The individuals making the claims are four former senior center employees, according to copies of judgment documents Fryer released to Lake County News.

The documents show the labor commissioner held a Feb. 2, 2006 hearing on the claims, which Tyree said were awarded in June of that year.

However, Tyree – who came on as the center's executive director in January – said he only recently had found out about them, and had no warning that the state had intended to collect in the manner it initially did.

Those making claims include Rowland Mosser, the center's former executive director, who was forced out by the center board in August 2005, and three employees who he hired and left the center shortly after he did.

Mosser also is being prosecuted on several charges, including embezzlement and grand theft, in connection with a large sum – as much as $200,000, in one former center official's estimation – that is alleged to have disappeared during his tenure as executive director.

The claims, which total $13,618.29, include:

– Rowland Mosser, $5,193.92 ($2,420, wages; $133.92, interest; $2,640, additional wages accrued as a penalty);

– Sarah E. Weber, $5,360.28 ($1,190.31, wages; $857.60, reimbursable business expenses; $72.37, interest; $1,620, additional wages accrued as a penalty; $1,620, additional wages accrued as a penalty for issuance of nonsufficient funds payroll checks);

– Marie Craig, $2,437.32 ($482.40, wages; $126.72, reimbursable business expenses; $28.20, interest; $1,800, additional wages accrued as a penalty);

– Omega D. Patterson Fox, $626.77 ($599.04, reimbursable business expenses; $27.72, interest).

Last year, the center sold its thrift shop building to the county for $150,000, which allowed it to pay off $33,000 in unpaid taxes to the Internal Revenue Service which Mosser – who served with the center from January of 2002 to August of 2005 – hadn't paid, center officials reported.

Barrett said the center is current on all of its taxes to the state.


However, he discovered in going through the center's files this week that Mosser had failed to file the center's 2004 statement of officers for its board of directors, which every corporation – nonprofit or for profit – is require to file with the state, he said.


That resulted in the center having its corporation status suspended with the California Secretary of State, according to state records.


Barrett said there will be a small fine for that the nonprofit fine is $50 – but it's easy to resolve.

Tyree said she's been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for the center.

“This community has really rallied together here,” she said.

Since last Friday, the center has received $1,900 in donations. That kept in motion the center's Meals on Wheels program, which serves thousands of meals to seniors all the way from the Northshore to Blue Lakes and Elk Mountain, Tyree said.

She added that the center was grateful to Thompson, Berg and Rushing, who had stepped up and offered help during the center's crisis.

The center is still facing numerous challenges as it tries to get on an even footing. For information on how to help – whether making a donation of money or time – call the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center at 274-8779.

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


Lakeport firefighters work to pull Willis Knight out from under a trenching tractor on Tuesday. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – A Lakeport man on Tuesday found himself trapped under a tractor, but quick action by medics saved him from serious injury.

Willis Knight, 67, was operating a medium-sized gas-powered trenching tractor on his property on Hendricks shortly before noon Tuesday.

Knight was working on a slope when the tractor overturned and pinned him to the ground.

His wife, Barbara, called 911 and within five minutes medics arrived, including one engine and a medic unit from Lakeport Fire Protection District, along with several off-duty responders. A REACH helicopter arrived at about 12:14 p.m.

Rescuers uprighted the tractor and, instead of taking Knight by REACH, Lakeport Fire medics determined that Knight's injuries were not life-threatening and recommended he be transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital.

Late Tuesday afternoon Lake County News spoke with Barbara Knight, who indicated that her husband had been treated at Sutter Lakeside Hospital and also had undergone an intensive MRI and external physical examinations.

The results showed no internal damages but did reveal moderate to severe bruising on several areas of his body as well as moderate cuts and scratches.

Knight was treated and released and was recovering in his home by 6 p.m., according to his wife.

She said her husband is “a very lucky man.”

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



A REACH helicopter arrived at the scene but Knight's injuries were such that he was able to be treated at Sutter Lakeside Hospital. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – Lake County's superintendent of schools says he's willing to share whatever information he can with the grand jury in order to answer issues raised in its most recent report.

Dave Geck, who heads Lake County's Office of of Education, returned from vacation last week. The grand jury report was released on July 9, the day before he left for a scheduled trip to Alaska.

During his first week back on the job the report was the “main thing on my desk,” Geck said.

“I was really upset and mostly concerned about the issues surrounding fairness and accuracy,” Geck said of the report, which he called “inflammatory.”

The report offered two pages of findings but no final recommendations, noting that the investigation is ongoing and will continue with the newly seated grand jury.

Some of the report's findings raised issues with hiring practices, qualifications of an administrator awarded a new position that gave that person an additional $25,000 a year in salary, a pattern of “exorbitant spending” by one administrator in charge of grant programs, hostile work conditions and fear of retaliation from the office's administration.

Because of the highly confidential nature of the grand jury's work, grand jury Foreman Brondell Locke can't comment on the investigation or elaborate on the findings in the report.

Geck said he was concerned that, by listing facts and findings without the investigation being completed, “the impression is, that this is all true.”

He said he and his staff were asked to testify before the grand jury but given little information ahead of time in order to prepare. Had they known more about the grand jury's questions, Geck said they could have provided the necessary information about department policies and procedures.

Geck said he's planning to make a formal response to the report in order to “clear the air.” The response is due 60 days from the July 9 report release date.

To what does he attribute the report?

“What I believe is there are probably employees who felt they weren't treated fairly,” he said. “Whether they were treated fairly or not is a different question.”

Geck who has been in education for 34 years, said he's not sure why those employees would have taken their complaints to the grand jury, when such matters usually are handled through a process that includes representation for the employee. “So I'm not sure exactly what the intent was.”

He said he can't comment publicly about the personnel issues the report raises. But he said he's willing to share personnel files with the grand jury, and would have done so already if they had provided him with a list of files they wanted to see.

“We have information to share with the grand jury, and we will,” he said. “We're taking it very seriously what they're saying.”

Looking closer at report's findings

Geck said he and his staff are looking at the need for an internal investigation to look at the grand jury's findings. So far, there has been no meeting scheduled between him and the grand jury to discuss the matter, but he said he anticipates contacting Locke to set up a time to talk.

One of the grand jury's findings said one administrator spent more than $9,000 in one year on meal and lodging reimbursement, including expenses for people not employed by the Lake County Office of Education.

Geck said to determine if that amount was appropriate, they have to look at the program involved and what expenditures – such as travel and conferences – that are tied to the program's goals. While it may look like an excessive amount to members of the public, it may not necessarily be out of line.

“We're going to look at all of that,” he said.

Expenditures extending to people outside of the Office of Education may be either for people from other districts or members of the business community who sometimes are invited to participate in certain trips, he said.

Geck added that the state requires annual audits of the Office of Education's finances by an outside auditor.

Regarding allegations of a hostile work environment, Geck said his staff also is looking into that. He said he has never had a written complaint listing a hostile work environment or issues of mental abuse the grand jury report cited.

There are many different departments and programs in the Office of Education, he said. “It could be in a part of the organization, we don't know that.”

Geck said he also can explain to the grand jury about the administrator who received a position that gave them a $25,000 a year salary increase.

The report said the position that administrator received was a new one, created in 2007. “The position's existed in the county office for seven or eight years, so it wasn't a new position,” said Geck.

It was, however, posted internally only, which Geck said is done frequently.

Office of Education Human Resources Director Ed Skeen confirmed that the position existed previously.

Another report finding raised issues of proper certifications for some administrative staff.

Skeen said there is a “strange phenomenon” when it comes to credentialing for teachers and administrators. He estimated 75 to 80 percent of local credential applications go through his office, and his staff reviews all qualifications for those.

However, some credential applications take other routes through colleges or universities, which then send letters to the state recommending certification upon completion of a program.

It's possible in those cases, said Skeen, that the person receiving the credential may not be qualified, but his office wouldn't have access to the qualifying criteria. “We do not see every single credential application or supporting documentation.”

He was careful to add, “I'm not questioning anybody's credential status.”

Skeen said the grand jury's report identified issues to look at that the Office of Education also had identified as needing attention, although he did not specify what those were.

The grand jury's approach, he added, appears to be fair-minded.

“I think there's some validity to their interest” in some areas, he said, adding that they might be misled on other areas.

If mistakes were made, they'll be fixed, said Geck.

While the grand jury report indicated an investigation is still under way, Geck added, “The other side of the story is, we're in process, too.”

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


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