Thursday, 25 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – The drawn out budget battle is crippling California’s child care system with dire consequences for many programs and families.

As often happens, the most vulnerable segments of our population often are hit the hardest, and this year is no exception.

To help recoup a nearly $20 billion shortfall in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed $1.2 billion in cuts to child care funds, which would eliminate most subsidized child care for low-income families.

He also proposed to eliminate California’s welfare program, CalWORKs, which serves 1.4 million people, 1.1 million of whom are children.

In Lake County, subsidy programs serve 380 families and 712 children.

The local impacts of this situation are significant.

Without a state budget, child care programs funded through the California Department of Education also do not receive payments without a signed budget.

Currently, 12 CDE-funded programs are located throughout Lake County, including nine operated through Lake County Office of Education.

These programs have not received funding since June 2010. They have been operating on reserves and loans for three months, and there is no end in sight.

LCOE lost the only two full-day preschool programs they offered and are now only offering three-hour programs at all sites, which impacted 48 working families.

Since 1997, The Learning House has operated three state-funded centers in Clearlake – The Hillcrest House, The Toddler House and The Learning House Preschool.

Families depend on these programs to continue working, for emotional relief and guidance on parenting, but without some relief this respected small business may have to close its doors.

Many of their parents would have to quit their jobs, because the cost of child care alone would exceed the entire average monthly income of these families.

Without a signed budget, all stage two and three subsidized child care payments also are held.

In August, approximately $85,000 in payments to Lake County child care providers were held due to the impasse.

According to Nicole McKay, Child Care Subsidy Manager for North Coast Opportunities, “This year has been especially tough on families and providers. Several licensed child care facilities face the possibility of closing their doors due to lack of funding. It is important that parents and providers advocate for the continued funding of these programs as subsidized child care enables parents to work and move toward self-sufficiency.”

Family child care homes collectively provide care to approximately 1,200 Lake County children.

Liberty Perry, family child care provider in Clearlake, is working hard to hold on and maintain the high quality care and education she is providing.

Perry, winner of the 2010 Family Child Care Provider of the Year Award, said that 40 percent of the children in her care rely on subsidies.

She is now facing a 92-percent reduction in her personal income because of the budget delay.

According to Catherine Albiston, professor at the UC Berkeley School of Law, and her colleagues, cutting child care will have dramatic impacts on an already faltering economy:

  • Without subsidies, low-income single parents will not be able to work, because the cost of non-subsidized child care will exceed their income.

  • Child care providers will lose jobs as centers close. In Lake County, the child care industry employees nearly 500 people. Without a signed budget, a large majority of them will face unemployment or severe reduction in income, dramatically impacting Lake County’s economy.

  • Tax revenues will shrink and social services costs will grow. Parents need child care to work, and when Californian’s lose their jobs, tax revenues shrink. The Labor Center calculates that California will lose $3.1 billion in economic output and $157 million in state and local tax revenue due to the reduction in child care jobs alone.

Ample research demonstrates the importance of high-quality early childhood education during a child’s first five years of life.

Children who attend high-quality early childhood programs are more likely to graduate from high school and far less likely to be on welfare, become criminals or teen parents, or experience debilitating health and socioeconomic problems.

Studies focused specifically on California have shown that if high-quality early childhood programming were more widely accessible, juvenile crime would fall 19 percent and the high school dropout rate would decrease by 14 percent.

Nobel Prize winning economist James Heckman concluded that, “the most cost-effective strategy for strengthening the future American workforce is to invest greater human and financial resources in the social and cognitive environments of children who are disadvantaged, beginning as early as possible.”

Lake County needs quality child care providers to keep our families working, our economy growing and our children thriving.

For more information on child care in Lake County, contact the Lake County Child Care Planning Council at 707-994-4795 or visit the group's Web site at

Shelly Mascari is the director of the Lake County Child Care Planning Council.

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LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Safety and prevention will be highlighted when Fire Prevention Week is marked from Oct. 3 to 9.

Each year, nearly 3,000 people die in home fires in the U.S. Nearly three-quarters of all U.S. homes have at least one working smoke alarm, but there are still a significant number of homes without smoke alarms or without working smoke alarms.

This group accounts for more than one-third of reported home fires and nearly half of all the reported home fire deaths.

According to Cal Fire, these are preventable deaths.

As startling as the figures are, they give powerful meaning to this year’s theme for Fire Prevention Week 2010, “Smoke Alarms: A sound you can live with.”

Cal Fire is stressing the importance of having smoke alarms and encourage everyone to take the necessary steps required to update and maintain their home smoke alarm protection.

Smoke alarms are one of the best and least expensive safety devices you can buy and install to protect yourself, your family and your home.

Cal Fire knows that in the event of a home fire, properly installed and maintained smoke alarms could save your own life and those of your loved ones by providing time to escape.

“Far too many homes have no smoke alarms, not enough smoke alarms, alarms that are too old or alarms that are not working,” said Cal Fire Director Del Walters. “We want residents to understand that working smoke alarms can increase your family’s chances of surviving a home fire by 50 percent. They are needed in every home, on every level, including the basement, outside each sleeping area and inside each bedroom. If a smoke alarm is 10 years old or older, it needs to be replaced.”

Cal Fire offered a few important fire safety and prevention tips:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of the home (including the basement), outside each sleeping area and inside each bedroom. Never remove or disable smoke alarms.

  • Check your smoke alarm batteries every month.

  • Change smoke alarm batteries twice a year when changing clocks for daylight savings.

  • Plan and practice your family home emergency escape plan together several times a year.

  • Make sure everyone knows when and how to call emergency telephone numbers.

  • Cooking is the No. 1 cause of home fires and injuries.

  • Smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths.

  • Obtain and learn how to use a fire extinguisher.

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors.

  • Consider installing residential fire sprinklers in your home.

For more fire safety tips visit the CAL FIRE web site at

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James Walter Nightingale, 30, of Kelseyville, Calif., is being held on charges including hit-and-run after allegedly leaving the scene of a fatal crash on Friday, September 24, 2010, that took the life of local restaurateur Zino Mezoui. Lake County Jail photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – A suspect in a fatal hit-and-run that took the life of a popular local restaurateur was arrested late Wednesday afternoon.

James Walter Nightingale, 30, of Kelseyville, turned himself in to authorities and was arrested at about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Dallas Richey.

The CHP had been searching for Nightingale since last Friday, when he is alleged to have hit and killed Zino Mezoui, 57, owner of Zino's Ristorante in Kelseyville.

On Sept. 24 Mezoui, out for a long-awaited ride on his motorcycle, was traveling southbound along Highway 29 when Nightingale, driving a Chevrolet Suburban, allegedly failed to yield while pulling out onto the highway from Siegler Canyon Road, according to the CHP report.

Mezoui and his motorcycle collided with the driver's side door of the Suburban, the CHP reported.

Witnesses said Nightingale flipped a U-turn and then headed back up Siegler Canyon Road, according to Richey.

Mezoui was flown by REACH air ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival, the CHP reported.

Richey said the blue 1993 Chevrolet Suburban Nightingale was alleged to have driven during the collision was found the same day as the crash. It was located on a property off of Siegler Canyon Road, not far from the fatal crash scene. Broken glass and tire marks were found on the road nearby.

What followed were several days of intense investigative work, in which the CHP, other local law enforcement agencies and the public worked together, said Richey.

Richey credited that teamwork for resulting in an arrest. “Everybody really played a part in this.”

Close to half of the Clear Lake office's 23 officers were assigned to the case at any one time, from responding to the scene to helping secure it late into the night, according to Richey.

He said the community responded with an enormous amount of tips, which gave investigators new places to look.

“Zino was well loved,” Richey said.

The CHP didn't leave any stone unturned. “A countless number of doors got knocked on,” he added.

Richey said that on Wednesday the CHP put out a “be on the lookout” for Nightingale in Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma and Napa counties. Richey then began preparing an all points bulletin to release to the media that contained Nightingale's name.

In what Richey believes may have been a coincidence in timing, about 10 to 15 minutes later after the be on the lookout went out he received a phone call from an attorney who Nightingale had been in touch with, who said that Nightingale “knew that we were looking for him and that he wanted to turn himself in.”

Richey said he and the attorney agreed to have Nightingale meet an officer at a location in Clearlake. Nightingale was then taken to the CHP's Clear Lake office in Kelseyville; from there, Officer Kevin Domby transported Nightingale to the Lake County Jail.

Nightingale was booked into the Lake County Jail on felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and hit-and-run resulting in death, along with a misdemeanor warrant from an outside agency, his booking record showed.


Bail was set at $50,000 for Nightingale, who was listed as a general contractor on his booking sheet. Richey said a bail hearing on the matter was held Wednesday night.

Once Nightingale was in custody, Richey said the CHP called to let Mezoui's wife, Jan, know they had made an arrest.

“She was the first person we called,” Richey said.

Nightingale, who remained in jail overnight, is scheduled to be in court on Friday, according to jail documents.

Mezoui's family has scheduled a memorial service for him at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9, at his beloved restaurant, located at 6330 Soda Bay Road.

For full details see Oct. 9 memorial planned for Mezoui.


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

An artist's concept of GJ 436b peeking out from behind its parent star, an M-dwarf much cooler than the sun. Courtesy of NASA.

Giant planet GJ 436b in the constellation Leo is missing something.

Would you believe swamp gas?

To the surprise of astronomers who have been studying the Neptune-sized planet using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, GJ 436b has very little methane (CH4).

“Methane should be abundant on a planet of this temperature and size, but we found 7,000 times less methane than what the models predict,” said Kevin Stevenson of the University of Central Florida (UCF).

Stevenson was lead author of a paper reporting the result in the April 22, 2010, issue of Nature.

The methane deficit is surprising because in our own solar system all gas giants are methane-rich.

Hydrogen and carbon are abundant in the atmospheres of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. These atoms naturally get together to form the simplest hydrocarbon, CH4.

The example of our local gas giants shaped expectations when Stevenson and colleagues pointed Spitzer in the direction of GJ 436b, only 33 light-years away.

Finding methane was a foregone conclusion. But when the researchers analyzed the planet's spectrum, they found little of it. Instead, the atmosphere was rich in carbon monoxide.




A stick-figure diagram of methane. Courtesy of NASA.



“Actually, it blew our minds,” said principal investigator and co-author Joseph Harrington, also of UCF.

Where did all the methane go? One possibility: it's being broken apart.

“UV radiation from the planet's star could be converting the methane into polymers like ethylene,” said Harrington. “If you put plastic wrap out in the sun, the UV radiation breaks down the carbon bonds in the plastic, causing it to deteriorate as the long carbon chains break. We propose a similar process on GJ 436b, but there hydrogen atoms split off from methane and let the remnants stick together to make ethylene (C2H4).”

Also, they speculate, strong vertical winds in the planet's atmosphere might be sweeping up material from deep hot layers where carbon monoxide is abundant. CO thus replaces CH4.

Or it could be something else entirely.

“This planet's atmosphere could have some sort of alien chemistry going on,” said Harrington. “We just don't know yet.”

Giant planets aren't the only worlds with methane. CH4 is fairly common on Earth, too. Methane forms in the stomachs of cows and goats. It also bubbles up from the bottom of swamps, a byproduct of organic matter decaying in deep mud. On gas giants, methane is just common chemistry, but on our planet, it is a sign of life.

For this reason, researchers have long planned to look for methane in the atmospheres of distant Earth-sized planets. NASA's Kepler mission is expected to discover many such worlds. Methane floating alongside oxygen could be compelling evidence of biological activity.

But what if planetary atmospheres don't always follow the rules of our own Solar System? GJ 436b certainty doesn't. Investigators might have to go back to the drawing board and re-figure their chemistry.

“GJ 436b is telling us something important,” said Harrington: “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Dr. Tony Phillips and Dauna Coulter work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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ROUND VALLEY, Calif. – Mendocino County Sheriff's officials, assisted by state and federal agencies, made several more arrests in the third day of eradicating illegal marijuana grows and sales in Round Valley on Thursday.

On Tuesday 17 people were arrested, and another 20 were arrested on Wednesday, officials reported. Among the Wednesday arrestees was 20-year-old Ethan Smith of Kelseyville, charged with cultivation and sales.

The approximate totals for the three-day operation into the illegal profiteering of the cultivation and sales of marijuana included 42 physical arrests, nine criminal citations, 19,158 marijuana plants were seized, 19 firearms were confiscated and $44,641 in cash was seized as evidence, according to Capt. Kurt Smallcomb.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office along with both the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) and County of Mendocino Marijuana Eradication Team (COMMET) assisted state and federal law enforcement agencies in the service of five search warrants and several “open field marijuana eradication locations,” Smallcomb said.

Arrested on cultivation and sales charges were Elizabeth Hollon, 22, of Eckton, Mass.; Benjamine Meyeers, 25, of Berlin, Germany; Matt Dymond, 32, of Willits; Noel Benson, 34, of New York; Jamey Breinberg, 42, of Covelo; and H. Multani, 31, of Covelo.

Smallcomb said officers and deputies served a search warrant at Mile Marker No. 17 on Mina Road where they eradicated 228 marijuana plants and seized approximately 50 pounds of processed marijuana. Hollon and Meyeers were arrested at that location.

A search warrant was then served at 33670 Mendocino Pass Road. There officials found and eradicated 80 marijuana plants, confiscated 2 pounds of processed marijuana and one rifle, and arrested Dymond and Benson, Smallcomb said.

Officers also served a search warrant at 36650 Mendocino Pass Road where they found 57 marijuana plants were eradicated, approximately 20 pounds of processed marijuana was seized, and three rifles and one handgun were confiscated, according to Smallcomb. Breinberg and Multani were arrested at that location

A search warrant was served at 51110 Highway 162, where Smallcomb said a total of 387 marijuana plants were eradicated, and Smallcomb said a total of three guns were confiscated.

The final search warrant of the day was served at 24700 Fairbanks Road, where Smallcomb said approximately 80 marijuana plants were eradicated.

Some of these investigations will continue in regards to property ownerships, financial gain and possible criminal culpability, Smallcomb said.

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LAKEPORT, Calif. – This Saturday, Oct. 2, downtown Lakeport promises to be chock full of all things German – beer, bratwurst, pretzels, Lederhosen and racing dachshunds – as part of its second annual Oktoberfest celebration.

The event, sponsored by the Lake County Chamber of Commerce, will take place from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The chamber encourages everyone to wear authentic Bavarian attire, such as dirndls, felt jackets, Bundhosen and Lederhosen.

A full day of entertainment, vendors, family-style contests and fun is being provided by members of the chamber.

One of the day's main events will be the action-packed, first-ever Lake County Dachshund Derby, sponsored by Mediacom.

Chamber Chief Executive Officer Melissa Fulton said that, as far as they know, no one has ever hosted such a race for the spirited little canines here in Lake County.

The races begin at 3:45 p.m. in Museum Park. As of late Wednesday there were 27 dachshunds entered, she said.

Fulton said the response has been overwhelming.

“It's amazing, they're calling, they're faxing,” she said of dachshund owners, who are letting their wiener dogs rest up for the big race.

The final day to enter your dachshund is 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30 at the chamber office, 875 Lakeport Blvd., Lakeport.

Applications are available online at or

Other fun events plans for Saturday include a beer stein contest at the Kitchen Gallery, located at Third and Main Streets. The public is invited to enter their favorite beer steins, with prizes offered for those whose steins are chosen as favorites by Oktoberfest visitors.

Plan to enter a pretzel making contest and maybe the pretzel eating contest. Many other contests are being planned throughout the day by Oktoberfest Master of Ceremonies Tony Barthel of the Featherbed Railroad Bed & Breakfast.

Entertainment takes place all day on the Oktoberfest stage at Third and Main, provided by sponsors Bottle Rock Power, Calpine Corp. and Westgate Petroleum.

Barthel said visitors in Lakeport will be able to tune in to Oktoberfest on their radios at 88.7 FM.

The Kelseyville Jazz Band, strolling accordion players and the 2010 Commemorative Oktoberfest Beer Steins are sponsored by Gossett Alarms and North Shore Business Association, with additional sponsorship for the beer and wine garden by Lake Event Design. Close to a dozen microbrews will be on hand for the beer garden.

The steins will be available all day at Oktoberfest when purchased with either a glass of beer or microbrew. They also are available for $20 and unlimited microbrew tastings between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Barthel said the event is getting a much bigger response than expected, and they're in need of volunteers to help with setup in the morning and breakdown in the evening.

To volunteer or for more information about the event or any of the contests, contact the Lake County Chamber at 707-263-5092, or visit or!/oktoberfest.lakeport?ref=ts.

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




CLEARLAKE, Calif. – The arrival of fall has brought with it more lovely Lake County sunsets.

Clearlake photographer Joanna McKinley captured this sunset on Thursday, Sept. 30, showcasing what she said was the lake's “wonderful” wildlife.

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LAKEPORT, Calif. – A local man accused of embezzling funds from the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center will stand trial on the charges, a judge ruled Thursday.

Judge Andrew Blum made the decision after hearing about two and a half days of testimony in the case of Rowland James Mosser, 66.

Mosser, who served as the center's executive director from 2002 to 2005, is alleged to have taken an unspecified amount of funds from the center between Jan. 1, 2005, and Aug. 12, 2005. He's charged with two felony counts of embezzlement and two felony grand theft counts.

Blum, noting the burden of evidence for a preliminary hearing is not the same as trial, said he found there was strong suspicion to hold Mosser for trial on the charges.

Day three of the preliminary hearing featured two witnesses – Aura Thomas, who had been a bookkeeper for the center from early 2004 until September 2005, and Diane Plante, a certified public accountant who was called in by the center in September 2005 to help understand its finances and who later was hired by the District Attorney's Office to do a forensic examination of the center's books.

Thomas, who had been a volunteer at the center and had some initial financial training from Yuba College, took over from Brenda Pier, who left at the end of 2004 after seven years as the center's bookkeeper. Thomas recounted calling Pier frequently – and even once driving to her home – for advice and guidance, and needing her help for the center's reports to nonprofit regulatory agencies.

Shortly before she left she had to turn over the center's QuickBooks password to a board member, which she said neither she nor Pier agreed with doing.

When Deputy District Attorney Gary Luck asked Thomas about her relationship to Mosser, she said, “Rowland is my friend,” and added that she wasn't happy to have to give testimony in the case.

“I don't believe that Rowland took any money from the center,” she said.

Thomas said the center's accounts required two signatures on each check. One of their food vendors, Sysco, received a judgment against the center and levied its accounts, taking much of a large check that had been deposited into a center bank account.

“At that time it became very clear that it was not safe to leave large amounts of money in the senior center bank account,” and that's when the center's accounting went to a cash basis, she said.

She noted later in her testimony about the Sysco action on the bank account, “I remember that being a really big blow to the center,” with a lot of juggling going on.

With the work becoming more “chaotic,” Thomas said she got behind in her bookkeeping entries.

She explained that reimbursement checks written to Jayne Mosser, Rowland Mosser's wife, were a way of tracking funds the center spent. Jayne Mosser would be given center funds to buy things and then would receive a check for the purchases after presenting Thomas with receipts.

Thomas said Pier said they needed to do something to fix the center's bank accounts, and that she felt they should go back to how it had been before going to a cash basis because “it placed us at a great liability.”

Eventually, Thomas said the books became “cloudy” because of all the checks that had been printed for accounts payable but hadn't cleared the bank account and weren't reflected in the center's financial reconciliations. At one point, she and Pier voided all of the checks and reprinted them to try and make the books more accurate.

When Thomas left around Labor Day of 2005, she offered to help sort through the mess. She said the center didn't express an interest in having her help and she really wasn't interested “because it was a political nightmare at the center.”

Plante, who works both with her father, John Tomkins, at his Lucerne office, as well as having worked with John Robertson in Lakeport to audit school districts and nonprofits, has a QuickBooks certification and also teaches a QuickBooks course at Yuba College.

She said she was asked to come in and help the center understand its books in September 2005, but did a limited amount of actual bookkeeping. Plante later was retained by the District Attorney's Office, for which she provided analysis on the center's books.

As she was going through QuickBooks, Plante said she would make adjustments and then put her initials on them.

She estimated that she spent between 50 and 75 hours working on the center's books, spending half a day a week at the center while trying to match the paper trail with the accounting transactions, a process which she said took time.

Plante said she found about 200 transactions that weren't accounted for; in those cases, QuickBooks showed that a transaction happened, but the bank showed it didn't clear.

Luck presented an exhibit which Plante had generated, a profit and loss statement that showed the center had a net profit of $26,000 from Jan. 1 to Aug. 15, 2005. An accrual document for the same period showed a net income of $76,000 for the same period.

Plante said she was approached by the District Attorney's Office in 2009 and asked to do a detailed forensic review of the senior center books. She said she took the QuickBooks information and “tried to align it as best as we could with what really happened.”

She said she did a line by line detail, trying to understand the different transactions for 2005, and did the same for the years 2003, 2004 and 2005. An analysis of revenues for 2003 and 2004 showed fewer inconsistencies than in 2005, she said.

She said she believed that most of the checks written to Jayne Mosser for tracking purposes actually were cashed.

In 2004, very few checks had not cleared the center's accounts, while in 2005 many checks hadn't cleared. In 2005 there was an increase in vendors not receiving money, she said.

Plante also created a graph for January through August in the years 2004 and 2005 to compare cash income. She said 2004 had a consistently higher level of income than in 2005.

During cross-examination by defense attorney Jacob Zamora, Plante said when center officials first asked her to come and look at the books, “The word fraud was being used and at that time I declined to do an audit.” She said then-center Board Chair Jim Swatts was suggesting fraud took place.

Later, with witness testimony past, Luck sought to enter several evidentiary items, including a copy of Jayne Mosser's bank statements, where he said Rowland Mosser was depositing his checks. Zamora objected, accusing Luck of bootstrapping her into the case.

“It's his paycheck, he can do anything he wants with it,” said Zamora, contending it wasn't relevant to the case.

Blum said he found the information relevant for a couple of reasons, one being that it showed motive. The evidence showed that the account was closed in early 2005 and the family was broke. “That's a motive to steal,” he said, accepting the item into evidence over Zamora's objection.

Luck also wanted to enter several other pieces of evidence, including a reimbursement to Jayne Mosser for purchasing t-shirts for a rubber duck race that had actually been purchased by Bill Ellis, the center's former treasurer. Another exhibit showed that Jayne Mosser had received reimbursement for power and other utilities to her home.

Zamora said Luck had never come to him to ask about entering those exhibits, so the defense hadn't been able to prepare. Blum agreed not to receive several of the exhibits.

During closing arguments, Zamora told the judge, “We have no evidence that a crime was committed in this case,” adding that Plante had stated that she didn't see evidence of a crime.

He suggested Mosser was trying in vain to keep the center going.

If fraud had in fact been involved, Zamora suggested the Plante should not have gone in and started making changes in QuickBooks, which he said was “the crime scene” if there was a crime committed.

He cited evidence from previous witnesses who maintained the center always had struggled.

Zamora said there was no indication that Mosser took money. “I think they've established a lot of bad accounting.”

Luck, who accused Zamora of misinterpreting testimony, said Aug. 12, 2005, was the last day an entry was made in QuickBooks – before Plante's arrival – and that was the same day that Mosser resigned.

“Mr. Mosser had motive to steal, he had opportunity to steal,” Luck said.

Luck said the Mosser family was solvent in 2002, 2003 and 2004, but when their funds started disappearing in late 2004 and early 2005, that's when he alleged the senior center's daily financial operations changed.

“He had the opportunity because all cash, all financial transactions flowed through his fingers directly,” he said of Mosser.

Luck accused Rowland Mosser of fraud, which Luck said Mosser created through the center's environment.

“The evidence also shows that vendors were not being paid,” said Luck. “What happened to all that money? I submit to you that it ended up with Mr. Mosser.”

Zamora said there was more speculation than evidence, and the law was clear – speculation can't be used for a holding order for a trial.

There was nothing to substantiate that Rowland Mosser had an extravagant lifestyle, Zamora said.

He said there was no evidence of a crime, and that all the hearing had proved is that the center is a great place for seniors and that Mosser was trying to keep going.

Blum said the standard for a preliminary hearing is “strong suspicion.”

He continued, “Several things are very clear, that late in 2004 and through 2005, the center was struggling financially.”

It had always struggled, but not as bad as it did during that time, he said.

In January 2004, its bills were all paid, Blum said. Later that year, bills started to skyrocket. By August of 2005 the center owed in excess of $80,000.

“That's a startling fact,” he said.

At the same time, the center changed its accounting practices. Blum said he didn't think Plante had caused any problems by making change in QuickBooks, as she had initialed them.

“Clearly there's a motive,” said Blum, noting the Mossers were going through financial difficulties, although he said that isn't proof.

Blum also found that it was a “very bizarre” accounting technique to write Jayne Mosser checks she wasn't entitled to receive.

He continued that he had a strong suspicious that Mosser, in his capacity of trust as the center's director, misappropriated funds, and ordered Mosser held to answer to the charge.

Mosser waived the right to be arraigned within 15 court days because of his attorney's calendar. The matter is set for arraignment at 8:15 a.m. Nov. 8 in Department 2.

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LOWER LAKE – A Tuesday afternoon crash sent two local men to an area hospital with injuries.

The crash occurred at 4:43 p.m. on Highway 29 north of Spruce Grove Road North, according to a report from California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Tanguay.

Timothy Pilger, 33, of Clearlake was driving his 2000 Ford F-350 northbound on Highway 29 north of Spruce Grove Road North, with Vincent Jaking, 27, of Middletown traveling northbound in his 2006 Honda Civic behind Pilger, according to the report.

Driving southbound in his 1997 Mazda pickup was Christopher Hedge, 20, of Pope Valley. When Hedge was north of Spruce Grove Road North he allegedly allowed his vehicle to veer to the left and enter the northbound lane of traffic directly in front of Pilger, according to involved parties and witnesses.

Pilger saw the Mazda entering his lane of traffic and veered to the right in an attempt to avoid a collision, Tanguay said.

The left side of Hedge's pickup struck the left side of Pilger's pickup. The Mazda pickup then continued southbound in the northbound lane and struck head-on the Honda Civic that was being driven by Jaking, Tanguay said.

Both Hedge and Jaking were transported to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital by REACH helicopter, according to Tanguay, who said the collision is still under investigation by Officer Mark Crutcher.

Tanguay said neither alcohol nor drugs are suspected as contributing factors in the collision.

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It is often desirable to draft flexibility into one’s estate planning documents to allow a flexible response to changed circumstances; that would otherwise make one’s existing plan inadequate.

In this respect, the role played by the power of attorney is under-appreciated. A carefully drafted durable power of attorney (DPA) allows the agent to act on your behalf, when you cannot act, in order to make gifts, create trusts, and fund, amend, or revoke existing trusts.

Now, let’s consider examples where such flexibility is needed and how a well-drafted durable power of attorney can be the solution.

The following are examples of some common situations where future event/circumstances may challenge your estate plan: (1) gifting assets to family as relates to Medi-Cal; (2) transferring assets into a trust in order to avoid probate; (3) amending an existing trust in order to keep it current with relevant changes in the law (including tax law); (4) creating a trust; and (5) authorizing a loan to be made to a family member.

One’s DPA can be flexibly drafted to respond to each of the above situations: (1) A power of attorney may accelerate eligibility for needs based benefits (e.g., Medi-Cal) and/or protect such assets from later estate recovery by authorizing gifts of real and personal property to family members; (2) a power of attorney may be used to avoid probate by transferring assets into one’s living trust; (3) a power of attorney may allow one’s agent to amend your revocable living trust so as to make it legally sufficient to m­eet changes in the law; (4) a power of attorney can be used to create a new trust (such as a living trust, a special needs trust, or an irrevocable asset protection trust); and (5) a power of attorney can be used to authorize a loan from your estate to a third party (such as a business associate or a family member).

One’s power of attorney is typically one legal instrument amongst other instruments in one’s estate planning binder.

Other legal documents, especially one’s living trust, need to examined and harmonized with the DPA.

For example, the living trust would need to recognize, as relevant, the authority stated in the power of attorney to gift trust assets, amend the trust and make loans.

Also, the DPA may not give more authority to one’s agent than is allowed by law. For example, DPA cannot be used to execute a last will and testament. The power of attorney works well with a Living Trust, but not at all with a will.

Lastly, conferring power on an agent is not without the risk that such power may be abused. To minimize such risk, it is prudent to have checks and balances in place.

Such precautions can include strict limitations on when such power can be exercised and who must also agree to the exercise of such power before action is taken.

These precautions may be variously placed in the power of attorney and in other affected legal documents (such as one’s living trust).

With precautions in place, the benefits of flexibility usually outweigh the risks.

Editor’s Note: Attorney Dennis A. Fordham is a Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law. Fordham concentrates his practice in the areas of estate planning and various aspects of elder law, including Medi-Cal benefits. Mr. Fordham was qualified as a Certified Specialist in 2009 by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, and is licensed to practice law in California and New York. He earned his BA at Columbia University, his JD at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and his LLM in Taxation at New York University. His office is located on the 2nd Floor at 55 First Street, Lakeport, California and he can be reached by calling 707-263-3235 or e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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SACRAMENTO – The California Highway Patrol reported this week on its efforts to save lives by emphasizing enforcement of seat belt laws.

The CHP reported that California has one of the highest seat belt compliance rates in the nation – 95.3 percent.

The CHP has spent the past year focusing on the remaining population with a seat belt safety campaign aimed at encouraging Californians to properly secure themselves and their children inside their vehicle.

“I am proud that California has one of the highest seat belt compliance rates. The CHP and the law enforcement community applaud California motorists for their use of seat belts and child passenger safety seats,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow.

“We thank you for making your drives safe for yourself and your passengers,” Farrow said. “However, we still have approximately 4.7 percent of the population, which is equivalent to more than 1.7 million people, who are not buckling up.”

The California Occupant Restraint Campaign (CORC) enabled the CHP to strengthen its enforcement and education efforts statewide through a combination of seat belt and safety seat usage surveys and child passenger safety presentations.

Throughout the past year, the grant assisted the CHP with educating more than 100,000 parents, guardians and caregivers. The grant also funded training to certify CHP personnel, as well as employees from allied agencies, to become child passenger safety technicians to inspect and issue car seats.

“The message we want to share is that motor vehicle collisions continue to be the leading cause of death and injury for vehicle occupants of all age groups, regardless of gender or ethnicity,” said Commissioner Farrow. “Seat belts and safety seats help increase your odds of surviving a collision.”

In addition to conducting community outreach and enforcement activities to increase seat belt and child restraint usage, the grant’s goals were to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries in collisions. Final collision figures from the grant-period will not be available until next year.

“We hope those who haven’t developed the habit of wearing the seat belt would understand their importance, just like the majority of Californians have,” added Commissioner Farrow. “Protect yourself and your passengers, please buckle up.”

The CORC was funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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This car was damaged and its driver injured when it hit the back of a semi on Wednesday, September 29, 2010, near Upper Lake, Calif. Photo by Gary McAuley.


UPPER LAKE, Calif. – A Wednesday morning crash near Upper Lake resulted in minor injuries.

The crash occurred shortly before 8 a.m. on Highway 29 just south of Highway 20, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The CHP said the roadway was blocked as a result of the crash, which involved a female driver rear-ending a semi-truck, according to reports from the scene. The woman's head hit the windshield, giving her a minor head injury.

More specifics weren't immediately available from the CHP on Wednesday.


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The scene of a crash on Highway 29 south of Highway 20 near Upper Lake, Calif., on Wednesday, September 29, 2010. Photo by Gary McAuley.

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