Wednesday, 24 July 2024




LAKEPORT – It likely will be next month before a Carmichael man will know if he's to stand trial in connection with a 2006 crash on the lake.

Just as the testimony of a key witness was getting under way in the preliminary hearing of 39-year-old Bismarck Dinius on Thursday afternoon, the judge called a halt to proceedings due to other scheduled business, which will result in a delay until June.

Judge Richard Martin and attorneys in the case had discussed earlier in the day the possibility that the hearing might need to be continued if it ran longer than scheduled.

Russell Perdock, a chief deputy with the Lake County Sheriff's Office, was called to the stand late in the day and gave testimony that appeared to contradict another sheriff's official before the hearing recessed.

Perdock's speedboat hit a sailboat Dinius was piloting on the night of April 29, 2006, which fatally injured 51-year-old Lynn Thornton of Willows, who died days later.

Dinius has been in court since Tuesday for the preliminary hearing to determine if he will stand trial for vehicle manslaughter involving a vessel and boating under the influence of alcohol relating to the crash.

Day three of testimony began with Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office returning to the stand, where he had spent several hours on Wednesday.

During testimony Slabaugh indicated that Perdock had initially been considered a suspect in the case but soon after beginning his preliminary investigation Slabaugh determined that, despite not having interviewed Perdock, it was Dinius who was the responsible party, based on the information available to him.

Slabaugh testified that on June 13, 2006, he conducted his first and only face-to-face interview with Perdock, despite the fact that he had submitted a report of his conclusions on May 10 of the same year.

Under direct examination by Deputy District Attorney John Langan, Slabaugh indicated that after Wednesday's session he returned to his hotel and telephoned Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Lloyd Wells. Slabaugh said he asked Wells to examine the sailboat involved in the crash – the Beats Workin' II, owned by Mark Weber of Willows – which is still in the sheriff's possession.

Wells was asked to report on the number, location and mechanical condition of any and all interior cabin lights of Weber’s sailboat, Slabaugh explained.

Slabaugh testified that Wells reported a total of six cabin lights and described their locations. Slabaugh further indicated that Wells reported that all six light fixtures had individual on/off switches. Slabaugh said Wells did not test the current status of each light fixture's functionality.

This information was used Thursday in an effort to respond to questions regarding the position and functionality of switches located on the sailboat's control panel at the time of the collision, a topic discussed during Wednesday's testimony.

Defense attorney Victor Haltom asked Slabaugh why he had waited two years to examine the cabin light system, and why he hadn't done so during his initial investigation.

Slabaugh replied that he had initially determined that the status of the cabin lights had no bearing on the cause or possible prevention of the accident.

Following Slabaugh to the stand Thursday morning was sheriff's Sgt. James Beland, who testified that he was one of the first group of sheriff's deputies to arrive at the shoreline scene.

He and Sgt. Mike Morshed were on scene and controlling the gathering crowd, Beland explained. Both were aware that Sgt. Dennis Ostini, who supervises the sheriff's Boat Patrol division, was en route and would take charge of the situation upon his arrival.

Beland indicated that no unusual activity took place during his time on scene. He further testified that he had not spoken with Perdock beyond asking him, “Are you all right?”

At some point during the night of the crash Beland was directed to transport Perdock to Redbud Hospital for a blood draw to check for the presence of drugs or alcohol in his system.

Under questioning Beland indicated that no one from the the sheriff's office superior to himself had ordered him not to administer a field sobriety test to Perdock.

Despite Beland's suggestion to Ostini that Dinius may be intoxicated, he also was not administered a field sobriety test with a preliminary alcohol screening device.

Beland testified that he drove Perdock to Redbud Hospital. He was present during the blood draw and witnessed the phlebotomist place the vial in a certified Department of Justice envelope, which later was inserted into an evidence box and turned over to Beland.

During questioning by Haltom, Beland testified that he could not recall exactly where in his patrol car he placed the package containing the blood sample. He indicated that at no time was Perdock left alone in the vehicle unattended.

Beland testified that he and Perdock drove around for awhile and arrived at the sheriff's Lower Lake substation “about an hour” after leaving the hospital.

He was unable to recall or describe exactly where they drove nor why it took so long to travel such a short distance.

According to Beland there were no other persons in the patrol car and he had not generated a log indicating the time of arrival at Redbud nor a log of distance traveled before reaching the Lower Lake substation.

Beland testified that he had not discussed the incident with Perdock during the drive. He did indicate that he had driven Perdock somewhere for an extended period of time after depositing the blood sample at the Lower Lake substation but was unable to recall where or when he and Perdock parted company.

Following Beland's testimony the prosecution rested its case.

The witnesses Haltom called included Bill Chilcott, who examined the filaments on the boat's lights. He viewed both vessels three times, as well as the Department of Justice's reports, although he did not review the sheriff's reports, saying he did not want to be influenced.

He stated he microscopically examined three light structures from the sailboat given to him by the sheriff's office, with a District Attorney's Office representative present during the examination. The point was to determine if the lights were on at the time of failure. The question was, did the lights go out after the collision or had they been off previous to it?

By looking at the changes in the filament structure, he determined the bow was illuminated and the stern light was on. He did not testify about whether or not the mast lights were on.

Another defense witness, marine accident investigation consultant Wes Dodd, agreed with Chilcott's analysis of the lights. Dodd said he completely discounted photos of the boat's light breakers, which showed the switches on the “off” position, based on the condition of the light filaments.

Both Chilcott and Dodd pointed to the speed and velocity of Perdock's boat as being the cause of the crash. Dodd said he was amazed that Dinius was charged and Perdock was not, because he concluded that Perdock had violated numerous boating rules, including safe speed, not having a lookout and operating a vessel in a negligent manner.

Haltom called Perdock to the stand at the end of the day Thursday.

Statements Perdock made during his brief initial appearance on the stand contradicted Beland's testimony.

One of the contradictions involved statements Beland made about driving Perdock around for about an hour after leaving the hospital at 1:30 a.m. April 30, 2006.

Perdock acknowledged that Beland transported him to the hospital but did not mention being driven around for the hour or so Beland had testified to earlier in the day.

Haltom asked Perdock if he had discussed the case with Beland that night, and Perdock said he had not. Haltom then produced statements Perdock made in a previous disposition in which he had said he and Beland had discussed the incident.

Perdock's testimony had been under way for approximately six minutes before Judge Martin halted the hearing due to the courtroom being needed for other scheduled court business.

The case is due to return to court at 9 a.m. June 10.

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


CLEARLAKE OAKS – Clearlake Oaks' new Nylander Park will be celebrated at a special grand opening event later this month.

Public Services Director Kim K. Clymire announced Tuesday that the public is invited to the grand opening for the new park on Saturday, May 31, beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Music will be provided by the Konocti Fiddle Club from 9:30 a.m. and until 10:30 a.m. and the dedication program will be from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Refreshments will be served.

Clymire expressed his sincere appreciation to everyone involved in this exciting, community grass roots project, who made it possible.

Improvements for this park – which is Lake County’s newest, measuring one acre in size – that have been completed to date include: playground equipment, sidewalks, 40,000 square feet of lawn area, benches, tables, barbecues, trash cans, bike rack, approximately 40 trees measuring 15 to 20 feet tall that include fruitless flowering pears and plums, valley and red oaks, gingkos, magnolias, chinese pistache, maples, crape myrtles, and raywood ash, plus annual and perennial plants and shrubs.

In addition, the county purchased a building adjacent to the park and plans to turn it into a restroom and Visitor Information Center and that work will start soon. A bid for the perimeter sidewalk, curb, gutter and parking lot will be released soon.


Omar Mandujano of Cloverdale was this year's big winner at the Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Catfish Derby. Courtesy photo.


CLEARLAKE OAKS – A Cloverdale man armed with chicken livers won this year's Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Catfish Derby.

The Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Business Association's annual derby ran Friday through Sunday, and attracted near-record numbers – 468 adults and 91 children – with organizers reporting it was a “resounding success.”

Omar Mandujano won the annual fishing event with a catfish that he caught on Friday in Cache Creek, according to derby organizers. The winning fish weighed in at 25.27 pounds and was landed thanks to Mandujano's use of chicken livers.

Mandujano took home a new fishing boat, motor and trailer package for his efforts, organizers reported.

In the children's division, Clearlake Oaks resident Richie Pavoni took the top prize. He used a chartreuse spinner bait with a black crawdad trailer and caught a 21.29-pound catfish on Sunday morning in the Keys canals.

He reportedly exclaimed, “I got a big one,” as he transported his catch via wheeled cooler to the weigh-in station. His reward was a new four-wheel ATV.



Richie Pavoni of Clearlake Oaks hauled in a big one -- which he later let go -- to win the derby's children's division. Courtesy photo.


Total payout in cash and prizes to other anglers totaled more than $9,000, the business association reported.

The waters were calm and the weather hot for the derby. Attendance this year was slightly below last year's record turnout, according to organizers.

The winning fish in the adult division this year was a few whiskers lighter than last year's winner, a 28-pounder hauled in by a Woodland angler, as Lake County News previously reported.

An estimated 70 percent of anglers participating in the derby came from areas outside of Lake County, including Oregon, Washington and Nevada – even as far away as Oklahoma, organizers reported. That's close to the percentage of visiting anglers that attended last year's event.

A total of 87 fish were caught – 61 by adults, 26 by children – weighing a total of 1,200 pounds, according to a derby summary. Eighteen fish were caught on Friday, 38 on Saturday and 26 on Sunday. All but five of the catfish were released back into the lake.

Mandujano's and Pavoni's winning catches were among those who were returned to the lake to live another day.

Popular spots for landing the fish included Cache Creek, and Rattlesnake and Indian Islands, with many anglers also fishing from the lake's shore, the business association reported.

The derby is the business association's major annual fundraiser, with proceeds donated back to the community for various projects as well as the annual July 4 fireworks display.

Organizers said they're already getting to work in order to plan next year's event.

For more information about the association, visit

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The preliminary hearing in the case of Bismarck Dinius continued Wednesday and will resume Thursday at the Lake County Courthouse in Lakeport. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




LAKEPORT – The second day of a preliminary hearing to determine if a Carmichael man will face trial for vehicular manslaughter and boating under the influence relating to a fatal 2006 boating collision continued in Lake County Superior Court Wednesday.

The testimony revealed some surprises, including one investigator's admission that he had based his conclusions largely on statements made by a sheriff's official involved in the crash and not on actual interviews with other witnesses.

Bismarck Dinius, 39, is facing the possibility of trial in connection with the April 29, 2006 boating collision involving a boat he was steering and a speedboat driven by Lake County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Russell Perdock. Lynn Thornton, 51, of Willows died as a result of the collision.

The hearing's second day began with defense attorney Victor Haltom's cross-examination of Sgt. Dennis Ostini, who supervises the sheriff's office Boat Patrol division and was on duty the night of the crash. Ostini spent several hours on the stand on Tuesday.

During the morning court session Ostini testified to details regarding the transport of both of the vessels involved in the April 2006 collision.

Ostini indicated that civilians who had responded to the crash scene brought both boats to shore. Perdock's powerboat, after being brought to the docks at Bayshore Marina, was transported via the owner’s trailer to the sheriff's boat barn located near Buckingham. Ostini indicated that Perdock's boat was under his observation from the time it was trailered and secured at the sheriff’s boat facility.

Under cross-examination Ostini answered questions that explained why he did not arrest either Perdock or Dinius at the shoreline scene despite a suggestion from Sgt. James Beland, who felt that Dinius was under the influence of alcohol. Ostini testified that he felt it better to rely on blood tests taken at the hospital and have the District Attorney's Office act on those results.

Other testimony during the day revealed that at the dockside the sailboat's owner, Mark Weber of Willows, pointed at Perdock and yelled that he was the one who should be arrested.

Prosecutor John Langan's main witness for the day was Lt. Charles Slabaugh, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Marine Services Unit investigator, who was brought in to work on the investigation.

Purported to be an authority on marine collision investigations and brought in at the request of the Lake County Sheriff's Office, Slabaugh testified that he had more than 27 years experience in law enforcement but had only investigated five boating collision cases and had reviewed a total of 20 to 25 other boating-related incidents.

Slabaugh offered testimony to the condition of both vessels. He had observed and described in detail the damage to each, which was detailed in his preliminary findings and in a followup report previously submitted into evidence.

He spent several hours on the stand before Haltom began questioning his recollection of specific details of reports allegedly provided to him by other local sheriff's officials as well as from at least two outside investigators.

When Haltom pressed him on details of his investigation, Slabaugh indicated that his understanding of the situation was that he was called on to investigate and provide a studied recreation of the collision, and submit a report and recommendation to the District Attorney's Office.

He also indicated that he was told by an unidentified individual within the Lake County Sheriff's Office that the agency would handle the personal interviews of those involved and the he should concentrate on the physical aspects of the investigation.

Haltom challenged Slabaugh on his expertise as a boating and waterway investigator before questioning him regarding the speed of Perdock's power boat and the status of the navigation lights on the sailboat just prior to the collision.

He also queried Slabaugh on specific details from Ostini’s preliminary report that included Perdock's initial declaration of the readouts of his dashboard gauges just moments before the crash.

Perdock told Ostini that his gauges were pointing straight up. Based on that statement, Slabaugh had estimated Perdock was traveling at about 40 miles per hour. However, pictures of the gauges supplied by the defense showed that if the gauges were pointing straight up the boat would have been traveling at about 60 miles per hour.

Slabaugh stated that the conclusions made in his reports to the District Attorney's Office and in earlier testimony were based on an interview with Russ Perdock. His conclusions didn't take into account any direct information from anyone on shore or in boats in the near vicinity of the collision, nor those aboard the sailboat. Slabbaugh also indicated that he made no effort to interview several of these potential witnesses.

He did, however, testify to receiving a copy of the reports made by Ostini and other sources but indicated that he did not consider all the information included within those reports while making his final conclusions.

A key point of contention in the case, and a reason cited for charging Dinius, is that the boat's lights reportedly were not on. During cross-examination Slabaugh indicated that a cabin light toggle switch was in the “on” position. When Haltom asked him if he brought this to the attention of the sheriff's office or investigated it further, Slabaugh said no. When asked why he didn't pursue the matter, Slabaugh said he couldn't recall.

Slabaugh returns to the stand for further examination by the defense at 9 a.m. Thursday, with Haltom planning on calling other defense witnesses as well.

Lawyers from both sides hope to conclude the preliminary examination Thursday afternoon. If they don't, the case may not return to court until as early as June 10.

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


LAKEPORT – On Monday a Lucerne man who was found insane when he attempted to kill his grandmother nearly three years ago received an eight-year sentence.

Jason Kaluna Fugit, 36, will go to the Napa State Hospital where he will receive treatment for his mental illness, said his defense attorney, Stephen Carter of the law offices of Carter and Carter.

Fugit, who worked as an equipment operator, was charged in 2005 with attempted murder, kidnapping and robbery for the attack on his 78-year-old grandmother at her Lucerne home, said Carter.

According to Carter, Fugit tried to kill his grandmother because he thought she was involved in treasonous acts along with the government, which he believed was persecuting him.

Fugit was diagnosed as psychotic by three different doctors, said Carter, with the mental illness stemming directly from severe sexual abuse that took place several years before the incident. He'd had some “not very serious” previous run-ins with the law.

The charges could have brought life in prison. However, Carter said Fugit entered a plea bargain in which he pleaded guilty to elder abuse. A court trial was held on the manner of his sanity, and the court found that Fugit was insane at the time of the crime.

The case took time to work its way through the courts, said Carter. Because Fugit was found both insane and incompetent to stand trial, he was sent to a Southern California mental health facility where he spent 224 days in treatment before returning to the Lake County Jail.

While in Southern California, Fugit's treatment included adjusting his medications, said Carter, which resulted in a major improvement in his behavior. Fugit's mother told Carter that she felt like she had her son back, thanks to the treatment.

Carter himself said he saw a major change in Fugit, who went from “desperate mental illness” to a quiet demeanor.

Once back from treatment, Fugit went through a restoration of competency hearing and proceedings continued, said Carter.

Deputy District Attorney Rachel Abelson, who prosecuted the case, argued for the upper term of 11 years, disagreeing with a proposal for a lesser term put forward by Lake County Probation, said District Attorney Jon Hopkins.

“We agreed that he was insane,” Hopkins said.

Arguing before Judge Arthur Mann on Monday, Carter made the case that the law recognizes that the early plea and the mental illness were mitigating factors that should reduce the sentence. He also argued for some of the sentence to run concurrently.

Mann sentenced Fugit to eight years. Because of his mental health issues, Fugit is being sent to Napa State Hospital, where his family can visit him. Because there is usually a waiting list for the Napa hospital, Carter said Fugit will remain at the Lake County Jail until there is an opening.

According to the California Department of Mental Health, Napa State Hospital is a low- to moderate-security facility located on 138 acres, with bed capacity that allows for treatment of as many as 1,362 adults. All of the individuals treated there arrive through civil or court commitments, with the most frequent diagnoses including schizophrenic, mood, anxiety and personality disorders.

Carter said Fugit's mother, father and grandmother were in court on Monday, and appeared pleased with the outcome. Fugit's grandmother, said Carter, understood her grandson was ill, loved him dearly and and wanted him to get healthy.

“There was a nice closure today,” he said.

According to the law, Fugit is being sent to Napa for treatment and rehabilitation, and sanity hearings could resume during that time, said Hopkins.

Fugit can only be held at the hospital for the maximum amount of time he would have served on the sentence, said Hopkins, unless when the time for release comes he's found to still be a danger.

If that were to be the case, Hopkins said the prosecution can file a petition to have Fugit kept at the hospital as long as he's considered dangerous.

That means that we approved a plea bargain that can keep him in the state hospital for the rest of his life,” he said. “Based on the brutality he demonstrated in the attack on his grandmother, that is a real possibility.”

Carter said that some people never get out of the mental hospital once committed. However, he added, “That's the exception rather than the rule.”

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LAKE COUNTY – School officials around Lake County will meet this week to discuss the implications of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's May budget revise and its possible impacts on local schools.

Lake County Office of Education Superintendent Dave Geck said district superintendents will meet Monday for a budget workshop on the revise, which was released May 14.

The May revise, he said, looks slightly kinder to schools than the January budget draft, which proposed $4.8 billion in cuts to education. The revise, he added, has adjusted that number to $4 billion.

North Coast Sen. Pat Wiggins said Schwarzenegger's revised budget “offers little more than a fig leaf for education.”

She added, “We can’t have a world class state with a world class economy without a strong education system – and this budget means our schools will still have to lay off teachers, reduce staff and increase class sizes.”

Although schools won't have a good sense about the shape of things to come until further analysis is completed later in the week, Geck said one of his hopes is to be able to rescind some of the layoff notices given to staff – teachers as well as some administrators – in March.

Across the county, “We sent notices out to 80 out of 530 teachers,” Geck said.

Many teachers, he said, are “holding their breath” to see how the revised budget will pencil out for local schools.

Most of those receiving layoff notices are the newest and brightest teachers, said Geck. The impact on them might be more far-reaching than just losing a job – some may decide to leave the profession altogether.

Also facing cuts are classified employees – bus drivers, custodians and aides.

“If you don't put a face on the pain, people really don't get it,” Geck said.

If schools end up having to cut their budgets across the board, as they originally were told they would have to do, “it will unravel a lot of successful programs up and down the state, and in this county, particularly,” he said.

Lake County is facing cuts to arts and music classes, as well as hits to its efforts at class size reduction, Geck said.

The California Budget Project estimated in a report issued this spring that the governor's initial budget would impact all of the county's 9,270 public school students, with proposed cuts to the five largest funding allocations for public schools equaling reductions of $627 per student.

An Assembly Budget Committee analysis of Schwarzenegger's May revise said a proposal to suspend Proposition 98 funds was withdrawn, and an additional $1.1 billion will be allocated.

There would be no cost-of-living adjustment for K-12 programs, and most K-12 programs would still be subject to the across-the-board cuts proposed in January, with funding also reduced to deferred maintenance, according to the report.

However, the report states that some cuts to special education and other programs would be restored. Additional funding also is proposed through Proposition 98 to assist in recruitment and personnel management, and separate legislation would fund assisting districts in meeting accountability measures.

The May revise will figure importantly in the way districts approach crafting their budgets for the coming year, said Geck, a process which will get under way in June.

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


Students head toward a sheriff's SWAT van and a Lakeport Fire ladder truck. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


LAKEPORT – One hundred and fifty six fifth graders at Terrace Heights School spent part of Wednesday afternoon visiting with law enforcement and fire officials as part of a program that emphasizes staying free of drugs. {sidebar id=73}

The event, organized by the Lakeport Police Department in conjunction with Lakeport Unified School District, marked the students' graduation from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program – known as DARE.

Taught by Lakeport Police Officer Jarvis Leishman, school resource officer for Lakeport Unified School District who is completing his first year in the job, the 10-week course emphasizes creating a healthy life through healthy choices, including resisting peer pressure when it comes to drug use and violence.

Reaching middle school students with the anti-drug message is critical, said Lakeport Police Chief Kevin Burke. The DARE program, he added, has a great track record of helping young people stay out of trouble.

“It's OK to be just a good kid,” he told the children.

“We hope you guys realize you are a special group of kids by finishing this program,” Burke added.


He invited the children to visit the police department, and told them they could do any public safety job – fire, police, sheriff, highway patrol – that they wanted.

That's one of the program's added values, he told Lake County News: Introducing children to law enforcement, and helping them form constructive relationships with authorities.

Leishman handed out awards, including the honor of best class to Mrs. Martinez's fifth graders.

As part of the course, students write an essay. Destinee Jones won for her report on methamphetamine. (See accompanying story.)

Each student received a t-shirt, water bottle and some ice cream, which they enjoyed while sitting in the sunshine on a grassy area behind the school.

But the real treat was the chance to see local public safety officers up close and personal.

Lakeport Fire Protection District brought a ladder truck, Lakeport Sheriff's Office deputies brought a SWAT van, California Highway Patrol Officer Erica Coddington visited with the children and several Lakeport Police officers talked about their duties while police volunteers handed out goodies.

But stealing the afternoon's show was Max, Lakeport Police's K-9, an 8-year-old Malinois from the Netherlands who works with Officer Jim Bell.

Bell shared with the students about his day-to-day life working with Max, to whom he speaks in Dutch.

The eager K-9 cost the department $8,000, plus another $10,000 to train Bell to work with him. “He's a very expensive tool for the police department,” Bell said.

Max made quick work of sniffing out a plastic gun replica hidden under a rock under Bell's direction.

But more exciting for the students was when Bell set Max on fellow Officer Dale Stoebe, who was decked out in a large, padded suit. Despite the padding, officers who help with bite training still usually come away with some bruises, said Burke.

Leishman said the DARE program has been taught at Lakeport Unified for a total of six years.

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Lakeport Police Chief Kevin Burke talks to students Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




Part of the afternoon was spent sitting in the sun, enjoying ice cream. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



Max practices his attack on Lakeport Police Officer Dale Stoebe. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.





A contractor works on repairing a water main break along Country Club Drive in Lucerne on Monday. Photo by Lenny Matthews.


LUCERNE – Lucerne's water system suffered two line breaks on Monday.

A main break occurred along Country Club Drive, with another leak reported on Alta Vista Way, said Gay Guidotti, California Water Service Co.'s customer service representative for Lucerne.

The breaks were reported Monday, said Guidotti.

A contractor was being sent to both locations to repair the breaks, Guidotti said.

She estimated that repairs would be completed Monday. About 6:30 p.m. men were still making repairs along Country Club.

About 12 homes lost water services as a result of the problem on Country Club, according to Guidotti.

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Dr. Bill MacDougall is preparing to step into the new role of superintendent for Konocti Unified School District. Photo courtesy of Carle High School.

LOWER LAKE – When Superintendent Dr. Louise Nan announced earlier this year her intention to accept a new position and leave Lake County, the Konocti Unified School District faced the hard work of finding someone to take the district's helm at a time of mounting challenges.

Like other rural school districts, Konocti Unified is facing dropping enrollment, budget cuts and layoffs in the coming year due to the impact of a mounting state fiscal crisis.

It was Nan who suggested to her board that, rather that look outside of the district, they look within, that in their midst was a man to match the mountains they had to climb.

Taking her advice, on May 7 Konocti's board of trustees voted unanimously to name Dr. Bill MacDougall the district's new superintendent. The announcement resulted in a standing ovation from the students, staff and parents at the meeting.

MacDougall, 51, has been an administrator with the district for more than two decades, and is best known for his work as principal at Carlé High School. Under his leadership, Carlé has been named a Model Continuation High School three times, and been recognized as one of the state's top alternative schools in California.

He's also served as principal of Oak Hill Middle School, assistant principal of Lower Lake High School, and assistant principal of Burns Valley and Lower Lake Elementary schools.

Konocti Unified Board President Herb Gura said MacDougall's long history in the district, the fact that they knew and trusted him, and that he has shown strong leadership made him an excellent choice at a critical point.

With the district's tight budget, and the immediate need for leadership, choosing from within was the obvious best step, said Gura.

“We hope he's going to bring the district together,” said Gura.

That will be no small feat. Konocti Unified is the county's largest school district, which had an enrollment of more than 3,000 students in the last school year, according to state data. It's facing a $1 million budget cut next year, said Gura, and is at impasse with its teachers union.

The district also handed out layoff notices to teachers and a few administrators, and cuts are expected to programs and services, said Gura. “We try to keep our cuts as far away from the classroom as we can.”

MacDougall said he was “flattered, humbled and surprised” by the board's offer, and said the choice to look within the district reaffirms his belief that the district's members – teachers, staff, students – have the knowledge and wisdom to make change happen.

He said he's been overwhelmed by offers of support from people throughout the community who want to offer support to him and the district.

MacDougall also is clear-eyed about the hard times that are ahead. His suggestion to dealing with hardship is for everyone to hang close together.

At the same time, he sees opportunity in the challenges, including building unity and creating a stronger district.

His contract as superintendent starts July 1, with Nan set to finish her tenure on June 20, at which time she'll leave for the Ripon Unified School District near Modesto.

When MacDougall starts work in the district office, he'll have a smaller staff, with the administration going “bare bones” in an effort to keep money where it will most benefit students.

Assistant Superintendent Cliff Lantz is retiring this year, and curriculum development specialist Monte Gregg is moving into another position. MacDougall said he'll assume the duties of both positions as well.

MacDougall said he has a plan for his first 100 days, and that will be to meet with everyone and listen to their ideas, concerns and solutions.

“I don't have all the answers, but I really believe all the answers are there and that the people within the Konocti Unified School District know those answers, and that been proven to me over the last 20 years,” he said.

Teachers still without a contract

A priority, he said, will be resolving the contract with the Konocti Educators Association. MacDougall said he's been “on both sides of the table” over the years, representing teachers in Humboldt County and acting as a district negotiator here in talks with classified employees.

Although he has not been privy to recent talks, he doesn't think the district's impasse with its teachers is insurmountable, and he said he wants to resolve it so teachers can leave behind worrying about contracts and focus their energy on the business of educating students.

John Lee, president of the Konocti Educators Association, said the union was unable to accept the district's final offer, which led to the impasse declaration last Dec. 4. The two sides are now in mediation, and set to meet May 22 one last time before moving to fact finding.

The union and district came close to reaching agreement on a three-year contract, said Lee, but they couldn't agree on health insurance provisions.

The contract called for the district to take money left over from this year and put it aside for a 2-percent pay increase that would be retroactive to Feb. 1 for the district's 180 teachers, said Lee. In return, the union agreed not to ask for a pay increase in the second year, but did ask for increased health insurance benefits in years two and three.

Lee said the union was willing to go without a pay increase in year three in exchange for the health insurance change, but the district wanted to cap benefits.

The next step is fact finding, which will including representatives from both side and an administrative law judge. If that fails, said Lee, a strike could result.

The last time district teachers held a strike was in 1986, when the union president was current school board member Carolyn Jarrett.

Gura said that, due to the drastic state budget cuts, the district lacks the ability to give the teachers the kind of compensation like they deserve and have the right to expect


About 36 people, teachers and some administrators, received layoff notices this spring, said Lee, although many of those have been rescinded.

At last count, there were 16 on the list, and a slightly better budget picture – thanks to the governor saying he won't suspend Proposition 98 funds – could take more names off the layoff list, he said. “That's going to be a big relief to a lot of school districts.”

Lee said he believes that the superintendent's ability to make change will depend on the school board. He believes that, if it had been up to Nan, the contract would have been settled, but that the board's direction limited her.

“I don't know if Mr. MacDougall is going to be able to change that or not,” he said.

What's ahead for Carlé

Gura said there are a few qualified administrators interested in following MacDougall as Carlé's new principal. Ultimately, he added, MacDougall will be allowed to choose his successor.

“Carlé has always selected its principal,” said MacDougall.

A committee composed of teachers, students and parents will make its proposal to pick the right person, he said.

“I don't think there's ever been a place I've grown more as an individual than at Carlé,” he said.

Carlé is a special place, a small community of kindness, growth and safety that MacDougall says need to be replicated not just districtwide but across the community.

MacDougall helped build the school's small community, and he's done it before in Humboldt County schools, and even has experience in creating a city's strategic plan. But taking on this larger task of guiding the district is, he admits, “a huge undertaking.”

He added that succeeding “is going to take all of us.”

The school's students have reacted both with happiness and some sadness as the announcement that MacDougall will move to the district office. The students, he added, believe in personal growth and see that this is a huge growth experience for him.

“Carlé is not made of one person,” he said, adding that it was a fabulous school before he arrived, and will continue to be so after he takes his new job.

He said his students are exceptional young people who know that, ultimately, their job is to help each other. MacDougall said he'd like to see the community take the same attitude.

It's idealistic, he admits, but idealism may be just what is needed to address the challenges the district faces.

Invested in the community

MacDougall said he has a lot of faith in the the district – its teachers, staff and students – and the larger community beyond.

“It is my community,” he said. “It is the place I love and want to spend the rest of my life, so I'm definitely invested in this community.”

He sees a lot of momentum right now to help youth. “The sign of a healthy community is when you're helping your young and your old.”

Students are testing well and he pointed to Lower Lake High's recent recognition by US News and World Report. “Our students are capable of succeeding at the highest levels and have proven that.”

The question that needs to be asked, he said, is are students being served the best they can be? And are they being prepared to move on to higher education – whether universities or career technical training – that will lead to fulfilling careers?

MacDougall said his goal is to prepare students for good jobs so as to avoid the “hamster wheel” of minimum wage.

In his 14 years on the board, Gura said he's helped hire three superintendents.

MacDougall's is a special hire, according to Gura. “When you have somebody within the district that is a strong leader and so well-respected and liked by staff, you can't really go wrong. You can't really do better.”

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


Bismarck Dinius takes a break outside of the courtroom on the first day of his preliminary hearing in Lake County Superior Court on Tuesday, May 20. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – A Carmichael man will likely know this week if he'll face trial in connection with the death of a woman that resulted from a 2006 boating collision.

The preliminary hearing for Bismarck Dinius, 39, got under way Tuesday in Lake County Superior Court Judge Richard Martin's courtroom.

The proceedings will determine if there is enough evidence to try Dinius on charges of vehicular manslaughter involving a vessel and misdemeanor boating under the influence of alcohol.

On the night of April 29, 2006, Dinius was steering a sailboat belonging to Mark Weber of Willows, when a speed boat driven by Russell Perdock, a chief deputy with the Lake County Sheriff's Office, collided with the sailboat.

Weber's fiancee, 51-year-old Lynn Thornton, was mortally injured and died May 2, 2006, at UC Davis Medical Center.

Dinius was charged because authorities alleged that the sailboat's lights weren't on, and both Dinius and Weber allegedly had blood alcohol levels above the legal limit.

Perdock was not charged, although investigative reports indicated he had violated the “safe speed” rule, which requires that a boat operator at all times maintain a speed that allows them to stop the vessel “within half the distance of forward visibility.”

On Tuesday, Prosecutor John Langan called four people to the stand in the first day of testimony, including Perdock, Lake County Sheriff's Sgt. Mark Hoffman, Deputy John Gregore and Boat Patrol Sgt. Dennis Ostini.

Along with the testimony, Langan entered more than a dozen items into evidence, including photographs of Perdock's boat and Weber's sailboat, Beats Workin' II; a large aerial photograph of the region; and several documents and reports from law enforcement and investigating agencies.

Ostini, who oversees the sheriff's Boat Patrol program, was the officer in charge the night the boat crash occurred, according to testimony given in court Tuesday.

He spent more than three hours on the witness stand, answering Langan's questions and being cross-examined by Dinius' defense attorney, Victor Haltom of Sacramento.

Testimony in the case resumes Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., when Haltom is expected to continue his cross examination of Ostini.

The case has given rise to accusations against local authorities that they were attempting to protect Perdock.

A review of the case completed last December by the California Attorney General's Office found the Lake County Sheriff's Office had handled the matter properly, especially in bringing in outside agencies to help with the investigation. However, at the time, Haltom dismissed the review, saying it addressed none of the case's important issues.

Last summer, Haltom also attempted to have the District Attorney's Office removed from the case, but the state Attorney General's Office assisted in arguing against the motion, which a judge denied, as Lake County News reported.

Elizabeth Larson contributed to this report.

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


CLEARLAKE – Officials plan to conduct a checkpoint to look for people driving under the influence this Friday, as the Memorial Day weekend gets under way.

Chief Deputy James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported that the Lake County “Avoid the Three” DUI Task Force will conduct a the DUI and driver's license checkpoint during the evening hours of Friday, May 23, in the city of Clearlake.

The “Avoid” Task Force is a multi-agency effort led by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to remove DUI drivers from the roads and highways, said Bauman. Participating agencies include Lakeport and Clearlake Police Departments.

In order to optimize the efforts of the Task Force to reduce incidents of driving under the influence, the specific location and hours of operation of the checkpoint will not be disclosed prior to the checkpoint, Bauman said.

Motorists entering the checkpoint can expect to see traffic control patterns, warning signs, and officers on the roadway contacting drivers and screening for signs of intoxication or impairment, and checking driver’s licenses as traffic permits, he noted.

Drivers will be detained for the minimum amount of time possible at the checkpoint, said Bauman.

In addition to the DUI checkpoint on Friday evening, Bauman reported that special enforcement units also will be on DUI Saturation Patrol in and around the cities of Lakeport and Clearlake during the coming Memorial Day weekend looking for intoxicated or impaired drivers.

Funding for this program is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


That’s right: the pickle jar, pasta sauce jar, or Mason jar, any one of these jars is what I consider one of the most valuable kitchen utensils you can own. I own several jars of all different sizes in my kitchen just so I can always have one ready to use.

Why do I think jars are so useful? Because every minute you spend stirring something could be handled in just a few seconds of shaking it in a jar.

Next time you make scrambled eggs try cracking the eggs into a jar, cover and shake for 15 seconds. You will notice that the eggs no longer have that phlegm-like consistency but a much smoother, liquid-like texture.

The act of shaking actually denatures the proteins and causes the egg to become homogenized. Homogenization is what they do to milk with cream in it in order to keep the cream from clumping together and floating to the top. When the molecules are pulverized during homogenization they lose the ability to recombine and the milk and cream stay mixed.

Emulsification is a process similar to homogenization, where you are trying to get two dissimilar liquids to mix together. Vinegar and oil don’t want to stay mixed, but if you add an emulsifier like mustard and then mix them they will stay together. Performing this process in a jar by shaking it combines the ingredients much faster and more thoroughly than if you were using a whisk.

This also works for making pancake batter, Kool-aid, salad dressing, sauces, you name it! Heck, I’ve even made hollandaise sauce in a jar (although I don’t recommend it, too hot!). When you want something mixed quickly, you just gotta try using a jar.

OK, so I’ll admit there are some things for which a jar is not suited.

You can’t make a meringue or mayonnaise in a jar, for example. I’m not saying that jars are a cure-all; I’m just saying that using a jar eliminates a lot of prep work and clean up. No more big mixing bowls use a jar! No more difficult-to-clean whisks or mixing beaters use a jar! Save space in the dishwasher use a jar!

Remember I mentioned making salad dressings in a jar? I want to encourage you to try some different ways of making salad dressing. Not only make them in the jar, but try some different ingredients.

For instance, instead of using plain vegetable oil try using chicken fat. You will need to use this immediately after cooking the chicken, because the fat will want to solidify and isn’t shelf-stable, but it tastes fantastic on your salad. Now I didn’t say it was a healthy salad dressing, I said it was delicious; you need to splurge every once in a while.

Another thing to try is to substitute the vinegar with some brine that you would normally throw out.

For example, I love dill and garlic pepperoncinis. When I’m done with them I use the brine that they are pickled in for salad dressings and additions to soup. It just adds a little extra flavor and that “Whoa!” factor. I even use the brine from jalapeno peppers for making a glaze for shrimp, and yeah, I mix it in a jar.

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


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