Sunday, 21 July 2024


A mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, on skin not treated with DEET. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey, UC Davis Department of Entomology.



Summer is mosquito season, and a new study gives insight into why repellents work on mosquitoes.

Spray yourself with DEET, and you’ll repel mosquitoes, but why? It’s not because DEET jams their sense of smell; it’s because they dislike the smell of the chemical repellent intensely, researchers at the University of California, Davis have discovered in groundbreaking research published Monday.

“We found that mosquitoes can smell DEET and they stay away from it,” said noted chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor of entomology at UC Davis. “DEET doesn’t mask the smell of the host or jam the insect’s senses. Mosquitoes don’t like it because it smells bad to them.”

The study's conclusions about how the repellent works is especially important in a time when West Nile Virus has reached California. The disease has so far affected 92 people in 13 California counties this summer, according to the state's West Nile Virus Web site.

DEET’s mode of action or how it works has puzzled scientists for more than 50 years.

The chemical insect repellent, developed by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and patented by the U.S. Army in 1946, is considered the “gold standard” of insect repellents worldwide. Worldwide, more than 200 million use DEET to ward off vectorborne diseases.

Scientists long surmised that DEET masks the smell of the host, or jams or corrupts the insect’s senses, interfering with its ability to locate a host. Mosquitoes and other blood-feeding insects find their hosts by body heat, skin odors, carbon dioxide (breath) or visual stimuli. Females need a blood meal to develop their eggs.

Entomologist James “Jim” Miller of Michigan State University praised the work as correcting “long-standing erroneous dogma.”

"For decades we were told that DEET warded off mosquito bites because it blocked insect response to lactic acid from the host the key stimulus for blood-feeding,” said Miller. “Dr. Leal and co-workers escaped the key stimulus over-simplification to show that mosquito responses like our own result from a balancing of various positive and negative factors, all impinging on a tiny brain more capable than most people think of sophisticated decision-making.”

He said the work also shows that a recent study on DEET published in the flagship journal, Science, “apparently was flat-out wrong,” Miller said.

“One of the great attributes of science is that, over time, it is self-correcting,” he added.

Leal said previous findings of other scientists showed a “false positive” resulting from the experimental design.

The UC Davis work, “Mosquitoes Smell and Avoid the Insect repellent DEET,” is published in the Aug. 18 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Mosquitoes detect DEET and other smells with their antennae. Leal and researcher Zain Syed discovered the exact neurons on the antennae that detect DEET, which are located beside other neurons that sense a chemical, 1-octen-3-ol, known to attract mosquitoes.

“I was so delighted when I first encountered the neuron that detects DEET, a synthetic compound,” said Syed. “I couldn’t believe my eyes because it goes against conventional wisdom so I repeated the experiment over and over until we discussed the findings in the lab.”

The UC Davis investigators set up odorless sugar-feeding stations, some containing DEET, and found that DEET actively repelled them. The mosquitoes they used were Culex quinquefasciatus, also known as the Southern house mosquito. The mosquito transmits West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis, and lymphatic filariasis, a disease caused by threadlike parasitic worms.

“Despite the fact DEET is the industry standard mosquito repellent, relatively little is known about how it actually works,” said UC Davis research entomologist William Reisen. “Previous studies have suggested a 'masking' or 'binding' with host emanations. Understanding the mode of action is especially important because DEET is used as the standard against which all other tentative replacement repellents are compared.”



UC Davis researcher Zain Syed (right) sprays DEET on chemical ecologist Walter Leal. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey, UC Davis Department of Entomology.



What the study means to consumers

Dr. Jamesina Scott, district manager and research director for Lake County Vector Control, said there are several effective mosquito repellents on the market now – DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR-3535 – and understanding how DEET works to repel mosquitoes will help researchers to identify other compounds that work similarly to repel mosquitoes.

The Centers for Disease Control Web site ( has information for consumers about those four repellents, Scott said.

“For consumers, the critical point is that DEET is an effective mosquito repellent,” Scott said. “How DEET works is not as important to the consumer as the fact that it works well and that using a repellent reduces the risk of mosquito bites and mosquito-borne illness.”

The important things that consumers should know, according to Scott, are that:

  • They should use a mosquito repellent when they are outside, especially at dusk or dawn when mosquitoes are most active;

  • They should look for mosquito repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535

  • They should always follow the label directions when using a mosquito repellent.


"Overlooking Detert Lake," a view at Langtry Estate and Vineyards, is an original oil painting by artist Gail Salituri that will be offered in an upcoming silent auction to benefi the Barbara LaForge Memorial Fund.

LAKEPORT – The latest in a series of fundraisers to benefit the Lake Family Resource Center's domestic violence shelter effort is getting under way this week.

Local artist Gail Salituri is holding silent auctions and raffles for the Barbara LaForge Memorial Fund, which benefits the domestic violence shelter, to be built near Kelseyville.

LaForge, an artist in her own right, was a friend of Salituri's who was murdered in October of 2002.

The latest round of offerings for the fund will be awarded after the silent auction closes and the raffle is held in October, Salituri said.

For those who missed out on the first auction and a chance to purchase Salituri's original oil, “Lake County in Bloom,” she has painted another original oil especially for the benefit, titled “Overlooking Detert Lake, ” which will be featured in the silent auction.

The painting, which features a scene from Langtry Estate and Vineyards, measures 18 by 24 inches. It's valued at $1,850; the opening bid is $300.

Items to be raffled include local artist John Clark's watercolor of a San Francisco cable car. The signed and numbered lithograph is custom framed, with a retail value of $350. Thomas Kinkade's “Pride of America” also will be available in the raffle. Tickets are $5 each or five for $20.

Some of the raffle items are on display at Salituri's Inspirations Gallery, including another print of Clarke's Golden Gate Bridge – signed, numbered and custom framed, and valued at $350. A custom framed beveled mirror, valued at $600, and a 16 inch by 20 inch Lyle Madeson photo titled "Sail Boat on the Lake” are on display.


Last month's winners were Dawn and Charles Tanti of Lakeport, Karen D'Bernardi of Kelseyville, and Kathlene Colllins of Danville.

She said she has raised just under $2,000 and hopes to have reached $5,000 by the end of the year.

“I won't put down my paint brushes until we reach our goal,” Salituri said.

Tickets for the raffles will be available at Inspirations Gallery, 165 N. Main St., Lakeport; Lake Family Resource Center, 896 Lakeport Blvd., Lakeport; and the Lakeport Chamber of Commerce, 875 Lakeport Blvd.

For more information call Salituri at Inspirations Gallery, 263-4366, or visit her Web page,



John Clarke's "Cable Car" will be offered in the raffle.



"America's Pride" by Thomas Kinkade also will be offered in the raffle.



PARADISE VALLEY – A Clearlake Oaks man was arrested early Wednesday morning after he hit a semi while allegedly driving under the influence, with the crash also resulting in a fuel spill.

The California Highway Patrol arrested Raju Thakorbhai Patel, 36, said CHP Officer Adam Garcia.

Patel was driving a 2007 Honda Civic eastbound on Highway 20 east of Verna Way close to Paradise Cove when the crash happened at about 3:05 a.m., according to Garcia.

Garcia said Haraoki Saito, 40, of Sacramento was driving westbound in a 2009 Volvo tractor trailer pulling a two-axle trailer when Patel reportedly sideswiped the semi.

Patel suffered minor injuries in the collision, said Garcia, while Saito was not reported to be injured.

Along with CHP, Lake County Sheriff's deputies, Caltrans, Cal Fire and Northshore Fire Protection District responded to the scene early Wednesday due to a diesel spill on the roadway.

Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Pat Brown, who was incident commander for the spill, said the collision caused a puncture in the semi's fuel tank, which released between 20 and 25 gallon of diesel.

He said the fuel covered about 200 feet of roadway across both lanes, which made it necessary to shut down the highway while the spill was cleaned up.

Brown said six Northshore Fire personnel with one engine, four Cal Fire firefighters and a Cal Fire engine, and Caltrans took care of the spilled fuel.

The firefighters grabbed their shovels and quickly went to work to contain the fuel. “It did not get into any of the creeks or off the road,” said Brown, which prevented him from having to call in Environmental Health.

Brown said the highway was reopened around 5:30 a.m.

CHP Officer Steven Tanguay arrested Patel at about 7:40 a.m., according to jail records.

Patel was booked on a misdemeanor count of driving under the influence, with bail set at $5,000, his booking sheet noted. He was released later Wednesday morning.

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LAKE COUNTY – An obscure new legal rule will bring the case of a San Francisco man whose trial was moved to Martinez back to Lake County for a hearing to determine where sentencing will take place.

It's another twist in the most unusual case of Renato Hughes Jr., who turned 24 on Friday and was acquitted earlier this month in a homicide trial for which he was tried for the deaths of friends Christian Foster and Rashad Williams.

The two men were shot by Clearlake Park homeowner Shannon Edmonds, into whose home Foster, Williams and Hughes had allegedly broken in search of marijuana on Dec. 7, 2005. That resulted in Hughes' trial under the provocative act doctrine, because he was taking part in a crime that could result in a lethal response.

The trial was moved to Martinez in Contra Costa County after a judge granted a change of venue late last year.

On Aug. 8 the 12-woman jury found Hughes not guilty of the two homicide counts, robbery and attempted murder, with the jury hanging on assault causing great bodily injury three days later, as Lake County News has reported.

Hughes was convicted of burglary and assault with a firearm.

On Friday morning, Judge Barbara Zuniga summoned back to her Martinez courtroom District Attorney Jon Hopkins and defense attorney Stuart Hanlon.

Hopkins said there is a new judicial rule, passed in 2007, that sends a trial granted a change of venue back to the transferring court for sentencing. It's the first time he's run across it.

"No one has heard of it," Hanlon added Friday.

Hopkins said Zuniga remembered it and called them back to discuss it.

The rule is so new that there's not much legal history on it, said Hopkins.

But Zuniga felt her choice was clear – that the case will return to Lake County, where hearings will be held about where the sentencing should take place, Hopkins said.

"The idea behind it is the community in which the crime occurred is the court with the most interest in the post-conviction proceedings," Hopkins explained.

A hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, in Judge Arthur Mann's courtroom, to decide if the sentencing will stay in Lake County or return to Martinez, he said.

Hopkins said the discussion will involve balancing Hughes' interest between having his sentencing conducted by the judge who heard the case and the community's interest in arriving at a decision.

Hanlon, who had filed three change of venue motions before succeeding in having the trial moved, said Friday he's happy to see it come back to Lake County for sentencing.

"I think we're probably better off with sentencing before Judge Mann," said Hanlon.

That's because he believes Zuniga – though she was very fair – probably thinks Hughes is guilty.

Sentencing had been scheduled for Sept. 9 in Martinez. Hopkins said that hearing was vacated, although Hanlon added that Hughes hadn't waived his time. That means sentencing could take place in Lake County on that date.

Hopkins, however, said the Lake County Probation Department will be hard-pressed to finish its sentencing recommendations by Sept. 9, especially if they're currently unsure of where the sentencing might be held.

Hanlon said he's hoping for a sentence where Hughes can get out of jail soon. He's been held in jail since December of 2005.

The burglary and assault with a firearm charge could bring an upper term of eight years in prison, with the burglary counted as a strike, according to Hopkins.

With credit for time served plus 50 percent, Hughes should have credit for four years and may spend very little time, if any in prison, due to sentencing guidelines that require the judge to sentence to the middle term unless there are extraordinary circumstances, as Lake County News has reported.

Even with those convictions, and with the uncertainty of the possible sentence, Hanlon said, "I think we've already won the case."

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SACRAMENTO – The widespread practice of keeping dying patients in the dark about their options could come to an end under a bill approved Wednesday by the state Senate.

The 21-17 vote on the Senate floor late Wednesday morning puts the bill, AB 2747 by Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka, just one step away from the governor’s desk.

If signed into law, the bill would require health care providers to tell their dying patients all of the decisions they’re likely to face in their final days.

All too often, physicians and other health care providers avoid frank conversations with their dying patients, according to a recent nationwide survey conducted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

In fact, the cancer doctors who conducted the survey found that hardly one in three patients receives an honest assessment of what to expect when facing a terminal illness.

“Better information is better for everyone,” said Berg. “Patients have a right to know what happens next.”

The measure, supported by physicians and considered a step forward in patients’ rights, has drawn opposition that seems disproportionate to its requirements. The reason is simple: in the past three years, Berg and others have pushed for an Oregon-style death-with-dignity law in California.

“People who didn’t like that idea told us California patients already have plenty of options when they are dying,” she said. “But options are only good if you know you have them. This bill makes sure you that you do know.”

AB 2747 adds no new options for the terminally ill.

“It’s about information,” she said. “Nothing more and nothing less.”

The bill now returns for a vote of the full Assembly, which has previously approved the measure. It then goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The measure is supported by the California Medical Association, the California Nurses Association, the Older Women’s League, AIDS Project Los Angeles, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Congress of California Seniors and many other professional and civic groups.

The bill also has faced serious opposition from groups who say it is an attempt to legalize euthanasia.


MIDDLETOWN – A Hidden Valley Lake man received major injuries in a crash that occurred Monday evening.

Joshua Terry, 30, was injured in the collision, which occurred at 6 p.m. on Highway 29 north of the Dry Creek Cutoff, reported California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia.

Garcia said Terry was riding his 1991 Suzuki Sport motorcycle northbound on Highway 29. Traffic ahead of him came to a stop and he struck the rear of a 2003 Volkswagen Golf driven by 69-year-old Ivonne Robertson of Clearlake Oaks.

The collision caused Terry to be ejected from the motorcycle, which resulted in major, non-life-threatening injuries, Garcia said.

REACH helicopter transported Terry to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Garcia said neither Robertson nor her passenger, Laver Robertson, was reported as being injured.

The collision is a reminder of the need to maintain a high visual horizon. Garcia said this means

keep your eyes up and looking down the road.

Many drivers focus on the road only five or eight seconds ahead, Garcia noted. Instead, drivers should look about 15 to 20 seconds ahead of the vehicle, farther if possible.

Garcia said this gives a driver time to recognize and avoid most potential hazards before they become a


He said you'll see lane restrictions or construction areas, traffic congestion, truck entrances, mishaps and other hazards.

Keeping your eyes focused far down the road – instead of just past the end of the hood – creates more

reaction time for hazards, according to Garcia.

Officer Efrain Cortez is investigating the incident, Garcia said.


LAKEPORT – A former Dallas Cowboys football player was arrested Thursday on a misdemeanor bench warrant during a visit to Lake County.

Efren Herrera, 57, of Pomona was arrested for the warrant during a routine traffic stop just after 1 p.m. on Soda Bay Road near the Jack in the Box, Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported Friday.

Bauman said Herrera was the driver during the stop; when his driver's license status was checked the misdemeanor warrant was discovered.

The $25,000 bench warrant, said Bauman, was issued by Orange County for misdemeanor contempt of court violations.

Bauman said Herrera was booked into the Lake County Jail, with jail records indicating bail was set at $25,000. He was bailed out a little over an hour after he was booked, Bauman added.

Herrera is in Lake County this weekend for the annual Pepsi Celebrity Golf Shootout at Buckingham Golf and Country Club.

He was a place kicker in the National Football League from 1974 to 1982, during which time he played for three years with the Dallas Cowboys and was a member of one of their Super Bowl-winning teams. Herrera also kicked for the Seattle Seahawks.


CLEARLAKE OAKS – A long-running legal dispute between the Lake County Air Quality Management District and a Clearlake Oaks mining operation was settled Wednesday, resulting in the largest air quality penalty in county history.

Clearlake Cinder Chip Co., the owner of a volcanic cinder mine near Clearlake Oaks, and the mine's operator, BCJ Sand and Rock of Santa Rosa, agreed to settle the dispute with the Air Quality Management District, which new Air Pollution Control Officer Doug Gearhart has been ongoing for more than six months.

The air district's hearing board – chaired by Cameron Reeves, retired county counsel, and including members Nancy Perrin, Lowell Grant and Roger Bakke – voted to accept the stipulated order ending the matter at a Wednesday morning meeting, Gearhart said.

Gearhart said the settlement includes a $100,000 settlement and an agreement to retrofit the operation's diesel engines.

The issue, explained Gearhart, was the failure by the owner and operator to comply with the State Air Toxic Control Measure applying to the mine and requiring stringent diesel engine particulate emissions control.

Clearlake Cinder Chip Co. had received an extension for a variance relating to those standards because they wanted to convert their diesel engines to electric, said Gearhart.

However, at the end of the extension, the line power installation wasn't complete and the mine continued using the diesel equipment. Gearhart said the mine came into violation on Jan. 1.

Curt Abbott, controller for BCJ Sand and Rock, said the settlement also requires that Clearlake Cinder Chip Co.'s owner, Tiburon-based Robin Thomas Corp., must now put operations in BCJ's name.

BCJ Sand and Rock has been operating at the mine since October 2006, said Abbott. They'd been operating under variances in place before they arrived, and said their extraction equipment had been operating to standards since then.

He said Lake County is requiring the equipment have filters added to them to run at the same emission levels as if they were electric engines.

Abbott also stated that Lake County's air standards are more stringent than other counties – such as Sonoma and Butte – where BCJ also operates.

Gearhart, however, said that statement isn't accurate from the air district's perspective. The equipment in question is compliant for portable use but not when stationary, at which point it must meet different standards.

The order's $100,000 settlement amount was calculated based on number of violations, days in violation, and severity of violation, Gearhart said.

Abbott said Robin Thomas Corp. and BCJ have agreed to jointly pay the settlement. "We want to do that because we want to be back in business."

The hearing board previously had adopted an abatement order that Gearhart said effectively closed the business, an action taken after several prior attempts to reach a resolution ended in June. The air district also had initiated a civil process to collect the contested fines.

The abatement order against the mine prevented operation of processing equipment, said Abbott, although BCJ has been able to harvest the red lava rock and take it elsewhere for processing.

He said the red rock is turned into small rock or gravel and sand for uses ranging from highway projects to landscaping.

Abbott said the district made the fine significant enough to make sure the equipment upgrades were done.

The order also requires the mine operation to replace a gross-emitting Caterpillar D8 with a 2006 or newer excavator, complete a toxic risk assessment and maintain stringent dust control, according to Gearhart.

Gearhart said $40,000 of the amount will be used by the mine's owner and operator to purchase and install new diesel particulate filters on mining equipment. Before mining operations can start again, the filters must be on order and the first $20,000 penalty payment must be made.

The remaining $60,000 will go to the air district, which will share the funds with the County Counsel's Office for its assistance with the case. Gearhart said the money will help the air district recoup costs for its time.

In a typical year, fines and penalties only make up about 4 percent of the air district's $600,000 budget, said Gearhart. The settlement will push that percentage higher in the coming fiscal year.

"As far as I know this is the largest fine the district has ever had," said Gearhart.

Most of the air district's fines are for residential burn violations, which he said range between $50 and $100.

"Most people stay in compliance and most industry stays in compliance," he said.

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Firefighter Phil Mateer surveys the burned landscape. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



LOWER LAKE – On Tuesday, firefighters and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. employees remained at work on the scene of a fire that broke out the previous day.

The fire, located along Highway 29 near Manning Flat, was sparked mid-afternoon Monday, caused a highway closure and burned approximately 182 acres, as Lake County News has reported.

Downed power lines may have been a contributing factor, according to Cal Fire.

Along Highway 29, PG&E trucks were at work through the day, replacing more than a dozen power poles. Some of the poles were at the roadside, and some others were located in steeper terrain 50 to 100 feet east of the roadway.

The work required one-way traffic control in the area all day until about 4 p.m.

No homes were in danger, although DNA Quarry was nearby.

There, three Cal Fire hand crews spent the day working to put out hot spots and clean up the fire lines.

Many of the firefighters had worked into the night and were relieved about midnight, returning after about four hours of rest.

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The fire burned much of a small hill. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



PG&E spent the day replacing about a dozen power poles in the area. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



Phil Mateer and crew on water break. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



Rookie firefighter Anthony Oandason takes a well-deserved rest with a cold drink of water. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



Konocti Conservation crews set out to cover fire lines. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



A closer view of the burned landscape. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



Trees on the hillside were badly burned in the Monday fire. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




CLEARLAKE OAKS – Two more members of the Clearlake Oaks County Water District Board have resigned, bringing the total vacancies on the board to three and leaving it without an active quorum in order to meet.

Board President Helen Locke and Vice President Mike Anisman both submitted resignation letters to General Manager Darin McCosker on Thursday, which Locke and Anisman confirmed to Lake County News.

Both resignations will become effective on Sept. 5, the outgoing board members said.

Locke said the delay until Sept. 5 is in order to give the district two weeks to establish a new signature authority for specific documents and contracts the board president is required to sign.

Anisman did not detail his reasons for leaving, although he had been considering his options in light of last Saturday's heated rate hike meeting. He had left that meeting in the wake of what he considered to be verbal abuse by ratepayers.

Later in that meeting, community member Mike Benjamin began circulating a petition for a notice of intent to file a recall action against Anisman and another board member, Pat Shaver.

Shaver tendered her resignation on Monday, as Lake County News has reported.

At Wednesday's regular board meeting, Benjamin served Anisman with his intent to pursue the recall which, had Anisman not resigned, could have cost the district several thousand dollars for a special election.

Locke, who had indicated earlier this week that she wanted to keep working with the board, said it was not "any one thing" that led to her decision to step down.

She did some soul searching and came to the decision, which has left her with mixed feelings of guilt and relief.

Anisman, Locke and board member Frank Toney were elected to the board last November. Earlier this year, the board appointed McCosker as general manager to succeed Ellen Pearson, who stepped down to the auditor/secretary role. In March the board terminated Pearson.

It was in March or April that the board discovered its financial problems, said Locke.

Those issues included thousands of dollars in bills that hadn't been paid or had been paid late, resulting in late fees; Internal Revenue Service penalties; next to nothing left of the district's reserves, which 10 years ago had totaled $1.3 million, as Lake County News has reported.

"I have lain awake at night, every night, worrying about how we were going to pay our bills," said Locke.

The district this spring suggested a 39.4-percent hike of both sewer and water rates, which has garnered 427 protest letters and resulted in the board's once-empty meetings now drawing standing-room-only attendance.

Since the original rate hike proposal, McCosker has suggested two new options for raising rates – one amount to 25 percent, the other 10 percent.

The board on Wednesday voted to hire an auditing firm and moved meeting times to the third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. to allow for more public participation.

But just when the board will next be able to meet is so far unclear.

The only remaining board members are Toney and Harry Chase. In order to make an appointment to replace the other board members, the district has to publish the seats' availability, take applications and meet to make a selection, which it can't do without a quorum. McCosker said Wednesday an empty seat must be filled in 60 days.

Locke said how the board moves forward will be a complicated matter.

"I don't think it's going to get much better for a while," she said.

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CLEARLAKE OAKS – The Clearlake Oaks County Water District Board officially received the resignation of one of its members on Wednesday, and took several steps to adjust its procedures in response to requests from ratepayers.

Longtime board member Pat Shaver submitted her resignation on Monday, as Lake County News has reported.

On Saturday, during a meeting to discuss the district's proposed rate hikes for water and sewer services, numerous community members had called for Shaver's recall, along with that of board Vice President Mike Anisman.

Community member Mike Benjamin circulated a petition for a recall notice of intent effort against both Anisman and Shaver. During Wednesday's meeting, he served the paperwork on Anisman.

The board will advertise Shaver's open position and seek applicants to fill it, with district General Manager Darin McCosker reporting that the position must be filled in 60 days.

Several actions were taken at the meeting to address transparency and the district's fiscal situation.

The board voted to hire Larry Bain to do audits for 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08, which are mandated by the state. The cost will be $23,700, the lowest of three bids submitted.

In addition to fulfilling state requirements, it's hoped by the board and ratepayers in attendance at the meeting that the audits will clear up the district's financial picture.

Bookkeeper Jana Saccato said the district owes nearly $189,000, not counting new bills that have just come in. She assured ratepayers that there is enough money to cover all checks being written, which wasn't the case in previous years, when thousands of dollars in late fees and overdraft charges accumulated on the district's checking account.

Documents Saccato provided to the board show that the board's checking account went from more than $56,000 at the end of July to just over $7,000 on Aug. 18, as the district continues to try to pay off outstanding debt.

Income and expense comparisons for January through July of 2007 and 2008, prepared by Saccato – which board members said weren't prepared under the previous general manager – showed the district's income is starting to more regularly outpace its bills this year, largely the opposite of 2007.

Board member Frank Toney's proposal to form a standing finance committee also was approved. The committee will include Toney and McCosker, board member Harry Chase and Mike Benjamin.

Town resident Judy Heeszel indicated interest in participating, and McCosker suggested adding Bob Summerrill, a former board member who submitted a detailed set of suggestions for goals the committee should pursue.

Because it's a standing committee, it will be subject to the Brown Act, which requires agendas being posted 72 hours in advance of meetings.

In response to requests from ratepayers, the board decided to move meeting times to allow for more public participation.

The board usually meets in the afternoon on the third Wednesday of the month. However, at the Saturday rate hike meeting community members asked the board to move the meetings to a time when more people could attend. The meetings will now be held on the third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m.

McCosker said Wednesday that his staff has been overwhelmed by requests for documents by community members in light of the rate hike proposal and the growing concern over the district's fiscal health.

Saccato also reported that the district received 427 letters opposing the 39.4-percent rate increases for sewer and water. The district is now proposing other rate hike options, including 25 percent and 10 percent.

For information about the open board position, visit the district's Web site at

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CLEARLAKE OAKS – In the wake of a heated public meeting over the weekend in which community members began calling for the recall of two Clearlake Oaks County Water District Board members, one of the members in question has resigned and the second is deciding if he should follow suit.

Pat Shaver, the longest-serving member of the district board, confirmed Monday that she had tendered her resignation to district General Manager Darin McCosker earlier in the day.

However, Shaver would not offer a comment to Lake County News about her reasons for resigning.

The district's board held a public hearing on Saturday evening at the Eastlake Grange to receive public testimony about three proposed rate hike options – 39.4, 25 and 10 percent – one of which officials have said is necessary to help stabilize the district's shaky financial picture.

At that meeting the board was criticized for its handling of the meeting, which began with audience members asked to submit questions in writing rather than giving testimony and asking questions at the podium. Eventually, the board did welcome ratepayers to take the microphone.

Shaver was absent from the meeting and board Vice President Mike Anisman, angered by what he said was an abusive barrage from audience members, walked out a half hour into the meeting, which ran for more than two hours.

Community member Mike Benjamin – who had criticized the board for the way it conducted the meeting – then circulated two petitions to file a notice of intention to begin a recall effort on both Anisman and Shaver.

“There were so many people that wanted to sign that thing that I ran out of spaces for signatures,” Benjamin said Monday.

Benjamin said he actually took five petitions to the meeting – one for each board member, the others being President Helen Locke and directors Frank Toney and Harry Chase.

However, he said he felt both Toney and Chase conducted themselves properly at the meeting, so he chose not to pursue an effort to oust them.

Anisman had written a comment on Lake County News in which he indicated he planned to tender his resignation as well. However, he said Monday evening that he was still making up his mind about what action to take.

Benjamin said he was still prepared to pursue the notice to begin the recall against Anisman, saying his walking out of the meeting “was the absolute worst thing in the world he could have done.”

A former elected official himself in the Yuba County city of Wheatland, Benjamin said elected officials don't have the luxury of getting their feelings hurt. “This is business. It isn't personal.”

Over the last several months, Benjamin has been a fixture at board meetings, and board members also have called on his knowledge of the Brown Act and running public meetings.

He had warned Shaver at a June meeting that he thought she should be recalled.

Water board member Frank Toney had posed this question at Saturday's meeting: Who will step up and take the seats of the board members who leave?

Benjamin, who turns 62 in November, said he is willing to serve in order to get the district straightened out, but maintained he likes being retired and wasn't preparing to get back into public service. “All I'm trying to do is help.”

Board President Helen Locke said Monday that Shaver's seat on the board will be filled by appointment. The district will publish the opening, take applications and make a choice.

Locke, Toney and Anisman were elected to the board last November. All three told Lake County News in previous interviews that they had no idea about the district's financial condition until after they were seated on the board earlier this year.

The board is set to meet at 3 p.m. this Wednesday. Not on the agenda for that meeting is a discussion of passing a rate hike, which the board agreed to postpone, at raterpayers' request, until it held another community meeting fully explaining all three rate hike options.

On Wednesday the board will consider proposals for audit services to conduct two past due audits and a third that's coming due now.

Toney's suggestion to form a finance committee will be considered, and McCosker also will ask the board to allow him to appoint district bookkeeper Jana Saccato as board secretary, a job he has been holding down in addition to other duties.

Also at the request of ratepayers, the board on Wednesday will consider moving its public meetings from 3 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month to 7 p.m. every third Thursday.

In the wake of Saturday's tense meeting, Locke said she had considered offering her own resignation.

In the end, however, she decided to stay and continue working on the district's issues.

“We've got to keep the place running,” she said. “I'll hang in there as long as I can.”

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


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