Tuesday, 23 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – Late last week, as the nation was preparing for the Memorial Day celebration, lawmakers were trying to fix a glitch in the new GI Bill which is leaving many California veterans hoping to attend private universities in the cold.

Republican Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon and North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) worked together across the aisle to introduce the Veterans Educational Equity Act, HR 2474, which has since won overwhelming support from the California delegation. The bill has a total of 36 co-sponsors.

McKeon and Thompson told reporters late last week that they're trying to get the legislation through to prevent California veterans from facing an unfair reduction in benefits under the post-9/11 GI Bill.

“I'm hoping that we don't have to go through the whole legislative fix,” said Thompson, who called the situation “no more than a bureaucratic snafu.”

The Post-9/11 GI Bill – which becomes effective this summer – requires that the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pay each veteran's private university tuition based on the highest in-state undergraduate tuition rate at a state operated school in the state of enrollment.

Thompson, chair of the Military Veterans Caucus, said the bill was passed to provide educational opportunities for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The issue, as Thompson explained in a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki – which McKeon co-signed – is that California is constitutionally barred from using the word “tuition” and instead uses the word “fees” to describe the cost of matriculation at public universities.

While the VA has determined the maximum tuition benefit for California veterans to be $0, the maximum fee benefit can equal up to $6,586.54, according to the congressmen.

McKeon said the president of Pepperdine University, Andrew K. Benton, brought the issue to his attention. Benton told McKeon that veterans who wanted to attend Pepperdine, a private university in Malibu, were told they wouldn't be reimbursed.

It is reasonable to assume that these two words are interchangeable,” wrote Thompson. “Unfortunately, based on this simple semantic difference, the VA has determined that since California does not use the literal term 'tuition,' the state has a $0.00 level of reimbursement for tuition claims at private universities. As such, our veterans will be denied these critical benefits, and put at a great disadvantage in comparison to veterans in other states.”

Veterans applying for the benefits have so far been denied, while they've been granted to veterans in every other state, McKeon and Thompson explained.

It's an especially critical issue, since – as Thompson told Shinseki – “the denial of such benefits to California veterans was most certainly not the intent of Congress when passing this landmark legislation.”

As well, there are more veterans reside in California than any other state in the country – more than two million in all, said McKeon.

Last Tuesday, Pepperdine's Benton was in Washington and he worked with McKeon's staff to quickly draft the bill.

The following day, McKeon – the top Republican on the Education & Labor Committee and a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee – personally brought the issue to the attention of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who called fixing the problem a “no brainer.”

“Everybody's pulling together to try to make this happen,” said McKeon.

McKeon explained that time is of the essence – the VA needs to get checks out to student-veterans by Aug. 1; that's when the Post-9/11 GI Bill officially goes into effect. The VA has reported that it is notifying 500,000 veterans about the new GI Bill benefits.

Meanwhile, HR 2474 has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

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

LAKE COUNTY – April saw minor decreases in unemployment numbers both in Lake County and around the state, according to a Friday report.

The Employment Development Department's monthly report on employment figures showed Lake County's April unemployment rate was 16 percent, down from 16.6 percent in March but up the 9.7 percent unemployment rate reported in April of 2008. The county ranked No. 45 out of the state's 58 counties.

In April, 4,040 people in Lake County were reported to be unemployed, down from 4,260 out of work in March, according to Employment Development Department reports.

California's unemployment rate decreased to 11 percent in April, down from 11.2 percent in March. In April of 2008, the state's unemployment rate was 6.6 percent. The number of people unemployed in California in April was 2,057,000 – down by 35,000 over the month, but up by 843,000 compared with April of last year.

Neighboring counties reported the following unemployment rates and statewide rankings: Colusa, 19.1; Glenn, 16.1 percent; Mendocino, 10.7 ; Napa, 8.5 percent; Sonoma, 9.4 percent; Yolo, 10.7 percent.

While state and local employment showed improvements, the US unemployment rate increased in April, rising to 8.9 percent from 8.5 percent in March and 5 percent in April of 2008.

The Employment Development Department reported that nonfarm jobs in California totaled 14,411,400 in April, a decrease of 63,700 over the month, according to a survey of businesses that is larger and less variable statistically. The year-over-year change (April 2008 to April 2009) shows a decrease of 706,700 jobs (down 4.7 percent).

The federal survey of households estimates the number of Californians holding jobs in April was 16,565,000, an increase of 42,000 from March, but down 544,000 from the employment total in April of last year, the agency reported.

The department's report on payroll employment in the nonfarm industries of California totaled 14,411,400 in April, a net loss of 63,700 jobs since the March survey; during that month, the state lost 61,700 jobs.

Adding 9,700 jobs in April were three industry categories – natural resources and mining; other services; and government.

At the same time, eight categories – construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; financial activities; professional and business services; educational and health services; and leisure and hospitality – reported job declines, with a loss of 73,400 jobs.

EDD reported that trade, transportation and utilities posted the largest decline over the month, down by 18,900 jobs.

Ten categories lost a total of 726,600 jobs: natural resources and mining; construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; financial activities; professional and business services; leisure and hospitality; other services; and government.

Trade, transportation and utilities employment showed the largest decline on a numerical basis, down by 189,000 jobs, which EDD said is a decline of 6.5 percent).

Construction posted the largest decline on a percentage basis, down by 18.4 percent – a decrease of 149,900 jobs – the EDD reported.

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

SACRAMENTO – With the arrival of the Memorial Day holiday, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) urges motorists to use caution and consideration during their holiday driving.

“Memorial Day weekend can be a safe celebration for everyone,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “It’s about making sound decisions and planning ahead before you head out on the highway, for example wearing your seat belt and designating a non-drinking driver beforehand.”

The three-day holiday is a Maximum Enforcement Period (MEP) for the CHP.

All available officers began patrolling the roadways during the MEP, which began at 6 p.m. Friday and extends until midnight on Monday, May 25.

The CHP’s maximum enforcement effort is also part of the state’s recently launched 2009 Memorial Day Next Generation Click It or Ticket mobilization.

The start-of-summer campaign is supported by $3 million in traffic safety grants awarded by the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The CHP’s primary mission is to prevent loss of life and injury to all motorists. That mission parallels the Strategic Highway Safety plan, a roadmap for improving safety on the state’s roadways that all state traffic safety organizations follow. An element of the plan is to improve the use of passenger restraints.

During the 2008 Memorial Day weekend, 38 people died on California’s roadways; 68 percent of those killed in CHP jurisdiction were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.

“Many of those deaths could have been easily avoided by taking just one second to buckle a seat belt,” stated Commissioner Farrow. “Unfortunately, too many motorists still need a reminder, which is why our officers will be on the lookout for those who are not buckled up.”

In addition to those who fail to fasten their seatbelt, speeders and motorists driving under the influence may find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Last year CHP officers statewide arrested 1,450 drivers for DUI during the Memorial Day weekend.

The Memorial Day MEP is also an Operation Combined Accident Reduction Effort (CARE) holiday. Operation CARE is a joint program of the nation’s highway patrols that places special safety emphasis on interstate highways during holiday periods. CARE highways in California include Interstates 80, 40, 15 and 5.



I don’t like sports, never have. When other kids were watching the football game or playing catch, I was reading nature books or planting roses. When most guys are watching “The big game” I have no idea who’s playing. I couldn’t tell you what a linebacker does or how many points a basketball makes when it drops through the hoop. Sports are just not my thing.

Now I’m guessing that more than one woman reading this will share the sentiment that my wife has about this: “He cooks AND doesn’t like sports! What a catch!” Swoon away at the idea ladies, but I’m not a handsome man so there’s a give and take here.

The one exception to my sports aversion is Sumo wrestling. I could watch Sumo basho (tournaments) all day long, not that they are readily available here. It’s got pageantry, mythology and superstitions, and the lifetime of training to be the best. Maybe since I’m a large, round guy myself, Sumo gives me the enjoyable knowledge that I’m petite when compared to most of these wrestlers.

Why would I be talking about Sumo wrestlers in a food column? Sometimes I can get sidetracked while trying to make my point. My daughter was recently very ill and after several of weeks of not being able to hold any food down she lost 6 pounds of body weight and her blood iron level was very low. I decided the best way to get her back into shape is to feed her Sumo food, food that really satisfies these big guys. When she could finally eat I made her a big bowl of chankonabe.

Chakonabe is a traditional Sumo wrestler’s stew. The really fun thing about chankonabe is that there isn’t actually a single traditional recipe for it, so it can be pretty much whatever you want it to be. You take a broth and then just chuck a bunch of stuff in it.

The point of the soup is that it be heavy in proteins so the wrestlers could bulk up. The thing that westerners can really love about it is that it’s not like most Japanese soups that are so light and ethereal that they have the flavor of angels’ tears with a hint of eel. Chankonabe is hearty and full of flavor.

Chicken is the favorite meat for chankonabe because chickens stand on two legs, and a Sumo wrestler strives to stay standing on two legs during a match. Cows and pigs stand on four legs and if that happens to a wrestler he has lost the match. So just out of the superstition, chicken is the most common meat although fish, pork, beef and horse are still popular.

Now I can hear you wondering, how can chankonabe be good for you? Have you seen how fat those Sumo wrestlers are? Actually chankonabe is high in protein but low in fat, so it is a good, wholesome food. What helps the wrestlers bulk up is that they don’t eat breakfast at all. They get up and start their work out then they eat several bowls full of chankonabe for lunch and take a nap.

I’ve included the “recipe” of the chankonabe that I made for my daughter most recently, and while it has Asian influences it’s a pretty western tasting stew. This could easily be a vegetarian dish and still just as filling.

In the version I made I used equal parts bonito stock for authenticity and chicken stock for familiarity. You can use any stock or combination that you would like; for instance, vegetable stock and mushroom stock, and then you could add sliced portabellas to the pot.

I occasionally make a vegetarian chankonabe with lentil stock, squash, mushrooms, udon noodles, broccoli, etc. Miso paste is also a common addition to chankonabe and would be a great addition to a vegetarian mushroom chankonabe. I also used bison meat since it is very high in protein and iron and those are what my daughter needed at the time. That’s the great thing about chankonabe, it is what ever you want it to be.

Bok choy (there are different spellings) is an Asian cabbage that has become hugely popular in recent years. You can translate the name loosely being “bok” white, and “choy” meaning vegetable. Bok choy is a very popular vegetable throughout the world since it is low in calories, has no fat or cholesterol but is high in calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and Vitamins A and C.

Bok choy is also very mild flavored and doesn’t overwhelm anything that it is cooked with. It gives nutrition, color and texture to most dishes. The greens shrink when heated like spinach does, so add more than you think you will need to a dish. I actually sneak bok choy into many foods like tuna salad just to make them more nutritious.

Most local grocery stores not only carry fully grown bok choy but also baby bok choy. This makes me laugh because baby bok choy is more expensive than the fully grown bok choy ... how does that work?

Bok choy is a lot like leeks in that it should be washed well before eating. The leaves hang on to dirt pretty well and the bases of the stalks also hang on to a good amount of grit.

I like to cut of the base of the bok choy and toss it in the compost pile and then chop the entire head. Then throw all of it into a large bowl or sink filled with water and mix well so the sand can fall away. Throw into the salad spinner and you’re done.

If you don’t have a salad spinner you can put all of the greens into a large cotton kitchen towel or pillow case, pick it up by the corners then go out side and swing it around for a minute and let centrifugal force dry the greens off.

If you don’t care for bok choy you can use many other greens like spinach or napa cabbage, and even broccoli would work well.

By the way, my daughter is much better now.


1 pound bison, cubed (optional)

1 pound chicken, cubed

4 cups bok choy stalks and leaves, finely sliced

2 cups bonito stock

2 cups chicken stock

1 block firm tofu, cubed

1 package udon noodles

1 onion, julienned

one-quarter cup sake

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Drops of sesame oil

Vegetable oil or butter

In a two-quart stock pot brown the chicken and bison in oil or butter in small batches and set aside while browning another batch.

Once all of the meat is browned deglaze the pan with the sake (vodka or wine would also work) and when the bottom of the pan is clean add the bok choy and stir it a few times. It will reduce by two thirds quite quickly, much like spinach.

Add all of the other ingredients and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer until everything is cooked through. Serve.

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.

LOWER LAKE – Following an investigation, a Lower Lake man has been arrested and charged with several counts of lewd and lascivious acts against a child.

Steven Wayne Mitchell, 59, was taken into custody on Thursday morning, according to a report from Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

On May 2, Mitchell's family members contacted the sheriff’s office to report that he had committed multiple acts of sexual abuse against his 13-year-old niece, according to Bauman.

The acts allegedly had occurred at Mitchell’s home in Lower Lake over a three- to four-week period during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays of 2008, Bauman said.

Bauman reported that Mitchell had already been the subject of another open investigation into alleged sexual misconduct with an 11-year-old Spring Valley girl, which was reported to the sheriff’s office last October.

The victim in that case was the daughter of a one-time girlfriend who reportedly lived with Mitchell for a short time and works for him at his medical marijuana dispensary, “Steve’s Place,” on Lakeshore Drive in Clearlake. Bauman said the incidents alleged in that case occurred during the summer of 2008.

Having ensured the victims in both cases had been removed from Mitchell’s access since reporting the allegations, sheriff’s detectives completed enough followup investigation into both cases to secure a warrant of arrest for Mitchell and search warrants for both his home in Lower Lake and his business in Clearlake, said Bauman.

In addition to Items of evidence located at Mitchell's home and business, deputies seized two firearms and a large amount of ammunition.

Superior Court Judge Stephen Hedstrom signed the warrants on May 20 and on Thursday at about 7:40 a.m., Bauman said. Mitchell was located and arrested at the El Grande Hotel in Clearlake without incident.

He was booked at the Lake County Jail on a felony charge of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14, said Bauman.

Mitchell was released on a $250,000 bond Thursday afternoon. Bauman said Mitchell ultimately will face a total of five felony counts of the same charge as a result of both cases.

Bauman said Mitchell has a prior felony conviction for burglary and receiving stolen property so he will also face charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

At left, Rick William Robison's Mendocino County Jail booking photo, taken Wednesday, May 20, 2009. At right, a surveillance photo of the suspect from the Ukiah Bank of America robbery on March 24, 2009. Photos courtesy of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

LAKEPORT – A Lakeport man arrested as the suspect in a Wednesday bank robbery in Mendocino County may be connected to a series of bank robberies around the North Coast.

Rick William Robison, 55, was arrested by Mendocino County officials after he allegedly robbed the Savings Bank of Mendocino's Hopland branch.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office issued a statement Wednesday in which the agency said it was continuing to investigate Robison's connection to other incidents around the county.

Robison is a suspect in other bank robberies in Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma counties, according to statements to North Coast media on Thursday.

His booking sheet, released Thursday, shows that at 5 feet 9 inches and 170 pounds, with graying hair, he matches the physical description of the suspect in those cases.

Officials had reported on a series of bank robberies in the three-county area, including the robbery of the Windsor Bank of America on March 17, the Ukiah Bank of America on March 24, the US Bank on Jefferson Street in Napa on March 26 and the Chase Bank in Willits on March 31.

The suspect in those incidents handed a note across the counter to the bank teller; in the Napa County case, the demand note was written in crayon. He was spotted leaving the Napa robbery in a white four-door Cadillac sedan. No weapons were seen in the robberies and no one was hurt.

Surveillance photos of the suspect in those cases also shows a figure who looks like Robison.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been working with the Ukiah Police Department and the sheriff's office of Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa counties in investigating the case.

Robison was being held on $75,000 bail for charges of robbery and using fear as an element on Thursday.

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

Spinners members, from left, Jessie Peck, Charleton Washington, Bobbie Smith and Henry Fambrough. Photo by David Stearn.



Immediately after the Spinners exemplary show last Saturday May 16, photographer David Stearn and I sought out Spinners Road Manager Tunis Wilson and he led us back to the dressing room where the group held forth.

Original Spinners Bobbie Smith and Henry Fambaugh did most of the talking while the newer members just kinda sat around and soaked it up. Though they, too (Charleton Washington, Spike Delong and Jessie Peck), were very knowledgeable about the group’s history.

The late great Phillipe Soul Wynne, one of the most popular singers that ever sang with the Spinners, was the first subject of discussion. Wynne died in July of 1984 just a couple of months after another great balladeer, Mr. Marvin Gaye. I asked about Jonathan Edwards, who replaced Wynne, and was told that he has retired from performing due to health reasons.

The group formed in 1955 while attending Ferndale High near Detroit, Mich. They were originally called the Domingoes, but because of the similarity and confusion with two other vocal groups of the day, the Flamingos and the Dominos, they elected early on to become the Spinners, more specifically the Detroit Spinners, so as not to be confused with a folk group out of UK with the same name.

Around 1960, the group signed with Harvey Fuqua of Harvey & The Moonglows. Fuqua had a record label called Tri-Phi Records upon whose imprint their first hit, “That’s What Girls Are Made For,” was recorded in 1961.

Your CyberSoulMan had to make an honest confession to the group as I had always, in my mind, attributed that song to another Doo-Wop group, Shep & The Limelights. Bobbie Smith and Henry Fambaugh got a kick out of my faux pas.

Though “That’s What Girls Are Made For” was a big hit for Tri-Phi the label couldn’t keep afloat. Fuqua was married to Gwen Gordy, Berry Gordy’s sister, and Tri-Phi was subsequently swallowed by Motown in 1964.

Smith and Fambaugh both stated that while at Motown they recorded a fair amount of music, it was frequently shelved by Berry Gordy.

Gordy’s power extended to the radio stations the two original Spinners stated. When they asked the DJs why their records weren’t being played, they were told that Gordy told them to play Marvin Gaye.

The Spinners went more than five years without a significant hit. In 1970 Gordy finally released a Spinners cut entitled “It’s A Shame,” which was co-written by Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright. Smith and Fambaugh assert that even with Wonder’s awesome talent the song sat on the shelf for over a year before Gordy deemed it marketable.

In1972 after touring with Lady Soul Aretha Franklin and becoming increasing frustrated with Motown’s tactics, the Spinners jumped to Atlantic Records at Franklin’s prompting. When the Spinners signed with Atlantic, they lost one of their members, G. C. Cameron, who decided to remain with Motown as a solo artist. He was replaced by Phillipe Wynne.




From left, Charleton Washington, Bobbie Smith, Henry Fambrough and Spike Deleon. Photo by David Stearn.



Under the production helm of the renowned Thom Bell, the Spinners started to chart regularly and became one of the most successful Soul groups of the 70s.

The group is still immensely popular in Europe, particularly in England, where the audiophiles have discovered even unreleased material from the Tri-Phi years. Their whole recorded output is highly valued in England. Smith said that a UK-based writer told him that Berry Gordy was crazy for not releasing the bulk of Spinners material that he had control over.

The Spinners 2003 career retrospective release, “The Chrome Collection,” continues to sell and garner airplay both at home and abroad. In turn they continue to work all over the world as well, taking the Spinners Stimulus package to venues all over the globe.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool events:

Kool & The Gang perform at Cache Creek Casino on Sunday, May 24, at 8 p.m. Cache Creek is located at 14455 Highway 16 in Brooks, telephone 888-77-CACHE.

The Manhattan Transfer is appearing at Cache Creek on Saturday, May 30, at 8 p.m.

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

CLEARLAKE OAKS – A Clearlake Oaks man was arrested this week after threatening family members, including his elderly father-in-law.

John Glen Anderson, 46, was taken into custody by Lake County Sheriff's deputies on felony charges of making criminal threats and elder abuse, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Bauman reported that sheriff’s deputies responded to a home on Shoreview Drive in Clearlake Oaks for a family disturbance on Wednesday at about 7:30 p.m.

There deputies learned from 38-year-old Lisa Resents that her husband, Anderson, had been drinking and causing problems with her and her 72-year-old father, Kenneth Resents. Bauman said Anderson was warned about his behavior and the deputies left the home.

About two hours later, deputies were dispatched back to the Shoreview Drive home for reoccurring problems with Anderson, said Bauman.

This time, deputies learned Anderson had gone into Kenneth Resents' bedroom with a lit candle in his hand and threatened to “burn the house down” and “blow the place up,” according to Bauman's report.

Resents apparently was wearing a “nasal cannula” and being administered oxygen from a compressed tank at the time of the threat.

Deputies subsequently arrested Anderson, who was booked at the Lake County Jail with bail set at $10,000 bail. Jail records on Friday indicate that he has since posted bail and been released.

LAKEPORT – Opponents of a City Council move to ban safe and sane fireworks in the Lakeport are preparing to take their cause to the city's voters.

Next Tuesday, several hundred signatures will be submitted to City Clerk Janel Chapman in an effort to get an initiative before voters this fall.

The effort is being spearheaded by four local nonprofit groups that have been allowed by city ordinance to sell safe and sane – or state-approved – fireworks in the city for many years. They include the Miss Lake County Scholarships Organization, the Clear Lake High School Booster Club, Terrace School Parent Teacher Organization and the Lake County Channel Cats.

Citing concerns over fire danger, on April 21 the council turned down the applications of the four groups to set up booths and sell fireworks from July 1 through July 4, as Lake County News has reported.

The council vote wasn't unanimous – council members Jim Irwin and Suzanne Lyons fought what they said was an attack both on tradition and personal freedoms.

For the groups, losing a major source of annual revenue – as much as $15,000 per group per year – prompted them to ask the council on May 5 to rescind their April 21 actions and approve the applications, otherwise an initiative would move forward

But on May 5 the council gave initial approval to a proposed ordinance that would permanently ban safe and sane fireworks in the city, the last place locally where they're still allowed. A second reading and final approval are expected June 2, with the ordinance going into effect on July 3.

Dennis Revell of Revell Communications, who represents American Promotional Events, TNT Fireworks and the nonprofits, said the groups had two courses of action – do a referendum once the second vote is taken on the ordinance in June or pursue an initiative.

Revell said the groups didn't believe council members Roy Parmentier, Bob Rumfelt and Ron Bertsch would change their minds. A referendum would have required a legal process to order the council to approve the applications of the groups, which had met the requirements of the current fireworks ordinance, Revell said.

That was a costly option that wasn't guaranteed to work. So they chose instead to take the initiative route, Revell said.

Ultimately, Revell said, they decided it was best to put it out to the voters.

He said the groups previously had suggested the city improve its fireworks ordinance and include some very specific enforcement provisions for fines and additional restrictions on sales.

The language of the proposed initiative includes a 5-percent assessment fee on gross fireworks sales, which would be paid to the city by Aug. 15 of each year. That assessment is intended to cover increased police and fire protection, permit processing, sales booth inspections and cleanup.

City Attorney Steve Brookes confirmed that the groups submitted the initiative to him to prepare the ballot titlee and summary, and that the city is waiting for the Tuesday signatures submission.

In his 25 years with the city, Brookes said he doesn't remember another such initiative going to voters.

Revell said the public's response to the initiative has been “extremely strong.” They've gathered signatures both from people connected to the nonprofits as well as in front of local stores.

He said the groups have been collecting signatures since Saturday, and by the time they submit the initiative to Chapman on Tuesday they will have about 550 signatures – well in excess of the 15 percent of the city's 2,600 registered voters that could compel a special election.

Brookes anticipates that the initiative could go on the November general election ballot. However, even then, the city's new fireworks ban ordinance would already be in force, canceling out much of the time for sales opportunities this year. As well, the city hasn't granted the groups permits, so they'll likely be unable to sell fireworks either way.

The election code provides for and encourages initiative supporters to engage in good faith negotiations in order to come to an alternative result, said Revell.

Brookes said he's not received council direction to enter into good faith negotiations with the groups to find a middle ground.

That appears unlikely to happen. Revell said he contacted Parmentier and Bertsch on Wednesday, and both indicated they were not interested in the discussion. He said Rumfelt didn't return a message.

Bertsch, the city's mayor, confirmed to Lake County News that he spoke to Revell on Wednesday.

“I told him my decision didn't change,” Bertsch said.

He explained that his decision was based on the concerns of Lakeport Fire Protection District Chief Ken Wells, who had approached the council in April.

If the groups want to go to a special election, “then so be it,” said Bertsch, noting he doesn't plan to change his opinion because an outside company that stands to lose a large amount of money pressures him and the council.

Bertsch said if the community turns out to want safe and sane fireworks then he's OK with it, but he said many of the people who have contacted him indicate that they no longer want those fireworks to be legal.

He added that he doesn't believe the initiative will pass or that the council will change its mind.

According to an initiative qualification calendar, the council must act no later than Aug. 4 to place the measure on the Nov. 3 ballot, otherwise it will necessitate a special election on Dec. 3, the costs of which the city would need to absorb.

The Lake County Registrar of Voters Office couldn't give an exact figure on how much a special election might cost. However, the special mail-in ballot election the city held in April of 2005 to fill an open seat that resulted from the death of Councilman Dick Lamkin cost approximately $7,674.82, the agency reported.

Revell said when the groups submit the signatures for the initiative, “it sets the whole process in motion and there's no turning back.”

Once the signatures are filed with the clerk, “the ball's in the City Council's court,” Brookes said.

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

LAKE COUNTY – In remembrance of the men and women who served their country in the military, the Avenue of Flags will be flown at county cemeteries on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25.

An estimated 800 flags-which once decorated the caskets of veterans-will be flown at Hartley,
Kelseyville, Lower Lake and Upper Lake cemeteries on Memorial Day.

The Avenue of Flags flies twice a year – on Memorial Day and Veterans Day in November. Families of veterans donate the flags to the Ave of Flags Association for the display.

The flags will go up at 7 a.m. and be taken down at 4 p.m.

Community groups and volunteers assist with the avenue, and volunteers once again are invited
to take part.

For more information or to volunteer contact one of the following Avenue of Flags organizers: Frank Parker, 707-274-9512; Dean Gotham, 707-350-1159; or Joel Moore, 707-272-1136.

REDDING – State Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. has filed 79 criminal charges against three men who "callously swindled" thousands of individuals, including many retirees who lost their life savings, in a $200 million Ponzi scheme.

The defendants – James Stanley Koenig, 57, of Redding; Gary T. Armitage, 59, of Healdsburg; and Jeffery A. Guidi, 54, of Santa Rosa – were arrested late Thursday and are now in custody. Bail has been set at $5 million each.

"These three men callously swindled thousands of individuals out of $200 million to bankroll their extravagant lifestyles," Brown said. "They took investors money and used it to pay for an 80-acre castle estate, a Lear jet, luxury homes and fancy cars. The Ponzi scheme ultimately collapsed under its own weight, causing hardship to thousands, many of whom were retirees who lost their life savings."

The charges, filed in Shasta County Superior Court, mark the culmination of a year-long investigation, which found that Koenig, Armitage and Guidi created a network of more than 55 business ventures over a period of 10 years to enrich themselves and keep their Ponzi scheme afloat.

Brown's investigation revealed that in 1997, the three men began peddling construction and real estate projects across California. This included: "Quail Hollow," a residential subdivision in Susanville; Lake College, a for-profit vocational school in Redding; Mountain House Golf Course near Tracy; a light industrial distribution center in Brentwood; and dozens of other so-called "investment opportunities." Victims were promised that these were safe, secure, low risk investments with double digit returns, averaging 12 percent.

In recruiting their victims, Armitage organized "investment planning seminars," many of which targeted retirees, in the Bay Area and throughout California. Based on advice from these seminars, Californians invested sums ranging from $50,000 to more than $1 million. Some turned over their entire retirement portfolios and savings accounts.

Many of the construction and real estate projects, however, were poorly managed and were not financially viable, resulting in huge losses. Some projects were left unfinished or ended up in foreclosure.

Rather than inform investors about the failures, Koenig, Armitage and Guidi sought to attract new investors, whose funds could be used to offset losses and pay returns to earlier investors. In doing so, the defendants withheld vital information that impacted investment decisions, including past business failures and Koenig's 1986 federal fraud conviction.

With double-digit returns and no knowledge of the investment failures, most investors kept their money in place and many invested in new projects. This Ponzi scheme continued for more than 10 years.

Beginning in 2001, Koenig, Armitage and Guidi redirected investors' millions into the purchase of more than 20 senior housing and residential care facilities. This included: Alterra Clare Ridge in Fresno; Sterling House in Bakersfield; Clare Bridge Cottage in Bakersfield; Seasons in Modesto, Northridge, and Vacaville; Oakdale Heights West in Redding; Oakdale Heights in Bakersfield, Fresno, San Leandro, Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita, Roseville, Laguna Beach, and La Mesa; Senior Oaks Senior Living in Redding; and other facilities in Pennsylvania, Oregon, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Under this scheme, the defendants' company would purchase an assisted living facility and sell it to one of their affiliate companies. The affiliate would then sell ownership shares in the property as an "investment opportunity" at an even higher price to new investors. Meanwhile, an additional affiliated company would manage the property to maximize revenue.

Revenues, however, were not reinvested into the facilities, but were pooled and used to pay interest to investors and keep investors at bay.

In April 2007, the Ponzi scheme began to collapse under a mountain of debt, and the defendants were unable to pay interest to investors. Nevertheless, they continued to solicit new investors in the vain hope that they could keep the operation alive, raising $23 million from 91 new investors.

The defendant's businesses finally went closed their doors in June 2008.

During the course of its investigation, Brown's office identified more than 1,000 victims with losses totaling $200 million.

Over the 10 years, Koenig, Armitage and Guidi siphoned fees, revenues and profits from their business ventures for their personal benefit, using the funds to purchase an 80-acre castle estate, a Lear jet, luxury vehicles, lavish vacations and expensive wine and art.

On Thursday the defendants were charged with selling securities by means of false statements or material omissions in violation of Corporations Code Section 25401/25540 and residential burglary in violation of Section 459 of the Penal Code:

  • Koenig was charged with 40 counts of securities fraud and 37 counts of residential burglary.

  • Armitage was charged with 42 counts of securities fraud and 37 counts of residential burglary.

  • Guidi was charged with 39 counts of securities fraud and 33 counts of residential burglary.

If convicted on all counts, each could face more than 100 years in prison.

If you believe you have been a victim of this scheme, please contact the Attorney General's office at 1-800-952-5225.

California Highway Patrol and emergency responders look over the crash scene, located at 13th Avenue and Highway 20, on Thursday, May 21, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




LUCERNE – Two drivers were transported to regional hospitals Thursday after being involved in a head-on crash on Highway 20 in Lucerne, with one of the drivers arrested for driving under the influence.

Sue Ellen Sannes, 62, of Clearlake Oaks and Bryan Voyles, 39, of Herald were injured in the crash, which occurred near the intersection of 13th Avenue and Highway 20 just after 1 p.m.

The California Highway Patrol said Sannes was arrested for felony DUI – in this case, driving under the influence of prescription medication.

The CHP reported that Sannes, traveling westbound in a small 1986 Honda, failed to negotiate a slight curve and went into the eastbound lane, where she collided head-on with Voyles' 2003 Chevrolet minivan.

California Highway Patrol Sgt. Bill Holcomb said Sannes was driving in the highway's center turn lane before going into Voyles' lane. A witness claimed she had been in the center lane for about a quarter of a mile before her car crossed over into the eastbound lane.

Traffic for several blocks around the crash scene was reduced to one lane as Northshore Fire took care of the crash victims and CHP investigated the scene.

Sannes was trapped in her vehicle, with her ankles crushed under the engine firewall, and had to be extricated by Northshore Fire personnel. Holcomb said she suffered major injuries to her legs, including broken ankles.

Voyles suffered moderate injuries to his legs and complained of abdominal pain and was transported to medical care on precaution. Holcomb said that injury may have been caused by the seatbelt, as there were no intrusions in the inside of the vehicle.

A landing zone was set up for air ambulances at the end of 13th Avenue at Highway 20, a short way from where the crash occurred.

There, a REACH helicopter landed to transport Sannes to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital's trauma center. A short time later, a CalStar helicopter landed and took Voyles to UC Davis Medical Center.

Voyles' wife and four children – the children ranging in age from 4 to 13 – were transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital via Northshore Fire Protection District's ambulance due to complaints of pain, Holcomb said.

Due to her injuries, Sannes could not be booked into the Lake County Jail.

CHP Officer Brendan Bach is leading the crash investigation.

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



REACH air ambulance takes off to transport Sue Ellen Sannes of Clearlake Oaks to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital on Thursday, May 21, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




Northshore Fire personnel load Brian Boyles of Herald into a CalStar air ambulance on Thursday, May 21, 2009. Voyles was taken to UC Davis Medical Center. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

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