Tuesday, 23 July 2024


Diver Spenser Johnson is attached by rope to tender Ben Cox-Franklin, who signals the diver through a series of tugs on the tether rope to direct the diver. In the event of an emergency, the diver can signal the tender who will send in a back-up diver. Photo by Terre Logsdon.

BLUE LAKES – Accidents can occur at anytime or anywhere, and if it happens in the water, the Northshore Dive Team is ready. {sidebar id=103}

The all-volunteer dive team has been in operation since 2004, with Capt. John Rodriguez of the Northshore Fire Protection District serving as the team leader.

The team meets twice per month and at one of those meetings, they practice in the water, regardless of the weather, as they did on Sunday, Oct. 19, at The Narrows Lodge and Resort in Blue Lakes.


When the team is called out to search the body of water, they utilize a protocol devised by Team Lifeguard Systems.

The Team Lifeguard System requires a minimum of five participants, which include three divers and two tenders – with specific roles and duties for each participant.

A team must consist of one primary diver, one primary tender (who can serve as the incident commander), one fully-dressed back up diver, one back up tender (who can also serve as profiler) and one 90-percent-ready diver.

“Lifeguard Systems is in-depth training,” said diver Keith Hoyt with Northshore Fire. Hoyst said Lifeguard Systems has a higher level of safety and success with searching – 40 to 50 percent higher than the team's previous method.

Hoyt, who was serving as the 90-percent-ready diver in the exercise on Oct. 19, explained that there is more information for all team members to memorize with this method, but that information makes communication between the diver and the person on the other end of their tether – called a “tender” – more clear.




Dive Team Leader John Rodriguez checks equipment as it

Pictured from left to right: Officer Mike Humble, Diana Dittman, Linda Morton, Marilyn Wafford, Wendy Ferrell, Wayne Forrest, Barbara Sears, Mike Paselk, Deborah Bussear, Tommy Peralta, Cathrine Smith, Cathrine Noel-Repetski, Sally Lalonde and Deanna Jones. Photo courtesy of CHP Officer Adam Garcia.

LAKE COUNTY – On Monday the California Highway Patrol's Clear Lake Area Office congratulated and gave thanks to the school bus drivers of Lake County during School Bus Driver Appreciation Week, Oct. 20 through 24.

CHP Officer Adam Garcia said the following Lake County school bus drivers are part of a club of individuals with 100,000 or more safe miles behind the wheel: Cheryl Alvord-Smart, Glenn Courtney, Jennifer Campbell, Diana Dittman, Linda Morton, Marilyn Wafford, Wendy Ferrell, Wayne Forrest, Barbara Sears, Mike Paselk, Deborah Bussear, Tommy Peralta, Catherine Smith, Catharine Noel-Repetski, Sally Lalonde, Thomas Aragon and Deanna Jones.

“It is only fitting that we honor these drivers that get our children to school and back home each and every day safely,” Clear Lake CHP School Bus Safety Officer Mike Humble said. “Their hard work and dedication exemplifies true professionalism. “

The yellow school bus has been an essential part of public education as we know it. It is a part of the fabric of the American institution, and is an important part of the very foundation of how we educate our children.

In California there has been developed a system that has proven to be the safest form of transportation in the world. The state has the strictest regulations relating to the construction and use of the school bus and the education and training of drivers.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the US Department of Transportation and other authorities agree that school buses are the safest form of transportation for getting children to and from school. Riding in a school bus is much safer than using any other form of transportation – including personal vehicles, railroad and airline travel.

The Transportation Research Board, part of the National Academy of Sciences, reports that a child is 13 times safer in a school bus than in other modes of travel. Children driving to school or riding with other teenage drivers are 44 times more likely to be killed than in a school bus.

All school bus drivers must successfully complete 20 hours of classroom training and 20 hours of behind the wheel training. Then they must pass all testing requirements at the DMV and CHP to obtain a California special driving certificate.

In addition, state law requires each driver to hold a valid first aid certificate from the American Red Cross, pass a drug test, physical examination and obtain background clearance from the California Department of Justice.

All school bus drivers must also continue their training by completing 10 hours of instruction each year.


LAKE COUNTY – At a time when many families are finding themselves challenged financially and needing help, local residents can offer some assistance by donating canned food on the annual “Make A Difference Day,” which takes place this Saturday, Oct. 25.

AmeriCorps members will collect canned and nonperishable food from people in front of local grocery stores from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Stores where collections will take place include Hardester's Markets in Middletown, Cobb and Hidden Valley Lake; Red and White Market in Clearlake Oaks; Riviera Foods in the Clear Lake Riviera; Sentry Market in Nice; Grocery Outlet, the Willow Tree Shopping Center and Bruno's Shop Smart in Lakeport; and John's Market in Kelseyville.

Lake County Hunger Task Force members will then pick up the food and take it to senior centers, food banks and food pantries, said task force member Lorrie Gray.

The food donations will be made available to local families at the Lake County Community Action Agency, Lakeport Food Cupboard, Lake County senior centers, Gleaners and the Middletown-based Catholic Charities.

The effort is made possible through a partnership between Lake County Hunger Task Force, Catholic Charities and Lake County AmeriCorps.


Yvonne Cox at home with her longtime partner, builder Gary Stevenson. Photo by Lenny Matthews.

LUCERNE – A private effort to feed the hungry and give youngsters a gathering place in Lucerne is foundering for lack of funds.

"I may have to do a photo layout for Hustler magazine to keep it going," joked 40-something Yvonne Cox, who runs a teen center and free weekly dinner with a lot of help from her friends, but none from any agencies or organizations.

Cox, better known as Snake Lady, a belly dancer and tattoo artist, has been offering weekly free meals for about two years, first at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center, and currently at Kapitan's Kafé, a donated space. Except for occasional donations, she foots the bills for groceries. Dinner is sometimes a full meal with entrée and dessert, and sometimes a hearty soup.

Her youth center is in a building donated by Dr. Bob Gardner, who has told her he needs some rent money soon.


Gardner owns several Lucerne properties and said he's recently had some interest from potential tenants.

Gardner said this last week, "If there's any help on the horizon I would like to work with her, and I hope the community will pull together. She operates from the heart and doesn't just talk about things that actually does them. I'd love to see her get some help, but I can't carry it much longer. Our original agreement was she had the space free for three months, which ended last April."

Not everyone is a Snake Lady fan. Some criticize her friendship with Eddy Lepp, the Upper Lake marijuana grower who has just been convicted on federal drug charges. Some disapprove of her clothes, often bare midriff, or her stable of motorcycles, or sales of pipes and other marijuana paraphernalia at her former imports and gift shop.

Cox said she met with a representative of the sheriff's office in June of 2007 when Lucerne residents were worried about a rash of graffiti on buildings, hoping for some help from that department in organizing youth activities.

The sheriff's department does have youth activities, but none specifically targeted to Lucerne, according to public information officer Capt. James Bauman.

Those are the Explorer program sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America and the Sheriff's Activity League's Junior Giants program, an offshoot of the San Francisco Giants, Bauman said.

Cox's youth program includes after-school activities, Saturday movies (G or PG-rated) and occasional dances, all at the corner of 15th Avenue and Highway 20, across the street from Gardner's medical clinic.

The free dinners – which she said have provided 13,000 meals in the two years since they started – were first held at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center, where Cox raised $500 for the center with a poker run motorcycle event, and missed becoming a board member by one vote. She and sources close to the center, who asked not to be identified, agreed there were a variety of reasons she moved from there last fall. There were disagreements over food borrowed by the center's kitchen staff, and over how to deal with unwelcome observers of her weekly belly dance classes.

She first moved the dinners to Harbor Park; the timing was unfortunate, just before the winter rainy season started. She requested and got use of Kapitan's Kafé restaurant, 6150 E. Highway 20, from owners Jose Plata and his wife Ramona Gomez. They close at 3 p.m., and Cox and her helpers move in soon after for the 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday dinners.

Regular volunteer workers at the dinners are James MacDonald (Mac) and Lillian Sherry, both formerly associated with the senior center, he as head cook and she as a board member.

Another key volunteer is Christina Anderson, who works in Robinson Rancheria tribal administration and whose 11-year-old son is a regular at the youth center. In her spare time she is working on getting nonprofit status for the youth center, and then seeking grants to keep it operating. She said she expects the nonprofit application to be approved in January.

Meanwhile, insurance is under the nonprofit umbrella of Sunrise Services. Anderson can be reached at the tribal office, 275-0527.

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


LAKEPORT – Citing its frustration at not reaching a contract with Sutter Health, SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW) has called for an informational picket to be held next week at Sutter Lakeside Hospital.

The picket, scheduled on Wednesday, Oct. 29, will be held in Lakeport and at Sutter Medical Center in Santa Rosa.

On the same day, UHW plans a strike at Alliance Clinic in Healdsburg and 10 hospitals, five belonging to Daughters of Charity and five Sutter Health facilities – three Alta Bates Summit campuses, Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo and Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch. California Nurses Association members will strike in solidarity with UHW at those hospitals.

"We were surprised to receive notice of SEIU's informational picket and believe that the picket has nothing to do with issues we are discussing locally," said Sutter Lakeside Hospital spokesman Mitch Proaps. "We have been bargaining in good faith with SEIU and will continue to do so."

UHW is alleging "unfair labor practices and bad-faith negotiation by hospital management" as the reason for the strike, which was called less than a week after the union negotiated what representatives called a "landmark" master agreement with Catholic Healthcare West.

Sutter hospitals have been in contract negotiations with UHW and its 3,300 caregivers since May, the union reported. Since Sept. 30, those workers have been without a contract.

The management of Sutter Health – the largest hospital corporation in Northern California – has "refused to accept any proposal workers have offered to improve patient care, and instead proposed dramatic cuts that would make it harder to recruit and retain experienced staff," according to a union statement.

Proaps said UHW presented its final group of proposals to Sutter Lakeside in early October. "We are in the process of developing a comprehensive response to those proposals and have a bargaining session scheduled in early November."

He added, "We are proud of what we offer our employees – we provide excellent working conditions, wages, and benefits and strive to be an employer of choice in Lake County."

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


Darian Munson was arrested Monday evening in Clearlake for an Aug. 26 homicide in Bay Point, California. Photo courtesy of Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office.



CLEARLAKE – A local man has been arrested in connection with a Bay Area homicide.

Contra Costa County Sheriff's deputies and Clearlake Police on Monday night arrested Darian Nikia Munson, 31, of Clearlake.

Munson was being sought in connection with the fatal stabbing of 25-year-old Derrell Wood, said Jimmy Lee, spokesman for the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office.

The stabbing occurred shortly before 11:30 p.m. in Bay Point on Aug. 26, said Lee.

"What we understand is that there were a number of people gathered for an event after a funeral," said Lee.

Most of those gathered were friends and family; Lee said Wood and Munson don't appear to have been related but they knew each other.

At some point a confrontation occurred and it's alleged that Munson fatally stabbed Wood. Lee would not divulge the precise details of the crime, including how many times Wood was stabbed.

Lee said a $1 million arrest warrant was issued for Munson, who was considered armed and dangerous. Contra Costa County Sheriff's deputies searched the county for Munson but were unable to locate him.

Officials had initially though Munson was in the Pittsburg or Richmond areas, according to a press statement Lee issued on Oct. 17.

"The detectives continued to work the case and developed some information that he was in Lake County," said Lee.

Lt. Mike Hermann of the Clearlake Police Department said his department worked with Contra Costa deputies to search for Munson, beginning at his parents' Clearlake home.

After not finding him there, they moved on to check some other locations, eventually locating Munson at the Sunset Lodge on Lakeshore Drive at around 6 p.m. Munson was taken into custody without incident, Hermann said.

Hermann added that he knows of no previous contacts between Clearlake Police and Munson.

Munson, whose booking sheet lists him as a laborer, remained in the Lake County Jail on the $1 million warrant on Tuesday, according to jail records.

"We'll be looking to get him back here as soon as we can," said Lee.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said Munson was scheduled to be transported to Contra Costa County on Wednesday.

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







Who eats parsnips? I see them in the grocery store all the time yet I never see anyone buying them.

Parsnips are very popular in England, where they even have gardening contests to compete for the longest parsnip root. Eating parsnips with Christmas dinner is considered essential in many households in Northern Europe. But what are they doing in Lake County grocery stores?

Any historical information about the parsnip must be thought upon as iffy at best. Since the first appearance in texts of ancient Rome and Greece the parsnip as a food was lumped into that same group as the carrot. Back then carrots weren’t orange but white, red or purple, and so the similar-looking parsnip was considered to be in the same category.

The “root” of parsnips history (pun intended) is clouded at best. The word for carrots and parsnips in Latin was pastinaca, which eventually became the French word for parsnip, panais. Since it was a root vegetable like the turnip, the English added “nip,” resulting in the modern name.

Parsnips originally came from the Mediterranean region, but as the Romans expanded north they took the parsnip with them. The Romans noticed that the parsnip grew larger the further north it was planted and that it becomes sweeter if harvested after a good frost. Many plants, especially root crops, become sweeter after frost because it triggers the plant to store sugars for the cold spell and prepare to survive the winter by sacrificing the top leafy growth which then allows the plant to strengthen the root. Since the parsnip adapted so much better to the European climate than the Mediterranean, many people think of the parsnip as a European native.

In medieval Europe most kinds of sweeteners were a luxury, so the sweetness of parsnips was considered very appealing to most people and the parsnip became a staple on most tables. As sweeteners became more readily available and the potato was introduced to the European table the parsnip’s popularity slowly declined.

Early colonists planted parsnips in North America and over the years some escaped and became wild parsnips. While they are mildly edible they look remarkably like wild hemlock, which Socrates will tell you is not the greatest thing to eat if you have any interest in your heart beating tomorrow. So unless you are an experienced forager, leave the wild parsnips in the wild because you may inadvertently grab a handful of poisonous hemlock.

Someone in the world obviously loves parsnips because their seeds don’t have a very long shelf life. While many types of seeds will survive storage for many years, parsnip seeds are typically viable for only a year, two years at maximum. Therefore, saving parsnip seeds to replenish the planet with nutritious produce after the Apocalypse isn’t recommended. If you wish to grow parsnips in Lake County you should probably do it in a wine barrel full of potting soil. They like loose sandy, loamy, soil, and our native soil of clay mixed with lava rocks and obsidian isn’t particularly parsnip-friendly.

Parsnips taste better if they are under a pound in weight because smaller or younger generally mean sweeter. This is true of many foods, such as parsnips, lobsters, veal, most fishes, Hansel and Gretel, etc. As parsnips get larger they will develop a woody core that is about as much fun to eat as the core of a pineapple. Luckily as the core gets woody it also becomes easier to remove from the rest of the root.

If you want to attempt to grow the world’s record parsnip, you should be aware that those Brits like to play with their beloved parsnips in this field and currently hold both records. You need to top either (yes, there are actually two different ways of doing it) length at 17 feet 1 inch, or weight at 12 pounds, 9 ounces. The record for length isn’t quite as impressive as it sounds, so don’t waste your time trying to imagine the 17-foot record parsnip as a huge Paul Bunyan-sized vegetable that can feed a whole town. The record breaking parsnip looks more like a foot long carrot with the tip ending in a string that continues on another 16 feet.

For your own personal use (not for contests), choose parsnips similarly to how you would choose carrots. They should be firm, evenly creamy white to tan-colored, with no bruising or soft spots.

Parsnips are versatile enough to be used in hundreds of ways: raw, in salads and soups, as appetizers or as a side dish, etc. One of its most common uses is mashed like potatoes or even blended with mashed potatoes. They are low in calories; one whole parsnip is about 130 calories TOTAL. They are high in calcium, fiber, folic acid, iron, potassium, B vitamins (1,2,3,), vitamin C and zinc.

I love parsnips and look forward to them every autumn but I have a hard time imagining that the grocery store carries them all year just for my seasonal jaunt. So the question is ...Who is buying all of these parsnips?

The recipe I’ve included today was originally made with parsnips, rutabagas and winter squash, but not being used to those vegetables the recipe wasn’t well liked in my home. However when changed to parsnips, potatoes, onions and garlic the same recipe was enjoyed much more. So keep in mind that you might not want to put too many new/unique ingredients into one recipe.

The great thing about these root vegetables and autumn/winter squashes is that there is such a variety that you can mix and match this recipe to your own taste. I prefer to cube the ingredients a little smaller than average (about a quarter-inch dice) so that every forkful will have a varied combination of ingredients, not to mention that they cook faster when smaller.

Roasted Autumn Vegetables

2 parsnips diced (remove core if necessary), about two cups

1 baking potato diced, about two cups

1 winter squash (delicata, golden nugget or whatever your favorite is) diced, about two cups

1 onion quartered (leave the root intact to hold each of the four quarters together)

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup orange juice

3 tablespoons whiskey or bourbon

2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Mix the melted butter and olive oil together and in a large bowl. Put the diced parsnips, potatoes, squash, and onion into the butter/oil mixture and toss together until well coated. Spread evenly in a single layer on a cookie sheet and put into the oven.

Meanwhile, mix the orange juice and whiskey in a small sauce pan on high heat and bring to a boil. When the mixture starts to boil reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for a minute or two so it reduces slightly and the heavy alcoholic smell burns off. Turn off the heat and add the butter and gently shake the pot until thoroughly combined.

Check the vegetables in the oven and shake the pan every fifteen minutes until done (about 35 to 45 minutes). When the vegetables are done (some carmelization and browning is desired, pieces should be tender) put in a serving bowl and pour the orange sauce over them. Lightly toss and 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.


THE GEYSERS – A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred early Thursday just a few miles from The Geysers.

The US Geological Survey reported that the temblor occurred at 4:17 a.m. two miles east of The Geysers, four miles southwest of Cobb and four miles west northwest of Anderson Springs.

The quake was recorded at a depth of 1.1 miles, the US Geological Survey reported.

Eleven other earthquakes were reported at The Geysers, Cobb and Anderson Springs during the rest of the day, ranging in magnitude from 1.2 to 2.6.

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



SOUTH LAKE COUNTY – On Tuesday afternoon officials shut down a portion of Highway 29 over Mount St. Helena for several hours due to a bus fire that in turn caused a small grass fire.

The California Highway Patrol reported that Caltrans closed Highway 29 at Tubbs Lane in Napa County and also on the Lake County side of Mount St. Helena due to the fire involving a tour bus, which first was reported at approximately 12:48 p.m.

Power lines also were reported to be down in the area, requiring the assistance of Pacific Gas and Electric to cut power to the lines before they caught fire.

Michael Selmi of Cal Fire's Incident Command Center in St. Helena said the tour bus caught nearby grass on fire, burning one and a half to two acres on each side of the highway. He said firefighters have contained the blaze.

No one on the bus was injured, Selmi reported.

Selmi said the highway was expected to be closed until about 5:30 p.m.

Cal Fire remained at work for several hours mopping up the fire area, he said. “We'll be on scene there for a while.”

Selmi said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

CHP reported that one-way traffic control was instituted at around 6:30 p.m., and the roadway was clear and fully reopened about an hour later.

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


LAKEPORT – A judge on Friday dismissed a libel suit filed by a local doctor against the Lake County Record-Bee though he faulted the newspaper for its “irresponsible” use of language.

In the course of the hearing the newspaper's attorney argued that the law allows the press “literary license” in covering the news.

In May local neurologist Dr. Camille Keene filed suit against the paper, its parent company MediaNews Group of Denver, Publisher Gary Dickson, Managing Editor Rick Kennedy and former reporter Elizabeth Wilson in response to a story published April 15 about local radio personality Eric Patrick.

In the story, Wilson reported that Keene had diagnosed Patrick with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – more commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease – before further testing concluded that he instead had another disease called Dystonia.

Keene sued after the newspaper refused to retract or correct the article and remove the word “misdiagnose.”

The 40-minute hearing on Friday was to determine whether or not to dismiss the case under an Anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) motion, which the newspaper's San Francisco attorney, Rachel Matteo-Boehm, filed.

An anti-SLAPP motion requires a plaintiff to prove, in brief, that they have been injured and can win the case if it goes forward, as Lake County News has reported.

Appearing in court Friday were Dickson and Kennedy, along with Matteo-Boehm. Wilson, who has since taken a job in Southern California, did not appear, nor did Keene.

In court documents, managing editor Kennedy claimed to have had nothing to do with the article's creation or editing, and stated that he only discovered the newspaper was being sued after he overhead a conversation about it while standing in the line at the local Burger King. Dickson had only recently succeeded Publisher Gregg McConnell when the article was published.

Keene's attorney, John Borba of Santa Rosa, argued that the use of the words “misdiagnosis” and “misdiagnose” in the article and the headline was a “gross mistake” that led to damage to Keene's reputation in the Lake County community.

“At no time did she ever give a diagnosis or a preliminary diagnosis,” said Borba.

Keene was not quoted directly in the article, nor was she contacted for it, said Borba. However, Patrick stated in the article that Keene had said to him at one point that his condition “looks like” ALS.

Visiting Judge J. Michael Byrne agreed that there was a “conflict of facts” surrounding that statement.

“This article could have been written in a professional manner,” said Borba. Rather, it was written in such a way that made Keene appear incompetent. “That's what the layperson would conclude.”

He said they could have called Keene to ask if she had ever rendered a statement such as the one attributed to her. Borba said Keene is a good doctor who was recruited to this area by Sutter Lakeside Hospital.

Borba also questioned the newspaper's use of medical documents to defend itself when Keene wasn't allowed to do so.

“They've already tried this woman,” he said of Keene. When typing her name into Google, Borba said the article and the term “misdiagnosis” comes up.

“It has affected her business,” he said. “Her business has declined. It's not something she should have to go through.”

Borba argued that a person's reputation is just as important as freedom of the press.

The article, he added, “violated every notion of decency.”

In her arguments, Matteo-Boehm said Keene had failed to prove her case under the anti-SLAPP statute. She argued the case also failed from another perspective; while it was styled as a defamation case, Matteo-Boehm said it appeared more like a matter of trade libel because Keene was claiming damage to her practice.

The law distinguishes between defamation and trade libel, and the requirements to meet a trade libel case are more stringent, Matteo-Boehm said.

That, Matteo-Boehm argued, meant that Keene needed to make a “prima facie” showing – one that is sufficient to raise a presumption of fact, according to legal definitions – that there was actual malice involved in the article's creation, “and there's none of that here.”

In order to survive an anti-SLAPP motion to strike a libel case, the plaintiff must prove reckless disregard and knowledge of untruth, said Matteo-Boehm.

“We looked very hard at the article,” she said. “It's our belief it just doesn't convey a defamatory meaning.”

An important paragraph in the story – in which a University of San Francisco doctor is quoted as saying he would have thought Patrick had ALS if the tests hadn't come out the way they did – was omitted from the version of the story submitted to the court by Keene, she added. A comparison of the original story and a copy of the story included in Keene's original complaint, which was filed with a different law firm, confirms that paragraph was omitted.

Byrne said that, for him, the word “misdiagnosis” was incorrectly used in the story.

From his reading of the situation, Byrne said Keene didn't offer a diagnosis, but a “preliminary evaluation.”

“She's done the right thing, she's following up the right way,” he said of Keene sending Patrick for further evaluation with a specialist. “That's not a misdiagnosis.”

Byrne added that the word “misdiagnosis” should not have been used. “I think that's a substantially false statement.”

Matteo-Boehm said the article lacked a defamatory meaning. “We do believe that the article is either protected opinion or substantially true.”

If it's substantially true, it's not actionable, she added.

Keene hadn't met the burden of proof to show what she did or didn't do in comparison with the article's version of events, said Matteo-Boehm.

It was Patrick's conclusion, based on what Keene told him, that he had been misdiagnosed, Matteo-Boehm said.

The judge maintained his difficulty with the language used. “I don't think 'misdiagnosis' is the reverse of diagnosis,'” he said.

Matteo-Boehm suggested that another reason to treat the article as opinion is that people can disagree about what a misdiagnosis is.

She argued that the law recognizes the right of the press to exercise “tremendous literary license.”

Previous articles the newspaper ran about Patrick's case, which stated he had been diagnosed with ALS, were not cited as a problem by Keene, Matteo-Boehm added. She again suggested it was a trade libel case, and added Keene hadn't pleaded or proved malice on the part of the newspaper.

Byrne said he saw “irresponsible use of the world 'misdiagnosis'” in the article, but agreed that he didn't see signs of malice. He added that he was sure it has had dramatic effects on the doctor and her position in the community.

Borba said actual malice can't be determined by the article alone, although the work was clearly irresponsible. But he stated he believed he could prove malice if he was allowed to conduct discovery in the case, and able to depose both Wilson and Patrick. At that point, he said, he would amend his complaint to plead malice.

He maintained it was not a case of trade libel, but a matter of a person's reputation.

Byrne asked him if, by the same token, it's similarly damaging for a person to give a restaurant a bad review. Borba said it's different, because most restaurant owners don't go to school for 10 years for their profession.

“I'm from Napa County, they do down there,” Byrne quipped.

Borba said the reporter and editor extrapolated in publishing the story with the word “misdiagnosis” in it. “There was a serious error in judgment made by the Record-Bee on this article.” He added that the paper had given “a very poor welcome” to Keene, who was brought here to practice medicine.

Matteo-Boehm said the anti-SLAPP statute addresses the discovery Borba asked for, and allows for it. But Borba was obligated to complete discovery before the Friday hearing.

“The time for that has passed,” said Matteo-Boehm.

Borba said all of the county's judges had recused themselves from the case, which made pursuing discovery difficult.

Byrne credited both attorneys with doing a good job in their arguments.

“I had a lot of trouble with the word 'misdiagnose,'” he said. “From a moral perspective, it should not have been in the article.”

He said it was important to balance Keene's considerations with freedom of the press.

Byrne concluded that the article, though flawed, had demonstrated that what was said in it was substantially true overall, and that no defamation had been established. Nor were malice or trade libel established, he added.

He ended by granting the newspaper's motion to dismiss.

Matteo-Boehm said a statement of decision is required under the anti-SLAPP and she offered to prepare one. Byrne directed her to create a tentative statement of decision.

While the Record-Bee survived this suit, it's not out of the woods yet.

Next month, the paper must appear in small claims court to defend itself against a second defamation lawsuit filed by former Clear Lake Riviera Community Association board members Sid Donnell, Sandra Orchid and Alan Siegel.

The three allege that the paper's publication of a guest commentary and numerous letters about the association and their leadership – without any fact-checking – resulted in damage to their reputations. At the same time, the paper did not publish an opinion piece Donnell submitted to defend he and his fellow board members.

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


LAKE COUNTY – Earlier this month a task force netted 24 arrests as part of a round of compliance checks on people convicted of sex crimes and other violent offenses.

On Oct. 15 and 16, members of the Region II Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Task Force conducted a two-day enforcement operation in Lake County, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

The focus of the operation was to conduct probation or parole searches and compliance checks on registered sex offenders and other felons convicted of domestic violence, child abuse, and drug related offenses, Bauman reported.

The task force consisted of six teams of five officers each from 13 different law enforcement agencies.

The two-day operation covered communities across the county and the check of approximately 110 locations resulted in a total of 21 felony arrests, three misdemeanor arrests and five new cases requiring further investigation.

The 24 arrests were based on charges relating mostly to parole or probation violations, possession of narcotics or illegal weapons, being under the influence of narcotics or alcohol, and outstanding warrants.

In some cases, the arrests for violations of probation or parole entailed illegal contact with minors, possession of pornography, possession of computers with internet access, and possession of alcohol or drugs.

Sheriff's Det. Mike Curran, the designated SAFE Task Force Agent for Lake County, said the operation was the most successful multi-agency effort he has coordinated in the 18 months the grant has existed in Lake County.

Bauman reported that the agencies participating in the two-day operation included the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Lake County District Attorney’s Office, Lakeport Police Department, Lake County Probation Department, Lake County Narcotics Task Force, California Highway Patrol; Clear Lake Area State Parks, Lake County Animal Care and Control, State Parole, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department, Napa County Sheriff’s Department, Marin County Sheriff’s Department and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department.

The SAFE Task Force is funded by a grant provided by the Law Enforcement Branch of the California Office of Emergency Services and administered through the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department.

SAFE Task Force operations are conducted periodically in Lake and other counties within Region II to enforce the compliance of sex registrants and other convicted felons on parole or probation.


LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's unemployment rate hit 10 percent for September, the highest rate for that month in a dozen years.

However, Dennis Mullins of the Employment Development Department's Labor Market Information Division's North Coast Region said that, looking at the county's employment trends, he believes rates should start to drop soon.

September's 10-percent rate was up 0.2 percent from August's 9.8 percent, noted Mullins, and 2.4 percent above the September 2007 rate of 7.6 percent.

At 10.0 percent, Lake ranked 49th among the state’s 58 counties, said Mullins.

Neighboring county rates included 8.8 percent for Colusa, 6.4 percent for Mendocino, 9.4 percent for Glenn, 6.9 percent for Yolo, 5.2 percent for Napa and 5.8 percent for Sonoma, according to Employment Development Department statistics.

Marin had the lowest rate in the State at 4.7 percent and Imperial County had the highest with 24.5 percent, Mullins said.

The comparable California and U.S. rates were 7.5 and 6.0 percent, respectively, he added.

The highest unemployment rate recorded in Lake County so far this year was 10.5 percent, which it reached in January, as Lake County News has reported. March and July both recorded 10.2-percent unemployment rates.

Mullins reported that year-over job growth in Lake County was led by trade, transportation and utilities, which added 80 jobs; followed by private educational and health services, 70 jobs; and government, 30 jobs.

At the same time, year-over job losses occurred in leisure and hospitality, which led decliners by dropping 90 jobs, followed by natural resources, mining and construction, declining 40, other services which lost 20, and 10 lost jobs each for information and financial activities, he said.

The farm, manufacturing, and professional and business services had no change over the past year, Mullins noted.

From August to September, statistics show that the county lost a total of 560 jobs in all industries, with 530 coming in the farming sector alone; that period coincided with the end of the local pear season. Other sectors such as retail; trade, transportation and utilities; and transportation, warehousing and utilities lost jobs during that time, Mullins reported.

One big jump was in local and state government jobs, with 200 of those added from August to September, statistics show.

Mullins said that rural counties this year appeared to have eclipsed the higher unemployment rates they suffered in late 2001 after the country was hit by an economic downturn.

In 2001, Lake County's average unemployment rate was 7.1 percent, which rose to 8.3 percent in 2002 and 9.2 percent in 2003, according to Employment Development Department numbers.

By 2004, the numbers started to drop as part of a natural cycle, Mullins said.

And, indeed, the 2004 average rate dropped to 9.1 percent, lower than the previous year despite recording an 11.3-percent unemployment rate in January of that year, a rate which it hadn't seen since 1998.

The average unemployment numbers show that 2005 and 2006 also were better, at 8 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively.

Then, in 2007, the numbers began to climb again, rising to 8.5 percent. If this year's numbers continue on their current trend, the 2008 average is likely to be higher.

But Mullins said it's important to balance the tough economic news with an understanding of the trend.

Looking back further, Mullins said the county went through a cycle of dropping employment and a sagging economy in the early 1990s, and it took about five years to move through that trend.

“We're in a similar type of cycle,” he said, adding that Lake County is only about a year into that trend.

While Lake County's unemployment rate is high, Mullins said it appears to be peaking, which means it should begin to decline over the next five years as part of another recovery cycle.

The very seasonal nature of Lake County's economy – with agriculture and tourism important factors – makes for more notable employment trends, with spring usually showing better employment rates, he said.

Mullins also pointed out that Lake County actually gained 10 jobs in September 2008 over the same month last year, reaching 15,320 private industry jobs. At the same time, Mendocino County's much larger employment pool lost 530 jobs, falling from 33,270 to 32,740, with manufacturing hardest hit. That same sector in Lake County was unchanged.

Adding jobs as Lake County did, Mullins added, is out of the ordinary for the state right now.

Also notable is that Lake County's civilian labor force grew by 820 over the past year, said Mullins, while Mendocino's only grew 290.

“Comparing Lake to Mendocino kind of gives you some perspective,” he said.

Across the state, the housing and financial sectors have been hardest hit when it comes to job loss, said Mullins.

He said that when the housing bubble burst in the last few years, the impact on housing and construction reverberated through the rest of the economy as jobs were lost and sales slowed.

Mullins added that California's counties are following state and national economic and employment trends.

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


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