Sunday, 21 July 2024


Congressman Mike Thompson's name is being put forth by his colleagues in the search for an interior secretary. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY – Could Lake County's congressman become the next secretary of the interior?

Congressman Mike Thompson was reelected to his First Congressional District seat earlier this month by an overwhelming majority. He's due to begin serving his sixth term in January.

However, the 57-year-old Thompson (D-St. Helena) could be moving on up from his Cannon Office Building address in Washington, DC, to a cabinet position if a proposal made this week is considered by President-elect Barack Obama.

Some of Thompson's colleagues in the California Congressional Delegation, including Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez), sent a letter to Obama's transition team asking that Thompson be considered for the Secretary of the Interior post in the new president's cabinet.

“Mike Thompson is immensely qualified to be Interior Secretary,” Miller said in a prepared statement. “He has a strong base of support in the conservation, environmental and outdoors community. He is knowledgeable about the issues. And he is a person of great integrity and commitment to public service.”

A coalition of conservation and wildlife groups, including Ducks Unlimited, also have reportedly contacted Obama's team to push for Thompson's appointment, according to the Associated Press.

In a statement issued by his office, Thompson said, “It’s an honor to be recognized by the many groups I’ve worked with over the years, but no one associated with President-elect Obama has contacted me.”

According to a Friday Washington Post article, there's already another contender for the interior secretary post – Congressman Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), son of a migrant worker and chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, who has an established record on environmental issues.

Thompson, who owns a vineyard in Finley and is an outdoorsman, has a record on conservation issues and protection of endangered species.

His supporters believe that an interview Obama gave Field and Stream magazine, which was published in September, bodes well for a Thompson nomination. In the interview, Obama stated, “I think that having a head of the Department of Interior who doesn't understand hunting and fishing would be a problem. And so my suspicion is that whoever heads up the Department of Interior is probably going to be a sportsman or sportswoman.”

One of Thompson's most notable conservation achievements was the passage of the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act, which President Bush signed into law in October 2006.

The legislation gave wilderness status to 275,830 acres in the First Congressional District – with 51,671 acres in Lake County, around the Cache Creek and Snow Mountain areas.

Victoria Brandon, chair of the Sierra Club Lake Group, worked with Thompson on the wilderness legislation.

Responding to Thompson's name being put forward for the cabinet posted, Brandon said Friday, “As far as I know the Sierra Club has not taken a position on this possible appointment, and I personally am of two minds: Thompson would undoubtedly be a superb Secretary of the Interior, but the thought of losing him as our Congressman is dismaying to say the least.”

On species protection issues, Thompson has been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, particularly its handling of the Klamath River fish die-off, which claimed an estimated 80,000 salmon.

Thompson and 35 fellow members of Congress from California and Oregon submitted to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., a request in June of 2007 for an investigation into Vice President Dick Cheney's involvement in policy decisions that resulted in the 2002 fish kill.

He also successfully worked to get legislation passed to assist the struggling salmon industry with more than $60 million in emergency funding in the summer 2007.

The following month, Thompson and Miller were part of a special congressional panel that convened in Vallejo to look at the issues facing the Bay-Delta.

During the half day of testimony, Thompson questioned a Department of the Interior official at length regarding an administration official's possible interference in policy decisions regarding the delta smelt.

The official, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Operations Manager for the California/Nevada Office Steve Thompson, said he couldn't answer Thompson’s question regarding political influence because the Department’s Inspector General was investigating the potential manipulation of scientific evidence from the Bay-Delta.

Steve Thompson did say during questioning by the congressman that the investigation involved the former deputy assistant secretary, Julie MacDonald, who had resigned under pressure from another investigation that May.

Congressman Thompson also opposed the Bush administration's July proposal to drill along the Outer Continental Shelf, saying it wouldn't increase the oil supply for years and was potentially disastrous for the ecosystem.

“Our district’s coast is rich in marine resources that have tremendous value to our local economy. An oil spill would be devastating to the coastal economy and its unique ecosystem,” he said at the time.

Another factor working in Thompson's favor for cabinet consideration is that he and Obama have a track record of working together on issues important to them, and have been of similar mind about their opposition to the handling of the Iraq War.

In January of 2007, Obama and Thompson introduced legislation in the Senate and House, respectively, to get the US out of Iraq. The Iraq War De-Escalation Act set deadlines for redeploying US troops. The legislation did not pass.

Thompson also told Lake County News during an interview last month that he and Obama had a phone conversation on the issue of the financial bailout before a second and final vote was taken to pass the legislation.

Initially, when Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton were running for president, Thompson said either would make a great leader for the country. He formally endorsed Clinton but later embraced Obama after he won the nomination and pledged his support.

Brandon's concern about losing Thompson in Congress broaches an important point – if he were to resign his seat for the cabinet, how would his seat be filled?

The US Constitution requires that, if a seat in Congress becomes vacant resignation, death or refusal to serve, a special election must be held. In the case of the Senate, state legislatures may provide for a state governor making a temporary appointment until a special election is scheduled.

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The stolen truck was discovered on Socrates Mine Road on Nov. 10, 2008. Courtesy of the California Highway Patrol.


MIDDLETOWN – Two Middletown men have been arrested in connection with a stolen vehicle case, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Raymond Marrujo and Jason Hagan, both aged 34, were arrested Wednesday, according to a Thursday report from CHP Officer Adam Garcia.

Garcia explained that witnesses reported a dumped vehicle consisting of a pickup truck cab and frame on Socrates Mine Road in Middletown on Nov. 10.

CHP Officer Erich Paarsch responded and, with the assistance of Lake County Code Enforcement Officer Rod Hillard, was able to identify the vehicle as stolen out of Vacaville, Garcia said.

Paarsch and CHP Officer Kevin Domby obtained a warrant for a residence on Mead Road in Middletown where witnesses believed the suspects had been dismantling the pickup. Garcia said the search warrant was served on Wednesday with the assistance of the Lake County Narcotic Task Force.

Officers located the engine belonging to the stolen vehicle along with several other components, said Garcia. As a result of the search, Marrujo, a construction worker, was arrested for receiving stolen property and conspiracy to commit a crime.

CHP officers and Narcotic Task Force agents discovered information leading them to a second residence in Middletown off of West Road where they recovered more parts from the stolen pickup, according to Garcia.

There, they contacted Hagan, who they arrested, said Garcia.

Charges against Hagan include vehicle theft, receiving stolen property, conspiracy to commit a crime and several other charges including illegal dumping, altering a vehicle identification number and tampering with a vehicle, according to jail documents.

Bail was posted at $42,000 for Hagan, whose profession is listed as chef on his booking sheet. Marrujo's bail was set at $20,000.

Both men remained in the Lake County Jail early Friday.

Paarsch stated that the investigation is ongoing with additional suspects being sought in connection with the theft.


Hidden Valley Lake Association employees on Tuesday protested what they said was an illegal lockout that began over the weekend. Photo courtesy of Lora Darling.

HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – Hidden Valley Lake Association employees on Tuesday were protesting what they said was the association management's decision to lock them out of work during ongoing contract negotiations. {sidebar id=106}

HVLA has 16 to 18 employees – most of them golf course maintenance workers, plus building maintenance and a few janitors – represented by Laborers International Union of North America, Local 139, based on Eureka, according to the union's business manager, Dave George.

George said HVLA officials have not given the union a reason for the action.

HVLA General Manager Jim Johnson would not comment on the situation when contacted by Lake County News on Tuesday.

Johnson said a statement will be issued once the association's attorney has approved it.

The union had a contract extension with HVLA until Friday, Nov. 14, said George. The lockout began on Saturday, when a union member who works as a janitor arrived and found he was locked out.

A second janitor was locked out Sunday, and the remainder of the union members were locked out of work on Monday, George said.

George, who accused HVLA of negotiating "in bad faith," said the union is taking its case to the National Labor Relations Board.

"We've filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board to try to get injunctive relief to try to force the employer to put them back to work," he said.

On Monday and Tuesday, union members carried signs protesting what George said was an illegal lockout.

Union members participating in the protest said they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the union.

Instead, they handed out flyers explaining their case and asking for people to attend the next HVLA Board of Directors meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 20.

They also asked for donations of food and toys to get through the upcoming holiday season.

Local 139 has represented workers at HVLA since 1996, said George.

George said negotiations between Local 139 and HVLA have been taking place "off and on" for some months. In talks with HVLA, it's come up that the association needs to cut its expenses 20 percent.

During the recent negotiations, George said HVLA brought in an attorney for the first time. "We've never used attorneys in negotiations," he said.

"It was not our choice, it was their choice," said George. "They've been bargaining in bad faith."

George said HVLA has refused to disclose workers' pay rates, most of which he guessed are around $11 to $13 per hour.

"They're trying to turn them into the working poor. They're there now, really," he said, adding that one of the union members has a home in foreclosure.

He said he had asked to meet with the HVLA Board of Directors but received no response. "We tried to head this off before it got to this point."

George said if the National Labor Resources Board finds for the union, HVLA could end up paying substantial amounts in back pay and benefits. He said the union has filed charges against HVLA previously and entered into settlements with them.

Correspondent Aimee Gonsalves contributed to this report.

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LAKEPORT – Lakeport City Manager Jerry Gillham has been sent back to the United States from Iraq after suffering health issues a few weeks ago.

Gillham, 53, was sent to Iraq last summer on his second year-long deployment to that country as a member of the Oregon National Guard, as Lake County News has reported.

While in Iraq, he suffered a transient ischemic attack – or a TIA, according to interim city manager, Kevin Burke.

“We can confirm that he has suffered a noncombat-related injury,” said Capt. Stephen Bomar of the Oregon National Guard.

According to the American Heart Association, a TIA is a warning or mini-stroke that produces stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage because of its extremely short duration.

The condition is caused when a blood clot temporarily clogs an artery, keeping blood from a part of the brain. TIAs average about one minute in duration.

Symptoms include sudden numbness in the face, leg or arm, on one side of the body; confusion; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; trouble walking; dizzyness; loss of balance or coordination; and sudden, severe headache.

TIAs are considered extremely important predictors of strokes, the American Heart Association reported. Although most strokes aren't associated with TIAs, more than a third of the people who have one or more TIAs later experience an actual stroke.

A few days after having the TIA, Gillham fell, injuring several discs in his back which may require back surgery, said Burke.

Earlier this year Gillham has said he'd recently had back surgery previously for other back problems he has suffered.

Gillham received medical treatment in Iraq and Europe, said Bomar. “He is en route back home at this time.”

Burke said Gillham is now back in the United States at a hospital at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Bomar said Gillham remains on active duty status, but he did not know how long the transition might take for Gillham to return to Lakeport.

“That all depends on what happens,” said Bomar. “They will provide him the best medical care available.”

Burke said Gillham is set to meet with doctors to follow up on the diagnosis.

The city has so far received no other updates from Gillham or his family on the city manager's condition or when he might eventually return to his post at the city, Burke said.

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The Ely Stage Stop building during its summer of 2007 move. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

KELSEYVILLE – The Lake County Historical Society has two interesting projects that need the assistance and talents of our local tradespeople.

The society is seeking help for its Ely Stage Stop Museum and cable car restoration projects.

In July of 2007, the Ely house, one of the county's oldest buildings, was relocated from Highway 29 near Kit's Corner to a beautiful five-acre parcel on Soda Bay Road adjacent to the Riviera area. This was all made possible by vintner, Andy Beckstoffer who donated both the historic building and the five acres.

The county of Lake, in conjunction with the Lake County Historical Society, has been charged with the challenge of turning this generous donation into a first-class agricultural museum and visitors center.

Restoration efforts on the stage stop have begun. Due to the fine efforts of Public Services Director Kim Clymire and his staff, the building now has a proper foundation, a new roof and windows.

Clymire plans to add a wrap-around porch to the building next year and begin restoration efforts on the interior of the building.

After the restoration of the building is completed the county plans to turn over the site to the Lake County Historical Society.

The Lake County Historical Society has grand plans for the agricultural museum that will be located near the Ely house.

Under the direction of Greg Dills, chairman of the Ely Stage Stop Museum Committee, they plan to erect four turn-of-the-century barns on the five-acre parcel. Two of the four barns have been donated to the society and one has already been disassembled for shipment to the museum site.

As the barns are reconstructed on site, they will be filled with unique agricultural equipment that has been donated to the historical society over the years. Horse-drawn wagons, tractors and farm implements are just a few of the items that will be featured.

In order to make this museum a reality, the historical society will need the talents of local contractors and builders.

They will need an excavating contractor to cut the pads for the barns, cement contractors to lay the foundations and cement flooring of the barns.

Also needed are carpenters to erect the barns, roofing contractors and painters to help complete the buildings. The historical society is a nonprofit organization dependent on volunteer efforts but tax credits can be issued for those contractors who wish to realize some compensation.

Another important project on the drawing board of the society and the county is the restoration of a one-of-a-kind cable car. Car 38 is the last example of a pre-1906 earthquake cable car. Built in 1907, it was one of the last to be built in likeness of the pre-quake models. Surprisingly it is in fairly good shape but needs to be refurbished from top to bottom in order to insure it will last into the next millennium.

Bud Boyce of Lower Lake, a welder with over 60 years of experience, has offered to work on the steel undercarriage. The wooden cab of Car 38 is in need of an expert finish carpenter with "old school" savvy to supervise the restoration of the woodwork. Also needed is a building large enough to house Car 38 while restoration proceeds.

If you or anyone you know might be able to assist the Lake County Historical Society in any aspect of these two worthy endeavors please call Greg Dills about the Ely Museum at 707-263-4180, Extension 12, or Randy Ridgel about Car 38 at 707-490-8279.

Visit the Lake County Historical Society's Web site at


COBB – A followup meeting for community members concerned about the operation of the Bottle Rock Power Plant will be held this Thursday and will offer an update on progress in dealing with a variety of issues.

The meeting will take place at the Little Red Schoolhouse on Cobb, 15780 Bottle Rock Road, at 6 p.m. Thursday.

An initial gathering was held at the schoolhouse on Oct. 30, in which neighbors of the plant – which reopened at the end of March 2007 – made it clear they were tired of waiting for the plant's operators to finally address ongoing issues such as noise and concerns over potentially hazardous materials being stored on the property in drill sump ponds.

One of the most outspoken neighbors, David Coleman, shared his concerns at that meeting, and plans to attend Thursday as well.

Coleman, who said he “wasn't very reassured” by the last meeting, said he plans to put together information packages for several agencies to explain the neighbor's main problems.

While he said the plant's sound levels are bothersome, “Our core group is just mainly concerned with the toxicity of the material.”

The material in question is what comes out of the drills. Coleman said tons of material comes out of the 18- to 20-inch drilling holes that go down about two miles into the ground in pursuit of the geothermal resource.

At the October meeting Coleman said officials confirmed for the first time that those materials might be toxic.

“I thought the county's explanations were really quite pathetic,” Coleman said.

Water safety was another issue that came out on Oct. 30, with some plant neighbors saying their water wells had been contaminated.

Coleman said a lot of people pull water from Kelsey Creek, and he's concerned because the area's water also flows to Clear Lake.

Supervisor Rob Brown, who has put the meetings together, said the plant's management is “working to try to mitigate some of the concerns expressed at the meeting,”

Since Oct. 30 he has had discussions with county Community Development Director Rick Coel and Larry Bandt, vice president of engineering for Oski Energy, which manages the power plant for its owners, regarding sound control.

Speed issues on High Valley Road, where neighbors said plant trucks were driving too fast, causing safety problems and destroying the road, also are being dealt with, said Brown.

One potential development on the county side is consideration of hiring a geothermal consultant.

Hamilton Hess, chair of the Friends of Cobb Mountain, suggested on Oct. 30 that the county have a geothermal point person, which the county had in the past.

Brown said the suggestion was a good one, and the county is now looking at hiring planning consultant Melissa Floyd – who has worked with both the county and city of Clearlake – to fill that role. He said state funds would help pay for Floyd's services.

If the board approves hiring Floyd, she would monitor geothermal projects, said Brown. That would include coordinating contacts between county and state agencies – Environmental Health, Fish and Game and Air Quality – that have a role in permitting and overseeing such operations.

Floyd also would be the person community members could take concerns to, Brown said.

He'll introduce Floyd and the idea of hiring her to the power plant's neighbors Thursday.

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ANDERSON SPRINGS – The Anderson Springs area was greeted by an earthquake early Friday morning.

The 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred at 7:02 a.m., according to the US Geological Survey.

The temblor took place at a depth of a ninth of a mile two miles west southwest of Anderson Springs, five miles east southeast of The Geysers and five miles south of Cobb, the US Geological Survey reported.

The most recent quake of 3.0 magnitude or above to occur in the Cobb/Geysers/Anderson Springs Area took place early on the morning of Nov. 12, when a 3.5-magnitude earthquake was recorded. The US Geological Survey had originally rated the quake as a 3.1 but later upgraded it.

In another part of the county, a 2.9-magnitude quake was recorded on Wednesday at 3:10 a.m. 10 miles west southwest of Lakeport, at a depth of 1.6 miles, according to the US Geological Survey.

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HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – A lockout of union employees at the Hidden Valley Lake Association continued on Wednesday, as the association itself issued a rebuttal to flyers the union members have been handing out this week. {sidebar id=107}

At the same time, federal officials are investigating a complaint filed by the union alleging that the association has broken federal labor law by not bargaining in good faith.

The first of the employees were locked out starting this weekend, with the rest of them finding themselves locked out on Monday, as Lake County News has reported.

The dozen and a half union members, represented by Laborers International Union of North America Local 139, continued a protest picket on Wednesday, asking the community for donations of food and toys to help them get through the lockout and the holiday season.

They stood on a corner by Hardester's Market and near the elementary school, dispensing flyers and waving to drivers, many of whom honked in reply.

Union business manager Dave George said they still haven't received any information from HVLA about why it locked out the employees. “It's been the strangest negotiations.”

George and the union maintain that the lockout is illegal, and that HVLA is not bargaining in good faith.

HVLA General Manager Jim Johnson has refused to comment publicly on the situation, and HVLA Board President Don Dornbush did not return a call placed Wednesday seeking comment.

However, on Wednesday HVLA did offer a written rebuttal to the flyers being distributed by the union workers.

The document, which HVLA would only hand out at its office, said that Johnson's place of residence, salary and pension package should not be questioned, and explained he is a Hidden Valley Lake resident who receives no pension from the association.

HVLA's response stated that Johnson has neither “'coerced' nor encouraged union workers,” the majority of which currently make more than the union contract rates.

The association also asserted that they've not suggested those contract rates be lowered, and added that the only HVLA employees who currently have pensions are union workers.

HVLA maintains that it has bargained in good faith throughout the negotiation process, and signed a contract continuance that ended Nov. 14.

According to the rebuttal, the union canceled a contract negotiation scheduled for Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

George told Lake County News on Tuesday that the union planned to file charges against HVLA with the National Labor Relations Board.

Joseph Norelli, the National Labor Relations Board regional director for the San Francisco regional office, confirmed Wednesday that his office had received the filing.

“We are just beginning to investigate this,” Norelli said.

On Nov. 14, the day the bargaining agreement expired, the union filed a charge alleging that HVLA had threatened the employees with a lockout on Saturday because they were at an impasse, according to Norelli.

He was notified by the union's attorney on Saturday morning that the lockout had begun.

Local 139 has alleged the lockout is illegal. For the lockout to be legal, Norelli said HVLA needs to show that they haven't committed unfair labor practices, that they're bargaining in good faith, and have been unable to reach an agreement and so must lock out employees.

“The law gives them that right,” said Norelli, but he said it remains to be seen if this is a legal or illegal lockout situation.

Norelli said he's expediting an investigation into the allegations at the union's request. The investigation could take as long as 49 days, although Norelli said they'll try to get it done faster than that.

The union has requested the labor board seek an injunction in federal district court that would require HVLA to immediately reinstate all of its employees, said Norelli.

That, in turn, could lead to a settlement or litigation before the labor board concerning whether or not the employees would have to be permanently reinstated and “made whole” with the payment of back wages and benefits, he said.

Norelli said Local 139 began filing a succession of charges against HVLA in the late spring.

“We investigated all of those charges and in September we found that there was merit to a number of those charges,” he said, adding that some charges also weren't found valid.

HVLA was found to have made changes in employment terms and conditions without notice or bargaining with the union, said Norelli, which is a breach of labor law.

As required by law, the labor board offered HVLA an opportunity to settle, which they did. That settlement required that HVLA – which didn't admit guilt – agree that they would not repeat the mistake, and would post a notice telling employees of their rights and listing the allegations.

“It's just bringing to everyone's attention that this was done unlawfully without bargaining,” Norelli said of the notice.

HVLA also had to reimburse employees for any losses they suffered which, in this case, were related to changes in the rules about letting employees take home company vehicles, he said.

After the settlement, things appeared to be resolved. “We haven't heard much from them since then until we got a charge late in the day on Friday,” said Norelli.

Norelli said the new charges against HVLA also raise concerns about the association's compliance with the previous settlement, which was reached toward the end of September, and is still in a 60-day notice period.

He said that settlement also required that HVLA not refuse the union relevant information requests about such things as wage levels – which George and Local 139 are alleging HVLA is now doing.

“We have not yet closed this case on compliance,” he said. “They may be breaching the settlement agreement, which would require that this settlement be set aside.”

That would necessitate a new complaint, which Norelli said could lead to a new settlement or to litigation.

George suggested that HVLA's new management may not fully understand its duties in the negotiations process.

An HVLA Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The lockout is expected to be a topic of discussion.

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From left, Charles Burk and Malcolm Brown on their way into court on Monday afternoon. Photos by Harold LaBonte.

LAKEPORT – Two men who were the subject of a daylong search on Nov. 13 after an alleged break-in and assault were arraigned in Lake County Superior Court on Monday afternoon.

Charles William Burk, 30, a transient, and Malcolm Safa Brown, 40, of Graton, appeared in front of Judge Richard Martin but offered no pleas during the brief hearing.

They were arrested last Thursday after allegedly breaking into the Noble Ranch Road home of Burk's adopted parents and assaulting Burk's adopted father, Donald Merrill Sr., 52, and his son, Donald Merrill Jr., 22.

Burk and Brown are then alleged to have fled in a white pickup, ramming a deputy sheriff's patrol car while trying to escape, and then fleeing on foot into the Hidden Valley Lake community.

There, it's alleged they attempted to force their way into a home on Spruce Grove Road, but the home's owner, Brian Moynihan, 34, physically held the door closed and then chased them from his property.

Later in the day, Burk was found hiding under the exterior deck of a home on Stonegate, while Brown was arrested after being spotted on foot at Foothill Court and Spyglass Road.

When the men were arrested both were alleged to be under the influence of methamphetamine, according to a Nov. 14 sheriff's office report.

William Conwell was appointed to represent Brown, with Thomas Quinn to defend Burk. Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff is prosecuting the case.

Judge Martin read off a lengthy list of charges against the two men, including assault with a firearm, assault with force likely to cause great bodily harm, a charge pertaining to Merrill Sr.'s assault, battery with the intent to cause harm, larceny, vandalism with more than $400 in damage, assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer and causing damage to a law enforcement vehicle.

Burk also is facing attempted murder for the assault of his adopted father, possession of a firearm with a previous felony conviction and vandalism with more than $400 in damage for Moynihan's property.

In addition, the District Attorney's Office is charging special allegations for Burk's alleged used of a firearm and for a previous conviction in Oregon, along with possible probation violations in Lake County.

Brown has a record that includes multiple burglaries with violence in Sonoma County and at least one prison term that began in 2002. In addition to another violent felony conviction that was not specified in court, he has a Sonoma County conviction for drunk driving and may also be facing a parole violation.

During the Monday court proceedings, Burk sat with his head lowered and his chin cradled in his hand as he listened to the reading of the charges against him.

Martin issued a criminal protection order instructing both Burk and Brown to refrain from communicating in any way whatsoever with any of the victims or witnesses involved in this case.

The judge also continued the more than half a million dollars in bail for each man and instructed them to return Friday, Nov. 21, when a date for the preliminary hearing will be set.

Hinchcliff told Lake County News Monday afternoon that further charges may be filed against Burk and Brown as information and evidence continue to come in. He said he feels that the most serious charges already have been made.

Regarding possible punishment for the crimes Hinchcliff conceded that should Brown’s record show an alleged previous “second strike” he could spend a very long time behind bars.

Should he be found guilty, Burk could be facing close to 20 years in prison, Hinchcliff said.

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On Wednesday, thousands of Californians across the state took action to save the renters' rebate, an important program recently defunded by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Organizers sought to send a loud and clear message that Californians do not accept elimination of this crucial program for low-income senior, blind and disabled Californians.

The statewide day of action came in response to Gov. Schwarzenegger's use of the line-item veto power to eliminate $191 million in tax rebates for low-income elderly and disabled Californians. This was the governor's single biggest line-item veto in the budget.

The governor defunded the entire Senior Citizens Property Tax Assistance program, also known as the “renters' rebate,” a program that has been in effect for decades.

With no forewarning, Schwarzenegger struck all funds from the program, despite the fact that the Legislature had included the funds in the budget approved by the state Assembly and Senate.

The Senior Citizens Renters Tax Assistance program, which has been in effect for four decades, makes senior and disabled renters who earn less than $44,096 eligible for up to $347.50 as a tax rebate.

Many eligible Californians had already filed their claims and were counting on these funds. With the governor's veto, the Franchise Tax Board now will not pay these claims.

Assemblyman John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, characterized the cuts to the tax assistance program as “unconscionable.”

Tenants Together, a statewide organization for renters' rights, advocates for the rights of California's estimated 14 million renters.

“We're outraged that the governor would take aim at low-income senior, blind and disabled renters during these difficult times,” said Dean Preston, executive director of Tenants Together, California's statewide organization for renters' rights. “The state's neediest residents were counting on this money. The governor's veto is totally unacceptable.”

According to Nan Brasmer, President of California Alliance for Retired Americans, “The governor's veto of rebates for renters is a slap in the face to the neediest seniors. To add insult to injury, the governor also cut the tax rebate for homeowners, which also targets lower income homeowners, many of whom are seniors. We call on legislators to override the governor's veto and restore these rebates as soon as possible."

The group is collecting signatures on its online petition condemning the governor's veto of these funds. The petition can be viewed at

The coalition opposing the Governor's veto is remarkably broad. More than 30 organizations have signed onto a letter to the governor urging the governor to fully fund the tax assistance program.

Signatories included Access to Independence of San Diego, California Alliance for Retired Americans, California Church IMPACT, California Disability Community Action Network, Center for Independent Living - Fresno, Coalition for Economic Survival, the San Francisco Tenants Union and others.


LAKEPORT – November has been a month for burglaries in Lakeport, with more than a dozen break-ins at homes inside and outside of the city limits reported so far.

Over a three-day period last week, six homes were reported burglarized at Lakeport Lagoons and Pier 1900, two mobile home communities on S. Main Street, as Lake County News first reported Saturday.

On Saturday at just after 8 p.m., another burglary was reported to a residence on 15th Street, said Lt. Brad Rasmussen of Lakeport Police.

About an hour after the burglary was reported, a Lakeport Police officer recovered most of the property reported taken from the 15th Street residence, including electronics, jewelry and coins – the kinds of things take in the other robberies around the city, said Rasmussen.

Meanwhile, outside the city limits, mobile home parks also are being hit at a rapid pace, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Since the start of November, Perk's Mobile Home Park has reported four burglaries and two attempted burglaries, while Lakeside Village and Northport – both off of Lakeshore Boulevard – and Sterling Shores off of Robin Hill have each reported a burglary in the past week, Bauman said.

Bauman said that, in two of the four burglaries reported at Perk's, vehicles were stolen. One, a 2002 PT Cruiser, was recovered in Nice the same day as it was reported taken. The other vehicle, a 2007 Buick Lucerne, was recovered several days after the burglary on Hickory Lane in Lakeport, less than a mile from Perk's.

In addition to the mobile home parks, Bauman said there have been five other burglaries reported at residences in the north Lakeport area since the beginning of the month.

The method of entry in all the burglaries has been pried windows or doors, said Bauman.

Because they appear similar, it's possible the crimes are related, but Bauman said that hasn't yet been proved.

Rasmussen said Lakeport Police has some leads on suspects who may have been involved in the burglaries in city limits.

As to whether they're connected to the burglaries outside the city limits, Rasmussen said, “We're looking into the possibility that they're related but right now we don't have enough information to prove that they're related.”

In the mean time, he urges anyone who sees suspicious activity in their neighborhood to call police immediately. Residents also are urged to keep residences locked and to put up security lighting to deter break-ins.

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


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