Sunday, 21 July 2024


LAKEPORT – A new motion filed Wednesday by the Lake County District Attorney's Office explains the reasons for a request to reschedule the trial of a Carmichael man in connection with a fatal 2006 crash, including new information relating to central figures in the case.

Deputy District Attorney John Langan asked visiting Judge J. Michael Byrne last week to delay the trial of 40-year-old Bismarck Dinius, who is accused of felony vehicular manslaughter with a boat and driving under the influence of alcohol for an April 2006, boat crash that claimed the life of Willows resident Lynn Thornton.

Dinius was piloting a sailboat owned by Thornton's fiance, Mark Weber of Willows, when it was hit by a powerboat driven by off-duty sheriff's chief deputy, Russell Perdock, who was not charged in the case. The vehicular manslaughter charge against Dinius arises, in part, because it is alleged that the sailboat's running lights weren't on.

Langan asked for more time to investigate the case and told Byrne last Friday that he would file a written motion explaining his reasons for not starting the trial on May 19.

The new nine-page motion explains that Langan has received new information about Perdock's activities on the day of the crash, and that another witness has come forward to corroborate statements made by former sheriff's Sgt. James Beland, who said he was ordered not to administer a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) – or breathalyzer – test to Perdock after the crash occurred.

Byrne has scheduled a May 19 hearing on whether or not to change the trial date. At that time he also will consider a motion by Langan to secure Beland's personnel records.

Langan, who last week was denied a request to place a gag order on the case that would have limited comments of witnesses and the attorneys to the media, did not return a call to Lake County News seeking comment on how much more time he would need to prepare for the case. District Attorney Jon Hopkins also did not reply to an e-mail message.

According to the declarations in his motion to continue the trial and its supporting documents, Langan's request hinges on his need to fully investigate the matter, and the investigator assigned to the case can't complete the investigation by May 19.

Dinius’ defense attorney, Victor Haltom of Sacramento, said he opposes any change in trial dates.

“My instructions from my client are, 'Let's go, let's get this trial over and done with,'” Haltom said. “He's sick of dealing with this. He's at his wits' end.”

Motions refer to new, and disputed, information

In his motion, Langan explains that on April 27 he was informed that district attorney's investigators  contacted certain individuals who provided information about Perdock's activities prior to the April 2006 collision “that appears to be in conflict with the information previously provided to the DA's office by other witnesses in this regard.”

“I think that this is significant motion,” said Haltom. “I think there are some significant disclosures in there.”

Haltom said he expects Langan to give more specifics on May 19 about the information he received.

For his part, Haltom said there are people who have told him they saw Perdock at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa in the hours before the crash. “Perdock denies having set foot on the grounds of Konocti on that day,” said Haltom.

Haltom said he and an investigator interviewed Perdock's ex-wife, Donna, in November of 2007, and she said her then-husband had left the house by 5:30 p.m. or 6 p.m. on April 29, 2006, while Perdock himself has said he did not leave with his boat until about two hours later.

“I think the district attorney is coming around to see there is a pretty glaring omission here,” Haltom said.

On Friday, in the wake of the rising speculation about the information Langan received, Perdock himself told Lake County News that he was not on the Konocti Harbor property the day of the crash. “I absolutely deny that information,” he said of the new allegations about his whereabouts.

Perdock said he has withheld making public statements about the case because Dinius deserves a fair trial.

“The information I would have would taint a jury,” he said.

He said he felt Haltom also has a duty to make sure there’s a fair trial for the sake of the victim, Lynn Thornton, and accused a Bay Area reporter of being a “propaganda agent” for the defense.

New information said to support Beland

Another important part of Langan's motion involves new information supporting Beland's contention that Boat Patrol Sgt. Dennis Ostini ordered him not to administer a PAS test to Perdock at the scene of the crash – which contradicts his testimony on the stand in Dinius' preliminary hearing in May of 2008.

Langan’s Wednesday motion states that on April 27 he received information that district attorney's investigators contacted another former sheriff's sergeant who was on duty and at the scene of the

That former sergeant, said Langan, provided information “apparently indicating that former Sgt. Beland may have been 'ordered' not to administer a PAS test to Mr. Perdock.”

Ostini, who was in charge of the collision scene, testified during the preliminary hearing that it was his judgment that it was better to rely on a blood test at the hospital.

A breathalyzer test also wasn't administered to Dinius at the scene, which Beland testified to suggesting to Ostini. Blood draws were conducted on both Dinius and Weber at Sutter Lakeside Hospital.

Ostini's decision to go with blood tests over the breathalyzer may be better understood when considering a research paper by David J. Hanson, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Sociology of the State University of New York at Potsdam, who has studied alcohol and drinking for more than 40 years.

“Because invalid tests can make it more difficult to obtain convictions, many law enforcement agencies now prefer to obtain blood samples, which have fewer sources of invalidity,” Hanson writes.

So Beland – who had testified in court to being among the first sheriff's deputies on scene – drove Perdock to St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake for a blood draw.

Perdock said Friday that he had asked Ostini to have him taken to the hospital as quickly as possible after the crash so that the blood draw could be taken. He said the crash scene was “fairly chaotic” at that point.

He added that he has since voluntarily submitted DNA samples for testing because Haltom questioned whether or not the blood originally tested was actually Perdock’s.

In April Haltom said during a hearing that Beland – who approached him last year after losing his job with the sheriff’s office – stated that he told Langan before the preliminary hearing last year that he was ordered not to give the PAS test.

According to Haltom, Beland's attorney, Scott Lewis, said Langan “shaped” Beland's testimony, which Langan denied. Langan disclosed the conversation with Beland in the judge's chambers during the preliminary hearing.

Lewis, based in Santa Rosa, did not offer comment when Lake County News contacted him regarding the case.

Internal affairs documents reveal Beland’s statements

However, Lewis has shared portions of Beland's personnel records with Haltom. Some of those, including a portion of a June 17, 2008, internal affairs investigation interview, have been filed as part of the case's

In a 35-page transcript, sheriff's Lt. Cecil Brown explains that the investigation covered the period from May 18 through May 22, 2008, the week Dinius' preliminary hearing took place, as well as an unknown date in the fall of 2007.

“It is alleged that during this incident, you violated regulations regarding good conduct and that you failed to comply with performance standards for a sergeant,” Brown stated during the interview.

Sheriff’s office regulations regarding good conduct state: “All members, whether on or off duty, shall be governed by the ordinary and reasonable rules of good conduct and behavior, and shall not commit any act tending to bring reproach or discredit upon the Sheriff’s Department or the County of Lake.”

According to the transcript, on May 18, 2008, Beland had a discussion with Langan about the case, in which he stated that he was ordered not to give Perdock the PAS test following the crash, despite his desire to do so.

During the interview Brown asked Beland, “... after talking to Langan for a minute, didn't you tell him that it was not an order, but more of a discussion?”

“Yes,” Beland replied, who also responded “yes” to a followup question by Brown who asked if the words “order” and “discussion” have different meanings to him.

During the interview Beland maintained that Ostini ordered him not to give the test.

Beland told Brown that he'd told several other sheriff's office staff that he had been told by Ostini not to administer the PAS test. He also stated that at the time he didn't argue against Ostini's decision to seek a blood draw. “I thought it was a good decision.”

Beland – who in the internal investigation transcript noted that he had previously been placed on a performance improvement plan for another matter – was terminated after the internal affairs investigation, according to Langan's Wednesday motion.

Protection sought for personnel records

Langan has filed a Pitchess motion to acquire Beland's personnel files, which both Beland and the Lake County Sheriff's Office are opposing. That motion also will be heard May 19.
County Counsel Anita Grant said her office is representing the sheriff's office in its response to Langan's Pitchess motion for the release of Beland's records.

The Pitchess motion procedure was set up to address officer records, which are protected by a number of rules and laws, Grant explained.

Grant said it's par for the course to oppose releasing a peace officers' records. “We've never not done this,” she said.

“The sheriff's department has an obligation here to protect those records absent a court order,” said Grant.

She added that the threshold that has to be met in releasing the documents for review is now relatively low, although the Supreme Court doesn't allow “fishing expeditions.”

Grant, who has dealt with most of the Pitchess motions against the county over several years, said she doesn't know of another case in which the District Attorney's Office has filed such a motion against the sheriff's office.

Despite the fact that some of Beland's records already have been released in court documents, Grant said she doesn't believe that diminishes the sheriff's office's responsibility to protect them. “Our obligation exists notwithstanding and can only be relieved by the court.”

Grant said there is no present lawsuit by Beland against the county. Due to the peace officer bill of rights, she could not comment on whether or not an administrative appeal of his termination is under way.

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

LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's health officer reported on Thursday that worries about the Novel H1N1 influenza – which has commonly been referred to as the swine flu – appear to be subsiding, but the county continues to plan for possible future appearances of the virus.

Dr. Karen Tait's office reported Thursday that there still remain “lingering possibilities” that the virus could be discovered in Lake County.

However, the likelihood of detecting it in the immediate future appears to be dwindling. As of May 13, the combined number of probable and confirmed cases in California was 473 – none of them in Lake County.

Tait reported that the similarity between symptoms of the Novel H1N1 virus and seasonal influenza, coupled with the fact that sophisticated laboratory tests are needed to identify the new virus, could only be done on a sampling of patients. That means that the virus could have entered the county undetected.

Even so, Tait said local health officials are breathing a collective sigh of relief as the characteristics of the virus have become better understood.

In spite of the fact that the population is susceptible to catching this virus, the resulting illness has been no more severe than seasonal influenza, according to Tait. In addition, it does not appear to be as easily spread person-to-person.

With the influenza season winding down, public health officials are hoping for a break from the recent concerns and uncertainties that go along with discovery of a new health threat. But Tait said that does not mean that efforts to fight this virus will stop.

Despite the relatively benign nature of the new H1N1 virus to date, health officials want to be ready for changes that could occur between now and another wave of infection, which might be expected to coincide with the usual flu season beginning in the fall, or could possibly come sooner, Tait reported.

Consideration needs to be given to the potential for the new virus to further evolve, possibly returning in a more virulent form.

“There is no easy way to predict the behavior of new influenza viruses,” said Tait. “I do not want to be an alarmist, since the virus may weaken as easily as it could worsen. But it is our job in public health to plan for all possibilities.”

The recent intense public health response to the discovery of H1N1 challenged Lake County’s Public Health Division to implement emergency plans simultaneously with state and federal health agencies, Tait said.

“We learned from this experience and had an opportunity to further develop our procedures,” she explained. “Because the Novel H1N1 virus particularly impacted school-age children, we worked closely with the Lake County Office of Education and schools throughout the county.”

Tait said the Public Health Division will be far from idle during the coming months.

Although a vaccine for the Novel H1N1 virus is not yet available, one might be expected by sometime this fall. If so, an unusually busy vaccination schedule can be anticipated.

Other efforts to curtail the spread of flu are likely to intensify again. “It is entirely possible that we will see both seasonal flu strains and the new H1N1 strain circulating at the same time, which is a good reason to be especially diligent about measures to reduce transmission of infection in the community,” she said.

Families should remember the recently emphasized lessons for infection control, namely good hand washing, and covering coughs and sneezes.

To be ready for the next flu season, it is also a good idea to have a thermometer on hand – an important item for taking care of flu patients at home.

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LAKE COUNTY – The men behind a property tax scam that earlier this year showed up in the mailboxes of thousands of California residents, including many in Lake County, has run into some significant legal trouble.

On Tuesday, California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced that he has filed a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court against brothers Sean and Michael McConville and their businesses, “Property Tax Reassessment” and “Property Tax Adjustment Services.”

In the first week of February, Jim Campbell, Lake County's deputy county assessor, reported that the assessor's office had begun receiving calls from concerned residents who had received letters from the Los Angeles-based Property Tax Reassessment, as Lake County News reported.

The official-looking letters told homeowners that, for $179, their property taxes could be reduced. But they needed to respond by a certain time or else pay late fees, or they would have their file marked “non-responsive” or “ineligible for future tax reassessments.”

Lake County News attempted to call the company at the number listed on the letter; a woman answered and said it was not the company's number.

Days later, Brown's office issued a consumer alert warning of scams that offered to reduce property tax assessments if homeowners paid hundreds of dollars to a middleman.

On Tuesday, Brown accused the McConvilles of ripping off tens of thousands of homeowners throughout California who were looking to lower their property taxes.

He said the men used mailers that read like government billing statements, featured official-looking logos, and demanded hundreds of dollars in payments for reassessment and reassessment appeal services.

“These scam artists ripped off thousands of homeowners for property reassessment services readily available free of charge,” Brown said in a statement. “This lawsuit seeks to end the deception and blocks these companies from continuing to scam homeowners.”

Brown's suit, which seeks $2.5 million in civil penalties, alleges that the McConvilles and their businesses violated both the Business and Professions Code and the California Civil Code in a variety of ways.

The suit contends that the men made untrue and misleading statements with the intent to induce consumers to purchase products and services; distributed solicitations implying a government connection, approval or endorsement; distributed solicitations that appear to be billing statements; and engaged in unfair competition.

Brown said neither company adequately informed consumers that they were not a governmental entity, the solicitations were not a bill, purchase of the services was not required and services were available free of charge from county assessors.

The McConvilles also failed to complete any of the property tax assessment services homeowners were billed for in 2008, Brown said.

The companies had continued their solicitations, with new mailers recently sent out with a May 26 due date, according to Brown's report.

Lake County Assessor Doug Wacker said Tuesday his office had received a rash of calls after the mailer arrived earlier this year, and that some of those people already had Proposition 8 property tax reviews under way anyway.

Wacker emphasized that having your property tax reassessed is a free service his office provides.

“My heart goes out to those people who went ahead and just wrote a check and sent it off,” he said, noting a few local people did send money in to the companies.

He said the scam mailers started in Southern California and then moved north, reaching Lake and Napa counties.

Some county officials around the state are taking action separately.

Last week, the Ventura District Attorney's Office charged one of the brothers, Sean McConville, with 20 felony counts for criminal conduct stemming from his property tax reassessment operations, Brown reported.

In Napa County, Assessor John Tuteur and District Attorney Gary Lieberstein worked together to gather evidence to prosecute the scam, according to a statement issued May 5.

Similarly, Lake County District Attorney Jon Hopkins said Tuesday he also wants to hear from county residents who sent money in response to the letter but received no services.

He urged anyone who sent off a check in response to the mailer to call the Lake County District Attorney's Office, 707-263-2251, and ask to speak to a district attorney's investigator.

Homeowners who believe they've been victimized also can contact the Attorney General's Office at, via telephone at 800-952-5225 or by mail at P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244.

The Attorney General's Office urges homeowners who believe their property value has declined and they are paying too much in property taxes to protect themselves by never paying money for something they did not ask for. They also should avoid a middleman and instead contact a local county tax assessor's office for a free property value reassessment.

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

Student of the Lake County International Charter School along with (left to right) school executive assistant Laura Stalker, School Director Karl Reichman and Alison Talbott of Pacific Gas and Electric on Friday, May 15, 2009. Photo by Glen R. Erspamer Jr.

MIDDLETOWN – A local school received a check for $10,000 on Friday that will assist it with becoming more green and sustainable.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. awarded the Lake County International Charter School the grant as part of its Bright Ideas Grant, as Lake County News reported earlier this month.

Executive assistant Laura Stalker said the grant will provide “a lot more tools to work with” for the school.

Plans include building a solar-powered green house for native plants, which the school will sell. The school also plans to work on local watershed issues, with opportunities for the school's 100 kindergarten through eighth grade students to get their hands dirty in the process.

The new grant also will lay the foundation for a future “seed to table” program where the children will help grow and cook some of their own foods.

School Director Karl Reichman said teacher training will be one of the tools the grant will help bring to the school.




Lake County International Charter School students get a closeup of the check on Friday, May 15, 2009. Adults pictured are, left to right, school executive assistant Laura Stalker, School Director Karl Reichman and Alison Talbott of Pacific Gas and Electric. Photo by Glen R. Erspamer Jr.


Eleven-year-old Arthur Wilkie of Lucerne is heading to the California State Elementary Spelling Championship in Rohnert Park on Saturday, May 16, 2009. Courtesy photo.



LUCERNE – A local spelling whiz will be making his way to Rohnert Park this weekend to represent Lake County in the California State Elementary Spelling Championship.

Arthur Wilkie, 11, a sixth grader who attends Lucerne Elementary School, will be among 62 of the state's top spellers, representing 32 counties, who will compete in the annual competition, to be held this Saturday, May 16, in Sonoma State University's Evert B. Person Theatre.

The competition, coordinated this year by the Sonoma County Office of Education, will begin at 9 a.m. It is free and open to the public.

Six fourth-graders, 24 fifth-graders and 32 sixth-graders will participate. All of them already have won school, region and county spelling bees. Each county’s first- and second-place spellers are eligible to compete for the championship title.

Trophies and savings bonds will be awarded to the top six spellers: $1,000 for first place, $500 for second place, $250 for third place, and $100 for fourth through sixth place.

All spellers will receive a participation ribbon, souvenirs, and certificate signed by Gov. Arnold


At 9 a.m. Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carl Wong will welcome participants and guests to the event, then show a video greeting from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.

Patricia Ehrmann, a teacher at Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park, is the spell master. Serving as spelling judges are Guerneville School teacher Leslie Howell (lead judge); Mark Rasmussen, Napa area captain of the California Highway Patrol; and Sonoma County Office of Education assistant superintendent Don Russell.

The California School Employee Association is sponsoring this year’s spelling championship, which will have a country theme. Country radio station Froggy 92.9 andBuzzard’s Gulch, both of Santa Rosa, are partnering with SCOE to present the event. Radio personalities Rob and Joss will introduce the spellers as they take a virtual tour of the old west town at Buzzard’s Gulch.

The full list of participating spellers, their counties and schools is below.


Emily Deluna – age 12, sixth grade, Alliance Academy, Oakland

Karl Keck – age 11, fifth grade, Anthony Chabot Elementary School, Oakland


Samantha Riviere – age 9, fifth grade, Sutter Creek Elementary School, Sutter Creek

Matthew Spinetta – age 11, sixth grade, Plymouth Elementary School, Plymouth


Zane Harper – age 10, fourth grade, C.O.R.E. Butte Charter, Chico

Jade Holder – age 11, sixth grade, Hooker Oak Elementary School, Chico


Hannah Cutter – age 10, fourth grade, Arbuckle Elementary School, Arbuckle

Sarah Marsh – age 10, fifth grade, Arbuckle Elementary School, Arbuckle

Contra Costa

Ava Gruener – age 10, fifth grade, Murwood Elementary School, Walnut Creek

Zoe Tacderas – age 11, sixth grade, Holy Rosary School, Antioch

Del Norte

Glenn Duncan – age 11, sixth grade, Pine Grove Elementary School, Crescent City


Kathryn Moore – age 12, sixth grade, Quail Lake Environmental Charter School, Clovis

Gobind Puniani – age 10, fifth grade, Valley Oak Elementary School, Fresno


Noah Parham – age 11, sixth grade, Willows Intermediate School, Willows

Danielle Zuppan – age 10, fifth grade, Capay Elementary School, Orland


Katie Fisher – age 11, sixth grade, Scotia School, Scotia

Kayleen Kemp – age 12, sixth grade, Toddy Thomas Elementary School, Fortuna


Katie Doonan – age 11, fifth grade, Pine Street School, Bishop


Quinn Camara – age 12, sixth grade, Pioneer Middle School, Hanford

Simran Dulai – age 11, fifth grade, Mark Twain Elementary School, Corcoran


Arthur Wilkie – age 11, sixth grade, Lucerne Elementary School, Lucerne


Zachary Mah – age 12, sixth grade, Richmond Elementary School, Susanville

Los Angeles

Carina Kan – age 11, sixth grade, Palos Verdes Intermediate School, Palos Verdes Estates

Catherine Velardez – age 12, sixth grade, Will Rogers Middle School, Lawndale


Elijah Armstrong – age 11, fifth grade, Manor Elementary School, Fairfax

Jessica Brown – age 11, sixth grade, San Jose Middle School, Novato


Xiao Jin Jackson – age 11, fifth grade, Mendocino K-8 School, Mendocino

Brawley Parker – age 10, fourth grade, Oak Manor Elementary School, Ukiah


T.J. Bangle – age 10, fifth grade, Charleston Elementary School, Los Banos

Marsha Noeline – age 11, sixth grade, Westside Elementary School, Los Banos


Martin Thompson – age 11, fifth grade, Lee Vining Elementary School, Lee Vining

Glenna Wardlaw – age 11, fifth grade, Mammoth Elementary School, Mammoth Lakes


Jessica Burgess – age 11, fifth grade, Clear Creek Elementary School, Grass Valley

Emma Lauterbach – age 10, fifth grade, Pleasant Valley Elementary School, Penn Valley


Savitri Asokan – age 10, fifth grade, Excelsior School, Roseville

Alexander Chew – age 11, sixth grade, Ridgeview School, Granite Bay


Jessica Khalili – age 11, sixth grade, Susan B. Anthony Elementary School, Corona

Christian Kontaxis – age 9, fourth grade, St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, Palm Desert

San Benito

Andrew Pearson – age 9, fourth grade, Accelerated Achievement Academy at Calaveras, Hollister

San Joaquin

Mashal Chhotani – age 11, sixth grade, George Kelly Elementary School, Tracy

Leandra Evans – age 11, sixth grade, Claudia Landeen School, Stockton

Santa Barbara

Ameet Braganza – age 12, sixth grade, Monte Vista Elementary School, Santa Barbara

Quinn Hensley – age 11, sixth grade, Washington Elementary School, Santa Barbara

Santa Cruz

Andrew Miller – age 11, fifth grade, Ocean Grove Charter School, Placerville

Emily Quinn – age 12, sixth grade, Rio Del Mar Elementary School, Aptos


Hennessy McKenna – age 12, sixth grade, Pacheco Elementary School, Redding

Joe Williams – age 10, fifth grade, Millville Elementary School, Millville


Ashley Cain – age 11, sixth grade, McCloud Elementary School, McCloud

Miranda Velarde – age 11, sixth grade, Jackson Street Elementary School, Yreka


Roopkiran Minhas – age 11, sixth grade, Vacaville Christian School, Vacaville

Keo Jude Sarno – age 11, sixth grade, Rolling Hills Elementary School, Fairfield


Gage Osborne – age 11, fifth grade, Sonoma Charter School, Sonoma

Nadia Tomaszewski – age 11, sixth grade, Live Oak Charter School, Petaluma


Mahima Krishnamoorthi – age 10, fifth grade, Lakewood Elementary School, Modesto

Bowoo Lee – age 9, fourth grade, Fremont Open Plan School, Modesto


Lilyana DeArte – age 10, fifth grade, Lincoln Elementary School, Yuba City


Emalee Kourani – age 11, sixth grade, Lassen View School, Los Molinos

Jillian Strom – age 11, sixth grade, Berrendos Middle School, Red Bluff


Benjamin Harper – age 11, fifth grade, Weaverville Elementary School, Weaverville

Yori Mai-Isa Hook – age 11, sixth grade, Weaverville Elementary School, Weaverville


Darius Rucker-McCarron – age 10, fifth grade, Mary Covillaud Elementary School, Marysville

Zhang Vang – age 10, fifth grade, Linda Elementary School, Marysville


CLEARLAKE OAKS – The Clearlake Oaks/Glenhaven Business Association is sponsoring the 26th annual Catfish Derby, from noon Friday, May 15, through noon on Sunday, May 17.

Known by many as “the largest catfish derby west of the Mississippi,” the event features an Adult Derby and a Kids Derby for those under 16 years old. Barbecues will be held on Saturday and Sunday. The grand prize winner of the Adult Derby will receive a new boat, motor, and trailer plus cash prizes and the winner of the Kids Derby will receive a four-wheeled ATV.

Derby headquarters will be located at the Clearlake Oaks Fire Station, 12655 East Highway 20, and will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Derby headquarters also will be open for pre-registration from noon to 11 p.m. on Thursday, May 15. No registrations will be accepted after 11 p.m. on Friday.

Registration for the Adult Derby is $45 ($40 for those who pre-register on Thursday). Registration for the Kids Derby is $10.

Barbecues will be held both Saturday and Sunday, with a Saturday breakfast planned. Costs for the meals are separate. Sunday will feature live music.

New this year is the inaugural Catfish Derby Cook-Off. The entry fee for the cook-off is $20, with prizes awarded for first, second and third place.

Proceeds from the event benefit community projects. For applications, call (888) CL-DERBY, (707) 998-1006; for information, (707) 998-3795,

LAKE COUNTY – A report released this week shows that high school dropout rates across California have dropped slightly, with local schools showing even greater improvements.

On Tuesday state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell released the annual report on dropout and graduation rates for the 2007-08 school year.

He reported that in 2007-08, 68.3 percent of public school students in California graduated, up from 67.7 percent last year. The adjusted four-year derived dropout rate for the same school year is 20.1 percent, down from 21.1 percent last year.

For the 2007-08 school year, Lake County's overall dropout rate was 16.8 percent, down from 23.07 percent in the previous year.

Local districts posted the following results, with the previous year's percentages included in parentheses: Upper Lake Union High School, 20.1 percent (27.6); Konocti Unified, 19.8 percent (21.4); Lakeport Unified, 15.6 percent (21.7); Middletown Unified, 10.4 percent (21); Kelseyville Unified, 9.6 percent (12.2).

“I am heartened that the graduation rate is up slightly, but California’s dropout rate is still unacceptably high,” said O’Connell.

O'Connell said there are long-term economic repercussions from not graduating for students, for their communities and for our statewide economy. “These data provide even more evidence of the challenge and the moral imperative of closing the achievement gap as well as increasing graduation rates among all students.”

This is the second year that the State Department of Education has calculated student graduation and dropout rates by collecting student-level enrollment and exit data.

The agency said when they have two additional years of data they will be able to produce more accurate student graduation and dropout rates at the school level.

“The data is going to become, I think, more reliable,” said Lake County Superintendent of Schools Dave Geck.

Ethnic groups still pose unique challenges at the state and local levels, despite some improvements.

O'Connell called dropout rates for African American and Hispanic students “alarmingly high.”

In Lake County, American Indians led with the highest dropout percentage, 32.7 percent, down from 35.1 percent in 2007-07.

The next highest group, African Americans, had a 24.1 percent dropout rate in 2007-08, down from 31 percent the previous year.

Other groups, with past year's numbers in parentheses, are: multiple/no response, 22.6 (24.5); Hispanic or Latino, 17.4 percent (22.4); white, 13.8 percent (14.2); Filipino, 12.5 percent (0); Asian, 0 percent (16.7); Pacific Islander, rate can't be calculated for 2007-08 (33.3).

“We have to find ways to engage those students,” Geck said.

Geck said efforts are going on across the county to better engage students and keep them in school. Those efforts include the College-Going Initiative – which this year honored 108 local students accepted at four-year colleges and universities – and career technical programs such as Clear Lake High School's health pathways track and Konocti Unified's technical education courses.

He said they're communicating with students that the difference between a high school diploma and a college diploma is about $1 million in earnings over a lifetime.

Districts have until July 3 to review the data, verify student exit codes, and correct all data, O'Connell's office reported.

The new system of tracking students uses the Statewide Student Identifiers (SSIDs) to help districts identify students who were considered a dropout at a school they left but in fact were enrolled in a different district, according to O'Connell's office. In addition, CDE can identify students reported by a school district as transferring to another California school district but cannot be found subsequently enrolled.

The SSIDs are to be part of the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, or CALPADS, a system to track students that is to be implemented at all districts in the 2009-10 school year.

Frustrations in addressing dropouts

Upper Lake Union High School Principal/Superintendent Pat Iaccino, whose district has the highest dropout rate according to the Tuesday report, said the way the state tracks dropouts has many holes.

While they're now attempting to track student to determine if they turn up in another school, Iaccino said that tracking system doesn't include community colleges, adult education, universities or other states where students could continue their education and turn out not to be dropouts. Also, students who receive certificates of completion but don't pass the exit exam are classified as dropouts, he said.

So he and his staff are attempting to track students themselves. If a student doesn't appear at school for a time, they send someone out to visit their home.

He said a lot of aspects in the system need to be improved to get a clearer idea of the true number of dropouts, which Iaccino said is a figure that's manipulated for political purposes.

“I get extremely frustrated with the state of California and the Department of Education,” said Iaccino. “What would they like us to do?”

If an 18-year-old can legally leave high school and get an associate's degree at a community college without a high school diploma, why do they need a diploma, he asked.

“We have been doing everything in our power to get these kids through school,” he said, noting that it's a constant pain to deal with ambiguous percentages.

Iaccino, who has been in education for decades, said dropout always have been a struggle, with the state constantly changing the way dropouts are monitored.

He said because his school is small, he believes he can raise the graduation rate to the area of 95 to 97 percent.

One way Iaccino would like to address his district's dropout rate is through establishing an adult education program, which also would benefit community members. However, he said the state won't allow him to do that, so students need to drive instead to Kelseyville.

Debra Jones, administrator, for the state Department of Education's Adult Education Office, said Iaccino is correct – “and it's very sad” – that there are new issues that are hampering adult education programs from getting started.

She said the adult education programs, which were established by Proposition 98, don't get average daily attendance (ADA) dollars until they've been operating for two years. However, there is now no longer an ADA system due to the way the recent state budget handles such categorical funds.

Jones said the funds now go directly to school districts, which are using the funds to offset costs in other areas. “There is no a system in place right now until 2013 because of the budget that the legislature put together,” she said. “There won't be a way for a district to start an adult school. There just isn't a mechanism in place.”

There are some other options, she said, such as specific federal dollars and the ability to start fee-based programs.

Jones said Lake County has huge need as far as the dropout rate and the number of residents who are illiterate or who have low reading comprehension levels. “It's even further away right now due to our California state budget challenges than it ever was before.”

Geck said the programs needed to keep students from dropping out are in danger due to the current budget crisis.

“The big challenge with the proposition and the rhetoric around budget cut is we don't have specific information about what it is going to do to the budget,” he said.

To see the reports, visit the state Department of Education Web site at

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

LAKE COUNTY – Lake County has been awarded federal funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) for the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program, and local groups interested in applying for the funds are being sought.

Lake County has been chosen to receive $29,583 to supplement emergency food and shelter programs in the county. These funds have been made available through the ARRA.

The selection was made by a national board that is chaired by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency and consists of representatives from American Red Cross; Catholic Charities, USA, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.; The Salvation Army; United Jewish Communities and, United Way of America.

The local board was charged to distribute funds appropriated by Congress to help expand the capacity of food and shelter programs in high-need areas around the country.

A local board will determine how the funds awarded to Lake County are to be distributed among the emergency food and shelter programs run by local service agencies in the area. The board is responsible for recommending agencies to receive these funds made available through the ARRA.

Under the terms of the grant from the national board, local agencies chosen to receive funds must: 1) be private voluntary nonprofits or units of government, 2) be eligible to receive federal funds,3) have an accounting system, 4) practice nondiscrimination, 5) have demonstrated the capability to deliver emergency food and/or shelter programs, and 6) if they are a private voluntary organization, they must have a voluntary board. Qualifying agencies are urged to apply.

Public or private voluntary agencies interested in applying for ARRA Emergency Food and Shelter Programs funds must contact the Lake County Community Action Agency for applications or call 707-995-2920 and speak with Georgina Lehne, the local board chair.

The deadline for applications to be received is May 22 by 5 p.m.

LAKE COUNTY – A list released Thursday of 789 Chrysler dealers slated to have their agreements terminated spared Lake County's local dealer and most of those located on the North Coast.

Kathy Fowler, who owns Kathy Fowler Chevrolet-Pontiac – which sells General Motors, Chrysler and Jeep vehicles – was breathing a sigh of relief thanks to not being listed.

She said she confirmed it with her Chrysler representative Thursday morning.

Fowler said her business was receiving calls throughout the day from concerned customers fearing the worst.

The 41-page list of dealers slated for contract termination included 32 California dealers.

The only North Coast Chrysler dealer listed was Harvey M. Harper Co. of Eureka. Dealerships in Chico, Oroville, Oakland and Burlingame also received notices of terminations.

On Thursday Chrysler LLC filed a motion with the US Bankruptcy Court seeking to reject some of its US dealer agreements.

It's the latest development for the company, which filed bankruptcy April 30 and is forming a new company with Fiat. Chrysler also temporarily idled most of its manufacturing operations effective May 4 for a period between 30 and 60 days.

“The unprecedented decline in the industry has had a significant impact on our sales and forced us to reduce production levels to better match the needs of the market,” Chrysler Vice Chairman and President Jim Press said in a statement issued Thursday. “With the downsizing of operations after the sale and reduction of plants and production, similar reductions must be made to the size of the dealer body.”

Press said the company regretted the “painful action.”

The 789 dealers who will have their contracts terminated represents 14 percent of Chrysler's sales volume, according to a Thursday statement from Chrysler. They will cease selling Dodge, Chrysler or Jeep vehicles on or about June 9, subject to the US bankruptcy court's approval.

The company chose which dealers to cut based on a “data-driven matrix that assessed a number of

key metrics,” which weren't detailed.

Fowler said the parameters for the selections given to dealers were “very vague.” She said much of it was based on issues liked spacing between franchises and good performance.

The restructuring of the dealer network is “a necessary part of Chrysler’s viability plan” and central to its proposed sale transaction.

Chrysler said the action also is mean to ensure that the remaining 2,392 dealers and the new company “will be stronger and more profitable going forward.”

Chrysler said it will “work to assist in the redistribution of new vehicles and parts to the remaining dealer network.”

Pressure on local car dealers has been a concern for local officials.

During a round table with Congressman Mike Thompson on April 9, County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox raised the issue, noting that he's met with local new car dealers that have been under pressure due to auto bailout, as Lake County News has reported.

Fowler and Holder Ford now are the only two new car dealers remaining in Lake County. Cox was concerned about what appears to be a push to shut down dealerships in rural areas. Thompson said at that time that he had held a conference call with auto dealers throughout the district that resulted in a letter from the California Congressional delegation to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, outlining dealers' concerns.

Thompson had warned that many dealerships would end up being closed because they were larger than the suggested number in the government's business plan.

For many auto dealers, they're not out of the woods yet: On Friday General Motors is expected to begin making cuts to its dealerships as well.

The California dealers slated to have their agreements terminated by Chrysler include the following.

– Atascadero: Ted Miles Jeep Inc.

– Burlingame: T&K Automotive Investments Inc.

– Carson: Carson CJ LLC

– Chico: Courtesy Motors Auto Center Inc.

– El Centro: WR Thomas Inc.

– Escondido: EJE Inc.

– Eureka: Harvey M. Harper Co.

– Folsom: People's Chrysler Jeep Inc.

– Foothill Ranch: Urban Automotive Group LLC

– Garden Grove: Union Dodge Inc.

– Glendale: Los Feliz Ford Inc.

– Grass Valley: GK Alcombrack Inc., Weaver Automotive Inc.

– Hanford: Hanford Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep Inc.

– La Quinta: Sowell Automotive Inc.

– Livermore: Livermore Auto Group Inc.

– Merced: Ron & Ann Enterprises

– Oakdale: LE Richardson Enterprises Inc.

– Oakland: Bay Bridge Dodge Chrysler Jeep

– Oroville: Oroville Motors Inc.

– Redwood City: Autocal LLC, Boardwalk Auto Center Inc.

– San Diego: John Hine Pontiac

– San Fernando: Murphy and Shelby Dodge Inc.

– San Luis Obispo: Hysen-Johnson Ford Inc.

– Seaside: Butts Pontiac-Cadillac Inc., Larry Menke Inc.

– Sonora: Mother Lode Motors

– Van Nuys: Valley Dodge Inc., Valley Dodge Inc./dba Big Valley Chrysler Jeep

– Ventura: Kirby Oldsmobile

– Yuba City – Wheeler Leasing Co. II Inc.

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

HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – The Hidden Valley Lake Community Service District (HVLCSD) has been awarded Best Tasting Water by the California Rural Water Association (CRWA).

HVLCSD received the Best Tasting Water Award at the California Rural Water Associations Annual (CRWA) Conference held on April 28-30.

CRWA represents rural water agencies throughout California providing on-site technical assistance and specialized training for rural water and wastewater systems.

Each year CRWA hosts an annual conference addressing current water and wastewater issues and recognizing agencies and people in the industry.

The best tasting water is determined by a panel of judges who taste each sample and rate its clarity, bouquet and purity.

Hidden Valley Lake Community Service District beat out several opponents in its bid for best tasting water.

CRWA, an affiliate of the National Rural Water Association, is a nonprofit organization representing the over 9,000 water and wastewater systems in California.

Red parasols, seen here at the 2008 EcoArts reception, will be available once again this year. Courtesy photo.




MIDDLETOWN – For the seventh year in a row, the EcoArts: Lake County Sculpture Walk will exhibit large scale sculptures themed “In Dialog With Nature” at the Middletown County Trailside Park, Highway 175 and Dry Creek Cutoff, Middletown.

The exhibit will open on June 7 and run through October 17.

The opening reception is Sunday, June 7, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. along the center trail.

Works included in the exhibit are a large sculpture by Anthony Johnson, member of the Pacific Rim Sculpture Group, work by internationally acclaimed weaver, Sheila O’Hara and her students as well as perennial local favorite, Alicia Lee Farnsworth.

There will be approximately 23 works this year. Along side professional artists, will be work by local students from Coyote Valley Elementary School, Minnie Cannon Elementary School and the Lake County International Charter School.

Everyone is invited to the free reception on June 7 at the center trail of the Middletown County Trailside Park.

EcoArtists will be on hand to share their experiences. Red parasols will be available to avoid the sun. The W’Nac’di drum circle will be on hand and encourage folks to join the music making. Wiloth Equine Center will provide horse rides for a nominal fee as well as interactive art projects during the event. There is plenty of parking and restrooms.

EcoArts of Lake County is a non-profit 501(c)(3) dedicated to bringing visual art opportunities and ecologic stewardship to the residents and visitors of Lake County, California.

For more information visit:




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