Wednesday, 24 July 2024


WASHINGTON, The U.S. Senate approved a provision late Thursday night to help National Guard and Reserve physicians maintain their practices during lengthy overseas deployments.

The bill that was passed, HR2429 originally authored by U.S. Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Sam Johnson (R-TX) is the House companion to S.1767, which was introduced by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and U.S. Senate Republican Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) earlier this month.

The measure will temporarily exempt physicians serving in the Armed Forces overseas from a Medicare law that currently places a 60-day restriction on the amount of time a physician can fill in for a colleague who is on a leave of absence.

This limit creates serious hardship for physicians in the National Guard and Reserves, who are absent from their practices for longer than 60 days when they are called for active duty. Sens. Wyden and Lott and Reps. Thompson and Johnson are confident that they will be able to enact a permanent exemption later this year.

"Our legislation will help the nearly 3,000 medical professionals who are putting their lives and careers on hold to take care of our troops overseas," said Wyden. "After their sacrifices for our country, these brave men and women deserve to find their medical practices waiting for them when they return home."

"Our men and women serving in the Armed Forces deserve more than bureaucratic red-tape, and this bill will help ease some of the strain placed on health care providers serving our country in uniform," said Senate Republican Whip Trent Lott of Mississippi. "When doctors go overseas, their patients are often left without a primary physician. Our legislation, passed by unanimous consent, will allow patients to continue visiting the offices of their citizen soldier doctors."

HR2429 passed the House of Representatives in May by a vote of 422-0. Wyden and Lott and Thompson and Johnson have also introduced legislation to make the exemption permanent for National Guard and Reserve physicians serving overseas. Last night, the permanent exemption was included in the House healthcare package, HR 3162.

"When physicians are deployed, they leave behind families and jobs just like any other person in the Reserve or Guard," said Vietnam veteran Congressman Mike Thompson. "But they also leave behind their patients. Doctors who care for our troops overseas shouldn't have to worry that their patients and practices aren't being cared for here at home. This legislation changes Medicare policy, ensuring that the patients and practices of thousands of doctors in the Guard and Reserves will be cared for when their doctor is called to active duty."

"When you're a doctor serving in a war, the last think you want to worry about is your patients not getting the care they need because no one can help them. Our bill changes that," said the 29-year Air Force veteran, U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson.

Medicare currently allows physicians to enter reciprocal billing arrangements, whereby replacement physicians can care for the absent physician's patients and bill Medicare accordingly. However, these arrangements cannot last longer than 60 days. After that, a second replacement must be found. Securing replacement physicians is an expensive and difficult process, especially for practices in remote and rural areas.

Physicians who cannot secure multiple replacements during their absence can either lose their patients to other doctors or their patients must go without care.

The legislation suspends the 60-day cap for physicians filling in for members of the National Guard and Reserves who are called for duty through the rest of the calendar year.

This bill has been endorsed by the American Medical Association and is supported by the Reserve Officers Association.


KELSEYVILLE – A Kelseyville woman was flown to a Santa Rosa hospital Tuesday with major injuries after she and a pickup collided as she rode her bicycle along Soda Bay Road.

The accident occurred at 10:20 a.m. on Soda Bay Road east of Blower Road, reported California Highway Patrol Officer Josh Dye.

Ellen Luise Boettcher, 48, was riding her bicycle westbound along Soda Bay Road, said Dye. She was in a 15 mile-per-hour-curve when she and a 1994 Chevy pickup driven by 84-year-old Teddy Henry Weiper of Kelseyville collided.

Boettcher had major injuries and was flown by REACH helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital due to a laceration on her right upper arm and a complaint of pain to her right hip, Dye reported. Weiper was uninjured.

Dye said the cause of the collision is still under investigation, led by CHP Officer Craig Van Housen.

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


LAKEPORT – Mendocino College officials say they're looking at a site in Lakeport as a possible future location of their Lake County center.

Mike Adams, Mendocino College's facilities services director, said that the college is very interested in a 31-acre parcel located along Parallel Drive in Lakeport.

The property is part of the 157-acre Parallel Drive annexation that the City of Lakeport proposed to add to its boundaries.

That annexation, however, was turned down last Wednesday by the Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO), which ruled that the city's current sewer issues prevented it from being able to provide services to the annexation area.

Richard Knoll, Lakeport's Community Development director, said the city thinks the site would be an “appropriate location” for the college's Lake Center, which has for many years been based in Lakeport.

“We think the campus ought to be located here,” said Knoll, adding that it's a central location for the college and there aren't many good sites available for the facility.

Knoll added that the city is concerned that the LAFCO decision may impact the college site project.

Supervisor and LAFCO Commissioner Ed Robey, however, said he didn't think it was an issue that the property remains in county jurisdiction. He said the college could work with the county on the project just as it would have worked with the city.

The site that the college is considering is owned by Thomas Adamson, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based developer who is proposing to build a 130-lot subdivision on the site, according to LAFCO documents.

County assessor records show that Adamson acquired the property in May 2005. No purchase amount was listed, but the property assessment valued the land at $1.5 million.

In a July 9 letter obtained by Lake County News, Mendocino College Superintendent/President Kathryn Lehner wrote to Adamson to express the college's interest in purchasing the property.

“Our meetings with you and your representatives have helped us understand your development interests and the potential mutual benefits that may arise if the District is able to acquire the parcel in order to construct the new college center on the site,” Lehner wrote.

“We anticipate presenting a formal offer for the property in the near future,” she added.

Adamson did not return calls placed by Lake County News to his Arizona office.

Adams said the college is now securing an appraisal on the property, which they must do because the property would be purchased with public money.

The funds to purchase the property would come from Measure W, the $67.5 million construction bond measure voters approved last November to help the college build new facilities and renovate existing ones.

One of the stated intents of Measure W is to provide funding to purchase property and develop a new college Lake Center, which for many years has been located in rented facilities along Parallel Drive.

Measure W's project budget allocates a total of $15 million for property, design and construction of the site, but doesn't specify how much would be used just for land acquisition.

Adams said he has no idea how much the college might offer for the property.

The college is at a “very early stage” when it comes to discussions for the property, Adams cautioned, adding that no decision about the land had yet been made.

“It's not the only parcel we're looking at, but it's a prime spot,” he said.

A main concern is infrastructure, said Adams, which includes sewer and water service. Adams, who attended the July 18 LAFCO meeting, said annexation isn't the only way to get those services.

Staying at a Lakeport location would put the center in the middle of the Mendocino's Lake County service area, which extends down past Kelseyville to Jago Bay on one side of the lake, and as far south as Lucerne on the other, according to Adams.

The location along Parallel Drive also would give the college good visibility, Adams said. Its flat terrain and access off the highway also are pluses, he added.

“This would be great if we could figure it out,” Adams said.

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


LAKEPORT – A lawsuit filed against the City of Prineville, Ore., includes claims that two of its employees were laid off in retaliation for telling then-Assistant City Manager Jerry Gillham that he was not adhering to city and state policies.

Gillham has since been hired as Lakeport's city manager.

“Anybody can make an accusation of any kind they want, I guess,” Gillham told Lake County News on Tuesday.

He added the allegations in the suit are “blatantly false.”

James Mole Sr. and Samanthia Waltjen filed the case, which last week was scheduled for a pre-trial conference on Sept. 25 in Crook County Circuit Court. The case was first filed April 5, with the City of Prineville filing its response June 22.

Mole, Prineville's former director of Public Works, and Waltjen, formerly Mole's administrative assistant, claim they were discharged in retaliation for telling Gillham that “he should comply with public policy and not violate state law or city policies,” according to the suit, a copy of which Lake County News obtained.

The suit focuses on Gillham's alleged actions during his brief tenure as assistant city manager in Prineville, where court documents say he was hired Sept. 5, 2006, and held supervisory authority over both Mole and Waltjen. No other city officials or individuals are mentioned in the suit.

In its formal response to the case, the City of Prineville denied any wrongdoing, saying the positions formerly held by Mole and Waltjen were eliminated “as a result of an administrative and budgetary departmental reorganization in mid-January, 2007,” and that both were laid off.

Mole joined Prineville in February 2003, with Waltjen hired July 24, 2006, according to court documents.

The suit explains that Mole and Gillham had regular weekly meetings after Gillham joined the city in September, 2006. Mole asked Waltjen to accompany him to those meetings to take notes.

During one such meeting last November, the suit alleges that Gillham said he planned to hire a public works inspector, to which Mole claims he responded that the city budget didn't contain the salary for such a position. Gillham said he would transfer money from one of the other city accounts to cover the salary.

“Mole communicated his belief that such a transfer without city council approval would violate city policies,” the suit states. “Gillham then expressed his intent to transfer money without obtaining city council approval.”

Two months later, in January, during another of their weekly meetings, Gillham and Mole had another exchange in which Gillham is alleged to have discussed his plan to divide up a $1 million public works project into smaller parts. That, the suit alleges, was so Gillham could award the contract to a particular company, which wasn't named, without having to go through the competitive bid process.

“Both Mole and Waltjen expressed their opinion that such practice would violate state statutes establishing bidding procedures for public works projects,” according to the suit.

The following day, Jan. 18, Mole alleges that Gillham informed him that his position as Public Works director was being eliminated. The day after that, Gillham reportedly told Waltjen that she too was being laid off.

Gillham is not being sued in the case.

Mole and Waltjen are asking to be reinstated to their jobs and for economic damages and wages exceeding $25,000 each, with the approximate amounts to be calculated at trial. They are also asking for $150,000 apiece for the “mental, emotional and physical distress” they say their wrongful termination caused them, attorney's fees and other costs related to filing the suit.

Their attorney, Roger Hennagin is on vacation this week and could not be reached at his Lake Oswego, Ore., office.

Gillham resigned from his Prineville post in February. The Central Oregonian of Prineville reported that his resignation followed Mole's controversial dismissal.

The City of Lakeport hired him officially at its May 1 meeting. The terms of his contract state he is on a probationary period until Sept. 30.

In the case of Mole and Waltjen, Gillham said, “Understand I was just the assistant city manager at the time.”

He worked for City Manager Robb Corbett, who remains in that position with Prineville.

In doing his job, Gillham said he had to lay off the two staffers as part of a “typical city restructuring,” and that the suit arose because they weren't happy with that process.

The Central Oregonian reported that Mole's job was replaced by a superintendent position.

Gillham, who said he didn't know if he would be deposed for the case, refused to speculate on other motivations for the case.

“I didn't do anything wrong,” Gillham maintained.

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


CLEARLAKE OAKS – Firefighters from state and local agencies are fighting a wildland fire near Highway 20 and 53.

Paul Duncan of Cal Fire's Incident Command Center said that the fire, roughly 15 acres in size, is burning in an area between Clearlake Oaks and a rock quarry.

Duncan said the fire was reported at 3:15 p.m.

Northshore Fire, Cal Fire and Lake County Fire Protection District all responded to the fire and were continuing their efforts to put the fire out as of 5:30 p.m.

Duncan said the cause of the fire is not yet known.

Lake County News will continue to follow the progress of the fire.

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


Lakeport firefighters at the scene of a trailer fire at Big Valley Rancheria Sunday. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – A Sunday evening fire destroyed a trailer at Big Valley Rancheria.

The fire call came across the radio at 8:05 p.m., at which time the 30-foot aluminum travel trailer as fully engulfed. A column of black smoke could be seen from three miles away.

Lakeport Fire Protection District firefighters from Station 50 responded with one engine and one medic. Firefighters worked side by side with rancheria residents to extinguish the fires.

However, despite their efforts, the trailer and its contents were destroyed.

Firefighters were concerned that nearby propane tanks could be in danger of exploding.

Pacific Gas & Electric sent a service truck to the scene to deal with possible electric issues.

No injuries were reported.




A rancheria resident works to put out the fire. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

LAKE COUNTY – Authorities are trying to identify a man whose body was found by hunters in a remote part of the Mendocino County National Forest on Saturday.

The body was located near the border of Lake and Glenn counties, and was first reported to the Glenn County Sheriff's Office, who received a call at 8:15 p.m. Saturday, said Mary Beth Stanbery, administrative services officer for the Glenn County Sheriff's Office.

The unidentified man was found in the bed of Corbin Creek where it crosses US Forest Service road 20N24, west of Road M3, Stanbery said.

Glenn County sent a team to the area, where they found the body and a pickup with “considerable fire damage throughout the cab and bed area,” said Stanbery.

They also found a handgun and some documents at the scene, said Stanbery.

When they realized the body was within Lake County's boundaries, Stanbery said Glenn County turned the case over the the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

A report from Lake County Sheriff's Lt. Cecil Brown said the agency was contacted by a Glenn County Sheriff's detective at 5:30 a.m. Sunday, who reported the body's discovery.

Detectives from the Lake County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene, said Brown, where they recovered the body.

Brown said they couldn't positively identify the body at the scene. A coroner’s investigation has been initiated with an autopsy scheduled, said Brown, in the hopes of identifying the man and determining his cause of death.

On Tuesday, Brown told Lake County News that the body could be connected to a missing person report that the sheriff's office received, but that he could not comment further on the missing person case prior to the body's identification.

Stanbery said they have no missing persons reports in Glenn County which match the case.

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HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – A Hidden Valley man reported missing after he went for a swim in Hidden Valley Lake has been found, the victim of an apparent drowning.

A report from Lake County Sheriff's Lt. Cecil Brown said that the body of Matthew Norman Kosar, 38, was found in the lake near a floating platform by sheriff's deputies and Search and Rescue volunteers on Sunday.

Brown said sheriff's deputies responded at 9:27 p.m. Saturday to a call at a Hidden Valley Lake recreation area reporting a missing swimmer.

At the scene, witnesses told deputies that Kosar entered the lake and swam to a floating swim platform, according to Brown's report. Kosar climbed onto the platform and then jumped back into the water.

After Kosar went into the water the second time, witnesses said they didn't see him again, Brown reported.

Deputies requested assistance from the California Department of Forestry, who sent a swimmer to search for Kosar under the floating platform and docks, according to Brown. A Sonoma County Sheriff’s helicopter searched the area with forward looking infra-red equipment.

After finding Kosar Sunday, authorities were able to positively identify him and notify his next of kin, according to Brown.

A coroner’s investigation was initiated, Brown's report stated. A pathologist has determined that Kosar’s death was caused by fresh water drowning.

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


WASHINGTON, D.C. The release Tuesday of the latest National Intelligence Estimate drew a strong reaction from North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson.

NIEs are the Intelligence Community's most authoritative written judgments concerning national security issues. Though the NIE issued July 17 was classified, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) declassified the report's key judgments and released them publicly.

"The new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on 'The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland' makes clear that the United States has lost ground in the battle against al-Qa'ida and global Islamic extremists," said Thompson, chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Human Intelligence, Analysis, and Counterintelligence of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

"The NIE states that al-Qa'ida has preserved or reconstituted its most dangerous capabilities, and that the group will continue to enhance its ability to attack us at home," said Thompson. "It contradicts the president's assertion that we have to fight the terrorists 'over there' so they don't attack us here."

"Instead of invading Iraq, the Administration should have devoted its attention and resources to rebuilding Afghanistan and rooting al-Qa'ida out of its safehaven in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan," added Thompson. "If we had kept our focus on al-Qa'ida, we might not face 'a persistent and evolving terrorist threat,' as the NIE states, six years after the Sept. 11 attacks."

Thompson has already launched efforts to enhance congressional oversight of intelligence agencies' abilities to address threats identified in the NIE.

He has chaired two subcommittee hearings to date on the threat of a terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which the NIE states al-Qa'ida is trying to acquire.

A third hearing is scheduled for later this month.


CLEARLAKE OAKS – A large contingent of local, state and federal firefighters contained a wildland fire that broke out near Clearlake Oaks Tuesday afternoon.

Cal Fire's Incident Command Center reported that the fire, which broke out along Highway 20 in an area between Clearlake Oaks and a rock quarry, was between 15 and 20 acres in size.

Paul Duncan of Cal Fire's Incident Command Center said that the fire was reported at 3:15 p.m.

Northshore Fire, Cal Fire and Lake County Fire Protection District all responded to the fire, Duncan said. Cal Fire dispatch estimated that as many as 15 engines were on scene, including U.S. Forest Service engines, along with three Cal Fire hand crews, two air tankers and a helicopter.

No injuries were reported, according to Cal Fire. Some structures were threatened but none were burned.

Although the fire was contained by 8 p.m., fire crews were expected to be on duty all night to mop up and keep watch on a number of hot spots, according to Cal Fire. A day crew also is supposed to monitor the area on Wednesday.

Duncan said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

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


CLEARLAKE OAKS – Five people and two dogs enjoying an evening on a pontoon boat hit trouble late Saturday, when their boat was damaged and capsized.

Richard Haney, the main operator of the Northshore Fire Protection District's Clearlake Oaks fire boat, said the call on the capsized pontoon boat came in around 11 p.m. Saturday.

The group was located in the water near the capsized boat on the west side of Rattlesnake Island, Haney said.

One of the boat's pontoons had been damaged, which caused it to take on water, Haney explained. The boat also may have been slightly overloaded; those factors, combined with the wind and high waves, conspired to tip the boat over.

Two Lake County Sheriff's Marine Patrol boats also responded along with the fire boat, said Haney.

The Marine Patrol rescued the people and canines from the water while Haney towed the boat to shore. “Our job mainly was to get rid of the hazard in the water,” Haney said.

Once the boat was towed in, Haney said the fire boat crew uprighted it. He said the boat was completely damaged.

Although the boat wasn't in such good shape, everyone else was OK, said Haney.

“Everybody's fine. The dogs are good,” he reported.

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


Tule boats take to the lake Friday. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

LAKEPORT – Dancing, boat building and a lot of fun took place Thursday and Friday as part of the sixth annual tule boat races held by local tribes.

Sarah Ryan, environmental director of Big Valley Rancheria said that Big Valley/Mission, Robinson, Elem, Scotts Valley, Upper Lake's Habematolel, Grindstone, Pinoleville, Jenner and a combined team from Big Valley and the California Tribal TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) Partnerships took part in the three-day event.


On Thursday competitors built their boats from tules, a traditional boat-building material amongst country tribes. The day also included tribal dances and ceremonies.

On Friday it was time to launch the boats. Adults and children alike took turns taking the boats on the water, but the day was clearly most enjoyed by the kids in the boats and in the water.

Ryan reported that the winning teams were:

– Girls' race (ages 6-8): First, Robinson; Second, Mission; Third, Pinoleville.

– Boys' race (ages 6-8): First, TANF/Mission; Second, Pinoleville; Third, Robinson.

– Girls race (ages 9-12): First, Mission; Second, TANF/Mission; Third, Robinson.

– Boys' race (ages 9-12): First, TANF/Mission; Second, Elem; Third, Grindstone.

– Girls' race (ages 13-17): First, Mission; Second, Grindstone; Third, TANF/Mission.

– Boys' race (ages 13-17): First, Elem; Second, Mission; Third, Habematolel/Upper Lake.

– Women's race: First, Scotts Valley; Second, Pinoleville; Third, Mission/Big Valley.

– Men's race: First, TANF/Mission; Second, Big Valley/Mission; Third, Grindstone.

– Team Relay race: First, Elem; Second, Robinson; Third, TANF/Mission.

For a full gallery of pictures from the two-day event, go to,com_wrapper/Itemid,37/.



Competitors built their boats on Thursday. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



The children took to the boats and the water and, with some practice, were ready to race. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

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