Monday, 15 July 2024


KELSEYVILLE – A Kelseyville man was arrested for driving under the influence and causing injury following a collision Saturday night.

Steven Russell Mitten, 18, was arrested late Saturday following a crash that occurred shortly before 10 p.m., according to California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia.

Garcia said Mitten was driving a 1990 Jeep Wrangler eastbound on Soda Bay Road east of Montezuma Way in the Clearlake Riviera when he crossed the double yellow lines. As a result he collided head-on with a 1993 Mercury taxi cab heading westbound and driven by 43-year-old Peter Green of Clearlake.

Green sustained major injuries and was taken by REACH air ambulance to Sutter Lakeside Hospital. From there he was later transferred to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Garcia said.

Mitten also was transported by REACH to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, said Garcia, where he was treated then released into CHP custody.

Garcia said Mitten was suspected of driving while under the influence of alcohol and was arrested on a felony charge of DUI causing bodily injury. He has since posted the $7,000 bail and been released, according to jail records.

Officer Randy Forslund is investigating the incident, Garcia said.

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


SAN FRANCISCO – Fifty-one percent of Californians favor more oil drilling off the coast – a 10-point increase since July 2007 – according to a statewide survey released by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

This is the first time since 2003, when PPIC first posed the question, that more Californians favor offshore drilling than oppose it (45%), a shift caused in large part by a surge in support among Republicans. It is also one of many reactions to soaring gas prices that the PPIC survey reveals. The survey was conducted with funding from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and is the eighth in a series about Californians and the environment.

As the national debate intensifies over how to respond to rising energy costs in a lagging economy, Californians report that they are changing their behavior. The number of workers who drive to work alone has dropped 11 points in five years (73% 2003, 62% 2008). Nearly seven in 10 residents (69%) report cutting back significantly on their driving, and nearly three in four (74%) are seriously considering a more fuel-efficient car the next time they buy a vehicle.


Despite the pain at the pump, residents are concerned that global warming is a threat to California, which has the nation's toughest goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Half of Californians (52%) say global warming is a very serious threat to the state's economy and quality of life, and more than six in 10 (64%) say its effects have already begun, a 7-point increase from 2005.

But here, too, a partisan divide exists, with nearly seven in 10 Democrats (67%) saying global warming is a very serious threat, compared to about half of independents (49%) and just one in four Republicans (25%).

Similarly, 74 percent of Democrats say the effects of warming have already begun, compared to 64 percent of independents and just 41 percent of Republicans. Majorities of Californians say governments are not doing enough to address global warming at any level – federal (66%), state (51%), or local (52%). However, opinion is again divided along party lines, with less than half of Republicans saying that federal (43%), state (29%), or local (33%) governments are not doing enough about global warming.

The barrage of bad news about the economy has not dampened residents' enthusiasm for taking immediate action against global warming.

Eight in 10 (80%) believe steps should be taken right away, a percentage that has increased 7 points since 2003. Majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents express this view.

Californians disagree with the notion that state leaders, who must fill a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, should wait to implement AB32, the 2006 law that set goals to slash greenhouse gas emissions. Nearly six in 10 (57%) say the state should take steps right away, while a little over a third (36%) say that government should wait until the economy and budget have improved.

"Tough economic times have not diminished the importance of environmental issues for Californians," says Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of PPIC. "The environment is seen as a matter of health and well-being, and residents don't want to cut corners there."

"At the same time, Californians are living with the financial hardship of higher gas prices, and they're changing their behavior. They're driving less, which is an environmental win because auto emissions increase global warming. The issue for the state's leaders is to transform Californians' values and their day-to-day economic challenges into a policy that moves the state forward."


Three in four Californians (76%) say that increases in gasoline prices have caused financial hardship in their households. A majority of workers (62%) report that they drive alone to work, but more workers are carpooling (17% today, 13% 2007). Since last year, about the same percentage of workers report walking, bicycling, or working at home (13% today, 12% 2007), or taking public transit (7% today and in 2007), perhaps reflecting that these commuting choices are not available to all Californians.

Those who are richer and older are more likely to drive to work alone: An overwhelming percentage (70%) of residents with household incomes above $80,000 are solo commuters, compared to less than half (44%) of those with incomes under $40,000. While more than 68 percent of Californians between ages 35 and 54 drive to work alone, 52 percent of Californians between ages 18 and 34 do. Among Californians who drive to work alone, 31 percent own or lease an SUV and 6 percent own or lease a hybrid.


How should the nation meet its energy needs? The new support for offshore oil drilling (51% today, 41% 2007) has come from all adults – Republicans (77%, up from 60%), independents (44%, up from 33%), and Democrats (35%, up from 29%). Still, most Democrats (60%) and half of independents (50%) oppose more drilling.

Support for building more nuclear power plants has also increased. Four in 10 (44%) residents support it and half (50%) are opposed. The partisan divide is wide on this issue, with Republicans supporting it (66% in favor, 29% opposed), independents slightly in favor (51% in favor, 42% opposed), and Democrats opposed (60% opposed, 34% in favor).

But there is bipartisan support for alternative proposals to meet the nation's energy needs. More than eight in 10 Californians (83%) support federal funding for research on renewable technologies, such as wind, solar, and hydrogen. Across political parties, more than three in four voters agree with this view.

Seven in 10 Californians say automakers should be required to significantly improve fuel efficiency in cars, even if this increases the cost of buying a car. This view also has strong backing across party lines, with support from 81 percent of independents, 80 percent of Democrats, and 68 percent of Republicans.

Visit the PPIC's Web site at


Lakeport firefighters work to pull Willis Knight out from under a trenching tractor on Tuesday. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – A Lakeport man on Tuesday found himself trapped under a tractor, but quick action by medics saved him from serious injury.

Willis Knight, 67, was operating a medium-sized gas-powered trenching tractor on his property on Hendricks shortly before noon Tuesday.

Knight was working on a slope when the tractor overturned and pinned him to the ground.

His wife, Barbara, called 911 and within five minutes medics arrived, including one engine and a medic unit from Lakeport Fire Protection District, along with several off-duty responders. A REACH helicopter arrived at about 12:14 p.m.

Rescuers uprighted the tractor and, instead of taking Knight by REACH, Lakeport Fire medics determined that Knight's injuries were not life-threatening and recommended he be transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital.

Late Tuesday afternoon Lake County News spoke with Barbara Knight, who indicated that her husband had been treated at Sutter Lakeside Hospital and also had undergone an intensive MRI and external physical examinations.

The results showed no internal damages but did reveal moderate to severe bruising on several areas of his body as well as moderate cuts and scratches.

Knight was treated and released and was recovering in his home by 6 p.m., according to his wife.

She said her husband is “a very lucky man.”

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



A REACH helicopter arrived at the scene but Knight's injuries were such that he was able to be treated at Sutter Lakeside Hospital. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – Lake County's superintendent of schools says he's willing to share whatever information he can with the grand jury in order to answer issues raised in its most recent report.

Dave Geck, who heads Lake County's Office of of Education, returned from vacation last week. The grand jury report was released on July 9, the day before he left for a scheduled trip to Alaska.

During his first week back on the job the report was the “main thing on my desk,” Geck said.

“I was really upset and mostly concerned about the issues surrounding fairness and accuracy,” Geck said of the report, which he called “inflammatory.”

The report offered two pages of findings but no final recommendations, noting that the investigation is ongoing and will continue with the newly seated grand jury.

Some of the report's findings raised issues with hiring practices, qualifications of an administrator awarded a new position that gave that person an additional $25,000 a year in salary, a pattern of “exorbitant spending” by one administrator in charge of grant programs, hostile work conditions and fear of retaliation from the office's administration.

Because of the highly confidential nature of the grand jury's work, grand jury Foreman Brondell Locke can't comment on the investigation or elaborate on the findings in the report.

Geck said he was concerned that, by listing facts and findings without the investigation being completed, “the impression is, that this is all true.”

He said he and his staff were asked to testify before the grand jury but given little information ahead of time in order to prepare. Had they known more about the grand jury's questions, Geck said they could have provided the necessary information about department policies and procedures.

Geck said he's planning to make a formal response to the report in order to “clear the air.” The response is due 60 days from the July 9 report release date.

To what does he attribute the report?

“What I believe is there are probably employees who felt they weren't treated fairly,” he said. “Whether they were treated fairly or not is a different question.”

Geck who has been in education for 34 years, said he's not sure why those employees would have taken their complaints to the grand jury, when such matters usually are handled through a process that includes representation for the employee. “So I'm not sure exactly what the intent was.”

He said he can't comment publicly about the personnel issues the report raises. But he said he's willing to share personnel files with the grand jury, and would have done so already if they had provided him with a list of files they wanted to see.

“We have information to share with the grand jury, and we will,” he said. “We're taking it very seriously what they're saying.”

Looking closer at report's findings

Geck said he and his staff are looking at the need for an internal investigation to look at the grand jury's findings. So far, there has been no meeting scheduled between him and the grand jury to discuss the matter, but he said he anticipates contacting Locke to set up a time to talk.

One of the grand jury's findings said one administrator spent more than $9,000 in one year on meal and lodging reimbursement, including expenses for people not employed by the Lake County Office of Education.

Geck said to determine if that amount was appropriate, they have to look at the program involved and what expenditures – such as travel and conferences – that are tied to the program's goals. While it may look like an excessive amount to members of the public, it may not necessarily be out of line.

“We're going to look at all of that,” he said.

Expenditures extending to people outside of the Office of Education may be either for people from other districts or members of the business community who sometimes are invited to participate in certain trips, he said.

Geck added that the state requires annual audits of the Office of Education's finances by an outside auditor.

Regarding allegations of a hostile work environment, Geck said his staff also is looking into that. He said he has never had a written complaint listing a hostile work environment or issues of mental abuse the grand jury report cited.

There are many different departments and programs in the Office of Education, he said. “It could be in a part of the organization, we don't know that.”

Geck said he also can explain to the grand jury about the administrator who received a position that gave them a $25,000 a year salary increase.

The report said the position that administrator received was a new one, created in 2007. “The position's existed in the county office for seven or eight years, so it wasn't a new position,” said Geck.

It was, however, posted internally only, which Geck said is done frequently.

Office of Education Human Resources Director Ed Skeen confirmed that the position existed previously.

Another report finding raised issues of proper certifications for some administrative staff.

Skeen said there is a “strange phenomenon” when it comes to credentialing for teachers and administrators. He estimated 75 to 80 percent of local credential applications go through his office, and his staff reviews all qualifications for those.

However, some credential applications take other routes through colleges or universities, which then send letters to the state recommending certification upon completion of a program.

It's possible in those cases, said Skeen, that the person receiving the credential may not be qualified, but his office wouldn't have access to the qualifying criteria. “We do not see every single credential application or supporting documentation.”

He was careful to add, “I'm not questioning anybody's credential status.”

Skeen said the grand jury's report identified issues to look at that the Office of Education also had identified as needing attention, although he did not specify what those were.

The grand jury's approach, he added, appears to be fair-minded.

“I think there's some validity to their interest” in some areas, he said, adding that they might be misled on other areas.

If mistakes were made, they'll be fixed, said Geck.

While the grand jury report indicated an investigation is still under way, Geck added, “The other side of the story is, we're in process, too.”

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


LAKE COUNTY – Mosquitoes collected in Lake County earlier this week have tested positive for West Nile Virus, Lake County Vector Control District reported Friday.

“This is the first West Nile activity we've had in Lake County this year,” District Manager and Research Director Jamesina J. Scott, Ph.D., told Lake County News.

Scott said this is the time of year when officials expect to see more mosquito activity and, along with it, more West Nile activity throughout the state.

The mosquitoes, Culex stigmatosoma – the banded foul water mosquito – were collected in Lakeport on Tuesday, Scott said.

She said the mosquitoes develop in backyard sources of standing water such as birdbaths, neglected pools and ornamental ponds, as well as larger sources like ditches and wastewater ponds.

West Nile Virus is a disease most often spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, according to the California West Nile Virus Web site. The mosquitoes' main source for the virus is wild birds.

Scott said most people who get West Nile Virus from infected mosquitoes won't become ill, but about 20 percent may experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms which may be prolonged.

About one in 150 people will become very ill, she said. People over age 50 and people with suppressed or compromised immune systems are more likely to become seriously ill. West Nile Virus infection is rare, but people with symptoms, including high fever, severe headache and stiff neck, should contact their health care provider immediately.

Scott urged residents and visitors to take common-sense precautions to protect themselves from being bitten by mosquitoes that transmit the disease. Precautions include avoiding spending time outside at dawn and dusk when the mosquitoes are active; if you must be outside, use a mosquito repellent.

She also asked community members to spend a few minutes this weekend checking out their yards and eliminating standing water where mosquitoes develop in order to protect themselves, their families and fellow community members.

Other than the mosquitoes, this year so far there have been no West Nile cases in horses, humans or chickens, and no dead wild birds, said Scott. Last year there were three dead birds, eight mosquito samples and two sentinel chickens that were positive for West Nile virus in Lake County.

According to state West Nile Virus statistics, Lake is the first North Coast county to show any West Nile activity.

In Southern California the story is different, said Scott, with numerous cases of both birds and mosquitoes found to be infected. In addition, three of the four cases of horses infected this year are in Southern California counties, with the fourth case in Fresno County, the state West Nile Virus Web site reported.

Most of the state's 29 human cases also are located in Southern California, according to state statistics.

Officials reports fewer cases this year

There have been fewer cases of humans with West Nile Virus this year as opposed to last year at this time, when 65 human cases had already been reported.

In addition to the 29 human cases and four cases of horses infected this year, there are have been 808 dead birds, 604 mosquito samples, 30 sentinel chickens and five squirrels found to have the disease statewide, the state reported.

There is no human vaccine for West Nile, although several very good vaccines exist for protecting horses, with the California Department of Food and Agriculture encouraging vaccination. That's the only way to keep horses safe, as there's no cure for the disease in horses.

Horses cases have been down over the last few years, statistics show.

Since West Nile gained a foothold in California in 2003, it has infected hundreds of horses. In its two peak years of 2004 and 2005, it infected 540 and 456 horses, respectively, according to California Department of Food and Agriculture officials. The numbers of cases in horses have since appeared to taper off dramatically due to a variety of factors, including vaccination.

Getting rid of breeding grounds

Scott said an issue of particular concern is homes with neglected swimming pools, since such pools are an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.

That problem has been compounded, she said, by the statewide foreclosure crisis, with pools, fountains, water features and spas being left unattended and, therefore, becoming a contributing factor to mosquito breeding.

Vector Control has a special ally in the fight against West Nile Virus, said Scott: mosquitofish.

The little gray guppies thrive on mosquitoes, she said. “They're a good employee.”

The district makes the fish available free of charge, Scott said, for use in pools or water features that don't have chlorine or chemicals.

“If someone can let us know they've got a neighbor with a bad pool we'll come out and put some fish in it,” she said.

County residents are encouraged to report dead birds and squirrels to the state’s toll-free Dead Bird Hotline 1-877-WNV-BIRD (1-877-968-2473) or online at the California Department of Public Health’s website

If you would like to report a mosquito problem, have questions about mosquitoes or mosquito control, or need mosquito fish, please call the Lake County Vector Control District at 263-4770.

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



LUCERNE – After gaining ground in recent months, the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center is once again facing a challenge following the state's seizure of thousands of dollars from the center's bank accounts because of past unpaid state taxes.

Center Executive Director Lee Tyree said the center's accounts were essentially drained last week by a levy from the State Franchise Tax Board's Industrial Health and Safety Collections department.

The State Franchise Tax Board has told the center it owes more than $10,000, said Tyree.

On July 31, without warning, the state took $7,000 out of the center's accounts, said Tyree.

“It wiped us out,” she said. “We couldn't even make payroll.”

A State Franchise Tax Board spokesman told Lake County News on Monday he was looking into the matter to see if the agency could offer a comment on the action this week.

The State Franchise Tax Board is responsible for California's two major tax programs – personal income tax and corporation tax, according to the agency's Web site. It's also responsible for collecting back wages for the state's labor board.

Last August, the center reached a tax settlement of just over $33,000 with the Internal Revenue Service for unpaid federal taxes, an amount the center was able to pay after selling its thrift shop building to the county for $150,000.

Center officials at the time said those taxes had not been paid by Rowland Mosser, 63, who served as the center's executive director from July 2002 to August 2005, as Lake County News has reported.

In April Mosser was arrested for felony embezzlement, grand theft by an employee, grand theft and keeping a false record of government funds in connection with funds that allegedly went missing from the center. Former center board president Jim Swatts said previously he believes as much as $200,000 was unaccounted for in the center's finances.

Mosser's wife, Jayne, 60, also was arrested in April on a felony grand theft charge.

A week before the state levy hit, Tyree said the IRS also levied the center's accounts for $1,800 and required the center show proof that it had paid income tax for 2004 before returning the funds.

Those were taxes that had been settled last year, said Tyree. “And we had to prove it to them again.”

In this latest issue there are labor board claims involved. Tyree said two past employees, hired by Mosser, reported to the board that they were owed for past wages.

Mosser, who has an upcoming court date in his embezzlement case, also has a claim against the center for $5,400 in vacation pay amassed between 2002 and 2005 for which he has claimed he has not been paid, according to Tyree.

“That hasn't gone through yet,” she said.

Brad Onorato, district representative for Congressman Mike Thompson, said Thompson's office and the office of state Assembly member Patty Berg are trying to work with the Franchise Tax Board to see if they can put a hold on the board's actions against the center.

“We're not quite certain if we're going to be successful,” said Onorato. “It's going to take a couple of days until we really know.”

District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing said the county also is monitoring the situation.

Besides buying the thrift shop last year to help the center pay its bills, the county also has been trying to secure the building from further deterioration, said Rushing. That includes setting aside $30,000 earlier this year to help replace the building's leaking roof.

Rushing said the county will look at further action to help the center but needs to make sure it's on a “solid financial footing” before they do much more.

Struggling to keep the center going

Tyree said the state's levy drained all the center's money to support its Meals on Wheels program.

The center serves Meals on Wheels to seniors from Blue Lakes to Paradise Cove, and from Elk Mountain over toward the area of the Passion Play grounds off of Highway 29, Tyree said.

“We're back to square one again,” said Tyree, who called the situation “very, very sad.”

She said it costs at least $1,000 a week to cover expenses for Meals on Wheels and congregate meals served at the center during the week, she said.

Tyree said many people have stepped up to the plate, including volunteers and community members who are making donations out of their own pockets to keep the center going. The center was current on its bills for the levy took place, Tyree noted.

The center has received help on another front, said Tyree.

She said the building's cooling system had broken down and seniors weren't coming for meals because the building was too hot.

Former Supervisor Louise Talley called Piedmont Lumber and spoke to manager Ted Mandrones, who sent out a two-man crew within three hours to install a commercial-grade swamp cooler. Tyree said she was very grateful to the company for its help.

Tyree said the center is seeking contributions and more help in order to keep the doors open. “At the moment we need all the donations we can get,” she said.

For information on how to help call the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center at 274-8779.

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


Charlie Musselwhite will be one of the featured performers at the Blue Wing Blues Festival, which takes place this week. Courtesy photo.


UPPER LAKE – The Tallman Hotel and Blue Wing Saloon and Café in Upper Lake, along with co-sponsor Ceago Vinegarden, are pleased to announce the lineup for this year’s four-day Blue Wing Blues Festival, planned for Aug. 6 through Aug. 9.

Starting at 5:45 p.m. each evening, two great bands will perform on the veranda of the restored Tallman Hotel with the audience gathered in the intimate garden between the hotel and saloon. It’s a great time of day and a great spot to enjoy world-class music with a tasty barbecue dinner included in the price of admission.

Advance tickets are $40; $45 for the Saturday night performance. Tickets are available for purchase by calling the Tallman Hotel at 707-275-2244. Any tickets still available at the gate will be subject to a $5 surcharge.

The following is the festival's performance lineup.

– Wednesday, Aug. 6: Kathi McDonald backed by Rich Kirch and David Hayes to open followed by Twice as Good (featuring Paul Steward) with special guest appearance by the legendary Charlie Musselwhite, winner of the 2006 award for blues album of the year (Delta Hardware). Sponsors: ReMax Realty, AlloraDa Car Productions, and radio station KNTI.

– Thursday, Aug. 7: Kathi McDonald and Rich Kirch followed by the great blues and soul singer Bettie Mae Fikes and the BMF Band with Levi Lloyd and Robert Watson. Sponsors: Lake Lock and Safe, Windrem Law Firm, and Zoom Wines.

– Friday, Aug. 8: Lake Blues All-Stars featuring Mike Wilhelm, Jim Williams and NEON, then the Ford Blues Band with Patrick Ford and Volker Strifler. Sponsors: Strong Financial Group and Moore Family Wines.

– Saturday, Aug. 9: “Mighty Mike” Schermer plus the incomparable Maria (“Midnight at the Oasis”) Muldaur and her Red Hot Bluesiana Band. Sponsors: Blues Express Records, Kelseyville Lumber, UCC Rentals and Ink Spot.

The Blue Wing Saloon has become “the spot” in Lake County for regular live music. In addition to music in the garden at Sunday brunch, great local bands appear in the Saloon every Monday night from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The August lineup for the “Blue Wing Monday Blues” includes:

  • Aug. 4 – Blues Farm with Dave Broida

  • Aug. 11 – The Dan Meyer Band

  • Aug. 18 – The Mark Weston Band

  • Aug. 25 – Memphis Exchange with Randy McGowen

  • Sept. 1 – Twice as Good with Paul Steward

For more information on the Blues Festival or other musical events at the Blue Wing Saloon and Café, call 707-275-2244 or visit or



Maria Muldaur and her Red Hot Bluesiana Band will perform Saturday, Aug. 9. Courtesy photo.



The Ely Stage Stop during its move last summer. The building was moved to a new site which was burglarized this week. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

KELSEYVILLE – A museum in the making has been burglarized, according to a county official.

The Ely Stage Stop, moved last summer to its new home on Highway 281 off Highway 29, was hit by burglars early this week, said Kim Clymire, Lake County Public Services director.

Clymire said his department had rented a cargo container to store tools used on the site. The container was padlocked, plywood was stacked against it and a forklift was up against that for an extra measure of security.

The suspects somehow got the forklift moved, cut the lock and stole about $5,000 in tools and gear, Clymire said.

“It's my understanding they also hit a construction site that same night,” said Clymire.

The construction site had a video camera, and Clymire said that provided the Lake County Sheriff's Office with some important evidence in the case.

Clymire called the burglary “a crying shame.”

“We're spending a lot of time and money on the Ely site,” he said.

Clymire said his department will have to purchase new tools to replace those that were stolen.

In addition to the burglary, Clymire has previously noted issues with vandalisms at parks and facilities around the county, as Lake County News has reported.

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



Artist Kent Twitchell's Ed Ruscha Monument, pictured here in 1987, was painted over in 2006. Twitchell has won a $1.1 million lawsuit because he wasn't given the required notice before the mural was painted over. Courtesy photo.

UPPER LAKE – An acclaimed muralist whose work can be seen in Upper Lake and in Lakeport has won a $1.1 million art desecration lawsuit for a downtown Los Angeles mural that was painted over.

Kent Twitchell, 65, is known locally for painting Upper Lake antique shop owner Tony Oliveira in western attire on the side of a building in Upper Lake, a town where Twitchell also lived for a time in recent years.

His work also is featured on the ceiling of the former Bank of Italy on Second and Main streets in downtown Lakeport, which now houses the antique shop Traditions.

But Twitchell also is a world-renowned muralist, whose best-known works are on display in Southern California.

One of those works was called the “Ed Ruscha Monument,” a 70-foot-high painting on the side of a building at 1031 S. Hill St. which Twitchell created between 1978 and 1987. The painting depicts an important Los-Angeles-based pop artist.

In 2006, the building – owned by the US Department of Labor and occupied by the Job Corps – underwent repair and the six-story-tall mural was intentionally painted over, according to Sheldon Mak Rose and Anderson PC, the Pasadena law firm that represented Twitchell.

Twitchell sued the US government and 12 other defendants for painting over the mural, citing the Federal Visual Artists Rights Act and California Art Preservation Act, the firm reported.

Under those laws, Twitchell was to have received prior notification of the government's wish to have the mural removed so he could make arrangements to preserve it. The law requires a 90-day notice, said William Brutocao, Twitchell's attorney.

The US Department of Labor did not respond to Lake County News' request for a comment on the case.

Twitchell originally asked for $5.5 million, said Brutocao. The negotiated final settlement reached late in April was for $1.1 million, believed to be the largest settlement ever reached under the Federal Visual Artists Rights and California Art Preservation Acts. The U.S. Government is contributing $250,000 to the settlement amount.

“This settlement sets an important precedent which will benefit other artists,” Twitchell said in a written statement. “This resolution makes it clear that when it comes to public art, you have to respect the artist’s rights, or incur significant liability.”

Brutocao said who is responsible for deciding to paint over the mural “remains kind of a mystery.” While the government owns the building, they have other people running it. He doesn't think there was a conscious decision to set out to destroy the mural, and attributes the painting over of the mural to a “bureaucratic snafu.”

If Twitchell had been given the notice, he would have removed the mural or negotiated to keep it in place, Brutocao said.

Art consultants have determined that it may still be possible to salvage the 11,000 square-foot mural, although it may be difficult and expensive. Brutocao said it will involve a complicated method using a small machine resembling a jack hammer to remove the outer layers of paint.

“It effectively sort of peels off like wallpaper,” he said.

From the time of the ruling going into effect in April, Twitchell – now living primarily in Southern California – has 14 months to remove the mural, Brutocao said.

Twitchell – who Brutocao called “a treasure” – is happy to have the lawsuit behind him. “This has been a distraction and a burden for him,” said Brutocao.

Defacement of Twitchell's art also has been a problem in Lake County. Several years ago Oliveira's portrait was the victim of graffiti. Following Twitchell's restoration of the work, it was covered by a door that protects the painting, which is displayed only at certain times.

The money wasn't what motivated Twitchell in the suit, said Brutocao. “That's not important to him. What's important to him is to create works of art.”

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


For their last day of school, my daughter’s class had a flight experience day at Solo Flight School at the Lake County Airport Lampson Field. Each child learned about airplanes, attended a short flight school, and got to pilot an airplane from Lakeport to Ukiah where the students would switch piloting duties on the trip back (with a pilot trainer in the aircraft with them at all times, of course).

I went to the airport to support my daughter but, being the eternal epicurean, upon arriving at the airport I immediately noticed “There’s a restaurant here!”

For those of you that remember the Sicily’s in Lakeport and Kelseyville, this place is owned by the same people. They have been at the airport since last November and I’m thrilled to have found them. There is something for everyone on this menu. Pasta, salads, steaks, seafood – without a doubt, you will find something that you will like.

The décor is unique. I started off noticing the stereotypical Italian red and white table clothes, but that design element is mixed with pub-style beer promotional neon lights, aviator artwork and some photos of celebrities that have visited their establishment. It’s a little bit of everything that tells the patron just who they are, and it’s funky and fun.

Something I took note of (because as a critic I look for these kinds of touches) is the server presented all of the women I was with (yeah, it’s a tough life) their menus first, and took their orders before mine as well. He also served all of the women before me. To me, that is the sign of a really high-class place because that is a business that knows proper etiquette. That alone makes me respect an eatery because restaurant protocol is a dying art.

Complementary dinner rolls and butter were served while we were waiting for our meal. We also ordered some drinks from their well-stocked bar.

Since my wife makes an awesome Fettuccini Alfredo, I ordered the Prawns Alfredo; I thought it would be interesting to compare them. The shrimp was perfectly cooked and had an appropriate amount for the dish.

As a matter of fact, everything was perfectly cooked. The sauce was fantastic – the only difference that I could tell between Sicily’s Alfredo sauce and my wife’s is that my wife’s includes onions, Sicily’s Prawns Alfredo is THAT good! Remember, my wife edits these columns for me so I have to watch out that I don’t say it’s better than my wife’s but the insinuation is there, got it?

I ordered some deep fried calamari on the side, and it came with French fries; both were crisp and good tasting. I came back another day by myself because I liked my first lunch there so much, and this time I had the Buffalo wings. They come in either a half order (six wings) or whole order (12 wings) with a blue cheese dressing on the side. They come to the table a presented on a pure white plate, and the wings themselves are a beautiful color of red sprinkled with gorgonzola cheese. The presentation really made something as simple as Buffalo wings seem posh. The wings are perfectly seasoned with a spicy hot, but not insane, sauce.

And there’s a bonus to eating here. Not only do you get to enjoy a really good meal but you get to watch aircraft take off and land while you eat. It’s like dinner and a show, although it’s a little more hair-raising when you’re watching your 13-year-old daughter landing an aircraft on a windy day.

So now since discovering this new location, I’ve been there twice for lunch and will definitely someday come back later in the day, because the dinner menu looks even more impressive. They claim “Best Steaks Around the Lake,” and after looking at their dinner menu I’m champing at the bit to go there for an evening. Just listen to these offerings, quoted from their menu ...

Rib Eye Gorgonzola: Tender, juicy 14 ouunce grilled steak topped with Gorgonzola cheese and a special blend of herbs and spices.

Peppered Filet: Tender, juicy 10 ounce beef tenderloin rolled in fresh cracked pepper and glazed with a balsamic cabernet reduction.

I’m drooling like a mountain lion looking at a flock of three-legged sheep just thinking about having dinner there! Then there’s the seafood entrees, the veal, even eggplant parmesan ... Criminy! I’m going to have to get a small apartment nearby just to be close enough to eat everything on their menu that I want to try!

The prices are more than fair for the quality of food and service you are getting, and they do accept reservations which I think are always a good idea. They’re open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch, and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner, Sundays 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., and they’re closed on Mondays.

If you are interested in the flight experience that my daughter’s school attended, you can call Solo Flight School at 707-U-CAN-FLY (822-6359)

And no, I’m not including my wife’s Fettuccini Alfredo recipe today. I can’t. She’s closely guarding that recipe.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


The 12-woman jury deciding the fate of a 23-year-old San Francisco man in a complex month-and-a-half-long murder trial has completed its first week of deliberations.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins said late Friday that the jury in the trial of Renato Hughes had gone home after wrapping up its first week of deliberations.

The high-profile trial was moved to Martinez earlier this year. After a jury was seated last November, a visiting judge granted a change of venue over concerns that Hughes could not get a fair trial.

Hughes is facing two murder charges for the deaths of his friends, Rashad Williams and Christian Foster, on the morning of Dec. 7, 2005 during an alleged break-in at the Clearlake Park home of Shannon Edmonds and his girlfriend, Lori Tyler.

In addition, Hughes is facing an attempted murder charge for the beating of 17-year-old Dale Lafferty with a baseball bat and the assault on Edmonds who was hit with a shotgun.

Hughes didn't actually wield the pistol that killed Williams and Foster – it was Edmonds who pulled the trigger – the bat that left Lafferty with permanent brain injury, allegedly used by Williams, or the shotgun that Foster is alleged to have used to hit Edmonds in the face.

However, because Hughes is alleged to have been part of a break-in at the house of Shannon Edmonds, he's being tried under the provocative act doctrine, which holds a person responsible for any deaths that occur during the commission of certain violent crimes that can result in a lethal response.

As such, the other assaults also are being charged against him because they were provocative acts conducted by his companions, who Hopkins alleges were part of a “crime team” seeking to steal medical marijuana from Edmonds.

Hopkins and defense attorney Stuart Hanlon gave their closing arguments in the case on July 24, as Lake County News has reported.

The two men hammered away at the weaknesses in each others' cases during closing arguments.

Hopkins emphasized that the three men were at Edmonds' home with the intent to commit a crime, that they took weapons and little money, and weren't there to buy drugs, as Hughes said in his turn on the stand.

He detailed the crime scene and pointed to a getaway car, Hughes' DNA evidence found at the scene and eyewitness accounts to build the case for a robbery gone bad.

Hanlon, in turn, questioned the lack of blood evidence on a shotgun the prosecution has alleged was the same one used in the robbery; Hughes reportedly had a cut hand and Hanlon said his blood should have been on the gun if he had been carrying it. He also argued for the presence of a fourth individual, known as “Dre” to Hughes.

But Hanlon especially focused on Edmonds, who he alleged reloaded his pistol to continue shooting at Foster and Williams as they ran from his home. Both men died from wounds they received as they fled; Edmonds also said he shot Foster in the back as he lay on the ground, which Hanlon said was proved by forensic evidence.

He called Edmonds a “cold-blooded” killer, who had reportedly told police watching Foster's pants fall down as he ran away was “funny as s***.” But shooting young men in the backs, Hanlon emphasized, was no laughing matter, and was an indication of Edmonds' sense of vigilante justice.

On July 25 Hopkins offered his rebuttal to Hanlon's arguments, and then Judge Barbara Zuniga gave the jury instructions before adjourning for the week.

Out of five days this week Hopkins said the jury probably did about three days of deliberation, because some of the days the jury was only in session part of the day.

The jury asked to have Hughes' testimony, given on July 17, reread to them Friday, which took most of the day and may not have been completed, said Hopkins. It was the only thing they requested other than some exhibits.

Jurors are set to be back in the Martinez courthouse to continue deliberations on Tuesday, Hopkins said.

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


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