Monday, 22 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – April saw minor decreases in unemployment numbers both in Lake County and around the state, according to a Friday report.

The Employment Development Department's monthly report on employment figures showed Lake County's April unemployment rate was 16 percent, down from 16.6 percent in March but up the 9.7 percent unemployment rate reported in April of 2008. The county ranked No. 45 out of the state's 58 counties.

In April, 4,040 people in Lake County were reported to be unemployed, down from 4,260 out of work in March, according to Employment Development Department reports.

California's unemployment rate decreased to 11 percent in April, down from 11.2 percent in March. In April of 2008, the state's unemployment rate was 6.6 percent. The number of people unemployed in California in April was 2,057,000 – down by 35,000 over the month, but up by 843,000 compared with April of last year.

Neighboring counties reported the following unemployment rates and statewide rankings: Colusa, 19.1; Glenn, 16.1 percent; Mendocino, 10.7 ; Napa, 8.5 percent; Sonoma, 9.4 percent; Yolo, 10.7 percent.

While state and local employment showed improvements, the US unemployment rate increased in April, rising to 8.9 percent from 8.5 percent in March and 5 percent in April of 2008.

The Employment Development Department reported that nonfarm jobs in California totaled 14,411,400 in April, a decrease of 63,700 over the month, according to a survey of businesses that is larger and less variable statistically. The year-over-year change (April 2008 to April 2009) shows a decrease of 706,700 jobs (down 4.7 percent).

The federal survey of households estimates the number of Californians holding jobs in April was 16,565,000, an increase of 42,000 from March, but down 544,000 from the employment total in April of last year, the agency reported.

The department's report on payroll employment in the nonfarm industries of California totaled 14,411,400 in April, a net loss of 63,700 jobs since the March survey; during that month, the state lost 61,700 jobs.

Adding 9,700 jobs in April were three industry categories – natural resources and mining; other services; and government.

At the same time, eight categories – construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; financial activities; professional and business services; educational and health services; and leisure and hospitality – reported job declines, with a loss of 73,400 jobs.

EDD reported that trade, transportation and utilities posted the largest decline over the month, down by 18,900 jobs.

Ten categories lost a total of 726,600 jobs: natural resources and mining; construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; financial activities; professional and business services; leisure and hospitality; other services; and government.

Trade, transportation and utilities employment showed the largest decline on a numerical basis, down by 189,000 jobs, which EDD said is a decline of 6.5 percent).

Construction posted the largest decline on a percentage basis, down by 18.4 percent – a decrease of 149,900 jobs – the EDD reported.

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SACRAMENTO – With the arrival of the Memorial Day holiday, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) urges motorists to use caution and consideration during their holiday driving.

“Memorial Day weekend can be a safe celebration for everyone,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “It’s about making sound decisions and planning ahead before you head out on the highway, for example wearing your seat belt and designating a non-drinking driver beforehand.”

The three-day holiday is a Maximum Enforcement Period (MEP) for the CHP.

All available officers began patrolling the roadways during the MEP, which began at 6 p.m. Friday and extends until midnight on Monday, May 25.

The CHP’s maximum enforcement effort is also part of the state’s recently launched 2009 Memorial Day Next Generation Click It or Ticket mobilization.

The start-of-summer campaign is supported by $3 million in traffic safety grants awarded by the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The CHP’s primary mission is to prevent loss of life and injury to all motorists. That mission parallels the Strategic Highway Safety plan, a roadmap for improving safety on the state’s roadways that all state traffic safety organizations follow. An element of the plan is to improve the use of passenger restraints.

During the 2008 Memorial Day weekend, 38 people died on California’s roadways; 68 percent of those killed in CHP jurisdiction were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.

“Many of those deaths could have been easily avoided by taking just one second to buckle a seat belt,” stated Commissioner Farrow. “Unfortunately, too many motorists still need a reminder, which is why our officers will be on the lookout for those who are not buckled up.”

In addition to those who fail to fasten their seatbelt, speeders and motorists driving under the influence may find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Last year CHP officers statewide arrested 1,450 drivers for DUI during the Memorial Day weekend.

The Memorial Day MEP is also an Operation Combined Accident Reduction Effort (CARE) holiday. Operation CARE is a joint program of the nation’s highway patrols that places special safety emphasis on interstate highways during holiday periods. CARE highways in California include Interstates 80, 40, 15 and 5.

CLEARLAKE – Yuba College's Clear Lake Campus will hold commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 22.

The event will take place in the quad area of the college campus, 15880 Dam Road Extension in Clearlake.

Three ceremonies are scheduled for the canopy-covered quad. The processional march for students receiving the associate in arts or associate in science degrees will begin at 7 p.m. Board of Trustees Member Brent Hastey will confer the degrees. Student speaker will be Mary Blakely-Pulido, and master of ceremonies will be campus Dean Bryon Bell.

A graduation breakfast will be held at 9 a.m. on Friday. The student speaker will be Wendy Coleman. GPA certificates will be awarded at this time.

The following local students will receive associate degrees:


Maxx J. Bartlett, Robert Adam Besgrove, Sean David Fielden, Maria Lynn Fortino-McCuan, Anna V. Ventsko, Melissa Emeline-Mae Warner and Brad E. Wight of Clearlake; Mireya Clizbe of Cobb; Brianna Leigh Cook and Jon Robert Davison of Lower Lake.


Megan Roth of Casa Grande, AZ; Regina Dawn Amaral, Mary Elizabeth Blakely-Pulido, Wendy Raeann Colemen, Donna Elizabeth Cummins, Rachel Annia Emming, JoAnne Lynn Fortino, Raxita Dhanpal Gandhi, Beth Ann Jenkins, Anthony Lee Lewis Jr., Shane David Merrill, Ana Rosa Montanez, Kimmberly Jean Munson, Krystal Kay Peng, Arlene Mildred Powel, Jerome James Richardson, Heather Ann Wallace, Measha Ann Weinzirl and Robert G. White of Clearlake; Ceva Ann Giumelli, Christie Lee Greenfield and Robert John Vieira of Clearlake Oaks; Debra Lee Ratcliff and David James Schlueter of Clearlake Park; William D. Brown of Cobb; Erin Rose Teames of Fairfax; Leonard Joseph Dombrowski Jr., Michele Emery, Benjamin Samuel Timmons and Bonnie Jean Vaughn of Hidden Valley Lake; Susan M. LaBarre of Kelseyville; Nicole Marie Coccimiglio, Sara Christine Coel, Nicole Michele Doud, Jackson Maxwell Kaiser and Justin Jay Read of Lower Lake.

Students who have earned certificates of achievement will be recognized for their accomplishment at a noon ceremony. Student speaker will be Francis Williams. Certificates in 17 different areas will be awarded.

Accounting Certificate of Achievement

Beth Ann Jenkins, Maria D. Montero and Jill Dawn Pierce of Clearlake; Christine L. Bergen and Donna T. Curnutt of Clearlake Oaks; Dennis D. Bilardi of Kelseyville; Melisa K. Wilson of Lower Lake; Shawna Marie Summers of Middletown.

Advanced Accounting Certificate of Achievement

Beth Ann Jenkins of Clearlake.

Administrative Assistant Certificate of Completion/Achievement

Mary Elizabeth Blakely-Pulido of Clearlake; Debra Ratcliff of Clearlake Park.

Business Computer Applications Certificate of Achievement

Christine L. Bergen of Clearlake Oaks; Ashley Evangeline Holback of Lower Lake.

Advanced Business Computer Applications Certificate of Achievement

Christine L. Bergen of Clearlake Oaks; Ashley Evangeline Holback of Lower Lake.

Chemical Dependency Awareness Certificate of Training/Achievement

Deserie Ann Askew, Erin Tamsan Meyers, Jay El Tillman and Anna V. Ventsko of Clearlake; Kathrine Jennette Allan and Eileen K. Daniels of Clearlake Park; Katarina Maria Meyer and Scott Richard Meyer of Kelseyville; Teresa Deuchar and Lionel Oliver Pierce of Nice.

Chemical Dependency Counselor Certificate of Completion/Achievement

Debbie Marie Flemming, John Delvin Hamner Jr., Erin Tamsan Meyers, Kimmberly Jean Munson, Jay El Tillman, Anna V. Ventsko and Dow Walton of Clearlake; Scott Richard Meyer and Francian LeAnn Reinhardt of Kelseyville; Lionel Oliver Pierce of Nice; Jayleen Rae Ward of Upper Lake.

Child Development Associate Teacher Certificate of Achievement

Taqua Salem Ammar, Leticia Arellano, Rebecca Joanne Castillo, Neala Renea Ellsworth, Kara Marie Kramer, Melissa Marie Mehew and Maria Romero of Clearlake; Ceva Giumelli and Francis Kay Williams of Clearlake Oaks; Malinda Ann Triola of Hidden Valley Lake; Sunshine Raquel Baker of Kelseyville; Maria Montanez of Middletown; Michelle Diann Villines of Upper Lake.

Child Development Teacher Certificate of Achievement

Francis Kay Williams of Clearlake Oaks; Megan Streif of Lower Lake.

Clerical Certificate of Training/Achievement

Mary Elizabeth Blakely-Pulido and Rachel Annia Emming of Clearlake; Debra L. Ratcliff of Clearlake Park; Tonya Marie Albright of Hidden Valley Lake.

Culinary Arts Certificate of Completion/Achievement

Kacie Da’Nelle Carson, Carlos Fausett, Matt Morgan and Julieann Linda Wonderwheel of Clearlake; William Gregory Wymer of Clearlake Oaks; Ann-Marie Pleskaczewski of Hidden Valley Lake.

Infant and Toddler Certificate of Achievement

Neala Renea Ellsworth of Clearlake; Francis Kay Williams of Clearlake Oaks; Megan Streif of Lower Lake.

Information Technologies Certificate of Completion/Achievement

Benjamin Samuel Timmons of Hidden Valley Lake.

Legal Office Skills Certificate of Achievement

Debra Lee Ratcliff of Clearlake Park.

Medical Office Procedures Certificate of Achievement

Mary Elizabeth Blakely-Pulido of Clearlake.

Welding Technologies Certificate of Achievement

Jon Allen Bobus, Jennifer Lyn Burlingame, Edgar Jovani Hernandez and Milton Levy of Clearlake; William George Hawley of Kelseyville; Daniel Thomas Current of Lower Lake; Tony M. Petersen of Middletown.

Word Processing Certificate of Completion/Achievement

Mary Elizabeth Blakely-Pulido of Clearlake; Debra Ratcliff of Clearlake Park.

Scholarship awards will also be given at the noon and 7 p.m. ceremonies.

The following students will receive scholarships:

Clearlake Rotary Service Scholarship, Donna Dawson of Clearlake; Computer Technology and Networking Scholarship, Kathryn McCallister of Lower Lake; Culinary Arts Award, Stephen Woolridge and Matthew Young of Clearlake; Human Services Scholarship, Renee Ruggeri of Clearlake; Yuba College-Clear Lake Campus Faculty and Staff Award, Kathryn McCallister of Lower Lake; ECE Scholarship, Stephan Thill of Clearlake Park; Yuba College Higher Education Scholarship, Stefanie Mederos of Clearlake; Arthur Lewis Nan Memorial Scholarship, Shawna Summers of Middletown; Business Student of the Year in Memory of Ed Miller, Roy Sivertson of Clearlake.

The ceremony for students receiving the G.E.D. certificate begins at 4 p.m. in the quad. Student speakers will be Garrett Henson and Bonnie O’Donnell.

G.E.D. Diplomas

Mark Abbott, Perry Bishop Jr., Michelle Clayton, Rachel Costa, Robert Costa, Christina Domingos, Jona Elsa, Carlos Fausett, John George, Sandra Gonsalves, Anthony Hatfield,Garrett Henson, Diana Holt, Thomas Madrid, Jennifer Pinnick, and Clayton Tansey of Clearlake; Anthony Dow, Daniel Gerber and Trenton Reid of Clearlake Oaks; Gianina Parrino of Glenhaven; David Schlueter of Clearlake Park; Carrie Horarik of Hidden Valley Lake; Blaine Manard, Tasia Sanchez and John Swehla of Cobb; Ashley Barrett and Bonnie O’Donnell of Kelseyville; Linda Gail Harvey, Andrea Mendieta, Alan Mitchelll, Sharon Naber, Jennifer Tenneson and Laurie Terra of Lower Lake; Eula Francis Owens of Lucerne.

LOWER LAKE – Following an investigation, a Lower Lake man has been arrested and charged with several counts of lewd and lascivious acts against a child.

Steven Wayne Mitchell, 59, was taken into custody on Thursday morning, according to a report from Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

On May 2, Mitchell's family members contacted the sheriff’s office to report that he had committed multiple acts of sexual abuse against his 13-year-old niece, according to Bauman.

The acts allegedly had occurred at Mitchell’s home in Lower Lake over a three- to four-week period during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays of 2008, Bauman said.

Bauman reported that Mitchell had already been the subject of another open investigation into alleged sexual misconduct with an 11-year-old Spring Valley girl, which was reported to the sheriff’s office last October.

The victim in that case was the daughter of a one-time girlfriend who reportedly lived with Mitchell for a short time and works for him at his medical marijuana dispensary, “Steve’s Place,” on Lakeshore Drive in Clearlake. Bauman said the incidents alleged in that case occurred during the summer of 2008.

Having ensured the victims in both cases had been removed from Mitchell’s access since reporting the allegations, sheriff’s detectives completed enough followup investigation into both cases to secure a warrant of arrest for Mitchell and search warrants for both his home in Lower Lake and his business in Clearlake, said Bauman.

In addition to Items of evidence located at Mitchell's home and business, deputies seized two firearms and a large amount of ammunition.

Superior Court Judge Stephen Hedstrom signed the warrants on May 20 and on Thursday at about 7:40 a.m., Bauman said. Mitchell was located and arrested at the El Grande Hotel in Clearlake without incident.

He was booked at the Lake County Jail on a felony charge of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14, said Bauman.

Mitchell was released on a $250,000 bond Thursday afternoon. Bauman said Mitchell ultimately will face a total of five felony counts of the same charge as a result of both cases.

Bauman said Mitchell has a prior felony conviction for burglary and receiving stolen property so he will also face charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

At left, Rick William Robison's Mendocino County Jail booking photo, taken Wednesday, May 20, 2009. At right, a surveillance photo of the suspect from the Ukiah Bank of America robbery on March 24, 2009. Photos courtesy of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

LAKEPORT – A Lakeport man arrested as the suspect in a Wednesday bank robbery in Mendocino County may be connected to a series of bank robberies around the North Coast.

Rick William Robison, 55, was arrested by Mendocino County officials after he allegedly robbed the Savings Bank of Mendocino's Hopland branch.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office issued a statement Wednesday in which the agency said it was continuing to investigate Robison's connection to other incidents around the county.

Robison is a suspect in other bank robberies in Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma counties, according to statements to North Coast media on Thursday.

His booking sheet, released Thursday, shows that at 5 feet 9 inches and 170 pounds, with graying hair, he matches the physical description of the suspect in those cases.

Officials had reported on a series of bank robberies in the three-county area, including the robbery of the Windsor Bank of America on March 17, the Ukiah Bank of America on March 24, the US Bank on Jefferson Street in Napa on March 26 and the Chase Bank in Willits on March 31.

The suspect in those incidents handed a note across the counter to the bank teller; in the Napa County case, the demand note was written in crayon. He was spotted leaving the Napa robbery in a white four-door Cadillac sedan. No weapons were seen in the robberies and no one was hurt.

Surveillance photos of the suspect in those cases also shows a figure who looks like Robison.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been working with the Ukiah Police Department and the sheriff's office of Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa counties in investigating the case.

Robison was being held on $75,000 bail for charges of robbery and using fear as an element on Thursday.

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

In the foreground, a decorative wall at the Lucerne Community Art Project, with the decorative bench and arch in the background. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




LUCERNE – A portion of Lucerne is getting a new look thanks to a public art effort.

Community members of all ages are taking part in the Lucerne Community Art Project, which is being built at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Highway 20, on the edge of Lucerne Creek Park.

Natural building expert Massey Burke is overseeing the effort, which is building a community bench with a small arch and decorative walls with earthen building techniques, including adobe and cob.

The project began May 9 and will run through this Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m. daily.

On the project's first weekend, volunteers started off by making about 200 of the nearly 300 adobe bricks that will be used in the project, said District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing, who spearheaded the effort.

Burke said she's seen a wide variety of community members dropping by during the days to help – from seniors to small children and their parents.

She said the red clay-laden soil being used for the bricks came from Tom Carter's Upper Lake property.

Burke is an experienced natural builder who took part in creating an arch of earthen materials that was temporarily featured in an exhibition on the National Mall in Washington DC.

Clearlake Oaks residents Bill Rett and Judy Barnes have been faithfully making the trip – mostly on weekends but with an occasional weekday thrown in – to work on the project and learn natural building skills.

“That's why we got interested in this – because we wanted to learn the techniques,” said Rett.

Barnes said the project has moved along “faster than I thought it would.”

Just over the last week the arched bench has popped up, with the decorative walls and a decorative feature on the Lucerne Creek Park sign also quickly coming together.

Barbara Hepburn of Hidden Valley Lake has made the trip every day to work on the project.

She said she's part of Burke's “building tribe,” which is creating structures for Sol Fest at Hopland's Solar Living Institute.

Hepburn took natural building classes from Burke previously, but she said the only way to really learn the technique is to get out and do it.

This week she was up to her elbows in natural clay and stray, and using her hands to shape the materials on the frame of the arched bench.

Hepburn said not only is she learning more, she's helping teach others, “and realizing I know more than I thought I did.”

Volunteers hope to take what they learn and put it to work on their own projects. Rett said he and Barnes want to build a small arched bench seating area like the park's at their own home.

Burke said the project is right on schedule. Because things have moved along well, she said she's thinking of adding some additional structural details.

She also is going to have a garden party on Sunday.

Fifteen yards of topsoil have been donated to the park beautification effort, and on Sunday afternoon – after it starts to cool off – community members are invited to come and help plant a garden.

Burke suggests those who want to participate should bring shovels, wheelbarrows, drought-resistant plants and plenty of ideas.

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Barbara Hepburn mixes the natural building materials used in the Lucerne Community Art Project on Eighth Avenue and Highway 20. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

CLEARLAKE OAKS – A Clearlake Oaks man was arrested this week after threatening family members, including his elderly father-in-law.

John Glen Anderson, 46, was taken into custody by Lake County Sheriff's deputies on felony charges of making criminal threats and elder abuse, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Bauman reported that sheriff’s deputies responded to a home on Shoreview Drive in Clearlake Oaks for a family disturbance on Wednesday at about 7:30 p.m.

There deputies learned from 38-year-old Lisa Resents that her husband, Anderson, had been drinking and causing problems with her and her 72-year-old father, Kenneth Resents. Bauman said Anderson was warned about his behavior and the deputies left the home.

About two hours later, deputies were dispatched back to the Shoreview Drive home for reoccurring problems with Anderson, said Bauman.

This time, deputies learned Anderson had gone into Kenneth Resents' bedroom with a lit candle in his hand and threatened to “burn the house down” and “blow the place up,” according to Bauman's report.

Resents apparently was wearing a “nasal cannula” and being administered oxygen from a compressed tank at the time of the threat.

Deputies subsequently arrested Anderson, who was booked at the Lake County Jail with bail set at $10,000 bail. Jail records on Friday indicate that he has since posted bail and been released.

LAKEPORT – Opponents of a City Council move to ban safe and sane fireworks in the Lakeport are preparing to take their cause to the city's voters.

Next Tuesday, several hundred signatures will be submitted to City Clerk Janel Chapman in an effort to get an initiative before voters this fall.

The effort is being spearheaded by four local nonprofit groups that have been allowed by city ordinance to sell safe and sane – or state-approved – fireworks in the city for many years. They include the Miss Lake County Scholarships Organization, the Clear Lake High School Booster Club, Terrace School Parent Teacher Organization and the Lake County Channel Cats.

Citing concerns over fire danger, on April 21 the council turned down the applications of the four groups to set up booths and sell fireworks from July 1 through July 4, as Lake County News has reported.

The council vote wasn't unanimous – council members Jim Irwin and Suzanne Lyons fought what they said was an attack both on tradition and personal freedoms.

For the groups, losing a major source of annual revenue – as much as $15,000 per group per year – prompted them to ask the council on May 5 to rescind their April 21 actions and approve the applications, otherwise an initiative would move forward

But on May 5 the council gave initial approval to a proposed ordinance that would permanently ban safe and sane fireworks in the city, the last place locally where they're still allowed. A second reading and final approval are expected June 2, with the ordinance going into effect on July 3.

Dennis Revell of Revell Communications, who represents American Promotional Events, TNT Fireworks and the nonprofits, said the groups had two courses of action – do a referendum once the second vote is taken on the ordinance in June or pursue an initiative.

Revell said the groups didn't believe council members Roy Parmentier, Bob Rumfelt and Ron Bertsch would change their minds. A referendum would have required a legal process to order the council to approve the applications of the groups, which had met the requirements of the current fireworks ordinance, Revell said.

That was a costly option that wasn't guaranteed to work. So they chose instead to take the initiative route, Revell said.

Ultimately, Revell said, they decided it was best to put it out to the voters.

He said the groups previously had suggested the city improve its fireworks ordinance and include some very specific enforcement provisions for fines and additional restrictions on sales.

The language of the proposed initiative includes a 5-percent assessment fee on gross fireworks sales, which would be paid to the city by Aug. 15 of each year. That assessment is intended to cover increased police and fire protection, permit processing, sales booth inspections and cleanup.

City Attorney Steve Brookes confirmed that the groups submitted the initiative to him to prepare the ballot titlee and summary, and that the city is waiting for the Tuesday signatures submission.

In his 25 years with the city, Brookes said he doesn't remember another such initiative going to voters.

Revell said the public's response to the initiative has been “extremely strong.” They've gathered signatures both from people connected to the nonprofits as well as in front of local stores.

He said the groups have been collecting signatures since Saturday, and by the time they submit the initiative to Chapman on Tuesday they will have about 550 signatures – well in excess of the 15 percent of the city's 2,600 registered voters that could compel a special election.

Brookes anticipates that the initiative could go on the November general election ballot. However, even then, the city's new fireworks ban ordinance would already be in force, canceling out much of the time for sales opportunities this year. As well, the city hasn't granted the groups permits, so they'll likely be unable to sell fireworks either way.

The election code provides for and encourages initiative supporters to engage in good faith negotiations in order to come to an alternative result, said Revell.

Brookes said he's not received council direction to enter into good faith negotiations with the groups to find a middle ground.

That appears unlikely to happen. Revell said he contacted Parmentier and Bertsch on Wednesday, and both indicated they were not interested in the discussion. He said Rumfelt didn't return a message.

Bertsch, the city's mayor, confirmed to Lake County News that he spoke to Revell on Wednesday.

“I told him my decision didn't change,” Bertsch said.

He explained that his decision was based on the concerns of Lakeport Fire Protection District Chief Ken Wells, who had approached the council in April.

If the groups want to go to a special election, “then so be it,” said Bertsch, noting he doesn't plan to change his opinion because an outside company that stands to lose a large amount of money pressures him and the council.

Bertsch said if the community turns out to want safe and sane fireworks then he's OK with it, but he said many of the people who have contacted him indicate that they no longer want those fireworks to be legal.

He added that he doesn't believe the initiative will pass or that the council will change its mind.

According to an initiative qualification calendar, the council must act no later than Aug. 4 to place the measure on the Nov. 3 ballot, otherwise it will necessitate a special election on Dec. 3, the costs of which the city would need to absorb.

The Lake County Registrar of Voters Office couldn't give an exact figure on how much a special election might cost. However, the special mail-in ballot election the city held in April of 2005 to fill an open seat that resulted from the death of Councilman Dick Lamkin cost approximately $7,674.82, the agency reported.

Revell said when the groups submit the signatures for the initiative, “it sets the whole process in motion and there's no turning back.”

Once the signatures are filed with the clerk, “the ball's in the City Council's court,” Brookes said.

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

SACRAMENTO – As Memorial Day weekend approaches, California state departments are asking boaters to clean, drain and dry their boats to stop the spread of harmful invasive mussels.

Properly cleaning and drying will also protect boats and help boaters avoid quarantines or being turned away from a water destination.

"Vehicles with watercraft are being stopped at California border stations for inspection," said Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura. "In the last two years, we have inspected tens of thousands vessels crossing into California and have confirmed adult mussels on 323. Each of those finds meant we saved a California lake or reservoir from exposure to this invasive species."

Lake County has a mussel prevention program that requires boats have an inspection sticker before launching. The Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce, 707-263-5092, has more information about the program.

The mussels are a threat to California agriculture because they can clog irrigation canals and other elements of the state’s vast water delivery system.

Efforts to keep the mussels out of California help officials and taxpayers avoid costly repairs and maintain efficient water movement.

“Quagga and zebra mussels pose a serious threat to our waters and fisheries,” said Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Director Donald Koch. “The spread of these mussels threatens aquatic ecosystems and fisheries, water delivery systems, hydroelectric facilities, agriculture, recreational boating and fishing, and the environment in general. Boaters should be prepared for inspections throughout the state designed to help ensure California’s water bodies remain mussel-free.”

In addition to being sure to clean, drain and dry watercraft, the Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW) urges boaters to plan for possible launch restrictions and inspections by calling water bodies before leaving home. Programs and requirements vary and can change rapidly.

“Anyone planning to go boating should contact their destination about local restrictions or requirements,” said DBW Director Raynor T. Tsuneyoshi. “At some locations, potentially contaminated vessels – those not properly cleaned, drained and dried – could be turned away.”

Quagga and zebra mussels can cause severe problems for boaters and water enthusiasts. They can:

  • Ruin the engine by blocking the cooling system – causing overheating;

  • Increase drag on the bottom of the boat, reducing speed and wasting fuel;

  • Jam steering equipment on boats;

  • Require scraping and repainting of boat bottoms;

  • Colonize all underwater substrates such as boat ramps, docks, lines and other underwater surfaces requiring constant cleaning.

To help prevent the spread of these mussels, boaters should inspect all exposed surfaces, wash boat hulls thoroughly, remove all plants from boat and trailer, drain all water, including lower outboard units, clean and dry livewells and bait buckets and dispose of baitfish in the trash. Watercraft should be dried for at least five days and up to 30 days depending upon the weather between launches in different fresh bodies of water. These steps are designed to thwart spread of the invasive mussels, safeguard boats and preserve high quality fisheries.

“We are strongly encouraging boaters to arrive at State Park reservoirs with clean and dry vessels to ensure they are granted access,” said Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks. “Boaters may have their vessels inspected and we hope that people understand and cooperate to stop the spread of this destructive invasive species.”

California law makes it illegal to possess or transport quagga or zebra mussels and gives DFG authority to stop, detain, search and quarantine boats suspected or determined to be contaminated with mussels. Additional agencies have been granted this authority including the Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and Parks.

Zebra mussels inhabit water depths from four to 180 feet, while Quagga can reach depths more than 400 feet. Both mollusks can attach to and damage boat trailers, cooling systems, boat hulls and steering equipment. Mussels attached to watercraft or trailers can be transported and spread to other water bodies. Water in boat engines, bilges, live wells and buckets can carry mussel larvae (called veligers) to other water bodies as well.

Quagga mussels were first detected in the Colorado River system in January 2007 and were later found in San Diego and Riverside counties by state and local water agencies. Zebra mussels were discovered in San Justo Reservoir in San Benito County in January 2008.

A public toll-free number hotline has been established for boaters and anyone involved with activities on lakes and rivers seeking information on the invasive and destructive auagga mussels at 1-866-440-9530.

For more information on the quagga/zebra mussel response and what you can do, please visit the DFG Web site at

REDDING – State Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. has filed 79 criminal charges against three men who "callously swindled" thousands of individuals, including many retirees who lost their life savings, in a $200 million Ponzi scheme.

The defendants – James Stanley Koenig, 57, of Redding; Gary T. Armitage, 59, of Healdsburg; and Jeffery A. Guidi, 54, of Santa Rosa – were arrested late Thursday and are now in custody. Bail has been set at $5 million each.

"These three men callously swindled thousands of individuals out of $200 million to bankroll their extravagant lifestyles," Brown said. "They took investors money and used it to pay for an 80-acre castle estate, a Lear jet, luxury homes and fancy cars. The Ponzi scheme ultimately collapsed under its own weight, causing hardship to thousands, many of whom were retirees who lost their life savings."

The charges, filed in Shasta County Superior Court, mark the culmination of a year-long investigation, which found that Koenig, Armitage and Guidi created a network of more than 55 business ventures over a period of 10 years to enrich themselves and keep their Ponzi scheme afloat.

Brown's investigation revealed that in 1997, the three men began peddling construction and real estate projects across California. This included: "Quail Hollow," a residential subdivision in Susanville; Lake College, a for-profit vocational school in Redding; Mountain House Golf Course near Tracy; a light industrial distribution center in Brentwood; and dozens of other so-called "investment opportunities." Victims were promised that these were safe, secure, low risk investments with double digit returns, averaging 12 percent.

In recruiting their victims, Armitage organized "investment planning seminars," many of which targeted retirees, in the Bay Area and throughout California. Based on advice from these seminars, Californians invested sums ranging from $50,000 to more than $1 million. Some turned over their entire retirement portfolios and savings accounts.

Many of the construction and real estate projects, however, were poorly managed and were not financially viable, resulting in huge losses. Some projects were left unfinished or ended up in foreclosure.

Rather than inform investors about the failures, Koenig, Armitage and Guidi sought to attract new investors, whose funds could be used to offset losses and pay returns to earlier investors. In doing so, the defendants withheld vital information that impacted investment decisions, including past business failures and Koenig's 1986 federal fraud conviction.

With double-digit returns and no knowledge of the investment failures, most investors kept their money in place and many invested in new projects. This Ponzi scheme continued for more than 10 years.

Beginning in 2001, Koenig, Armitage and Guidi redirected investors' millions into the purchase of more than 20 senior housing and residential care facilities. This included: Alterra Clare Ridge in Fresno; Sterling House in Bakersfield; Clare Bridge Cottage in Bakersfield; Seasons in Modesto, Northridge, and Vacaville; Oakdale Heights West in Redding; Oakdale Heights in Bakersfield, Fresno, San Leandro, Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita, Roseville, Laguna Beach, and La Mesa; Senior Oaks Senior Living in Redding; and other facilities in Pennsylvania, Oregon, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Under this scheme, the defendants' company would purchase an assisted living facility and sell it to one of their affiliate companies. The affiliate would then sell ownership shares in the property as an "investment opportunity" at an even higher price to new investors. Meanwhile, an additional affiliated company would manage the property to maximize revenue.

Revenues, however, were not reinvested into the facilities, but were pooled and used to pay interest to investors and keep investors at bay.

In April 2007, the Ponzi scheme began to collapse under a mountain of debt, and the defendants were unable to pay interest to investors. Nevertheless, they continued to solicit new investors in the vain hope that they could keep the operation alive, raising $23 million from 91 new investors.

The defendant's businesses finally went closed their doors in June 2008.

During the course of its investigation, Brown's office identified more than 1,000 victims with losses totaling $200 million.

Over the 10 years, Koenig, Armitage and Guidi siphoned fees, revenues and profits from their business ventures for their personal benefit, using the funds to purchase an 80-acre castle estate, a Lear jet, luxury vehicles, lavish vacations and expensive wine and art.

On Thursday the defendants were charged with selling securities by means of false statements or material omissions in violation of Corporations Code Section 25401/25540 and residential burglary in violation of Section 459 of the Penal Code:

  • Koenig was charged with 40 counts of securities fraud and 37 counts of residential burglary.

  • Armitage was charged with 42 counts of securities fraud and 37 counts of residential burglary.

  • Guidi was charged with 39 counts of securities fraud and 33 counts of residential burglary.

If convicted on all counts, each could face more than 100 years in prison.

If you believe you have been a victim of this scheme, please contact the Attorney General's office at 1-800-952-5225.

California Highway Patrol and emergency responders look over the crash scene, located at 13th Avenue and Highway 20, on Thursday, May 21, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




LUCERNE – Two drivers were transported to regional hospitals Thursday after being involved in a head-on crash on Highway 20 in Lucerne, with one of the drivers arrested for driving under the influence.

Sue Ellen Sannes, 62, of Clearlake Oaks and Bryan Voyles, 39, of Herald were injured in the crash, which occurred near the intersection of 13th Avenue and Highway 20 just after 1 p.m.

The California Highway Patrol said Sannes was arrested for felony DUI – in this case, driving under the influence of prescription medication.

The CHP reported that Sannes, traveling westbound in a small 1986 Honda, failed to negotiate a slight curve and went into the eastbound lane, where she collided head-on with Voyles' 2003 Chevrolet minivan.

California Highway Patrol Sgt. Bill Holcomb said Sannes was driving in the highway's center turn lane before going into Voyles' lane. A witness claimed she had been in the center lane for about a quarter of a mile before her car crossed over into the eastbound lane.

Traffic for several blocks around the crash scene was reduced to one lane as Northshore Fire took care of the crash victims and CHP investigated the scene.

Sannes was trapped in her vehicle, with her ankles crushed under the engine firewall, and had to be extricated by Northshore Fire personnel. Holcomb said she suffered major injuries to her legs, including broken ankles.

Voyles suffered moderate injuries to his legs and complained of abdominal pain and was transported to medical care on precaution. Holcomb said that injury may have been caused by the seatbelt, as there were no intrusions in the inside of the vehicle.

A landing zone was set up for air ambulances at the end of 13th Avenue at Highway 20, a short way from where the crash occurred.

There, a REACH helicopter landed to transport Sannes to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital's trauma center. A short time later, a CalStar helicopter landed and took Voyles to UC Davis Medical Center.

Voyles' wife and four children – the children ranging in age from 4 to 13 – were transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital via Northshore Fire Protection District's ambulance due to complaints of pain, Holcomb said.

Due to her injuries, Sannes could not be booked into the Lake County Jail.

CHP Officer Brendan Bach is leading the crash investigation.

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



REACH air ambulance takes off to transport Sue Ellen Sannes of Clearlake Oaks to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital on Thursday, May 21, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




Northshore Fire personnel load Brian Boyles of Herald into a CalStar air ambulance on Thursday, May 21, 2009. Voyles was taken to UC Davis Medical Center. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

HOPLAND – Authorities have arrested a suspect in a bank robbery that took place Wednesday afternoon.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported that the incident occurred at Savings Bank of Mendocino County on Highway 101 in Hopland shortly before 3 p.m.

Authorities were alerted by a 911 call reporting the bank robbery.

When deputies arrived witnesses told them that the suspect – a white male adult – had fled in a vehicle, which witnesses described, according to the sheriff's report.

Deputies and Ukiah Police, along with the California Highway Patrol, searched the area for the vehicle, with CHP stopping a vehicle that matched the description at about 3:30 p.m.

Officials said the vehicle's single male occupant was detained and witnesses identified him as the person who allegedly robbed the bank. Evidence found in the car is alleged to have confirmed his involvement in the robbery.

The suspect, who was arrested at the scene, was not identified by officials on Wednesday.

Sheriff's officials said an investigation into the suspect's possible involvement in other robberies currently is under way.

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