Category Archives: Blog

Announcements and more from The Ferndale Enterprise. Subscribe to the newspaper.

Man who saved child at Centerville Beach says he was “just doing the right thing;” Ferndale Police visited child’s home two days prior to alleged attack by mother

Humboldt Hill resident John Marciel doesn’t consider himself a hero.

The rest of the world does.

Marciel was at Ferndale’s Centerville Beach on Friday morning when he fought a mother off a child after the mother was allegedly attempting to perform an exorcism on the 11-year-old.

According to Lt. K. Swithenbank with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), Kimberly Felder, 45, had allegedly stripped the child naked and was shoving handfuls of sand in the child’s eyes and into the child’s mouth.

“The mother stated she was trying to remove the demons from the child,” stated Swithenbank in a press release.

The Ferndale mother — a former substitute and Ferndale Elementary School volleyball coach — continued the assault by “viciously striking, biting, and choking the child,” stated Swithenbank.

“When local citizen John Marciel arrived on scene, he immediately stepped in and attempted to restrain Felder and prevent further assault to the child,” stated the release.  “Marciel struggled on the ground with Felder, while Felder continued her persistent attack on the child by hitting the child in the head with a piece of driftwood.”

A HCSO deputy arrived and Felder was finally pulled from the child and placed in handcuffs.

“John Marciel further assisted by tending to the child while deputies controlled Felder,” stated the release.  “Emergency Medical Technicians arrived and transported the child to a hospital where she received further treatment for her injuries.”

The child, according to Swithenbank, received multiple injuries from the attack, including severe damage to her right ear.  She was airlifted out of Humboldt County for medical care.

Ferndale Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Jerry Lema said volunteers responded to the call but were told to “stage” until law enforcement had secured the scene.  Lema said volunteers waited near the Russ home until summoned by the HCSO.

Swithenbank also stated in the release that the assault was witnessed by a “crowd of approximately ten to 12 people.”  That statement spurred hundreds of online comments, questioning why others didn’t step in to assist, like Marciel.

But in a telephone interview on Tuesday with Marciel, he told The Enterprise that the so-described “crowd” was his family.

“There’s seven of us,” he said when contacted at work.  “We went there beachcombing and came up on the incident.”

Marciel, who stated he has been overwhelmed by the attention on him from around the world as the story has been picked up by news outlets far and wide, said that his mother-in-law “doesn’t do well with violence” and that his wife and daughter were consoling his mother-in-law.

“Emotions were running high with everyone,” he said.  “I told my aunt-in-law to get back and I took charge of the whole situation and did what needed to be done. People’s emotions running high might have caused more problems . . . cooler heads prevailed.”

Marciel said that “it felt like forever” until law enforcement arrived.

“She was trying to bite at me, but mainly trying to hurt her child,” said the father of four.

Meanwhile, Ferndale Police Department (FPD) Chief Bret Smith confirmed that on June 14 at approximately 3:40 pm, one of his officers went to Felder’s home at 21 Shaw Avenue to perform a “welfare check.”

“No issues,” states the FPD log.

On Tuesday, Smith said that the welfare check was for a juvenile at that location.

“It was at the request of Child Welfare Services (CWS) regarding a follow-up on a medical issue,” stated Smith in an email.

FPD Sergeant Allan Billington said the FPD was restricted on making any other statements because of privacy statutes.  He stated that the FPD visited Felder’s home because CWS had notified the FPD that “a child missed an appointment.”

Ferndale Unified School District Superintendent Jack Lakin confirmed that Felder had been hired as a substitute teacher. Her last day of employment was December 23, 2016 said Lakin.  According to minutes from the FUSD Board of Trustees June 29, 2016 meeting, Felder was hired as the 7th grade volleyball coach.

As for the attention now placed on Marciel, including from the HCSO which stated that if it wasn’t for Marciel stepping in, “it is very likely that the child would have been killed by Felder,” Marciel said he has been overwhelmed.

“I didn’t want none of this at all,” he said.  “I was hoping it would be done and over.  I was just out to do the right thing.  All the publicity . . . I didn’t think it would go like this. It’s been pretty overwhelming.”

After the child victim recovers, Marciel said he would like to see her again, only “if it doesn’t bring back bad memories of that day.

“She’ll forever be a part of my life and I would like to always be there for her,” he said.  “I know I barely know her, but what we’ve both been through  . . . I hope the best for her in  life.”

Felder was booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on suspicion of attempted homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, felony child abuse, and aggravated mayhem, according to the press release.  Lt. Swithenbank also stated that the HCSO will be requesting that John Marciel be recognized for the Red Cross Life Saving Award.

We get letters

From the June 15, 2017 print edition

Monster Truck noise impacted business

Dear editor: This past weekend we were subjected to unbelievable noise levels from the monster truck event held at the fairgrounds. We felt like our beautiful tranquil town of Ferndale was under assault, and it was. As owners of a vacation rental located across from the fairgrounds, the last thing in the world our guests, who come to Ferndale for peace and quiet, and ourselves, expected to deal with was monster trucks. We gave our very understanding guests a gift certificate to a complimentary dinner to try and make up for their partially-ruined vacation.

The beautiful village of Victorian Ferndale is known for its quaint charm, historic Victorian buildings and quiet way of life. It is on the Forbes List of Beautiful Towns in America and on the 10 Most Beautiful Towns in California. How in the world would monster trucks and the upcoming scheduled motorcycle races in August fit in that description?

We, who live and visit Ferndale, do so for a reason and that is the peaceful and tranquil lifestyle that we all enjoy. We know that during the annual county fair the speakers will be on for the horse races, and an occasional tractor activity, that hardly compares to monster trucks revving huge engines and crashing into things, let alone motorcycles racing for two days. The noise levels both nights (we measured them) were off the charts during the monster truck event, some even reaching into dangerous levels of hearing damage. Our pets were frightened, as probably the horses, cattle and wildlife.

Ferndale has under law, a noise ordinance and it was broken both nights during the event and at 7 am on Sunday morning, as the trucks were revving up their engines to depart. The police station and city hall had numerous calls complaining of noise on both evenings as well as Sunday morning. If we want to keep our beautiful village as the special, tranquil, quaint place that everyone loves to live and visit, we cannot allow this to happen ever again. Shame on The Humboldt County Fair Association for exposing our town to this outrage and complete disturbance to our way of life. We will lose revenue from all the visitors who come here to experience the beauty and tranquility of our unique village and our way of life. Ferndale Residents please attend the Ferndale City Council Meeting at City Hall on June 21, to protest and stop this travesty from ever happening to Ferndale again.

Lynne and Lee Shoblom

Ferndale

Quiet, please

Dear editor: Saturday evening, standing behind Ferndale High gym, looking over fence at race track and grandstand, watching monster something going on. Crowds scream. Something Roman (Ancient) happening at fairgrounds. Not sure what. Eardrums pounded (90 decibels as measured by a neighbor). Overwhelming odor of, what is it, fossil fuel exhaust? Yes! Is it also what pure testosterone smells like? Moment of Silence. Someone sings the national anthem. Crowd cheers. No, not Rome. It’s America. It’s an American Circus Maximus. Make lots of noise, loud enough for all to hear clear across town, destroy stuff, run over things, pollute the air and the airwaves, rev those engines, flex those muscles, show your power, do something raucous but wicked fun, let the world know your big, bigger, biggerest (yes, biggerest), make money, make money any old way – for fair board, for Rotary Club, for monster truck tour. Make money, to hell with your neighbors. At home now. It’s 9:15 pm, and the roaring has intensified, like the last bangout explosion of fireworks on the 4th of July. It comes in through the upstairs windows. Revving, screaming, weedwhacker noises on high dosage of steroid. Crowd goes wild. Finally, it’s over and quiet once again.

An odd event, this. Police chief thinks its ok; certainly the out-of-town (not so) fair association board members think it’s ok. But I don’t think it’s ok, and I don’t think I’m in the minority on this one. If the fair board plans a repeat performance of this kind of event, well, I think it’s time for the community to attend a fair association’s gathering, make lots of noise, and tell them what you think. Also, there will be a city council meeting on June 21. There is an item on the agenda concerning revisiting our current noise ordinance. Attend; speak up, if this evening disturbed you. By the way, Arne and Paulina Petersen deserve a prize for Public Political Art Installations. The sign on their front lawn says it all. Remember their “Toilets in a Row”? A masterpiece!

Sincerely,

Jere Bob Bowden,

Ferndale

(Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to the Ferndale City Manager, the city council and the police chief and forwarded to us.)

NO monster trucks or motorcycle racing at the fairgrounds! Monster trucks equal monster noise. As far as I’m concerned, the monster truck event going on tonight is “disturbing, excessive, and offensive noise.”

Martin Tubb

Ferndale

(Editor’s note:  The following letter, written by a Ferndale city councilman, was sent to the Humboldt County Fair Association board of directors, its general manager and board chair and forwarded to us.)

To Humboldt County Fair Association:

Kindly advise me as to the date, time, and location of your next board of directors meeting. I also note that your website lists an area for meeting agenda and for minutes, although none are included/listed under that section of your website. When attempting to access those sections, there is a note indicating: “To Be Announced. We appreciate your patience, while we diligently work on updating the site with the most accurate and latest information!” When do you anticipate that the “agenda and minutes” portion of your website will be updated? Approximately two years ago, I attended one of your board meetings and following a very short period for public comment, you went immediately into closed session. At that time, I was told (by your board chair) that you hoped to open a larger portion of your board meetings to the public, “soon.” Has that happened, yet? If not, when do you anticipate opening your meetings to the public, versus just reserving closed sessions for legal, personnel, and real estate negotiation matters – in alignment with “best practices” in nonprofit governance? Also, as required by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Internal Revenue Service kindly provide me with a link to, and/or a complete copy of, your IRS form 990 filing for your most recent fiscal year end. Please advise and kindly reply to the questions posed in this e-mail by/before June 15, 2017. If you prefer, you are welcome to call me directly at with response(s)/update to these questions and to indicate when I can pick up a copy of your most current IRS form 990. Thank you so much. With best wishes for a very successful 2017 Humboldt County Fair! Blessings!

Patrick O’Rourke

Ferndale

Irish greetings

Dear editor: I just read about your battle with the Humboldt County Fair Association and had to drop you a line. Congratulations on your well-earned awards! I’m a hack myself and have worked for national papers in Ireland and Britain and while we have small provincial papers, we don’t have anything like the network of tiny newsrooms you have in the US. There’s something magical about the enthusiasm of the North American small press. Reading your story gave me a warm glow in the pit of my stomach and I wanted to thank you for it. I also love your “stay in a newsroom” scheme, it’s absolute genius. (Just in case you’re wondering, I read about you in a Columbia Journalism Review report that was circulated by a contract newspaper printers in the UK, called The Newspaper Club. You can print your own paper through them, no matter how few copies you require.)

Best wishes,

Michael O’Kelly

Galway city, Republic of Ireland

Does motorized racing at fairgrounds trigger state’s environmental review law?

From the June 15, 2017 print edition

With the Humboldt County Fair Association introducing motorized events on the fairgrounds racetrack, does the change in use require the association or the county to do a state-required environmental review to assess the impact of noise and air quality?

On Friday and Saturday night, the fairgrounds was host to a monster truck event which prompted noise complaints from some residents and on August 5, during the daytime, a motorcycle event will occur on the track.

Stephen Avis, who lives on Fifth Street and has been a vocal opponent to both events, says that the change in use from horse racing to motorized events triggers a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review. Avis is also the contracted city planner for the city of Ferndale but clarified that he is speaking as a neighbor of the fairgrounds.

“Traditionally, the racetrack has been used for non-motorized racing events,” said Avis in an email. “This is certainly the case for the last three years, the period of time deemed ‘past history,’ according to the law, for a particular activity. The recent monster truck demolition tour event was not presented as a race and may represent a new ‘use’ for the racetrack not previously contemplated or considered. In a similar way, the upcoming flat track motorcycle races are indeed a racing event but is a change in the nature of what is being raced; motorized vehicles vs. horses. This may also represent a change in use based on the historical record.”

A CEQA environmental report provides public agencies and the public in general with detailed information about the effect in which a proposed project or change in use is likely to have on the environment. In this case, changes at the fairgrounds impact noise and air quality. Oftentimes, mitigation measures are adopted during a CEQA process in an effort to minimize effects.

“CEQA is a tool, not an end in itself,” Avis said. “It provides quantifiable scientific information to be evaluated by decision makers . . .”

CEQA has an exemption for public facilities such as the fairgrounds. However, when a fairgrounds changes its historic use — horse racing in this case — to motorized racing, the law states that a CEQA analysis is required before the start of the new activity. (In last week’s Enterprise, we reported on the CEQA lawsuit filed by several members of the Russ family and the O’Rourke Foundation — of which Ferndale Mayor Don Hindley is the head — against the state’s Coastal Conservancy. The local group alleges that the conservancy’s CEQA Environmental Impact Report on the proposed Eel River Estuary Preserve near Centerville Beach was not adequate and that certain issues had not been addressed.)

Meanwhile, there is confusion over who is the lead agency when it comes to the county fairgrounds. Avis said the property is subject to county zoning regulations and to CEQA. However, with the fairgrounds located within the city limits, can the city require an environmental review? Ferndale City Manager Jay Parrish said he had no comment until after Wednesday’s council meeting, where the city’s noise ordinance has been put on the agenda for a discussion. Avis said in his email to The Enterprise that the role of CEQA with regard to the fairgrounds was confirmed by Steve Werner, senior planner for the county of Humboldt. However, fellow senior planner John Miller said that the county’s Planning & Building Department “does not have a role in project approval for county-owned land located within cities,” and referred questions about the issue to the county’s attorney. Werner did not respond to The Enterprise’s questions.

“Situations that involve superior jurisdictional property within an inferior jurisdiction’s boundaries can be challenging because it falls outside the normal role of government,” said Avis. “The role of local government may be limited with regard to zoning standards for the fairgrounds but that does not preclude it from playing an important role in providing input through the CEQA process on potential impacts and their effects on the community as an environmental impact.”

Wednesday’s city council meeting begins at 7 pm at Town Hall.

Fairgrounds’ monster truck event drives praise and criticism

From the June 15, 2017 print edition

“When we started this, we thought ants would be an issue, not monster trucks and motorcycles.”

Those are the words of Lee Shoblom, operator of Fifth Street’s Red Barn Cottage vacation rental. Shoblom, and his wife Lynn, said they were shocked by the noise level coming from Friday and Saturday night’s monster truck shows at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds. The couple said that the noise was even present on Sunday morning, when the monster trucks loaded up to leave town.

“We gave our very understanding guests a gift certificate to a complimentary dinner to try and make up for their partially-ruined vacation,” wrote the couple in a letter to the editor this week.

On the other end of the spectrum, Frog Alley (Van Ness Avenue) resident Sharon Green said at Monday night’s Ferndale Chamber of Commerce meeting that “in all reality, the football games normally bring more noise than this event, and the fair — the calling of the races and carnival. It was really surprising. Actually, the Harleys coming into town are more noise than what you guys generated.”

Humboldt County Fair Association General Manager Richard Conway, in attendance at the chamber meeting, said that he drove around town during the events.

“I listened and it definitely was where you were,” he said, adding that approximately 2,500 people attended each night. “The noise seemed to carry in different areas. I don’t think it was unreasonable anywhere.”

The city of Ferndale’s noise ordinance, in part, states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to make, continue or cause to be made or continued, within the limits of the City of Ferndale, any disturbing, excessive or offensive noise which causes discomfort or annoyance to any reasonable persons of normal sensitivity residing in the area.”

Redwood Acres Fair CEO Cindy Bedingfield said that the racetrack at her site in Eureka has a policy of 95 decibels at a 100-foot radius for her raceway events, including monster trucks. At approximately 750 feet from the Humboldt County Fairgrounds grandstand — near the high school gym — a sound level meter registered 85-90 decibels, prompting some viewers standing near the gym Friday night to put their fingers in their ears. Bedingfield said if the Redwood Acres noise policy is violated, the first offense is a written warning, the second offense is a monetary penalty assessed by her board of directors and the third event could lead to a cancellation by the board of any contracts.

Ferndale Police Chief Bret Smith said on Friday his officers logged six noise complaints. On Saturday, 11 people complained to the department about the noise. Redwood Acres Raceway manager Blair Aiken said that his track works very hard to monitor and control noise and that he was “very surprised” when he learned motorized events would be held in Ferndale.

“It’s the wrong place, wrong venue, wrong everything,” said Aiken.”

Meanwhile, Conway told chamber members that the August 5 motorcycle competition will be one day, not two as the California Flat Track Association Facebook page stated on Wednesday.

Ferndale resident bids farewell to Southern Humboldt hospital and heads home after 19 months hospitalized

From the May 11, 2017 print edition

By Ken McCanless

Enterprise contributor

After an amazing medical odyssey through various hospitals in the Bay Area and Humboldt County that left him struggling to recall two to three months of his life, and stationed in multiple facilities for a total of 19 months and ten days, 33-year Ferndale resident Tom Eastman, 73, has returned home.

Most recently, in the sixth facility that he visited — Jerold Phelps Hospital in Garberville — Eastman walked out seven months to the day after he arrived, and as he told The Enterprise through tears, he was glad to be back in Ferndale.

Self-sufficient now, walking with the aid of a cane at his home with his wife Maura and daughter Amy, Eastman said to “put down that in a month or two I’ll be out there driving around and going down for breakfast to Poppa Joe’s.”

Courtesy photo
Ferndale’s Tom Eastman walking out of Garberville’s Jerold Phelps hospital.

Eastman told The Enterprise, in recounting his multiple brushes with death and the months of arduous rehabilitation that followed, that “my emotions are shot; it’s similar to PTSD with what I’ve been through—almost like coming back from a war.”

Eastman’s medical journey began one night in September of 2015 when he lost all strength while sitting in his chair and the Ferndale Fire Department had an ambulance take him to the emergency room at Redwood Memorial Hospital with a diagnosis of sepsis, blood poisoning, with cause unknown. He was then sent to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Eureka where they had a bed for him, and he stayed there approximately a month and a half. He endured a tracheotomy, which he called horrible, and which caused him to be flown down to Kentfield SNF, where he nearly died of a twisted bowel. Unsatisfied with his care there, Eastman’s wife checked around and found California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, which is part of the Sutter health group. Eastman was transferred there to intensive care and stabilized temporarily, but again nearly met his end, with the hospital telling his wife and daughter that he may not make it. Eastman said that he remembered nothing of the several-month experience from admission to Redwood Memorial to California Pacific.

Finally on the road to recovery and conscious again, Eastman was sent to the smaller facility of St. Luke’s in the Mission District of San Francisco, where he spent a total of ten months and had five operations, completely losing all strength in his muscles and spending much of his time in what he calls a state of near solitary confinement, only seeing nurses and their aides.

Next, the family faced the challenge of finding a place that would take Eastman in his weakened condition, during the time period when Humboldt County was facing the attempted shutdown of many skilled nursing facilities. Finally, an emotional Eastman said, his wife called down to Garberville, “and that’s how she got a hold of Judy Gallagher (director of patient services), on her fifth day on the job. If she hadn’t have got a hold of her, I wouldn’t have gotten in there either. It took about two to three weeks to get all the approvals and everything, and then I was sent up there.” Eastman spoke glowingly of the physical therapy program at Jerold Phelps, where he did physical therapy five days a week, twice a day, saying they got him up and walking when he was told he would never walk again.

“They have a great group,” said Eastman. “Judy’s the one that pulled the strings that got me in there. If it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t have been there. I would’ve been in a rest home in Oakland… nobody thought I’d ever walk again; they thought I’d be a vegetable. Well, I showed them. The physical therapy program down in Garberville was great.”

Eastman speaks of one day soon driving, and even potentially finding a part-time job.

“I’m too young to retire,” he says. “I was still working when I got sick.” Eastman, who after owning and operating Fortuna Nursery from 1983 to 1995, worked in industrial sales for tools and supplies for the timber industry, says he was forced to retire once his job found out about his illness.

Gallagher, for her part, was especially impressed with Eastman, saying, “He really progressed when he got to us.” She said that after his wife had found all the skilled nursing facilities in Eureka full, one of the last calls she made was to Jerold Phelps, which had a bed for him.

“When he first came here, he was very weak. He had no strength in his legs whatsoever, and he couldn’t bear weight at all,” said Gallagher, who related that within a month, with vigilant effort from the physical therapy department and Eastman performing his exercises, he was bearing weight. “It’s like a little family here; you don’t get left out of anything because we’re so small, and we have the opportunity to give patients that one-on-one care that they might not get at a bigger place . . . he really blossomed with the care and attention that he got from our pt department plus all the nursing staff and nursing assistants that cared for him on a daily basis. And he himself is a very determined man. He is very stubborn, and he wanted to walk.”

Gallagher said she used to tease Eastman, calling him “the guy with nine lives,” and saying that his particular determination made all the difference.

Amy Eastman, Tom’s daughter, said that her father making his way home “was definitely something that we did not necessarily know would happen throughout this journey because things were pretty interesting for quite awhile, and so we weren’t sure that that was going to be the end product. We’re just really excited to have him back, and we know how important that is to him.

“It’s incredible the things you learn to deal with,” said Amy Eastman, “and just how many caring people there are in the health profession, and what a priceless gift they provide to so many people, and the number of people who have helped him throughout this 19-month excursion is pretty mind-blowing.”

“I could have given up many times,” said Tom Eastman. He didn’t, and Ferndale is the richer for it.

Strapped for cash, fair board racks up attorney invoices on issues related to public records

After settling latest financial documents lawsuit, fair directors keep spending money on press releases and corrections

From the May 11, 2017 print edition

With the Humboldt County Fair Association’s operating cash at the end of March at the lowest it has been since 2013 — when it had a record high reserve — fair board directors and its manager seem to have no problem incurring attorney bills.

Bills from February and March show that even after a public records lawsuit filed by this newspaper seeking the disclosure of the association’s finances was settled at the end of January, the fair association spent another $5,516.30 on two lawyers, racking the total cost to keep its finances private to more than $73,000.

The fair’s two attorneys billed the association in February and March for services including writing, reviewing and then correcting press releases concerning the fair association spending more than $68,000 of its own money fighting unsuccessfully against the public records lawsuit. The invoices from the first two months of the year also included paying the attorneys to review articles in The Enterprise and the North Coast Journal, regarding the fair’s public records settlement. In total, the fair board has spent $73,668.02 in an unsuccessful attempt to make it difficult for this newspaper to access financial documents and attempting to explain its expenditures to the public — also unsuccessfully, after having to issue a correction to a press release and pay more attorney time to craft that correction.

The expenditures on attorneys come at a time when the fair’s operating cash as of the end of March was at $11,375.04 — the lowest since 2013, when at the end of March of that year there was $285,685.71 in the association’s operating cash account.

At the end of January 2013, the fair board didn’t renew long-time general manager Stuart Titus’s contract, and a few months later hired Richard Conway for the position. When Titus departed the fair after 22 years, the fair association had the highest reserve in history and since his departure, the fair has burned through its reserve, touting increased revenue to the public through press releases but not reporting increased expenses that have left the fair with dwindling reserves. And, with Conway moving the fair this year to a later starting date and running through Labor Day, cash is key to making it through an unknown budget scenario, what with the second week of the fair being held while most Humboldt County students are back in school.

Back story

At the end of January, the fair association settled the second of two public records lawsuit filed by this newspaper after the association refused to release financial documents. It spent $68,152.02 of its own money to defend against being governed by the state’s public records law. The lease between the County of Humboldt, which owns the fairgrounds, and the association, specifically states that all the association’s financial records are public documents.

The association was also sued in 2015 by this newspaper for not turning over financial documents. The association’s insurance carrier at that time paid $46,000 to the Enterprise’s attorney after a judge ordered the payment. The fair association didn’t learn its lesson.

Just a few months after the association was ordered to pay up, it withheld requested documents again. When the newspaper was forced to file a second public records lawsuit to obtain requested financial documents, the association’s insurance company the second time around told the association in no uncertain terms it was on its own to defend against The Enterprise, Instead of settling immediately with The Enterprise and keeping attorney fees low by agreeing to be governed by the California Public Records Act (CPRA) — a state law that dictates how public record requests are to be handled by public agencies — the fair board fought the second suit and resisted agreeing to be governed by the CPRA.

After spending $47,152.02 of its own resources, at the end of January fair directors settled and agreed to go back under the CPRA. The association wrote an additional check for $21,000 to The Enterprise’s attorney. (For years, the association was governed by the CPRA, but in 2015 it changed from its long-standing status as a public entity to a private non-profit and eliminated public participation at its board meetings.)

Lawyer up

Now, new invoices obtained by The Enterprise (access granted as a result of its two lawsuits) show that the association’s board president Tim Renner, its former president Dave Mogni, its pro-bono attorney Jim Morgan from Walnut Creek, and Conway continued to have independent expensive conversations via telephone and email with the association’s two attorneys — Randy Andrada of Oakland and Jill England of Sacramento — after the latest public records lawsuit was settled.

The details in the invoices show that often the fair was billed for multiple conversations and emails on the same subject matter with each of the names mentioned above.

When asked in an email on Tuesday from The Enterprise why fair directors didn’t make a conference call to cut down on attorney fees, or assign one fair representative to discuss the lawsuits with the attorneys, Conway, Mogni, Morgan and Renner did not reply. (The Enterprise also emailed the majority of the 18-member fair board, and its general manager, seeking comment on this story. It did not receive a response.)

The invoices show that the fair paid the attorneys to review this newspaper’s reporting on the public records lawsuit settlement as well as reviewing a news story printed in the North Coast Journal on the same subject.

Andrada, the principal and sole shareholder of Andrada & Associates, alone has been paid more than $468,000 at a rate of $200 an hour defending the Humboldt County Fair Association board of directors. He was hired by the fair’s insurance carrier to defend against a First Amendment lawsuit filed by Stuart Titus in 2014 that resulted in a $150,000 settlement to Titus; Andrada was paid by the same insurance carrier to defend the fair board against the first public records suit filed by this newspaper that resulted in a $46,000 settlement check to the newspaper’s attorney; and he has been paid by the fair association itself to defend against the second public records lawsuit that concluded with the $21,000 check written to The Enterprise’s attorney.

The attorneys were also paid to prepare a press release on the public records settlement with The Enterprise. The fair association, however, had to send out a correction to the press release. The fair association erroneously stated to The Times-Standard and the North Coast Journal that the fair “now provides her (Ms. Titus’s) family with a pension.” (The former general manager of the fair, Stuart Titus is married to The Enterprise publisher and editor.)

“In sum, HCFA does not presently provide a monthly check to CalPERS (California Public Employee Retirement System) on behalf of Mr. Titus,” stated the correction. “Nor does it send Mr. Titus a monthly check.” The fair association and Titus contributed to his retirement during the 22 years of his employment.

(Disclosure:  As reported above, Enterprise editor and publisher Caroline Titus is married to Stuart Titus, former general manger of the HCFA.)

Ferndale’s Genevieve Regli is new California FFA state officer

Screenshot photo from FSU live feed
Ferndale High School’s Genevieve Regli, right, reacts when retiring state officer Amanda Skidmore holds up her Ferndale FFA jacket to a crowd of more than 7,000 at Tuesday’s last session of the 89th annual state conference at Fresno’s Selland Arena. Regli was voted in as secretary and will don a new state officer jacket. She will join five other newly-elected state officers on a year’s journey, traveling throughout California representing the more than 85,000 student members who belong to the leadership development organization.

Ferndale High senior will represent 85,000 members of leadership development organization; Regli is second woman from Ferndale elected in California FFA’s 89 years

Before more than 7,000 attendees in the huge Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center’s Selland Arena Tuesday morning, Ferndale’s Genevieve Regli was all tears when retiring California FFA state officer and secretary Amanda Skidmore held up for the last time Regli’s Ferndale FFA blue and gold corduroy jacket to the crowd.

The Atwater FFA member then helped Regli into her new state officer jacket and presented the leadership organization’s new state secretary to a cheering crowd. Regli had beat the odds and had been named one of six state officers to represent the 83,000 member organization and travel throughout the state and nation promoting agriculture, connecting with industry officials and mentoring youth.

As Regli’s father Jim put it on Wednesday morning, “the drought is over.”  He was referring to the fact that the North Coast Region — which Ferndale FFA is a part of and encompasses Humboldt, Del Norte, Sonoma, Solano, Alameda, Mendocino, and Lake Counties — hadn’t had a member elected to the prestigious state officer position in 11 years. Ferndale’s Elizabeth Titus was the last state officer from the North Coast Region and the first female elected from Ferndale. She was elected in 2006.

Regli’s election by the voting delegates at the 89th annual California FFA State Conference was at the conclusion of six days of competition, speeches and voting. She was named one of 45 finalists for six positions earlier in the month after tests and essays, and made the final cut of 12 on Monday after days of rigorous interviews.

An exhausted and ever-so-humble Genevieve Regli spoke to The Enterprise Wednesday morning after arriving home in Ferndale from Fresno at 3 am, having to ride across Hwy 36 due to the new slide on Hwy 101.

“For the past few years, I’ve come home from state conference sad every time because some of my best friends have lost,” said Regli. “You can picture winning, but I just can’t believe it.”

Regli said the support from fellow FFA members was “intense.

“I’m so grateful for everyone that was there for me,” she said. “It really hasn’t set in.”

Regli, two days after graduation from FHS, will move to the California FFA center in Galt to live with her team and travel the state for an entire academic year, providing leadership and training to the more than 85,000 student members of the organization. She will defer her enrollment at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for one year. Regli is currently finishing her year’s reign as District 1 Dairy Princess and said she has several more classroom visits scheduled and the dairy princess contest in May.

Father and dairyman Jim Regli said he was excited that California FFA will have someone representing them who “knows what’s going on in the dairy industry.

“The struggles that ag faces with regulation and the labor shortage,” he said. “The immigration issue — these are real people and lives we are talking about. If she can get that through to our leaders and other agencies throughout the state. Don’t just use people as a political basketball . . . let’s talk about how to engage youth that are lost out there . . . I think those are Genevieve’s strong points and she can articulate them.”

Immigration was the subject of one of Genevieve’s topics in her extemporaneous speaking competition during the conference. (She placed third in the state.)

“As the immigration population continues to rise, we need to make sure that minorities are represented in our organization,” she said.  “It’s super important to make sure that everyone has a part in our organization.”

In addition, Genevieve said she spoke to what immigration reform should include.

“There needs to be a revision of the work visa program for agriculture,” she said, referring to the federal government’s H2-A worker-visa program.

Ferndale High School Principal Jack Lakin said there was a “definite buzz throughout the school” over the last two days as everyone learned about Regli’s advancement. He also spoke to the challenge of rising to a state officer position from a remote area such as Ferndale.

“Even as talented as many of our students are, there is a great challenge as far as our location to overcome,” said Lakin. “The fact that she overcame that further speaks to how dynamic she is as a person and how she has developed at Ferndale High School.”

Former Ferndale state officer and national officer Pete Giacomini, elected to represent California in 1973, also spoke to the obstacles of coming from a smaller region.

“It’s so much harder for kids from the North Coast Region to get elected, simply because it is, as it was when I ran, the smallest region in the state. Matched up opposite another candidate from one of the big three Central Valley regions and a North Coast kid is behind from the beginning against a base of votes in opposition that is hard to overcome. I don’t know who Gen ran against, but she was one with enough talent to overcome that.”

In a memo issued to Ferndale Unified School District staff on Tuesday afternoon, Lakin stated: “This is a tremendous honor for Genevieve, the Regli family, our school and community. This achievement reflects her dedicated work ethic and commitment to family, FFA, the agricultural community, extra-curricular activities and academic success. We are all extremely proud of her.”

Prior to Titus’s election as the California FFA state reporter 11 years ago — she is now an editor for Bloomberg in Manhattan, NYC — Blake Alexandre, a local dairyman, was elected to a state officer position in 1980. Henry Giacomini, a rancher, was elected in 1975. Pete Giacomini, a senior vice president for business development at Cooperative Resources International in Madison, Wisconsin, was elected in 1973.

Meanwhile, Genevieve’s younger brother, Dominic, placed second in the state in the FFA Creed competition. Ferndale FFA member Brandon Brazil won the state proficiency in forage production. “It’s just really great to see great kids from great families like the Reglis in small towns like Ferndale be rewarded this way,” said Pete Giacomini.

(Disclosure:  Elizabeth Titus is the daughter of Enterprise publisher and editor Caroline Titus.)

Ferndale High graduate finds directorial inspiration from growing up in a small town

From the April 20, 2017 print edition

By Ken McCanless

Enterprise contributor

Courtesy Sweeney Photography
Ferndale High School graduate Jacob Cooney on the set of “Pitching Tents.”  Behind him, producer Jane Kelly Kosek.

Ferndale native Jacob Cooney (Ferndale High class of 2000) is bringing his directorial skills back to his hometown in a big way, paving the way for screenings of his new indie comedy “Pitching Tents” at The Old Steeple in Ferndale at 8 pm on Saturday, April 22 and at Mill Creek Cinema in McKinleyville at 8:30 pm on Wednesday, April 26.

Cooney, son of Grizzly Bluff’s Tim and Elaine Cooney, said that originally, the distributor wasn’t looking to target northern California, so he decided to start making the necessary inroads to ensure that interested people could get a chance to see the film in Humboldt County, which in many ways served as an inspiration to Cooney throughout his career. He actually took film classes at Humboldt State in high school before going on to film school at California State University Monterey Bay (shooting his thesis back in Humboldt County) and then moving to Los Angeles, and ultimately New York to work in the movie industry.

“I wanted to bring ‘Pitching Tents’ back to Humboldt not only because I want the local community to take part in its success, but because the film’s story reminds me of my own journey in some ways,” said Cooney. “I wanted to get the movie up there (Northern California) because I felt like people would enjoy it, and I’ve never had a film play up there before out of the number of things that I’ve done, and this was the first opportunity to get it up in the home field and show people what I’ve been up to.”

He said he and the producers and distributors managed to work out the two local screenings. Asked about his motivation, Cooney said that “in general, depending on the project, I have to find something that I feel down to my core, and that’s where the inspiration comes from. The story for ‘Pitching Tents’ really hit me because it’s about an artistic kid in a small town in Pennsylvania who’s looking to figure out what he’s going to do in his future,” describing how his protagonist is torn between adult figures trying to provide guidance and “finds himself” in a frivolous weekend with friends.

According to the film’s press release, “Pitching Tents” finds high school senior Danny Whitaker at a crossroads — will he do what his working-class father thinks is practical and take a job at the local metal factory, or will his “loose cannon” guidance counselor persuade him to enroll in college to save his own job. To escape reality, Danny and his band of misfit buddies head to the woods for the town’s annual rite-of- passage fishing trip. It’s after a wild party that Danny stumbles upon Goddess Camp, the urban legend of “skinny-dipping chicks” that so many horny high-school boys have fantasized about for years. Here he meets Alison, who helps him find the strength he needs to take charge of his own destiny. “Pitching Tents” is unrated with a run time of 93 minutes.

“For ‘Pitching Tents,’ being from Ferndale, growing up in a small town, having a dream and trying to reach that dream, is really kind of what brought me to the story,” said Cooney. He called it a “homegrown attitude” that Ferndale nurtured and has come into his adulthood and into his career. “Having a community that was rallying behind what I wanted to do fostered my ability to achieve my goals and to direct movies and write films and be involved in the entertainment industry,” he said, adding that it was the pushing of parents and friends that allowed him to fully explore his creative faculties and said that without it, “I don’t know if we would be having this conversation.” “Pitching Tents,” as a comedy/drama, is somewhat of a departure from Cooney’s past repertoire of mostly action and horror films. But as Cooney describes, the genre is something he’d like to delve into more deeply.

“In making the movie, I realized that I wanted to make more movies that instead of doing pure entertainment and blowing stuff up or scaring people, I really want to tug at the heartstrings and am now looking for material that along with having those action elements also is more personable to the audience and makes them feel more to their core rather than jumping or saying ‘ooh’ or ‘aah’,” said Cooney.

Cooney lived in LA for 10 to 11 years after college and three or four years ago, he says, moved to the east coast. He says he’s always considered himself more of a director than a writer, saying, “I love writing, I love telling stories, that’s what I love to do regardless of what I’m doing, but my preference is to direct.”

The director had kind words for the entire cast of “Pitching Tents.”

“They really put in the research and the time to understand the characters,” he said. “It was just a really good experience working with them. Working with Jonathan Lipnicki (of ‘Jerry Maguire’ fame) was great, and we talk a lot now and we’re trying to figure out what we’re going to work on next together.”

Cooney said in past projects he had especially enjoyed working with Maury Sterling (“Homeland”), but was especially complimentary of the “core four” youngsters in “Pitching Tents,” consisting of Lipnicki, Marco James, Michael Grant, and Booboo Stewart.

Cooney is coming off a recent trip to Los Angeles where he saw the film premiere on March 30 and then open in theaters the next day. He mentioned that he and the cast “hit Entertainment Tonight, and were on CNN, and talking with a number of newspapers.

“There was a lot going on leading up to it, but once you sat down in that theater and the movie started playing and you started hearing the reactions, you kind of relaxed a little bit,” he said. “Luckily the audience reaction has been really good and you can’t ask much more than that for the audience to enjoy something you put together.”

He said it was good for him and his wife Dana and 17-month-old Emmeline to reconnect with some of their old friends, including some college colleagues and former co-workers, during the LA swing on their “half-work-half-play vacation.”

Those interested in what else Cooney has accomplished in the past decade with his long list of writing, directing, and producing credits can visit www.jacobcooney.com, and for more information on the cast and plot of “Pitching Tents,” deemed a coming-of-age 80s comedy, one can visit pitchingtentsmovie.com or the film’s Facebook page.

The local boy summed it up by saying, “Since people of Ferndale helped push me to follow my dreams, I wanted to bring the film back to my hometown not only because I want the local community to take part in its success, but because the film’s story reminds me of my own journey in some ways.”

Possible school cuts listed if small school funds are lost; trustee terms extended one year

From the April 6 print edition

With the uncertainty still surrounding more than $400,000 of Necessary Small School Funding (NSSF) for Ferndale High School, the district superintendent recently announced proposed budget cuts up for discussion during the next school year.

Superintendent Jack Lakin at the district’s March 8 board of trustees meeting handed out a list of up to $464,270 in proposed cuts that could be necessary in the 2018-‘19 school year if the state funding disappears. The district has been paying a Sacramento lobbying firm $1,000 a month for several years now in an attempt to secure the NSSF for Ferndale and a handful of other small districts in the state. The funding was put at risk several years ago and was renewed temporarily but is set to end in the 2018-‘19 school year unless budget language renews the funding or makes it permanent.

The district has a current budgeted reserve level of 21.98 percent (approximately $1.5 million). The state requires a four percent reserve. For the school year 2017-‘18, the reserve is budgeted at 17.70 percent (approximately $1 million) but in ‘18-‘19 it will drop to 5.74 percent if the NSSF isn’t secured.

“There’s hope over the next couple of months that there will be discussions at the budgetary level at the state that will include language in the budget to support the six schools affected,” Lakin told trustees. “It’s such an insignificant amount in the state budget but it’s a matter of finding the right opportunity and person to bring it to the table.”

Worst-case scenario, said Lakin, is that in a year from now, trustees would have to “start to put things in action” by potentially issuing pink slips to employees. The list of potential cuts include eliminating a half-time ag teacher for a cost savings of $32,980; eliminating a full-time reading intervention teacher at Ferndale Elementary for a savings of $90,721; eliminating a half-time art teacher for a savings of $56,229; cutting one full-time teacher for a savings of $70,561; cutting one full time custodial/maintenance employee for a savings of $55,030; eliminating all coaching stipends for a savings of $45,128; eliminating all but basic cleaning for a savings of $30,593; eliminating all non-essential classroom aides for a savings of $71,858 and the cutting of IT services from Fortuna High for a savings of $11,170.

While the NSSF is for the high school, Lakin said the funds go into the General Fund “which supports all our schools.”

“The elementary school always takes the hit,” said trustee Jerry Hansen.

In other district business, trustees voted to approve a resolution which will consolidate the district’s school board elections with the November election during even-numbered years. The approval means that three trustees — Stephanie Koch, Ken Richardson and Jerry Hansen — will serve an additional year and their terms will expire in 2018. Trustees Cory Nunes and JoLynn Jorgensen’s terms will expire in 2020 instead of 2019. The resolution was brought to the board by the Humboldt County Superintendent of Schools Garry Eagles. In a letter to district superintendents, he explained that state Senate Bill 415 requires school districts to switch from odd-year elections to even-year elections if the district has had at least 25 percent less than average voter turnout for the previous four statewide elections. While Ferndale’s voter turnout is usually high, Lakin told trustees that most school districts in the county are approving the resolution and that if Ferndale is the only school who doesn’t approve the resolution, it would have to “cover the costs” of an election. Jorgensen moved to approve the resolution.

“In the interest of the cost to the district, I’ll second the motion,” said Koch whose term is now extended a year.

Fair ticket prices to go up but no charge to get into races; fair again exceeds number of courtesy passes allowed by law

From the April 6 print edition

It’ll cost the general public more to go to the 2017 Humboldt County Fair but there will be no separate admission to the horse races. That’s the word from the fair association’s finance committee chair Duane Martin. Martin said general admission tickets will increase from $8 to $10 and that he thinks senior admission prices will go from $6 to $7. Children’s prices will remain at $4, said Martin.

For many years the fair has charged $2 to enter the horse racing facility. Last year it earned $31,436 from racing admissions. In this year’s budget, it has eliminated that revenue, but bumped up its expected general admission revenue from $241,762 to $272,000 for 2017. Martin said the fair board has taken into account an estimated ten percent drop in attendance this year due to the fair being held during the first week of school for most county students. Fair manager Richard Conway moved the fair dates to later in the year. The fair will open on Wednesday, August 23 and conclude on Labor Day, September 4.

Last year, approximately 42,000 adult, senior, child, vendor, exhibitor group, and livestock admissions were sold. In addition, 2,592 “courtesy pass” admissions were given away by the fair association, exceeding the amount allowed by state law. According to California Food and Ag Code Section 3026, the number of courtesy pass admissions for the current fair year cannot be more than four percent of the total number of paid admissions in the prior year. Last year the ratio totaled 5.9 percent. In 2015, the ratio was 5.4 percent, attracting the state’s attention.

In a letter dated October 7, 2016, John Quiroz, branch chief of the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Fairs & Expositions (F&E) Branch told the fair’s general manager that “F&E has concerns regarding the amount of courtesy pass admissions.

“The Humboldt County Fair should devise a policy to reduce the amount of courtesy passes below the four percent limit for future fairs,” said Quiroz.

Fair officials recently submitted their attendance reports — part of the fair’s 2016 Statement of Operations — to the state for approval. Conway and fair board president Tim Renner did not respond to questions from The Enterprise regarding the fair exceeding courtesy pass limits imposed by the state. Total admissions to the annual fair have remained steady since 2013 with 62,760 total admissions to the fair in ‘13 compared to 62,586 in 2016. Admissions revenue, however, has climbed substantially from $178,814 in 2013 to $293,739 in 2016 due in part to the fair cutting back on free days for the public and the fair board shifting portions of its sponsored revenues into its admissions budget category.