Sac Bee: It’s time for Cal Fire to release disciplinary records

Editor’s note: The results of a $2 million CHP investigation into sex tape allegations should be public, the Sacramento Bee’s executive editor writes. I couldn’t agree more. The cronyism in in public safety can be stifling. 

“Not since the 2007 sex scandal involving the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District have tales about the behavior of public employees been quite this unseemly,” the Bee’s Executive Editor Joyce Terhaar writes this morning.

“Drinking on the job. Using a state cellphone to obtain information about a sex club. Sexual harassment. Lying. Using a state cellphone to store hundreds of sexually explicit photographs.

“This time it’s a different firefighting agency, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known by the shorthand Cal Fire.

“We might never have known about any of this behavior if not for the investigation into the slaying of 26-year-old Sarah Douglas. Yes, this story about a clearly troubled agency culture starts with murder.

“(The Bee) filed a Public Records Act request for the investigative and disciplinary documents. Cal Fire denied the request and said it could keep the documents secret because, among other arguments: ‘the public interest in not disclosing materials that have only recently been provided to those individuals whose careers have been affected clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosing the documents.’

“We disagree. We’ve followed up our efforts to obtain the documents with Sacramento First Amendment attorney Steve Burns. As Burns pointed out to Cal Fire, The Bee won its lawsuit involving a similar situation: Sacramento City firefighters infamously attended a Porn Star Costume Ball in the summer of 2004 and were disciplined amid public uproar.

“A subsequent investigation found routine cruising of bars, drinking and picking up women while on duty. The Bee requested the disciplinary documents, and though the city was prepared to release them, the firefighters union filed a court motion to stop the release. We sued, and won. We reported the details of firefighter behavior.

“Organizational culture doesn’t change easily or without attention. The documents released in the Cal Fire cases being appealed reveal a culture rampant with disturbing behavior.”

The rest of the article is here.

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Holed up with the Ca. GOP in Sacramento

"McClintock as master of ceremonies prior to Mia Love speech.  I saved you a seat." - Barry Pruett

“McClintock as master of ceremonies prior to Mia Love speech. I saved you a seat.” – Barry Pruett

Editor’s note: We’re on an overnighter from the western county to Sacramento this weekend to visit the California Museum, Crocker Museum and watch a Kings game. Little did I know we’d be holed up with the California Republican Party, who happen to be holding their annual convention here. They are swarming the hallways and have taken up all the bar seats. I thought rooms were in high demand because of Sacramento Beer week. LOL. Here’s a look at what the state GOP is up to:

“It is a testament to the dormant state of California’s once mighty Republican dynasty that the only GOP candidate either party gives a shot at capturing Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat upon her retirement next year is the one who is resolutely refusing to run: former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,” as Politico is reporting.

“Last week, Rice topped a statewide Field Poll of 18 potential candidates, drawing the support of 49 percent of likely voters, compared with 46 percent for state Attorney General Kamala Harris, the only declared Democratic candidate so far. That sparked a fresh flurry of speculation about a Rice candidacy — and the latest emphatic denial from her chief of staff that she has any interest in the race.

“Rice’s standing in the poll doubtless reflects mostly name recognition, but the fantasy football nature of her potential candidacy reflects something more profound: the deep hole Republicans have dug for themselves in the state that once produced Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

“The trouble is the bench,’ said Jack Pitney, a professor at Claremont McKenna College and a former Republican congressional aide. ‘Republicans don’t have any statewide elected officials, and as far as House members go, now that the GOP is in the majority in Washington, they have a lot more to lose.’ For example, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield is in line to be speaker of the House.”

The rest of the article is here.

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Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush on pot

“Did the editorial staff of High Times magazine take over the Conservative Political Action Conference? Two presidential aspirants, Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, and Ted Cruz, current Senator of Texas, broached the topic of marijuana legalization at the conference,” the editorial page of The New York Times is reporting

“First to take a hit on this political theme was Mr. Cruz. He said the states should be laboratories of democracy, including on marijuana laws. And yet, late last year, he attacked President Obama for allowing the Justice Department to eschew enforcement of federal anti-marijuana laws in states that have legalized the drug for medicinal or recreational use. I can’t untangle that one — President Obama is wrong to let the states go their own way, but the states should be allowed to go their own way?

“His office later explained to me that Mr. Cruz believes the decision about whether federal laws should be enforced should be the purview of Congress, not the executive; and that the Obama administration was wrong to take unilateral action. This is a common Republican complaint on a variety of issues.

“Mr. Cruz, by the way, smoked pot as a teenager. ‘Teenagers are often known for their lack of judgment, and Senator Cruz was no exception,’ a spokesman told The Daily Mail earlier this month. ‘When he was a teenager, he foolishly experimented with marijuana. It was a mistake, and he’s never tried it since.’

“I’ve never been quite sure what it means to ‘experiment’ with marijuana, foolishly or otherwise. Does it involve beakers and Bunsen burners and lab coats? Or just five guys in a rec room trying out three different brands of rolling paper?

“After Mr. Cruz, Mr. Bush also said that states like Colorado should be allowed to decide themselves whether to legalize marijuana (and of course he thinks they should not).

“But Mr. Bush, unlike Mr. Cruz, has avoided the ‘experimentation’ spin. ‘I drank alcohol, and I smoked marijuana when I was at Andover,’ Mr. Bush told The Boston Globe. ‘It was pretty common.'”

The rest of the article is here.

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Come on, George

Editor’s note: Yet another letter in The Union complaining about a lack of research on the part of the newspaper’s weekly columnist.

“Ah rats … I’ve always enjoyed George Boardman’s columns. But he blew it in his column, ‘It’s time to stop tolerating weird science of anti-vaxxers.’ His biased reference to those who oppose PG&E’s Smart Meters as ‘people … who think smart meters are spying on them,’ showed lack of research. The outstanding majority of those wanting to veto Smart Meters list health issues as the chief drawback.

Ruby Totten

Nevada City”

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McAteer letter quotes Inyo County Grand Jury Foreman: “The Inyo County Grand Jury is not investigating Dr. Terence K. McAteer”

Latest UPDATE: This post has been updated with the Register’s latest story on this matter.

The front-page article identifies the Grand Jury Foreman as its original source, with a headline reading “Grand Juror changing his story”? The first sentence reads: “In a letter delivered to The Inyo Register Friday Morning, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Terry McAteer claims that the Inyo County Grand Jury member who told the Register that McAteer was under investigation has now changed his story.”

As reported, I left a message with the Foreman and he has not yet returned my call.

Earlier UPDATE: Terry McAteer’s office emailed me two letters: one addressed to the publisher and editor of the Inyo Register and the other addressed to “Nevada County residents.” I left a message with the Grand Jury Foreman. The background is here. The letters are here:



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Leonard Nimoy, Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ dies at 83

“Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut ‘Star Trek,’ died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83,” as the New York Times is reporting.

“His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“Mr. Nimoy announced last year that he had the disease, which he attributed to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week.

“His artistic pursuits — poetry, photography and music in addition to acting — ranged far beyond the United Federation of Planets, but it was as Mr. Spock that Mr. Nimoy became a folk hero, bringing to life one of the most indelible characters of the last half century: a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing: ‘Live long and prosper’ (from the Vulcan ‘Dif-tor heh smusma’).”

The rest of the article is here.

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Does The Union publisher think we’re as gullible as he is?

The Union is in the midst of closing its printshop for the first time in its 150 year history, outsourcing printing and some good local jobs “off the hill” to the Sacramento Bee to save money. Its news is now behind a “paywall” (to raise money) and it has suffered from ongoing staff turnover and its own lack of professionalism (too many editing mistakes for paid journalists).

This comes as newspapers face an onslaught of competition from Facebook, blogs, the NCVoices aggregation website and other social media. We also have free local news sources such as YubaNet (superb on breaking news), KNCO, KVMR and KCRA. In short, our community has a wealth of innovative “new media.” As a “businessman,” The Union Publisher Jim Hemig ought to be praising the entrepreneurial spirit.

Yet this morning Hemig (also from a post that has seen its share of turnover) sets off to remind us of the “importance” of newspapers” — namely, his. He cites last week’s incident of trees that were cut down in Penn Valley. “The newspaper is the only source that digs deeper, makes the calls to gather all sides of the story and takes an unbiased look at what’s happening in our community.”

Huh? In fact, the incident showed just the opposite: the relevance of social media in “breaking the news”; The Union’s shortcomings in immediacy; and the “holes” in its own reporting.

•In this instance, by his own admission, The Union got the tip from the Nevada County Peeps page of Facebook. The Peep’s page has about 10,400 members. The Union’s Facebook page has about 5,100 “likes.” If it weren’t for the Peep’s page, The Union would have never known about this, so it trolls Peeps for news tips to help make up for its shortcomings in sourcing.

•Peeps “blew up” on Saturday that the trees were going to be cut at 5:30 a.m. Sunday and asked for help in stopping it, Hemig tells us. But The Union didn’t help “stop it” with its reporting. It just wrote a story after the fact — on Wednesday, February 25 — days after the trees were mowed down.

•Hemig claimed The Union “gathered all sides of the story.” It did not. The original story did not contain a comment from the logging contractor. The Union had to write a second story, a day later, to do that. You could tell from the tone that the logging contractor felt he had been maligned. I’m not sympathetic to his viewpoint, but it is the newspaper’s job to get “all sides.”

If The Union was on the ball, it would have jumped on the story on Saturday when it first appeared on Peeps — called all of the relevant parties — and tried to get in front of the news. It could have been a community hero for saving the trees. Though The Union doesn’t even publish a newspaper on Sunday, it at least could have posted the information online. (The Union often is slow to react to breaking news on weekends).

Failing that, the news team could have showed up at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday morning as the trees were being cut. That might have had a real impact. Hemig himself could have joined them!

In several columns Hemig has gone on a crusade to bash social media in our community while his paper publishes its news behind a paywall and is roundly criticized for pandering to hard-right politics.

Jim is not a journalist, editor or reporter. His experience is in information technology and this is his first stint as a publisher. In short, he really doesn’t have the day-to-day journalism experience to qualify him to make judgments like this — an ongoing problem among many of the “self-appointed” leaders in our small community. Hemig is a lifelong “Swiftie,” the Nevada-based chain that owns (and now prints) its newspaper out of our community. As journalism experience goes, it’s small time — not big time.

In fact, our community has a wealth of innovative social media — from Peeps on Facebook to NC Voices (the aggregate website designed by Anna Haynes) to this blog (which breaks a lot of local news) to Don Pelton’s blog (which often was the best source of news to learn about the Idaho-Maryland Mine). The Union is struggling with the “new world order”; it can’t control the flow of information anymore.

I guess Jim thinks that if he keeps writing what he hopes will be true, that it will be true, and we’ll all follow him around like the Pied Piper. But that doesn’t change the reality. The Union needs to come to grips with its relevancy — or lack of relevancy.

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