LoCO SAYS: Please Tell County Government to Stop Giving Your Tax Dollars to Our Lawyer | Lost Coast Outpost

LoCO SAYS: Please Tell County Government to Stop Giving Your Tax Dollars to Our Lawyer | Lost Coast Outpost

The other working day Sheriff Billy Honsal stood up prior to the Board of Supervisors and gave board customers one thing of a scolding.

The topic was an impending budget shortfall. His department stood at risk. There had been some chat in the air of allocating some resort tax revenue to the arts and to neighborhood theater, as the county experienced hinted it would do in its ballot measure past summer time, and no matter if or not that was what brought on him Honsal desired to throw some ice drinking water on the proceedings.

“I do not truly feel the desperation that you all ought to be exhibiting below,” he advised board associates.

Now, the spending plan shortfall is without a doubt likely to trigger some pain in county government. That is correct. But when I read the sheriff talk about “desperation,” I thought: Desperation? My dude, did not your office environment just hand over $4,562.50 of the funds to our attorney for no reason?

I checked. It experienced.

Here’s the story, which you must know simply because it included your dollars and it states a little something about how your governing administration is effective. Or how it can perform, at moments.

Back in December 2021, the county Office environment of Unexpected emergency Solutions announced that it experienced partnered with a private corporation named Zonehaven. Doing the job with the business, the Business of Emergency Expert services divided the county up into 300 or so “zones” for emergency services applications. In the occasion of hearth or flood or tsunami, citizens could go to the Zonehaven map and find out their dwell evacuation status, or they could get text information alerts tied to their particular zone. Rather cool!

Due to the fact I gather geographic information and facts that may perhaps be beneficial to our reporting, I wrote the Sheriff’s Office environment, which operates the Business office of Emergency Services, to say: Hey, could you mail me a copy of that map information?

And I was sort of astonished at the response, which was: No, we will not send you that information. It was shocking since geographic info taken care of by the governing administration is, pretty unambiguously, a public file. It belongs to the public. The county alone maintains a internet website page exactly where you can download all types of this form of details each time you like.

I filed a official request under the California General public Records Act. About a thirty day period and a fifty percent later on, the county ultimately responded. Once more I was denied. I was explained to that giving the Outpost the knowledge could put the group at critical danger — could, in fact, “result in otherwise preventable injuries, loss of life, and/or hurt to residence and/or setting.” The concern, apparently, was that the Outpost would take the map we had asked for and use it to make our individual version of Zonehaven to compete with the Office of Emergency Solutions — and that our own, hypothetical competing model of Zonehaven wouldn’t be as up-to-date as the genuine Zonehaven in the function of an emergency, and consequently people today would die.

This was ridiculous for a pair of causes. Just one: We had no intention of constructing our very own Zonehaven-killer, and the data we ended up requesting wouldn’t have allowed us to if we did. We only wanted to know how the zones have been divvied up on the map, which we could use — just as an example — to figure out about how several folks would be evacuated, in the occasion that a zone were evacuated. We did not check with for true-time information and facts about which zones were being less than evacuation orders or not, and we did not want that facts. The Sheriff’s Office environment was suitable: The actual Zonehaven operates terrific for that purpose, and if we want individuals to have the most up-to-date information and facts, which we do, that is in which we will point individuals.

The second reason it was ridiculous, as the Place of work of Unexpected emergency Services would demonstrate a handful of months later on, is that it did not definitely care about acquiring out-of-date info out there in circulation. All through the Willow Creek fires last summer season it slapped Zonehaven screenshots all above social media, exactly where a consumer may stumble in excess of them times or weeks right after the point. They are nonetheless there. (See below, in this article, etcetera.)

Soon after the county turned me down with this excuse, I asked for the very same map details from 6 other California counties who had contracted with Zonehaven. 1 misunderstood the ask for and sent a PDF instead, a person in no way wrote back, but the other 4 sent it straight in excess of with no fuss at all. That was ample.

So which is when I got my law firm associated, which meant that the county had to get its attorneys included, which intended that the Board of Supervisors experienced to explore the problem in shut session, which meant god appreciates how a lot staff time spent on the situation.

Last but not least, at some point in the chain — I do not know wherever — some cooler head prevailed and persuaded anyone that the law was what it was, and they’d do ideal to slash their losses before going to trial. Fourteen months right after we to start with requested for the details the county gave use every little thing we’d requested for, devoid of restriction, and it wrote our attorney a examine for $4,562.50 to spend for his time and fees.


How considerably is $4,500? If you search at it just one way — the way county government seems at it — it is nearly nothing at all at all. It wouldn’t do everything to close the price range gap that Honsal was talking about. It’s about .02 p.c of the Sheriff’s Office’s annual spending budget, or about .002 per cent of the county’s annual common fund revenues. You would not feel twice about throwing absent .02 per cent of your yearly money on a whim. Probably, if you are like some people today, you’d consider even less of it if the cash you had been throwing absent didn’t belong to you in the very first put. If you were being just the custodian of that funds.

Glance at it the other way, however — the way we citizens seem at it — and $4,500 is a decent chunk of transform. It’s about a month’s value of wages for a commencing correctional officer in the county jail, or about two months of an in-household aid services employee for the county’s disabled. A neighborhood theater corporation could do a great deal with $4,500.

Perhaps extra to the position: $4,500 is about 50 {c024931d10daf6b71b41321fa9ba9cd89123fb34a4039ac9f079a256e3c1e6e8} again as considerably as my family members pays in house tax in a yr. Possibly your household pays someplace around the same. County authorities only gets a compact proportion of our assets tax. So think of that: County governing administration took the residence taxes it been given from four or five of us this yr, and it pissed it away on just this one particular petty and imperious and, eventually, completely wrong hard work to withhold public records. And you under no circumstances would have acknowledged about it were I not writing this now.

There is a third way to seem at it, and that is from the perspective of the great Paul Nicholas Boylan, our bulldog-like lawyer, who was just honored with a properly-deserved life time achievement award from the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. For Boylan, $4,500, minus costs, equals not these types of a terrible little bit of work. He’s completed it up and down the point out for 30 decades, which includes numerous instances in Humboldt County, and he’s heading to maintain carrying out it for the reason that it is a fuel. “It’s entertaining when they underestimate you,” Boylan tells the SPJ. “It’s pleasurable creating perspective adjustments.”

And thank god he retains at it, because there is at times a tendency for some people in authorities provider to overlook which way this is all intended to operate. You get in there, you make a job, you climb the ladder, you make your individual tiny fiefdom … following a though, you never serve. You rule. This is the angle that the Boylans of the entire world occur along and adjust. We have to have a hundred more of him.

Do you feel the county learned anything at all from this episode? I hope it did. Most likely it didn’t. But now you know, at the very least, and maybe when you future communicate to your agent on the Board of Supervisors — or the metropolis council, or the school board, or etc. — you could place in a phrase. You could say: I know it is not a whole lot for you, especially given that its not yours, but could you be sure to put aside your pride, stick to the legislation, recall who you function for … and stop blowing our tax money on LoCO’s law firm?