From the daily archives: Tuesday, July 24, 2012

By Mario Conde

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution to apply for State grant for first time home buyer program.

The Board adopted a resolution authorizing the Community and Economic Department to submit a grant application to the California State Department of Housing and Community Development for funding under the HOME Investment Partnership Program in the amount of $700,000. If awarded, funds will be used for the First Time Home Buyer Acquisition Only Program to assist low income families in the unincorporated areas of the County to purchase a home.

Esperanza Colio, Director of Economic Development, said that historically, HOME grants have provided the County of Imperial with funding to provide low income families with the opportunity to achieve the dream of purchasing a home by providing them with financial assistance in the form a deferred loan.

Through this application, she said, HCD is providing funding which will allow the County to continue to successfully implement the previously established First Time Home Buyer Program. The resolution passed with a vote of 5-0.

The Board also approved the request to reorganize the Auditor-Controller Office. The Human Resources and Risk Management worked in collaboration with CPS Human Resources Services to review a request to reorganize the management structure of the Department.

The action recommended the Payroll System Analyst incumbent to the higher level class of Audits and Systems Manager. This action is based upon the reassignment of the duties of the vacant Audits and Systems Manager positions to the Payroll System Analyst who will perform the duties of both classes. Revise the classification specification for Audits and Systems Manager and increase the Compensation for the Class based upon expanded duties.

Rodolfo Aguayo, Director of Human Resources, said that the proposed upgrades and job descriptions concludes appropriateness of the title and functions.

“A recommendation to the reclassify the Payroll System Analyst to the class of Audits and System Manager with an increase in compensation has been determined to be appropriate as this is as a consolidation of the two classes.” Aguayo said.  He also mentioned that the increase in compensation for the Special Accounting Manager is found to be appropriate since the responsibilities are broader and require a complex level of knowledge and skill.

 

 

By Mario Conde

The County Board of Supervisors gave their support to a border enhancement bill at their Tuesday meeting. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) introduced S.3279 to provide a new authority for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to enter into public-private partnership with either local governments or private sector entities to fund additional staffing and infrastructure improvements at land ports on entry. There has been no action taken on the bill. The legislation known as the “Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2012”, would provide for alternative financing arrangements for the provision of certain services and the construction and maintenance of infrastructure at land border ports of entry, and for other purposes. The Board has in the past supported legislation supporting public-private partnerships to renovate and expand the Calexico West POE. CEO Ralph Cordova said that given the slow movement of this bill, it is recommended that the Board seek the assistance and support from the region’s congressional representatives such as Rep. Bob Filner (D-Chula Vista) and California U.S. Senators Boxer and Feinstein.  U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said in a press release that U.S.-Mexican trade is being hampered by inadequate infrastructure and staffing at our land border crossings.  “To mitigate this problem, I have introduced legislation that would allow Customs and Border Protection to improve conditions at our land ports of entry via partnerships with local governments and the private sector.” Cornyn said. He said the bill would also require the General Services Administration to establish a 90-day process for reviewing alternative financing mechanisms. “By reducing congestion at the border, we would facilitate greater bilateral trade and faster job creation in both nations.” He said. Bob Ham, County Intergovernmental Relations, said that the County needs to be proactive in moving forward with the Public-Private Partnership since it looks the federal government will not appropriate money for border infrastructure this year. Supervisor John Renison spoke about the statement made by Rep. Bob Filner (D-Chula Vista) who said at the Calexico Chamber dinner that he would work to get a Port-of-Entry for Calexico and if there was any validity to that statement.  Ham answered that Filner does want a new Port-of-Entry but the reality is that there will be no $300 million appropriation for the border this year. Ham said that Public-Private Partnerships are being supported by Congress people that are not located at the Border and it’s important to support initiatives like this one. City of Calexico officials are hopeful that the federal government will appropriate money for the new port of entry as they stated in a resolution passed early this year. Congressman Filner favors having the government appropriate money instead of outsourcing it to private companies.

 

The California Highway Patrol has arrested a motorcycle rider after a nearly hour-long chase along Southern California freeways.

Officer Ed Jacobs says the chase began around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday when authorities tried to pull over the bike in the Orange County city of Santa Ana.

The black-clad biker fled north on several freeways into Los Angeles County. Reports indicated the bike topped 100 mph at times as it raced between trucks and cars.

Jacobs says a CHP helicopter tracked the rider but patrol cars kept their distance for safety reasons.

The chase ended on Interstate 5 in Los Angeles when the rider encountered a CHP motorcycle officer who cut him off and drew a gun. The rider jumped off his bike and layed down on the ground to be handcuffed.

 

Sweetwater Union High School District and Southwestern College continue to be subjects of district attorney investigations related to school bond expenditures. Calexico Unified School District had concerns about bond-related activity, so superintendent Richard Fragale and Calexico trustees ordered a forensic audit. The audit was released this week.

In a July 23 interview, Fragale said that all the funds from Measure J had been expended; however, questions raised first by the grand jury and more recently by a district audit indicated the need for a forensic audit. Fragale mentioned that, among the problems, there was a scarcity of minutes from the Measure J bond oversight committee.

Measure J was a 2004 general obligation bond for $30 million to build and modernize Calexico Unified school facilities. Fragale was brought into the district in February 2011, as he describes it, “to save the district from state takeover.” Last year the district was teetering on the brink of insolvency.

The investigation was done by VLS Fraud Solutions, a service of Vicenti, Lloyd & Stutzman, LLP. Jessica Rodriquez, one of the principals who worked on the audit, said that her company typically divides the audits into phases for districts so they can determine the depth and the cost. So far, VLS has done phase one of the forensic audit.

The report from VLS had a number of notable findings: in some instances the district was unable to provide proof of bidding; in other instances the district was unable to provide copies of contracts for vendors. In the case of the architect Garcia & Associates, some invoices had no other details than “fee earned to date.”

One of the report’s recommendations is to “obtain a background check of David Alvarez, the superintendent at the time Measure J was passed, to determine if there is any known association with Garcia & Associates.”

VLS conclusions include this statement: “Although VLS did not identify evidence of fraud, there are indicators of possible fraud: missing support, missing contracts, change orders that exceed code limits, excessive change orders, payments that exceed contract amounts, and work that was not properly bid. These weaknesses are indicators of possible kickback schemes, vendor favoritism, and bid-rigging. In order to make a final conclusion on the existence of fraud, additional work would be required….”

Fragale says the board will soon consider whether or not to contract for additional investigation. Fragale said, however, that the report only “implied the possibility of wrongdoing and that the bottom line is it would cost the district a lot of money to do a thorough job — and then, where would we go with it?” He said the district has not ruled out taking the information to the district attorney.

 

SALT LAKE CITY — A man spotted dressed in a goat suit among a herd of wild goats in the mountains of northern Utah has been identified as a hunter preparing for a Canadian archery season.

After a hiker spotted the so-called goat man on July 15 in the mountains above Ogden, about 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, wildlife officials said they wanted to talk to the person to be certain he was aware of the dangers as hunting season approaches.

They speculated he might have been an extreme wildlife enthusiast who just wanted to get as close as possible to the goats. A few days after the spotting, state wildlife authorities received an anonymous call from an “agitated man” who simply said, “Leave goat man alone. He’s done nothing wrong.”

This week, however, the mystery was solved.

Phil Douglass of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said he received a call Monday from a 57-year-old Southern California hunter who explained he was merely trying out his goat suit in preparation for a mountain goat hunt in Canada next year.

“He gave me enough details about the area and the situation that it made me feel confident this was him,” Douglass said Tuesday.

“In talking to him, I felt he was very knowledgeable, a very experienced hunter. He’s hunted internationally,” Douglass added. “My concern all along was that this person needed to understand the risks, and certainly after talking to him, I felt he was doing the best he could to understand and mitigate those risks … He was simply preparing for a hunt.”

The man did not identify himself, Douglass said, noting he was concerned for his safety after widespread media coverage of the goat man sighting, first reported by the Standard-Examiner of Ogden.

Coty Creighton, 33, spotted the goat man July 15 during his hike. He said he came across a herd, but noticed something odd about one goat that was trailing behind the rest.

“I thought maybe it was injured,” Creighton said last week. “It just looked odd.”

He said he pulled out binoculars to get a closer look at the goats about 200 yards away and was shocked. The man appeared to be acting like a goat while wearing a crudely made costume, which had fake horns and a cloth mask with cut-out eye holes, Creighton said.

“We were the only ones around for miles,” he said. “It was real creepy.”

Douglass said 60 permits will be issued for goat hunting season in that area, which begins in September, and he had worried the man in the goat suit might be accidentally shot or could be attacked by a real goat.

He said the hunter described the goat costume as merely a hooded painter’s uniform and a fleece.

Douglass said wildlife officials encourage archery hunters to practice their skills and to “get themselves in a position where they make a clean and humane shot.”

“That’s exactly what he was doing,” Douglass said. “There are laws that require people to wear hunter orange during rifle hunts, but people do wear camo during archery hunts.”

And while it’s not illegal to dress up like the animal you’re trying to kill, Douglass said it’s still dangerous.

“It’s unwise,” he said. “It’s just a bad idea all the way around to do that kind of thing.”

‘Goat man’ in Utah mountains identified as experienced hunter

BRIAN SKOLOFF
The Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 12:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 12:39 p.m.

Page 2 of 2

The man did not identify himself, Douglass said, noting he was concerned for his safety after widespread media coverage of the goat man sighting, first reported by the Standard-Examiner of Ogden.

Coty Creighton, 33, spotted the goat man July 15 during his hike. He said he came across a herd, but noticed something odd about one goat that was trailing behind the rest.

“I thought maybe it was injured,” Creighton said last week. “It just looked odd.”

He said he pulled out binoculars to get a closer look at the goats about 200 yards away and was shocked. The man appeared to be acting like a goat while wearing a crudely made costume, which had fake horns and a cloth mask with cut-out eye holes, Creighton said.

“We were the only ones around for miles,” he said. “It was real creepy.”

Douglass said 60 permits will be issued for goat hunting season in that area, which begins in September, and he had worried the man in the goat suit might be accidentally shot or could be attacked by a real goat.

He said the hunter described the goat costume as merely a hooded painter’s uniform and a fleece.

Douglass said wildlife officials encourage archery hunters to practice their skills and to “get themselves in a position where they make a clean and humane shot.”

“That’s exactly what he was doing,” Douglass said. “There are laws that require people to wear hunter orange during rifle hunts, but people do wear camo during archery hunts.”

And while it’s not illegal to dress up like the animal you’re trying to kill, Douglass said it’s still dangerous.

“It’s unwise,” he said. “It’s just a bad idea all the way around to do that kind of thing.”

Information from: Standard-Examiner, http://www.standard.net

 
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