Probation Department still probing….

Back when the county announced it planned to put Probation Chief Helen Harberts on administrative leave while it performed a “management study” of her department, the study was supposed to last only six weeks or so.

But that hasn’t turned out to be the case. With rumors flying that Harberts, who has been out of the office since July, is about to file a lawsuit against the county, the only word about the study is that it is now “open-ended.” The county remains silent on why it initiated the study in the first place, but several of Harberts’ workers have complained that she ran the department with an iron fist, favored the women on her staff and routinely ignored complaints about her management style.

Her assistant, Steve Ellen, is running the department in her absence. Larry Odle, the county’s interim CAO, said that while he is “familiar” with the study, “it isn’t finished yet.” He said he had no idea when it would be complete and declined to say if the outside firm that is conducting the study has reported any findings.

A panel of Superior Court judges hired Harberts. If her employment were terminated, that same panel would have to agree to it.

Bond. College bond
Butte College officials and supporters are hoping that taxpayers will step in where the state has not and provide money for facility repairs and construction.

The community college’s Board of Trustees voted Nov. 14 to place an $85 million bond measure on the March 2002 ballot.

The school is rife with portable buildings that have well outlived their expected life span, even as enrollment has climbed—48 percent in the last six years alone.

The bond would not only repair run-down classrooms; it would also provide for buildings to house the popular fire and law enforcement training centers. The library, too, would be improved. But perhaps most visible off the current campus, the bond would provide more than $14 million to construct a center on land already purchased in Chico.

“None of the proceeds will be used for salaries or administrative overhead,” pointed out Pat Blythe, the college’s executive director of institutional advancement. He said a community committee would provide oversight of the spending if the bond is approved.

His favorite presidents are Lincoln and Kennedy
Jack O’Connell’s supporters found him a sweet spot to stump for the position of state superintendent of public instruction. As he stood near a planter at the corner of Second and Broadway streets in downtown Chico, the 50-year-old state senator from San Luis Obispo caught the eye of passing college students, business people and civic leaders—including two former city park commissioners in five minutes.

On Nov. 14, Chico was the latest stop in a series of “sidewalk office hours” that saw O’Connell drop by for an hour and a half.

“I haven’t kissed any babies yet,” O’Connell said, but he was clearly enjoying the “grass-roots” approach to early campaigning.

He said Chico afforded the opportunity to see a great number of potential voters and let them know about his ideas for education in California. With 20 years in the Assembly and Senate, he’s already credited with pushing for class size reduction and statewide school bonds.

O’Connell, a Democrat, is going up against three Republicans in the nonpartisan race.