What were they thinking?

Things that made us go, ’hmm’

Internal Affairs Committee members (left to right) Sean Morgan, Ann Schwab and Tami Ritter watch along with City Manager Mark Orme as Chris Nicodemus unveils a sample banner in September.

Internal Affairs Committee members (left to right) Sean Morgan, Ann Schwab and Tami Ritter watch along with City Manager Mark Orme as Chris Nicodemus unveils a sample banner in September.

CN&R file photo by tom gascoyne

Military banner banter

The notion of honoring local members of the military by flying banners from street light posts along Chico thoroughfares died in October when compromise could not be reached by the City Council. A group calling itself Chico Military Heroes proposed flying 500 banners bearing the faces, names and military branch of active members along a number of streets, including East and First avenues, year round. It also wanted the $2,100 city fee to do so waived.

The request first came to the council in August and was immediately kicked to the Internal Affairs Committee, which suggested a compromise: flying the banners for 30 days around Veterans Day or Memorial Day, along a limited stretch of East Avenue and not waiving the fee. Several supporters and opponents to the proposal spoke. Those in favor said they believed the banners would honor our active servicepeople. Those against it argued the money and effort would be better spent elsewhere, in other ways that would support our local troops.

The matter came back to the council in October and Chris Nicodemus, representing the Military Heroes, said 30 days were not enough. Multiple motions were made—attempts at compromise—but nothing won the council’s full approval. So, out the Military Heroes marched, sans any banners at all.

Hmong monument vandalized

Since 2012, the statue of Gen. Vang Pao—a hero among the Hmong community—stood proudly outside the Chico City Council chambers. The statue was placed there after considerable effort from the Butte County Hmong Association, which lobbied long and hard for the memorial’s prominent placement and to raise the $40,000 to cover materials, fabrication and installation.

Sometime during the first weekend of October—the same weekend a large Hmong New Year celebration was held at Bidwell Junior High—the statue was badly vandalized. It has since been placed in storage awaiting repair and re-installation, and the culprits go unpunished.

Incidentally, the same weekend, on Saturday, Oct. 4, what police described as a “rolling gun fight” occurred between two vehicles near Cohasset and Pillsbury roads, which ended in one of the vehicles rolling over and one man being shot in the hand. Several Hmong men with suspected gang ties—who’d been at the New Year celebration—were arrested.

Butte County Clerk-Recorder Candace Grubbs answers questions at a press conference concerning allegations that her office was in disarray.

File photo by Tom Gascoyne

Cops put candidates on the spot

Each of the seven citizens vying for a seat on the Chico City Council in 2014 attended a candidates forum in October hosted by arguably the most powerful union in Chico—the Chico Police Officers’ Association. There, the moderator asked mostly self-serving questions that falsely gave the impression that Chico cops are underpaid. In fact, the average compensation, with benefits included, for a Chico police officer is $136,000 a year, according to city staff. None of the candidates strongly countered the CPOA’s propaganda, a disappointing turn of events.

Dealing on social media

Back on Halloween weekend, six young men were busted for allegedly selling drugs in the south campus neighborhood—after setting up the deals on a social network and selling to undercover police officers.

All of the deals were initiated through FADE, a social media app for college students in which posted pictures disappear after a certain time limit (often resulting in half-naked selfies and pictures of bongs). Officers from the Butte Interagency Narcotics Task Force and the Chico Police Department participated in the sting.

Four of the six suspects—Phillip Wayne Baker (20), Ellis James Lindenthal (18), Wesly Keith Murphy (19) and David James O’Callaghan (22)—were college students living in Chico. Baker, Lindenthal and O’Callaghan were arrested on marijuana-related charges, while Murphy was booked for criminal conspiracy.

Meanwhile, Geoffrey Tyler O’Brien (19) of Orland was arrested for selling ecstasy, and Kenyatta Eric Traylor (19) of Berkeley was arrested for selling ecstasy and cocaine, among other charges.

Hostile clerks

In March, news came to light that longtime Butte County Clerk-Recorder Candace Grubbs had been under investigation on allegations of being disrespectful to her employees, creating a hostile work environment and having an employee work for her on personal matters.

It turns out the whole ordeal came from complaints by Assistant County Clerk Laurie Cassady. But when a Grass Valley attorney who was brought in to conduct the investigation wrote up his report, he found that, “Ms. Cassady, much more so than Ms. Grubbs, treats the staff in the office inappropriately and is creating a stressful and unhealthy work environment.”

Early in 2014, Scott Gruendl charged that someone at City Hall had committed fraud as it relates to the city budget, but he never named anyone and auditors and a grand jury never found such evidence.

CN&R File Photo by Howard Hardee

During the investigation, Grubbs was dinged for having asked an employee to do a quarter of an hour’s worth of work for Grubbs’ personal gain. To make up for the error, Grubbs was asked to write a check to the county treasurer for $17.34.

Grubbs, who was re-elected in June, said she was caught off-guard by the whole thing and that she and Cassady, who have worked together for 27 years, remain the best of friends.

Attempt to cover up shooting backfires

A Chico man apparently attempted to avoid criminal charges and the embarrassment of shooting himself in the hand by lying to police (and capitalizing on institutionalized racism) in a bizarre incident last summer.

On July 11, Chico police responded to a call from Thomas Cadotte, 31, who said a verbal altercation with a black man outside of his North Cedar Street apartment turned violent, and the unknown man shot Cadotte in the hand with a revolver. However, police said the evidence clearly showed otherwise—Cadotte allegedly shot himself inside his own apartment, and made up the whole story. He was charged with falsely reporting a felony and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Gruendl cries fraud

Last February, in the thick of the efforts to determine the extent of the city of Chico’s budget deficit, Mayor Scott Gruendl made a pretty hefty accusation: that fraud was involved. Gruendl was speaking at the annual State of the City address, attended mostly by local business people, and the thrust of his speech was that city staff was responsible for the financial turmoil.

The next month, however, when auditors determined there were fund deficits totaling $13.1 million, there was no evidence of such fraud. The grand jury came to the same conclusion.

Farewell to the chief, again

When Kirk Trostle took the post as Chico's top cop back in 2012, he told the CN&R that he'd stay in that job for at least four years. But, just as he approached his 50th birthday (Dec. 21), he pulled a Mike Maloney and announced his retirement. (Former Chief Maloney, back in '12, retired on his 50th birthday and now receives a $151,000 annual pension.)

For Trostle’s part, he, too, will be raking in the dough now that his retirement became official Dec. 30. He gave the same old “wanting to spend more time with family” as his reason for leaving—and nobody can really fault him for that, especially when CalPERS (California Public Employees’ Retirement System) is set up in such a way that it rewards longtime officers with nearly the same pay in retirement as in service to their communities. Either way, Trostle’s short tenure as police chief left more than a little something to be desired. His decision to give just over a month’s notice was an additional disappointment.

WTH, David Little?

Last August, Chico Enterprise-Record Editor David Little wrote a glowing column about Rep. Doug LaMalfa, a member of the Do-Nothing Congress who was running for re-election. The write-up came just a few months after the Chico E-R’s primary election endorsements told readers to vote out all Congressional incumbents. However, the paper did not endorse LaMalfa’s challenger, Heidi Hall. CN&R Editor Melissa Daugherty chided Little for writing the puff piece as well as another column in which he bragged about being skeptical of climate change. As a result, Little “unfriended” her on Facebook. Talk about a trifecta of “what was he thinking?”