(UPDATING) Oyster Festival 2018!

Stephanie McGeary / Saturday, June 16 @ 6:32 p.m. / Community


And the winners are (drumroll please)…

  • Best Raw Oyster: Hog Island Oyster Company
  • Best Cooked Oyster: Blue Lake Casino
  • Best Non Oyster: Pizza Gago
  • Best In Show: Sushi Spot


Well folks, it’s that time again! It’s Humboldt’s biggest day of drinking, dancing, shucking and sucking: The Arcata Main Street Oyster Festival! Today the Outpost will be posting live updates of the event happenings. So for those of you who can’t make it today and don’t want to miss the fun,  you can find it all right here. It’s Oyster Fest without the sunburn and the hangover. Enjoy!

12:30 p.m.: The sun is shining bright (which is very confusing to Humboldt residents this time of year) and Oyster Fest is in full swing! People are standing in long lines to grab their drinks and stuff their faces full of shellfish. There’s a good amount of entertainment this year. So far folks have been amazed by aerial performers, live music and the famous oyster calling contest.

the Latin Peppers take the main stage.

Even McKinley is getting into the Oyster spirit.

Oyster calling contest

3:00 p.m.: Oysters and pale people’s skin are cookin’! The Arcata Plaza is now flooded with people, as it starts to get difficult to tell where one line for oysters ends and another begins. It seems that some of the most popular vendors this year are Humboldt Bay Oysters, Hog Island and Sushi Spot. The “Shuck and Swallow” Contest was popular, as always. Stephen Parker and Zac Mathieu, known as the “HumShuckers” won for the sixth year in a row!

Oh shucks. These oysters are messy.

What the shuck?

And the winners are…the Humshuckers

Cooks grillin’ away at the Follie Douce booth

6:00 p.m.: Oyster Fest has come to a much needed end. Booths are being broken down and people move from the sunshine back to their homes or into the musty bars.  It was a beautiful day. There were some great bands, mermaids, tons of oysters and hopefully not too many people got alcohol poisoning.

Mermaid stage

The No Good Redwood Ramblers

Claire Bent and Citizen Funk

Oyster Fest aftermath


Humboldt County Democrats Raise Funds for McKinleyville Woman Detained by ICE, Urge Community to Donate

Hank Sims / Saturday, June 16 @ 9:08 a.m. / Activism

Portillo and daughter. File photo.



From the Humboldt County Central Democratic Committee:

The Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee (HCDCC) voted to donate $500 to the cause of Claudia Portillo. HCDCC Associate member Billy Cook was able to gather further cash donations in the amount of $160 and members also made several hundred dollars in donations to Claudia’s GoFundMe.

Claudia Portillo has been missing from her family for seven months. During a routine check-in appointment in November 2017, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents unexpectedly detained Ms. Portillo and imprisoned her 555 miles away from her four daughters in the privately owned Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility in Bakersfield, CA. We encourage you to learn more about Claudia’s story online. As members of the Humboldt County community we want Claudia Portillo back home with her family and community where she belongs. After waiting seven months for any good news, Claudia’s family was just given seven days to raise funds to travel to her bond hearing this Monday, June 18th, and to pay for her bond.

We encourage the community members of Humboldt County to help and support Claudia’s cause. You can donate at:


OBITUARY: Jo-Ann Wells, 1957-2018

LoCO Staff / Saturday, June 16 @ 6:45 a.m. / Obits

Jo-Ann “Jo-Momma” Wells, 61, passed away peacefully on Friday, May 25th 2018 at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), after a short battle with cancer.

Jo was born September 16th in Juneau, Alaska, where she grew up with two older siblings — a brother and sister — until she ventured to San Francisco in 1982 with her husband. She received her BS in accounting and was soon employed by public works.

In 1994 she relocated to McKinleyville with her husband and two sons, where she spent her last 25 years continuing to raise a family and actively being involved in the community from activities such as helping host Boy Scouts events and becoming a member of the Joyful Healer church, where she served as a member and treasurer. She was a Humboldt County employee for the Parks and Recs department for the last 17 years.

She was the youngest of three and a wonderful mother of two. Jo enjoyed reading, going to plays, playing Scrabble and Tetris, walking and collecting seashells on the beach, spending time with her church, friends and family.

Jo continued to give back, even after death, by being an organ donor in hopes that other people can benefit from her and she was cremated shortly after.

A service will be held on Sunday June 24th at the Joyful Healer 1944 Central Ave. in McKinleyville, with a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers please make a donation to the Joyful Healer. One of Jo’s final requests to celebrate her life was to have a bonfire with twice-baked potatoes, which will be the same evening.


The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Jo Wells’ family. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here.

Initiative Measure to Keep McKinley Statue Approved for November Ballot

Stephanie McGeary / Friday, June 15 @ 4:53 p.m. / Community , Local Government

McKinley Statue image from Wikimedia Commons

The highly controversial issue of removing the McKinley statue from the Arcata Plaza will now be the decision of Arcata voters.

An initiative called “Keep McKinley Statue in Arcata Plaza” has qualified for the ballot, County Clerk-Recorder Kelly Sanders confirmed to the Outpost today.

The group “Let the people vote on our McKinley Statue” posted to Facebook yesterday:

The Arcata City Council voted 4-1 to remove the statue in February, with City Council Member Michael Winkler dissenting because he believed the issue should be put on a ballot for a vote by Arcata residents.

Winkler told the Outpost today that he was contacted by various citizens who also thought this statue’s fate should go to a community vote. Winkler took a lead role in initiating the measure, and even gathered signatures door-to-door. He is happy to see the hard work pay off.

“Rather than be made solely be city council, this is a decision the citizens should make,” Winkler said. “So that however this goes, the community feels that they participated.”

Councilmember Paul Pitino made the motion to remove the statue at the February 22 meeting. Pitino still strongly feels that removing the statue is the right thing to do, and he hopes voters will feel the same way. He is concerned some of the people who want the statue removed but don’t live in Arcata may not be fairly represented in a vote.

“Sometimes voting is a narrower democracy than having your representatives make the decision,” Pitino told the Outpost today. “This is one of the unmitigated parts of having a vote on it. It will be the will of the people, without having the most affected people able to vote. If the tribal peoples could vote it might be a little more fair.”

The Arcata City Council will address the initiative measure at City Council meeting July 11 at 6 p.m. at Arcata City Hall, 736 F Street.



Eureka Woman Pleads for Release From State Mental Hospital, Where She Has Lived for the Last 20 Years After Murdering Her Husband

Rhonda Parker / Friday, June 15 @ 4:33 p.m. / Courts

A Eureka woman who killed her husband in their Old Town apartment in 1997 will remain in the state mental hospital where she has spent the past 20 years.

On Thursday, Judge Christopher Wilson denied Patricia Marie Cote Williams-Fargo’s petition to be released from Napa State Hospital and treated on an outpatient basis. Pote, as she prefers to be called, wants to live with her second husband, a former mental patient she married about three years after being committed.

Wilson, after a hearing in which Pote was the only witness, ruled she had not proved by a “preponderance of the evidence” that her sanity has been restored and she is no longer a threat to the community if being supervised.

Pote suffered a major head injury in a 1972 car accident and has had mental problems since then. In 1997 she shot and killed her first husband, local school custodian Barry Williams. A jury found her not guilty by reason of insanity and she was committed to a state hospital for life. Such patients, however, can petition the court for release and outpatient treatment. In Pote’s case, the hospital opposes her release because of safety concerns.

Pote is now 67, with gray hair falling almost to her waist. She needed help getting in and out of her chair. She has been in Humboldt County Correctional Facility since May 30, waiting to have a judge hear her petition.

Asked by Deputy Public Defender Brie Bennett whether she understands her current circumstances, Pote said she does.

“I have been given a life sentence for the murder of my first husband, who was a mentally abusive man,” she said.

As to how she feels about the killing now, “I feel terrible.”

Bennett asked about her diagnosis, and Pote said it’s “temporary insanity due to the environment I was in.” But she also understands and agrees she will need to be on medication for life.

As to life in a mental hospital, Pote said it can be frustrating.

“Well, it’s kind of like the same old routine, day in and day out, and that’s about it,” she told Bennett.

Under cross-examination by Deputy District Attorney Josh Rosenfeld, Pote testified she has only “a vague recollection” of shooting her first husband.

“It’s been so long ago now,” she said. “…It was kind of like a mishap. I came home from work and my husband had been drinking and partying all the night before. I came in and he was naked in bed. I was coming in the back door and he was saying good-bye to someone who was going out the front door.”

Rosenfeld asked Pote if she believed her husband had ever tried to hurt her.

“Yes,” she said. “I believe he tried to poison me with rat poison.”

She said she went to the hospital, but because of the cost she left without having “my stomach flushed and my blood analyzed.”

Pote still thinks she was poisoned, though it was “a one-time situation.”

Most of Thursday’s questioning by Rosenfeld and Bennett focused on the years since Pote has been in Napa. During that time there have been several troubling incidents, including her reportedly asking another woman to help her kill a fellow patient she considered “very spiteful” and a thief.

Pote now says that was a joke, because other patients knew she had been charged with murder.

She apparently has been aggressive at times with both other patients and hospital staff, especially when she decided money or other property had been stolen from her locker.

“Most of the time I would be very upset and want my money or possessions back,” she said. She now realizes, she testified, that these situations need to be handled by calm discussion. And in future confrontations, she said, “I would be passive.”

Pote seems to suspect that a few patients, conspiring with a few hospital employees, have invented stories to get her in trouble. Staff members who oppose her release are “opinionated.” She used that term many times for people who disagree with her plan to leave the hospital. They are opinionated, domineering, always thinking they know best.

In 2015, at age 64, Pote requested a pregnancy test because she believed a hospital worker had sexually assaulted her during the night shift.

“I had had my tubes tied so I didn’t want to bring a child into the world,” she explained.

Pote has so far not come up with a required “discharge plan,” in which she would outline the steps needed for her to live safely in the community. She just wants to be with her husband, and she says some people are helping them with plans for housing and funds.

“I have my tubes tied so there’s no fear of unwanted pregnancy,” she said.

Asked how she would support herself if released, Pote said money has accumulated in her hospital account over the years. She is also hoping for some grant funding. She acknowledged her current husband has asked her for money several times, and she complied until her counselor decided she couldn’t give him any more.

Rosenfeld asked what would happen if she found herself in the same situation with this husband that she did with the first one.

She couldn’t answer because “that’s hypothetical.”

Wilson, in issuing his ruling, said Pote “comes to conclusions in her own mind” and those conclusions are not always based on reality.

Pote has admitted her mind sometimes plays tricks on her, he said, and she sometimes acts negatively based on her questionable beliefs. He said the plot to murder another person in the hospital “illustrates the same sort of thinking that led to the original offense.”

A recent report from Napa State Hospital says releasing Pote into the community would be a “high risk,” Wilson noted.

He said Pote seems vague about her diagnosis, which is a neurological and cognitive disorder caused by her brain injury, and she doesn’t appear to link her diagnosis with her behavior. She also hasn’t prepared a plan for how she would live if released from the hospital.

“You need to come up with a concrete plan,” Wilson told Pote, and he said that plan needs to address how she can live safely in the community.

The hospital’s next assessment of Pote will be July 31. A date for review of her status was set for mid-August.

“Thank you, Your Honor,” Pote said at the end of the hearing.

“Good luck to you.”

Lack of Experience and Insufficient Training Are What’s Wrong at Auditor-Controller’s Office, Outside Analyst Finds

Ryan Burns / Friday, June 15 @ 4:32 p.m. / Local Government

Karen Paz Dominguez set off a bit of a firestorm late last year when she told the Board of Supervisors that understaffing had left the Auditor-Controller’s Office incapable of being a financial watchdog. | File screenshot of county video stream.

Back in November your Lost Coast Outpost asked, “What’s wrong at the Auditor-Controller’s Office?” We were inspired to investigate after then-Assistant Auditor-Controller Karen Paz Dominguez came forward with allegations that “severe understaffing” had left the office vulnerable to financial misstatements and fraud.

Seven months later Auditor-Controller Joseph Mellett has resigned, Paz-Dominguez has won the election to succeed him, and an outside analysis of the department — prompted by Paz Dominguez’s statements and the Outpost‘s subsequent investigation — has offered some answers to the question of what’s wrong.

In a 12-page, $20,000 report set to be discussed by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Craig Goodman, a certified public accountant, says the Auditor-Controller’s office lacks lacks “institutional knowledge” in certain key positions and needs better employee training generally. 

Does that mean the problem wasn’t understaffing, as Paz Dominguez alleged last fall? Goodman says he can’t be sure.

“It is near impossible to make an honest assessment of whether the current staffing positions will be sufficient for the Auditor-Controller’s Office operations until they are all adequately trained,” he concludes.

In the current work environment, Goodman notes, certain duties that are required of the office have been neglected or have fallen through the cracks. A number of property tax tasks aren’t being completed, for example, and the office has “no established practice” for preparing the year-end Basic Financial Statements internally, relying instead on an external auditor to do the job.

Goodman’s report includes a long list of recommendations for improvements, including cross-training among departments, consulting with both the State Controller’s Office and auditor-controller’s offices in other counties, and working to build better cooperation and camaraderie among staff.

When we spoke to county officials in November, there was plenty of finger-pointing. Mellett blamed the County Administrative Office and county supervisors, claiming they’d deliberately kept his office understaffed while siphoning off responsibilities that rightly belonged to him. Supervisors (and some members of Mellett’s own department), in turn, said Mellett himself was largely to blame because he often seemed to be phoning it in, failing to offer much in the way of oversight or management.

“In speaking with staff, it became apparent that training, in general, is lacking,” Goodman says.

Mellett admitted to the Outpost last fall that he felt burned out after years of trying to change things. He wound up retiring nine months before his elected term of office was up. Paz Dominguez, meanwhile, has faced some internal strife of her own, including a power struggle between herself and the payroll department. 

Goodman’s report suggests Mellett didn’t adequately plan for the future following the departure of experienced employees:

There has been a loss of institutional knowledge over the past years for which succession planning was severely lacking or non-existent. When this happens, the newly hired or promoted staff has to figure out what tasks are supposed to be done. In many cases, they don’t know what is required to be done; so much of their time is spent researching what needs to be done. This opens up the County to penalties and fines due to delinquencies. It also causes frustration to the staff as they feel like they are getting further and further behind, which they are.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the office needs more staff, Goodman says, What it requires is “someone who knows what needs to be done, how to do it and how to share the information.”

The county may already have taken steps in that direction. At an April meeting of the Board of Supervisors, in a move that looked suspiciously like a fait accompli, the board appointed longtime county employee Cheryl Dillingham to serve out the remainder of Mellett’s term, giving Paz Dominguez a potential mentor before she takes over the elected position at the end of the year.

In his analysis, Goodman says the county may need to “add more resources” to the Auditor-Controller’s Office in the short term to “minimize the risk to the County” and complete his recommended changes in procedure.

The $20,000 price tag for Goodman’s report was covered by the county’s tax loss reserve fund, according to the staff report that accompanies it. You can read the full report, if you’re so inclined, through the link below.


CORRECTION: This story originally misidentified the Craig Goodman, CPA, who wrote the report. The Outpost regrets the error.

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DOCUMENT: Assessment of Management and Accounting Practices and Processes

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3,075 Marijuana Plants Eradicated, Firearms Seized, Various Violations Observed, One Arrested During Raid Near Dinsmore

Andrew Goff / Friday, June 15 @ 2:57 p.m. / Marijuana and/or Cannabis

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office press release: 

Edward Starkey

On June 14, 2018, deputies with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) served two search warrants to investigate the illegal cultivation of marijuana in the area of County Line Creek Road near Dinsmore. The following agencies assisted the DEU: wardens and environmental scientists with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, specialists from the Humboldt County Environmental Health and HAZMAT Unit and inspectors from the Humboldt County Planning and Building Department.

Two parcels were investigated during the service of the search warrants. Neither parcels possessed or were in the process of obtaining a commercial cannabis permit with the County of Humboldt. During the service of the warrants, DEU deputies located 15 greenhouses and two outdoor marijuana cultivation gardens. Deputies eradicated a total of 3,075 marijuana plants and seized seven firearms.
Between both properties, assisting agencies also located the following violations:

  • Six water diversion violations (up to $8,000 per day fine)
  • Five stream pollution violations (up to $20,000 per day fine)
  • Two discharge of motor oil into soil violations (up to $25,000 per day fine)
  • Failure to prevent a hazmat spill (up to $25,000 per day fine)
  • Mismanagement of used oil filters and lead acid batteries (up to $25,000 per day fine)
  • Mismanagement of universal waste (up to $25,000 per day fine)
  • Improper disposal of garbage (up to $10,000 per day fine)
  • Improper storage and removal of solid waste (up to $25,000 per day fine)
  • Multiple grading without a permit violations (up to $10,000 per day fine)
  • Multiple building code violations (up to $10,000 per day fine)

Edward Daniel Starkey, 55, of Mad River, was arrested and booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on charges of unauthorized cultivation of marijuana, felon convicted of a violent crime in possession of firearms, streambed alteration without a permit and depositing hazardous materials into a waterway.

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at (707) 445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at (707) 268-2539.