On the same day that the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department introduced its new public information officer, an online-only news site in Northern California sued its local sheriff over ... public information.
The Lake County News — with Noozhawk, a founding member of the Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers Association — on Jan. 9 filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Frank Rivero, alleging discrimination and retaliation over the publication’s news coverage.
John Jensen and Elizabeth Larson, the husband-and-wife team who own LCN, say Rivero has restricted their access to public information in retaliation for the site’s reporting about him, and allege that he has failed to comply with the California Public Records Act. The LCN previously had discovered — and duly reported — that Rivero is under investigation by the District Attorney’s Office for allegedly lying about a 2008 shooting in which he was involved. Rivero has denied any wrongdoing, even as other examples of rather erratic behavior have piled up.
The contrast with Santa Barbara County is stark, however, and I’m sure Jensen, a former Goleta resident, surely misses the Central Coast at times like these. While Noozhawk occasionally has had response issues with local law enforcement, our working relationship with all public safety agencies has been professional and collegial. Sheriff Bill Brown, Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez and the new chiefs in Lompoc and Santa Maria are almost always accessible for us, and they’ve never asked us to take a knee amid the glare of even unfavorable publicity. When investigations have required restrictions, they’ve been candid with our reporters and editors.
In an open society like ours, law enforcement officers and journalists each must walk a fine line around the public’s right to know. Tensions are bound to surface, but I’m grateful that Santa Barbara County’s do so mostly in an environment of openness. We commend sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Williams for his service as interim department spokesman as we welcome SBSD’s new PIO, former KEYT reporter Kelly Hoover.
Most of all, we’re thankful that we don’t have to deal with anyone remotely like Sheriff Frank Rivero. As a result of reporting by Jensen and Larson, Lake County citizens and voters may not have to put up with it much longer.
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What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?
Our top story was the sad tale of Pamela Price, a 58-year-old Montecito woman who was struck and killed by an Amtrak train Jan. 2 as she walked with her dog along the railroad tracks near Butterfly Lane.
Noozhawk’s initial story on the incident was No. 2 on last week’s list. On Jan. 10, we posted Price’s obituary, which already has logged a meteoric gain. Taken together, more than 15,000 people have read our versions of her story.
Price, a native of Saskatchewan, was an active outdoorswoman, passionate about running, hiking, skiing and tennis. She and her husband, Bob, moved to Montecito in 1998, and she was active at the Montecito Country Club and the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club, and was a docent at Lotusland.
She is survived by Bob Price, her husband of 35 years; her son, Jonathan; and her stepdaughter. Molly. Her dog, an elderly Labrador retriever, was uninjured in the train collision, which remains under investigation.
A celebration of Price’s life will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 13 at McDermott-Crockett & Associates Mortuary Chapel, 2020 Chapala St. in Santa Barbara.
A 41-year-old man was found dead on Santa Barbara’s Westside on New Year’s Day, but the circumstances of the death are still under investigation. The body of Daniel Toohey was discovered on a hillside near Micheltorena and San Pascual streets the evening of Jan. 1. Police Sgt. Jill Beecher told Noozhawk “there was nothing real suspicious” about the situation, but she said a detective was called in to rule out foul play.
We may not live that far from the wilderness, but it’s not every day that you wake up to find a mountain lion in the backyard. Especially when the backyard is on Apple Grove Lane, off of Calle Real west of the Santa Barbara Golf Club.
The 130-pound animal was spotted early on the morning of Jan. 7. After a phalanx of police officers, animal control staff and state wildlife officers watched the big cat prowl the premises for a few hours, they shot it with a tranquilizer dart.
Veterinarian Karen Blumenshine examined the male lion and determined that it was in good health. The cat was taken up to Los Padres National Forest and released along Paradise Road, where it was kept under observation for a few hours before it wandered off.
Click here for a photo gallery from the mountain lion rescue operation.
Good Lord, it’s cold outside. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had quite enough of this weather. Alas, winter will be with us for a while — and definitely through the weekend.
As of Jan. 11, subfreezing overnight temperatures, gusty winds and daytime highs in the low 50s are forecast through early next week. We can break out the swimsuits at midweek, though, as temperatures may climb into the low 60s.
Nick Davis, 21, of Pacific Grove, was fatally injured Jan. 8 when he lost control of his 2004 Honda CBR600RR and crashed on Cold Springs Road, just south of La Paz Road.
California Highway Patrol Sgt. Matthew Dawson said Davis was believed to be traveling in excess of 100 mph when he wiped out near Westmont’s south entrance. Davis was wearing a helmet but died instantly. His bike slid across the road, caught fire and smacked into a tree.
A toxicology report is pending.
Westmont held a special chapel service Jan. 9 to help comfort students and faculty. The Rev. Ben Patterson, the campus pastor, reminded the audience of God’s sovereign grace — even amid unimaginable tragedy.
Derek Troya, who had been friends with Davis since their freshman year, took that to heart.
“We have faith that we’ll see him again,” he said. “I believe that with all my heart and that gives me confidence.”
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