Friday, June 22 , 2018, 6:03 am | Overcast 60º


Local News

Bill Macfadyen: Crashes Dominate the News Lineup, But an Instagram Wedding Crasher Is Another Story

While I repeat myself again, NoozWeek’s Top 5 unpacks multiple multivehicle collisions, wades into the Santa Barbara County auditor-controller election, and tries to remember a new area code

Crash Click to view larger
Night moves. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

Noozhawk’s Public Newsrooms give our Hawks Club members an opportunity to talk directly with our journalists about our news coverage and processes, as well as community issues in general. The forums are a terrific way for our most loyal readers to meet our team, and for our team to meet you.

Our next Public Newsroom is scheduled for 5:30 to 8 p.m. June 6 at Impact HUB’s Orfalea Downtown Center, 1221 Chapala St. in Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk editors Tom Bolton, Giana Magnoli and Janene Scully will talk about how we cover courts and crime, including high-profile cases like the Golden State Killer, the Holzer and Pharis murder trials, and the Han family homicide investigation. We’ll also discuss our handling of DUI episodes like the Jensen Buchanan and Paula Lopez incidents.

For good measure, we’ll answer questions about our reporting on the Thomas Fire and the deadly Montecito flash flooding and debris flows. Given the timing, I’m sure our team will be happy to address election results, as well.

I’ll also be outlining Noozhawk’s new Montecito 2.0 partnership with Novim and the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement & Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy.

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Click here to become a Hawks Club member so you can attend, or to just help our cause. Even a dollar a week can make a big difference for us as you’d be surprised at how far we can stretch a buck.

As stretch runs go, this past week of news was an interesting one for our audience of 111,424 readers tracked by Google Analytics. It may not have been quite as exciting as the Golden State Warriors’ stretch, but we had a good diversity of strong stories, including important reporting on the Montecito disaster, as well as the requisite car crashes. And don’t miss the wedding crasher link in the Best of Bill’s Instagram section.

What follows is my take on your Top 5 stories of the last week. As a reminder, this is an opinion column, my opinion.

1. Major Injuries Reported in Highway 101 Crash in Santa Barbara

A multivehicle collision blocked two of Highway 101’s northbound lanes near Las Positas Road in Santa Barbara the night of May 29. At least one person was rushed to the hospital with critical injuries.

According to the California Highway Patrol, five vehicles were involved in the wreck, which occurred around 10:20 p.m.

The CHP said at least one victim was taken by American Medical Response ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The circumstances of the crash are under investigation by the CHP. It was raining/drizzling in the area at the time, but it has not been determined whether that was a factor.

2. Bill Macfadyen: Search for Missing UC Santa Barbara Student Ends in Heartbreak

And I’m back. For the second straight week, my column made the Top 5 list.

This ain’t soccer so I know this isn’t a participation trophy. I’m humbled, but I’m also wary that it might have more to do with the rest of our content. I’ll take the win, though.

Thank you for reading.

3. 2 Injured in Multivehicle Collision on State Street in Santa Barbara

Wreck Click to view larger
A fender bender, and then some. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

A four-vehicle collision sent two people to the hospital May 26. Santa Barbara police are investigating the cause of the wreck in the intersection of State Street and Alamar Avenue.

According to Santa Barbara fire Capt. Dave Ward, the crash occurred at about 3:15 p.m. near the Lemon Tree Inn at 2819 State St. If you’re drawing a blank, the hotel probably is better known for its Crocodile Restaurant & Bar.

Two people were taken to nearby Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with minor injuries, Ward said.

Identities and medical conditions were not released.

4. Allegations Fly in Normally Sleepy Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller Campaign

Jennifer Christensen, Betsy Schaffer Click to view larger
Jennifer Christensen, left, and Betsy Schaffer definitely are reading the fine print in the race for Santa Barbara County auditor-controller. (Campaign photos)

The campaign for Santa Barbara County auditor-controller is usually a low-key affair. Not this year.

The two candidates — Jennifer Christensen, the county’s chief investment officer, and Betsy Schaffer, the assistant auditor-controller, are locked in a fierce battle of accusations, with troops of surrogates wading into the fight as well.

As our Josh Molina last reported, Christensen has been raising questions about the ethics of Schaffer’s myriad connections to Simpler Systems, a local software company that has received more than $1 million in county contracts between 2005 and 2016 to handle internal reporting of the county’s financial services.

Christensen maintains that Schaffer’s involvement is a clear conflict of interest, given that the company is owned by her ex-husband, Rick Schaffer, and that she herself had an ownership stake at one time. Further, she worked for the company at several points, and served as its corporate bookkeeper as recently as 2016.

Meanwhile, Christensen points out, Schaffer held several finance jobs with the county during that period. In May 2016, she was hired for her current position by appointed Auditor-Controller Theo Fallati, who took a rather unusual route to the job himself. Fallati opted not to run for the office, and is campaigning for Schaffer.

“Schaffer’s ownership interest in Simpler Systems (which she herself touts in her ballot statement) and ongoing business relationship with Simpler Systems even after her appointment to assistant auditor-controller is a gross violation of the law prohibiting self-dealing (Government Code Section 1090) and a complete and total violation of the public’s trust,” Christensen said.

Schaffer insists she’s all on the up and up, that she was only a Simpler Systems owner through marriage, that she had nothing to do with the county contracts, and that her supervisors at the county knew about all of her relationships.

On the other hand, Schaffer says Christensen is not a certified public accountant and, therefore, cannot serve as auditor-controller.

“She’s not qualified,” Schaffer said. “I am the most qualified.”

After the Schaffer camp filed a formal challenge, county Clerk-Recorder-Assessor Joe Holland verified that Christensen is qualified, citing her education (juris doctorate with an emphasis in business law, and an MBA with an emphasis in finance) and work experience (16½ years in municipal law and municipal finance with the county).

The election is June 5.

5. 805 Area Code Calling Changes Will Start on Saturday, June 2

The 805 area code has run into a number crunch, so — beginning June 2 — telephone users will have to key in 10 or 11 digits for all calls, even local ones in the 805 and the new 820 area codes.

According to the California Public Utilities Commission, cell users will need to key the area code and phone numbers, while landline users must start with a “1.”

As our Brooke Holland reported, the change is a result of the PUC’s overlay of the new 820 area code atop the old 805. Both area code areas include Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties, and small portions of Kern and Monterey counties.

Existing 805 customers will keep their numbers, but new lines and services may be assigned an 820 area code beginning June 30.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? 2 Injured in Head-On Crash on Highway 154 Near Santa Barbara.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

This may be a first for a responder: Alaska Village’s Only Ambulance Was Vandalized So Wisconsin Tourist Bought a New One.

                                                                 •        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

#rileythewondermalamute crashes a wedding in my Instagram feed this past week, but it turns out it wasn’t as inexplicable as I thought. Trust me when I say that the link is well worth your click.

Since @riley_the_wonder_malamute was intercepted in her quest to do it in person, on her behalf — and Team Noozhawk’s — I want to congratulate former Noozhawk Frankie Victoria and her husband, Micah Martinez, on their marriage.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

Oh, baby. The duel over the pacifier may be the best.

(BabiezTV video)

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk and Instagram: @bill.macfadyen, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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