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4 in custody after officers surround home

January 23, 2015 - 11:32pm

Authorities had four people in custody late Friday in Camarillo after responding to a home where they believed a robbery suspect had fled.

Officers responded at about 8:50 p.m. to the 1700 block of Mission Drive after receiving a report of a robbery in which the victim was pistol-whipped at about 7:55 p.m. just outside Camarillo, authorities said.

Sgt. Gregg Willson with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said the robber and the victim, a male juvenile, knew each other and that the robber drove up to victim in a car in the 100 block of West Loop Drive, they had an argument, and the victim was pistol-whipped in the head. Minor personal property was taken before the robber fled in a vehicle, authorities said.

About an hour later, officers were at the house on Mission Drive after receiving information the robbery suspect was there, authorities said. After arriving at the house, authorities said they detained four people, all males in their teens, although some were not minors. Not all of them lived at the house, police said.

The suspects were kept in patrol cars outside the home. Among them was an agitated young man pounding on the car’s windows.

As other suspects were brought out and they were transferred to various patrol cars, he yelled at them: “Keep your head up!” and “I love you!”

A woman came to the car and talked to him after he was told by an officer that his mother would be brought out to speak to him.

Meanwhile, a police dog searched the home, stopping to bark vigorously at intervals. The two-story home was much larger than the others in the neighborhood, with what appeared to be a four-car garage and two cars in the driveway, one of which was being scrutinized by police. The light from officers’ flashlights could be seen as they searched the inside of the home, which stood on a hill and had a more spacious yard than its neighbors.

Willson said the weapon used in the robbery was not found.

Porch lights were on in the neighborhood of modern-style stucco homes, but no one stood outside in the yards with well-kept landscaping and, in some cases, white rocks in place of turf.

At least nine marked Ventura County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars were in front of the home that was the target of the investigation, with at least two unmarked law-enforcement vehicles — a pickup and sport utility vehicle, both black.

Earlier, there had been officers from the California Highway Patrol assisting with traffic control, which involved closure of Mission Drive at San Miguel Drive and Mission Drive at Santa Cruz Way.

The robbery victim was taken to St. John’s Pleasant Valley Medical Center in Camarillo with head injuries, Willson said. Also hurt in the incident was an officer who was bitten by the police dog, Willson said.

Ventura tops rival Buena

January 23, 2015 - 11:12pm

Anything can happen when Ventura and Buena High meet.

Especially this season.

The rivals headed into their first meeting of 2015 with the Bulldogs sixth and the Cougars seventh in The Star's rankings.

As expected, the frenzied sellout crowd was treated to a top-notch game as visiting Ventura withstood a herculean fourth quarter from Buena's Jordan Starr and defeated the Bulldogs 83-75 on Friday night.

Buena (14-5, 1-2 Channel League) whittled the Ventura lead to 69-65 in the fourth quarter on a basket by Starr, who was in the midst of an unconscious spree in which he scored 23 of his game-high 33 points in the period.

However, Ventura (14-7, 2-1) also got clutch play in the fourth quarter as senior guard Isaac Gilbert scored 13 of his team-high 22 points and senior forward Alec Norman scored eight of his 14 points in the quarter.

After a Starr basket cut the lead to four, Ventura got an old-fashioned three-point play by senior guard Dustin Houck to give the Cougars a seven-point lead again, 72-65. Houck finished with 15 points.

"We trusted each other as teammates and we got a good win," Houck said.

Ventura got a big all-around game from junior forward Zach Sourwine, who scored nine points to go along with a game-high 15 rebounds and a team-high four assists. Ethan Hermann had eight points and six rebounds. Bryce Fausset scored eight points.

"I think it was a real team effort," Sourwine said. "Everyone was crashing the boards really hard and we were moving the ball around really well and we had trust in each other to make good passes and take good shots."

Starr hit three of his five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter for Buena. Taylor Sturgeon scored 17 points, including 10 in the second quarter, and had three 3-pointers. Allen Quintero hit four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points.

"I just needed it for my team," Starr said. "I was just trying to put my team in the best position that I could to get the win. We came up short. We've got to come back next time with more heart, though. We've got to play the whole game and not have any defensive let-ups."

"It's tough because he can do anything with the ball," Gilbert said of guarding Starr. "He can drive, he can shoot, he can pass. So we just had to try to contain him and stop (the rest of) their offense."

Ventura coach Dan Larson was pleased with the victory.

"It was a Buena-Ventura game," he said. "So much emotion, so much fun for the kids on both teams. I'm sure they'll be ready to get us at Ventura College (Feb. 10) when we play them next time."

Evan Ajao (five points), Gilbert and Fausset hit 3-pointers at the end of the first quarter to turn a 19-18 deficit into a 26-19 lead for Ventura.

Buena pulled even twice late in the second quarter, but a basket by Ajao at the buzzer gave the Cougars a 38-36 edge at halftime.

Hermann scored all eight of his points in the third to help give Ventura a 53-46 heading into the fourth.

Thousand Oaks High School senior ball canceled

January 23, 2015 - 9:14pm

From staff reports

A formal event intended for seniors at Thousand Oaks High School has been canceled due to low ticket sales, school officials said.

The high school sent out an automated phone call Friday to parents telling them the senior ball planned for Jan. 31 had been canceled.

"We haven't sold enough tickets for the event to continue," said Lou Lichtl, the school's principal.

Part of the problem is that venues for dances don't contract directly with the school, so officials use a planning organization, which drives up the venue cost. Students also see the nice venues and want to have their dances held there. Previous balls have been held at Sherwood Country Club and Wood Ranch Country Club, the planned location of this year's ball. A ticket for last year's ball, which typically has 200 to 300 people in attendance, cost about $100 per person.

"I think it's getting harder and harder for kids to support that," Lichtl said.

When fewer students attend the ball, the cost per student becomes higher, the principal said.

"It's been a learning process for students. Next year, we'll scale down and keep costs down so we can continue this tradition," Lichtl said.

The school's prom is still planned to occur April 18.

$60 milllion for fish passage worries district

January 23, 2015 - 6:02pm

The $60 million price tag for a new fish passage on the Santa Clara River has local water managers reeling — and not with rods and lines.

The sum is only part of what will be spent in coming years to keep water flowing to area farmers and cities while also restoring habitat for endangered steelhead trout. In all, hundreds of millions of dollars are expected to go to efforts that either directly benefit the fish or create replacement supplies for river water that will be sent to the ocean rather than used for irrigation or drinking.

The agency footing much of the bill, meanwhile — the United Water Conservation District — has an average annual budget of roughly $20 million. Its members include growers and cities from Lake Piru to the coastal edge of the Oxnard Plain. All will see costs rise in the future to pay for such projects.

The scenario has been brewing for years but is taking firmer shape now as United draws up plans to comply with federal Endangered Species Act requirements.

Last week, when a National Marine Fisheries Service official addressed United’s board on the issue, a crowd packed the meeting room at the district’s Santa Paula headquarters. The fisheries service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is working with United on plans for the estimated $60 million fish passage at the district’s Freeman Diversion Dam near Saticoy.

Anthony Spina, who supervises the fisheries service’s Southern California branch, told attendees the Freeman dam is “a key item” in the river’s lower watershed that is of “exceedingly high priority” for his agency.

“It is the first structure steelhead come to when attempting to migrate,” Spina said. The fish can travel from rivers to the ocean, returning as adults to native streams to spawn.

United built the Freeman dam in 1991, before Southern California steelhead were declared endangered in 1997. The $31 million facility already has a fish ladder, but the original $1.3 million structure was later found deficient. The diversion dam channels Santa Clara River flows to facilities that replenish groundwater later pumped from the Oxnard Plain.

Lynn Maulhardt, United’s board president, brought up concerns of district growers that construction of a costly new fish passage could be done with some certainty.

“We have a structure that was permitted that now is lost,” Maulhardt said, referring to the original fish ladder.

He and other board members brought up lingering concerns about the actual size of historic fish runs. For decades, the river was stocked with hatchery fish to lure sport fisherman to the area. The district in 2008 compiled a 738-page record of trout-related newspaper clippings from 1870 to the mid-1950s that documents such stocking efforts. While the district’s official position now is that steelhead historically lived in the river and still occur there, many of its members from longtime farming families in the area remain skeptical.

“Behind the scenes, these are issues we deal with,” Maulhardt told Spina, after listing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects the district faces. “I want you to know that.”

“We get it,” Spina replied.

Maulhardt also stressed that United would build the fish passage and comply with the law.

Mark Capelli, a scientist with the fisheries service who coordinates regional steelhead recovery, said this week concerns over estimates of historic fish runs are misplaced. Recovery efforts aren’t an attempt to meet old, unreliable numbers. Rather, a complex plan for territory from Santa Barbara County to the state’s southern boundary aims to create systems where diverse subgroups can thrive and ultimately allow the species to survive long term.

“We’re not trying to restore historic conditions,” Capelli said. “We’re trying to make sure the fish are viable.”

United's steelhead history:

National Marine Fisheries Service steelhead recovery plan page:

If all goes well, construction of the fish passage could start in 2019 after a lengthy permitting process. The experimental structure now being developed will require building a large model to scale for extensive testing in a Washington warehouse.

John Krist, CEO of the Farm Bureau of Ventura County, was at the meeting with Spina. He said afterward growers in the county’s $2 billion agriculture industry want to make sure an “extremely costly fish passage” won’t be deemed insufficient in a few years, as happened before.

“They’re not happy to pay more for less water from a project that’s been in the ground for decades,” Krist said of the Freeman dam. “That’s just hard for a lot of people to swallow.”

Santa Paula woman found guilty of murder

January 23, 2015 - 5:25pm

A Ventura County jury Friday found a Santa Paula woman guilty of second-degree murder for fatally shooting another woman at a park in 2013.

Yajayra Lizette Dominguez, 32, sobbed as a court secretary read the verdict in front of Superior Court Judge Kevin DeNoce.

Prosecutors said Dominguez shot 21-year-old Ashley Calanche, of Santa Paula, in the head with a small handgun as the two women fought at Mill Park on Sept. 27, 2013.

Jurors also found true that Dominguez intentionally discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury or death.

Dominguez will face 40 years to life in prison when she is sentenced Feb. 24.

Authorities said the two Santa Paula women did not know each other but Dominguez had sent threatening Facebook messages to Calanche in response to an alleged threat the victim made to a friend of the defendant.

The two women crossed paths one afternoon at Mill Park in the 700 block of North Ojai Road in Santa Paula. Prosecutors said Dominguez confronted Calanche, grabbing her by the hair, putting a small handgun to her head and pulling the trigger.

Dominguez took the stand during her trial and said Calanche tried to grab her hand as they both struggled and pulled each other’s hair. Dominguez said the small Derringer in her hand discharged accidentally.

Dominguez said she apologized to Calanche’s sister, who was also at the park during the shooting. She said she asked the sister to not call police because she was afraid of losing her children.

Her attorney, Ayala Benefraim of the Public Defender’s Office, argued that her client lacked malice and asked jurors to consider involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutor Rebecca Day, however, said forensics showed Dominguez delivered a “kill shot” to Calanche.

Dominguez now faces a sentence of 15 years to life in prison for the second-degree murder charge. The firearm allegation carries a sentence of 25 years to life.

Dominguez’s family and friends cried quietly inside the courtroom as sheriff’s deputies led a sobbing Dominguez into the courtroom sally port.

Outside the courtroom, Calanche’s family and friends wiped tears and hugged one another. Many of them wore a gold ribbon pin with a tiny sunflower, Calanche’s favorite flower.

Nancy Rodriguez, Calanche’s aunt, wiped tears and said the verdict brings some closure for her family.

Rodriguez said Calanche was studying photography and was excited to start a career while taking care of her then 1-year-old son.

“Nobody has a right to take another person’s life,” Rodriguez said. “Ashley was a very happy and loving young lady and her son meant everything to her. It’s really sad that Dominguez was so worried about her kids being taken away from her, but she gave no concern that she took away someone else’s mom.”

Star reporter recalls covering Simpson trial

January 23, 2015 - 5:14pm

Millions of people across the country were glued to their television screens on June 17, 1994, enthralled by the spectacle that was the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase.

I watched it with a seasoned prosecutor who was about to become a household name — Marcia Clark. She was a tough-nosed Los Angeles County deputy district attorney with a string of murder convictions who had been assigned to the Simpson double-homicide case.

I had covered the Los Angeles County prosecutor’s office — the largest in the country — off and on since the late 1970s for several news outlets including, at the time, the Los Angeles Daily Journal, a newspaper written for the legal community.

Clark and I watched a portion of the chase — in which the former football great fled from police — in the district attorney’s public information office on the 18th floor of the downtown Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building.

At one point, I remarked that maybe Simpson, who during the pursuit had released what sounded like a possible suicide note, really did intend to kill himself.

Clark rolled her eyes, fixed me a withering stare and in language that would make a sailor blush said, “How #@!&%*! naive can you be, Mike?”

She was right, of course. Simpson didn’t kill himself.

Seven months later — 20 years ago Saturday — the former USC and Buffalo Bills star running back went on trial in connection with the June 12, 1994, stabbing murders in Brentwood of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and waiter Ronald Goldman.

With opening statements, the so-called Trial of the Century was underway.

Clark and co-prosecutor Christopher Darden went first, taking five months to put on their case before a predominantly black jury. They were followed by Simpson’s defense “Dream Team,” led by Johnnie Cochran, who had relegated Simpson’s original lawyer in the case, Robert Shapiro, to a supporting role. The defense presented its witnesses over three months.

I covered just about every day of it from an assigned seat in Superior Court Judge Lance Ito’s courtroom. It felt like being at the center of the universe.

Much of the nation was riveted by the trial of the football hero-turned-double murder defendant. Broadcast live by Court TV and in part by other cable and network television news outlets, the trial dealt with issues of wealth and privilege, race — Simpson is black; his ex-wife and Goldman were white — celebrity, domestic violence and sports worship. Millions watched it daily. Some critics lampooned it as a media circus.


For a reporter, it was a dream assignment. I had the lead story on the front page of the paper just about every day for eight months.

I had known all the principals — Clark, Cochran, Ito, Shapiro — for years from covering the courthouse. To their credit, most of them didn’t let their newfound celebrity go to their heads. They remained, at least to me, accessible and down-to-earth.

Darden, however, could be difficult. Once, in a crowded elevator during the trial, I whipped out my tape recorder to ask him a question. He smothered the device in his hand.

The trial wore on for the better part of a year with testimony from dozens of witnesses, much of it centered on DNA evidence that the prosecution argued proved Simpson was guilty. The defense countered that the blood samples that were tested for DNA had been contaminated by sloppy police work and were unreliable.

After lengthy closing arguments, the case finally went to the jury.

On Oct. 2, 1995, after deliberating for less than four hours, jurors signaled they had reached a verdict. Standard wisdom at the courthouse was that a quick verdict usually meant a conviction, and to the thinking of most of the reporters who covered the trial, the prosecution had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The next morning, of course, the jury proved us wrong: it acquitted Simpson of two counts of murder. It was the most shocking verdict I ever heard read during all my years of covering the courthouse.

Some observers suggested the verdict was the result of “jury nullification,” in which jurors did not consider the evidence, but made a political statement about police/minority relations. Others said the jury did follow the law and based its verdict on the reasonable doubt the defense had created. But really, less than four hours of deliberations after eight months of testimony?

About 16 months later, a civil jury in a separate wrongful-death trial found Simpson liable for the murders and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages.

On Oct. 3, 2008 — exactly 13 years to the day after his acquittal in the double-murder trial — Simpson was convicted in Las Vegas of armed robbery and kidnapping in connection with sports memorabilia he contended was his. That December, he was sentenced to up to 33 years in prison, where he remains.

Mike Harris has been a staff writer for The Star since December 2010.

O.J. Simpson timeline

June 12, 1994: O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and waiter Ronald Goldman are stabbed to death outside her Brentwood condominium.

June 17, 1994: About to be arrested on suspicion of the murders, Simpson leads police on a lengthy chase in his white Ford Bronco, driven by friend A.C. Cowlings. The chase is watched by millions of people nationwide on television news. Simpson eventually surrenders and is taken into custody.

July 22, 1994: Simpson pleads “absolutely 100 percent not guilty” to the charges.

Nov. 3, 1994: A predominantly black jury is selected.

Jan. 24, 1995: The so-called Trial of the Century formally begins with opening statements.

May 15, 1995: In front of the jury, Simpson tries on a bloody glove found at the crime scene. It seems not to fit. Lead defense attorney Johnnie Cochran later tells the jury in closing arguments, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

Sept. 26, 1995: Closing arguments begin. The prosecution emphasizes DNA evidence that it says proved Simpson is the killer. The defense counters that the DNA evidence was contaminated and cannot be trusted.

Oct. 3, 1995: At the conclusion of the eight-month trial, the jury acquits Simpson of two counts of murder.

February 1997: A civil jury in a separate wrongful-death trial finds Simpson liable for the murders and orders him to pay $33.5 million in damages.

Oct. 3, 2008: Exactly 13 years to the day after his acquittal in the double-murder trial, Simpson is convicted in Las Vegas of armed robbery and kidnapping in connection with sports memorabilia he contended was his.

December 2008: Simpson is sentenced to up to 33 years in prison for the robbery and kidnapping.



Man cited after ATM incident, police chase

January 23, 2015 - 4:42pm

A 29-year-old man who tried to use a sample ATM card at a Ventura bank Friday was arrested after running from police and getting hit by a car, officials said.

Police responded about 7:35 a.m. to a report of a suspicious man entering several invalid codes into a Chase Bank ATM in the 2400 block of Harbor Boulevard. The man was trying to use an inactive card — the kind banks usually send out as advertisements, police said.

An officer tried to conduct a probation search on the man, but he ran away, police said. An officer caught up to the man, but he broke free and continued running, police said.

He ran out of the parking lot and into traffic on Harbor, where he was hit by a vehicle heading east, police said. The man was thrown about 30 feet but managed to get up and continued running, police said. Eventually, officers caught him.

The man was taken to Ventura County Medical Center with moderate injuries, police said. He was cited and released on suspicion of resisting arrest and possession of narcotics, police said.

California job growth strong in 2014

January 23, 2015 - 4:21pm

California closed out 2014 with strong job gains, a lower unemployment rate and a record number of people in its labor force.

For December, the unemployment rate dropped to 7 percent, its lowest point since June 2008, according to data released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

The state is creating jobs at a pace not seen since before the recession, said Dwight Johnston, chief economist for the California Credit Union League in Ontario. Johnston said California’s labor force is growing while in some states it’s shrinking.

“It’s the best year we’ve had since before the recession began,” he said. “You need to see the labor force grow because that tells us people are encouraged that jobs are available.”

Economists are hoping to see more gains in 2015 and are especially counting on the construction sector to ramp up.

Steve Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto, said more construction would bring high-wage jobs, create jobs in other sectors, and address two of California’s key economic competitiveness challenges — housing and infrastructure.

Construction did not lead but was among the top sectors in job creation statewide in 2014, together with health care, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services. In December, construction jobs were up 4 percent over December 2013.

California’s nonfarm payroll jobs increased by 700 in December, but economists discounted the slight rise, saying it was at odds with previous monthly gains and will most likely be revised upward in March.

Over the year, total employment increased by 489,400, and nonfarm jobs increased by 320,300, said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

“The state registered solid job gains for all of 2014, outpacing the nation in yearly percentage terms for the third straight year,” he said.

In Ventura County last month, 5,800 nonfarm jobs were added on a year-over-year basis. The unemployment rate dropped to 5.9 percent from 6.9 percent in December 2013, while the county’s labor force shrank by 3,100 people.

Bruce Stenslie, president and CEO of the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County, called the drop in the unemployment rate “extraordinary.”

“Our thrill over the improvement is tempered, however, by only moderate growth in private sector nonfarm jobs,” he said. “Also notable is a drop in the labor force, which may or may not be significant as an indicator of a healthy labor market, as we suspect that most of that loss of labor is tied to a seasonal decline in farm jobs, not to broader stagnation across all sectors.”

Ventura Co. Unemployment Rate |Create infographics

Hawk dies while stuck inside Oxnard Costco

January 23, 2015 - 4:07pm

A Cooper's hawk died this week at Costco Wholesale in Oxnard after flying into the store days earlier, a local wildlife advocate said.

Kim Stroud, director of the Ojai Raptor Center, said she offered to rescue the bird for $700, but the store declined the offer several times. The center is a nonprofit group that rescues and rehabilitates birds of prey and other wildlife.

Costco officials did not return phone calls for this story.

Stroud said she learned of the situation Jan. 17, when several people called her about the hawk. Apparently the hawk flew into the store while following a smaller bird, she said.

Stroud said many people sent her photos of the bird and called her daily about their concerns for it.

"Everyone was more concerned about the animal than their own safety," Stroud said.

Stroud said trapping and freeing a Cooper's hawk is complicated and requires a lot of coordination, energy and resources, hence the $700 charge. She said Costco did use some of her tips, like keeping the doors and skylights open in hopes the bird would fly out.

She said she spoke to Costco managers several times and reached out to its regional office in Washington before she was informed the hawk died Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

Stroud said Cooper's hawks need to eat a third of their own weight daily to survive, so the bird must have starved to death. "Those birds need to eat every day because their metabolism is so fast," she said.

She also said they are more afraid of humans than larger hawks, which is why the bird did not fly down and disturb customers.

"I'm hoping that in the future something like this will be taken care of quicker," Stroud said.

Point Mugu backcountry to reopen Jan. 29

January 23, 2015 - 3:54pm

Point Mugu State Park won’t reopen this weekend, officials said Friday.

Officials closed the park, which stretches from Newbury Park to the ocean, after a Dec. 12 storm. Mud and rocks slid down steep canyons in heavy rain, covering roads and campgrounds with debris and washing out some trails. It was scheduled to be closed until Feb. 1.

Earlier this week, however, Craig Sap, district superintendent for state parks, said he hoped to open as soon as the weekend. On Friday, he said the reopening date was moved to Thursday, because of the amount of work that still needs to be finished on Wood Canyon, Ranch Center, Sycamore Canyon and Overlook fire roads.

More than a dozen slides also hit the adjacent Pacific Coast Highway. A 9-mile section of the highway between Camarillo and Malibu has been closed since. It’s expected to be closed at least through the end of the month.

When the park reopens, staff will post signs at the Rancho Sierra Vista-Point Mugu boundary that access to PCH is not permitted, Sap said. Another sign will be posted at the Overlook-Sycamore Canyon Fire intersection reminding park-goers not to travel to the highway.

A fence and a sign also will be posted at the La Jolla Canyon Trail/La Jolla Valley Loop Trail to prevent access because of severe damage. A rockslide took out the trail at the waterfall, about a mile above PCH, Sap said.

When the highway reopens, plans call for removing all restrictions except for trail access to PCH from La Jolla Valley. There’s no date for that reopening.

Man arrested after hitting another man with car

January 23, 2015 - 3:48pm

A 22-year-old man was arrested late Thursday two weeks after he allegedly hit another man with his car in Oxnard, officials said.

Uriel Garcia Garcia, of Oxnard, was found in the same car that he used during the alleged crime, which occurred Jan. 9 in the 600 block of South A Street, Oxnard police said Friday.

A 26-year-old Santa Barbara man suffered a severe head injury and was taken to Ventura County Medical Center. He is currently in critical but stable condition.

During a preliminary investigation, Oxnard police determined a passenger in the suspect vehicle got out of the car and confronted the victim and others standing in a parking lot, officials said. The passenger then got back into the car, and the driver hit the victim with his car, police said.

Garcia was stopped in his car and arrested in an unrelated matter Thursday night, officials said. Police said they later found damage consistent with the Jan. 9 crash on Garcia’s vehicle. He was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, police said.

East county pet of the week: Mocha

January 23, 2015 - 3:41pm

Mocha is a 9-year-old Chow mix that came to the shelter when her owners lost their home and could no longer care for her. She is a quiet girl who is easy to walk, and she enjoys car rides. With an easygoing personality, her demands are few.

She would enjoy nothing more than curling up and relaxing near her new person. If you have room in your home and heart for this older pup, stop by the shelter and ask to meet her.

Request A3443783 to adopt Mocha. The shelter is at 29525 Agoura Road in Agoura Hills. Pets occasionally have already been adopted. Call 818-991-0071 or visit to check availability.

West county pet of the week: Gigi

January 23, 2015 - 3:41pm

Gigi is a sweet 3-year-old cat living at the shelter for almost a year. She gets along well with other cats and is friendly with people. Gigi is spayed. The shelter staff recommends that all cats live inside only. You can meet Gigi at the Humane Society of Ventura County in Ojai. Her adoption fee of $120 includes spaying, vaccinations, free veterinary check, feline leukemia test, microchip implantation and ID tag. For more information on Gigi or other available animals, or to volunteer, visit or call 646-6505. 

Police look for robbery suspect in Newbury Park

January 23, 2015 - 3:41pm

Ventura County sheriff's officials Friday were looking for a person involved in an armed robbery in Newbury Park.

The robbery was reported about 1:20 p.m. at Rancho Conejo Playfield, 950 Ventu Park Road.

Authorities believe the person ran into a barranca in the area and were using a helicopter to search trails leading to Wildwood Regional Park, officials said.

Further details on the robbery and search were not available.

Rancho Simi seeks grants to buy Alamos Canyon

January 23, 2015 - 3:37pm

The Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District board this week authorized an application for a federal grant to help purchase Alamos Canyon, a wildlife corridor between Simi Valley and Moorpark, for use as open space.

The district will apply for up to $1.5 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is administered through the state office of Grants and Local Services. The district has previously applied for a $1 million grant from the state Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program.

Its partner in the possible purchase of the canyon from Waste Management Inc., the nonprofit Nature Conservancy, has already secured a $500,000 grant from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

Even if the district is awarded the two grants and adds them to the Nature Conservancy’s grant, the $3 million total would be less than half of the $7.9 million Waste Management wants for the canyon, said Robin Walker, the district’s senior management analyst.

The district and the conservancy are negotiating with Waste Management on the purchase price, she said.

The 734-acre canyon is north of Highway 118 between Waste Management’s landfill to the east and the Simi Valley/Moorpark boundary to the west.

Poetry night, concert and other events planned

January 23, 2015 - 3:32pm


YMCA group plans pancake breakfast

The Camarillo YMCA Adventure Guides and Princesses will host their 47th annual pancake breakfast from 7 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Camarillo Community Center, 1605 E. Burnley St.

Tickets are $5 per person or $15 per family for up to five people. Call 484-0423 for more information.


Poets welcome to read to audience

Bank of Books Malibu will host its first poetry night of the year at 6 p.m. Friday at 29169 Heathercliff Road.

Local poets are invited to read their original work or a favorite poem by another writer.

Call 310-457-5699 for more information.


Public can eat meals at Elks Lodge 1443

Oxnard Elks Lodge 1443 offers meal nights twice a week that are open to the public.

Each Wednesday starting at 6 p.m., guests can enjoy a hamburger or chicken burger with fries, onion rings, salad and a drink for $6.

Guests on Fridays can enjoy fish and chips, salad and a drink for $9.

The lodge also has a cook-your-own-steak night on the last Monday of each month. It includes salad, fries and a drink.

Call Pauline at 818-612-2241 for more information.

Employer council to host luncheon

The Western Ventura County Employer Advisory Council will have its monthly luncheon Feb. 11 at the Courtyard by Marriott, 600 Esplanade Drive.

Registration and networking will begin at 11:30 a.m. Lonnie Giamela will speak at noon.

Lunch costs $25, with the cost increasing to $35 after Feb. 6. Visit to RSVP.

Thousand Oaks

Elite pianist to play at free concert

Sean Chen, Crystal Award winner in the 2013 international Van Cliburn Piano Competition, will give a free concert at 4 p.m. Sunday at Ascension Lutheran Church, 1600 E. Hillcrest Drive.

Call 495-0406 for more information.

Actor/writer to bring character to life

Actor and writer Larry Vanderveen will bring F. Scott Fitzgerald to life in a one-man show from 2-3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Grant R. Brimhall Library, 1401 E. Janss Road

Call 449-2660 for more information.

Ventura County

Free sterilization offered for pit bulls

The Humane Society of Ventura County will offer free spay or neutering to pit bull terriers and pit bull mixes for a limited time.

Reservations are required. Visit or call 656-5043 for more information.

Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra plays Sunday

January 23, 2015 - 3:20pm

The Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra continues its 54th season Sunday in Thousand Oaks with a concert titled “Decades.”

The show will spotlight compositions and arrangements from the 20th and 21st centuries such as Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” and Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” The ensemble, which features more than 250 musicians, also will perform “Dance Infernal” and “Berceuse and Finale” from Stravinsky’s “Firebird” suite; Leroy Anderson’s “The Typewriter”; music from “Fantasia”; and the theme from “Mission: Impossible.”

The show will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25, in the Fred Kavli Theatre at Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. Tickets are $25 general and $20 for students and seniors. Premium seats are $45. They’re available in person at the box office or via Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000 or

For more information, visit or the orchestra’s website at

CSUCI students possibly exposed to measles

January 23, 2015 - 2:50pm

Public health and CSU Channel Islands officials were trying Friday to contact the school’s about 5,000 students about possible measles exposure.

Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin said officials are concerned about students who were in the main library on the Camarillo campus from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday. If those students don’t know if they’ve received two doses of the measles vaccine, they should get immunized on Friday.

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“We’ve got to contact all the students because we don’t know who was in the library,” he said, adding that public health was working with the university to reach students.

The immunization provides protection if it’s taken within three days of exposure, Levin said.

Officials say a man with measles, now isolated in a hospital, was in the library on Tuesday. He lived off campus but was a student in a single class at the university, Levin said.

Other students in the class were being contacted Friday and checked for immunity. People without immunity were being vaccinated, Levin said.

Levin said he wouldn’t identify the specific class or offer other information about the measles case because of patient privacy concerns.

The student is believed to have been exposed to another known measles case in Ventura County. Test results had not been received as of Friday afternoon. Levin said the illness is considered a confirmed case of measles because the person was exposed and is showing symptoms.

The risk is believed limited to people who had direct exposure to the person.

“If you were on campus and you weren’t in the library in that time period and you weren’t notified by the school that you were in the classroom, I think your risk is vanishingly small,” Levin said.

The illness is the sixth measles case in Ventura County. Across the state, 68 people have been confirmed as having measles, officials said Friday.

On Thursday, public health officials warned people at a Citibank branch at 430 Arneill Road in Camarillo they may have been exposed to measles if they were at the bank between Jan. 12-14.

This story will be updated.

Few women rank among top-paid officials

January 23, 2015 - 2:00pm

The best-paid government positions across Ventura County tend to be influential leaders charged with the most responsibility: city managers, the county executive, public works and community development heads, fire and police chiefs.

By a greater than 10:1 ratio, they also tend to be men.

In 2013, women held just five of the top 55 paying jobs across the county and its 10 cities — 9 percent.

The Star looked at data compiled by state controller’s office, which recently published its fifth database showing information for public-sector employees throughout the state. The Star looked at the five people who make the most money in each city as well as the county.

The list of women, in its entirety: Moorpark’s Deputy City Manager Deborah Traffenstedt; Ojai’s Finance Director Susie Mears and Community Development Director Kathleen Wold; Oxnard Assistant City Manager Karen Burnham; and Thousand Oaks City Attorney Tracy Noonan. Mears and Burnham retired in 2014.

Not feeling qualified to seek leadership positions, a low presence in the well-paying public safety sector and the good old boys network being alive and well are some of the reasons so few women hold top management positions, research and interviews showed.

“The issue ... is to encourage those women to be really assertive and pursuing the positions and really seek the highest level they can seek,” said Rebecca Sive, an adjunct lecturer at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago and author of “Every Day is Election Day: A Woman’s Guide to Winning Any Office, from the PTA to the White House.” “Make the point that government is well served when there’s a diversity of view in leadership.”

It isn’t that women aren’t entering the public sector. Just over 18 percent of women in the workforce were employed in the public sector, compared to 12.4 percent of men, a 2010 U.S. Department of Labor study found.

But they aren’t advancing. Nationally, women held 13 percent of executive positions in the public sector in 2013, equal to what it was in 1981, according to a study done by the National Research Center on behalf of the International City/County Management Association.

Women were also overwhelmingly laid off in greater numbers in recent years as government shed jobs, mostly because of budget cuts.

From 2007 to 2011, state and local governments shed about 765,000 jobs. Women comprised about 70 percent of those losses, a 2012 brief by the Economic Policy Institute found.

The story is much the same in the private sector.

In a study of top 60 corporations in 2013 (many of them in the Fortune 500), women held 325,000 entry-level jobs. Just 7,000 women held vice president or higher positions.

Though having and raising a family is often thought as a major reason for fewer women at the top, research hasn’t substantiated that. Rather, it’s more conscious and subconscious beliefs about men and women, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review, “Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership.”

Ever heard that men are just “better leaders”?

“The scarcity of female corporate officers is the sum of discrimination that has operated at all ranks, not evidence of a particular obstacle to advancement as women approach the top,” it noted.

To Ventura Mayor Cheryl Heitmann — the third female to be elected mayor in the city’s history — the findings among private workers wasn’t surprising, but the low numbers in the public sector were.

Hietmann figured the “government would be better in terms of its representation in terms of women in these higher positions,” she said. At least, one would like to think they are, since those positions guide policy, she said.

Women earn less than men, and often that means they spend their career playing catch up, having started at a lower salary than their male counterparts, Heitmann said.

Heitmann remembers applying for a management training program at a major utility in California out of college. The male interviewer told her she’d likely get pregnant soon and leave to raise a family, after asking what type of birth control she used. He declined to offer her a slot but, seeing potential, offered her a job in customer service.

The gender discrimination may be more subtle now, but the “good old boys network” is alive and well, she said.

Men “network more, they mentor more,” Heitmann said, adding that women need to be better about that.

One reason for the low showing among the county’s highest earners is that there are few women in public safety.

Women comprised 12 percent of a local law enforcement agencies and just over 11 percent in Sheriff’s Office, according to an 2008 Bureau of Justice Statistics report (the most recent year information was available). A Cornell University’s Institute for Women and Work study the same year found fewer than 4 percent of U.S. firefighters were held by women.

Both fields pay well in Ventura County — from $125,000 to $183,000 on average, when pension contributions and health care is factored in. And 20 of the top 55 positions were in fire or law enforcement.

Oxnard Police Chief Jeri Williams is the only woman to lead a public safety department in the county. She was the city’s seventh highest wage earner at $204,990 in 2013, according to the state controller’s office, now headed by Betty Yee.

How Williams got into policing wasn’t by accident. Turns out pay was a major factor.

“It was about serving the community but it was also about pay equity,” Williams said. “I chose a field that is more likely to pay me and compensate me the same way males do.”

Williams’ mom was conscious of gender inequalities, and in the late 1980s those conversations were prevalent.

“I don’t think we have those discussions anymore,” she said.

The community has a responsibility to expose the idea of law enforcement careers to women, including inviting them to speak to schools and community events, Williams said.

Williams said she was fortunate. “People saw ability versus how I look,” she said.

Even in the cities that contract out police and fire — Camarillo, Ojai, Moorpark and Thousand Oaks — there were just four women among the top ranks, or 20 percent.

Like Williams, Ojai’s Mears had an influential mentor in a family member. Mears came to California from Korea with hopes of being in fashion design until her great uncle asked her if she wanted “to starve.”

Instead, she looked through the classifieds of the Los Angeles Times and saw listing after listing of accountants wanted.

Finance it was. Mears said she never felt gender discrimination, perhaps in part because of her field.

In Ojai “council respected my opinion and really trusted me,” she said. “I speak of only the facts. It’s just black and white. It’s numbers.”

To begin to make a dent in the problem, there really needs to be an attitudinal shift, Sive said. “If we really do want to have a diverse range of people in positions of responsibility let’s do everything we can to achieve that.”

Santa Paula nonprofits get break on rent

January 23, 2015 - 12:41pm

The city of Santa Paula will continue to allow three nonprofit groups to lease city-owned facilities almost for free, the council decided this week.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Clara Valley, Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce and Santa Paula Society of the Arts should be allowed to lease properties from the city for $12 a year in exchange for the public benefit they provide, council agreed at its Tuesday meeting. The Boys & Girls Clubs occupies the clubhouse at Harding Park, while the Chamber and Society for the Arts are located at the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot.

Last year, city staff renegotiated six lease agreements with other private entities, increasing overall annual rental rates by $76,000, according to a staff report. These include leases with for-profit companies CEMEX, Santa Paula Chevrolet and T.E. Acosta Plastering. Charging market rate for the remaining three rental properties would generate up to an additional $64,200 a year, the report said.

Speakers for the three nonprofits extolled the work their organizations do for the Santa Paula public during the meeting, such as providing a safe place for children after school, and supporting the local tourism economy.

Council directed staff to negotiate additional terms of the low-cost lease agreements with the nonprofits and return for final approval.

Also at the meeting, city manager Jaime Fontes announced a planned joint meeting between the council and the Santa Paula Unified School District governing board. He called the meeting "monumental" and said no such meeting had taken place in years.

The council and school district meeting will take place Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Santa Paula Community Center, 530 West Main St. Items on the agenda include a discussion on traffic and parking issues surrounding Santa Paula Union High School, and an update on the East Area One development.