March 16, 2016


Political Stories

Top stories

Tobacco industry’s threats: Provocative, but legal — If the anti-tobacco bills become law, the tobacco industry has reportedly warned it will use California’s referendum process to overturn at least some of them: most likely, the measure that would raise the tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21; and the bill that would allow counties to ask voters to impose local tobacco taxes. That’s a common reaction from well-funded opponents of bills that become law in California. What’s noteworthy is the tactic the tobacco industry says it would use once the referenda are cleared for signature gathering: paying $10 for every voter signature. Capital Public Radio report

Big Pharma dumps big money into fight against prescription drug measure — Pharmaceutical companies continue to pour cash into their campaign to defeat a California ballot measure that would limit prescription drug prices, a new campaign finance analysis shows. KQED reportKPCC report

Valley politics

Henry R. Perea hopes to be Fresno’s next mayor — Henry Perea is no stranger to Fresno politics. The current member of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors served on the Fresno City Council from 1996-2004, and his son, Henry T. Perea ran for mayor in 2008. Now the elder Perea wants a chance to be the leader of California’s fifth largest city. He recently joined us on Valley Edition to talk about everything from homelessness to building a streetcar line that would link downtown to the Tower District. KVPR report

Perea backs city-sanctioned homeless encampments for Fresno – Fresno mayoral candidate and current Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea supports the idea of city-sanctioned encampments for Fresno’s homeless population. KVPR report

Stockton Record: Eight is enough? Crowded Stockton mayoral field demands high level of voter interest – We call on residents to become informed and to cast ballots in the mayoral and City Council races. If you sit this one out, then you have no right to complain if you find the city … Behind the Eight Ball. Stockton Record editorial

Tulare sheriff to pay for ‘bookkeeping error’ — Sheriff Mike Boudreaux will pay the state after his campaign committee’s accountant failed to file secondary forms related to the sheriff’s 2014 election. Visalia Times-Delta article

Michael Fitzgerald: Fitz is quitting! And corrupt! OMG! — A campaign consultant who’s sore at me posted an announcement on Monday that I was taking leave from my job to work for mayoral candidate Michael Tubbs. Unexpectedly, people believed him. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Joel Fox: You’ll hear a lot about black market in coming election — The black market will be a legitimate issue in many of its various forms in the coming November election. Referring to the black market, of course, means illegal traffic in officially controlled commodities. Fox in Fox & Hounds

Charlie Hoppin: Linking water rights to the train a horrible idea – The former chair of the State Water Resources Control Board writes, “I worry that the proposed initiative would give opponents of our water rights system a new foot in the door. So I must, in good conscience, oppose what some farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are pursuing. Having seen firsthand the successes that come from working together, my hope for the future is that this is the last time we will be divided on issues critical to all of us who are part of this great industry.” Hoppin op-ed in Modesto Bee

Lenny Mendonca: CA Fwd statement on SB 1349 Cal-Access modernization bill — To restore public trust in government Californians need to know who is paying for campaigns and influencing our elected officials. California Forward thanks Secretary Padilla and Senator Hertzberg for leading the effort on upgrading and modernizing the state’s campaign finance technology, which is a critical first step to making the data easy to access. Mendonca in CA FwdEd Coughlan in CA Fwd

Other areas

Latino Caucus demands ouster over ‘racist and incendiary’ remark — California’s Latino Legislative Caucus on Tuesday urged Calaveras County supervisors to remove a planning commissioner who referred to Mexicans immigrants as an invasive species. During a discussion about a plan to eradicate invasive plant and animal species earlier this month, Calaveras County Planning Commissioner Kelly Wooster remarked the term should cover “people from Mexico.” Sacramento Bee article 

California bill bars contracts with companies boycotting Israel – Inserting themselves into a bitter dispute about Israeli policy, a group of California lawmakers wants to bar the state from contracting with companies that refuse to do business with Israel. Sacramento Bee article

New bill would modernize outdated Cal-Access website – Outdated, dilapidated and “Frankenstein’s monster” are how some California elections officials have described Cal-Access, the state database that tracks political spending. A bill in the California State Senate would overhaul the late 1990s website. Capital Public Radio report

Capitol Weekly Podcast #10 – The Nooner’s Scott Lay stops by to talk politics with Capitol Weekly’s John Howard and Tim Foster. Scott looks at potential Dem-on-Dem races, and John asks his favorite question: will this be the year that California’s primary matters? Capitol Weekly Podcast

Ami Bera’s Democratic critics say Elk Grove congressman disappoints – The Democratic activists who helped stonewall early party endorsements for Bera insist the unrest reaches beyond organized labor. They warn that if Bera doesn’t heed their calls and become more progressive, and take a more active role in their affairs, he’ll lose in November.  Sacramento Bee article

Erika D. Smith: It’d be the curse of Cleveland to have a chaotic GOP convention — Given what’s at stake, the Republican Party couldn’t have picked a more perfect city to unleash the kind of meltdown that hasn’t been seen in American presidential politics since the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968. I say that both honestly and sarcastically. Cleveland, you see, has a way of cursing everything. Murphy’s Law seems to reign there. It’s no big deal. Clevelanders have always had a dark sense of humor about it. Smith column in Sacramento Bee

Obama makes pick to replace Antonin Scalia on Supreme Court, says he’ll announce today – President Obama will announce his choice for a seat on the Supreme Court on Wednesday, setting up a battle with Senate Republicans over constitutional prerogatives and the ideological balance of the nation’s highest court. LA Times articleNew York Times article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Stories

Top Stories

Dan Walters: California pension debts revealed — Thanks to new accounting standards, California’s state and local governments are being forced to acknowledge tens of billions of dollars in previously obscure debt for unfunded pension liabilities. Walters column in Sacramento Bee 

Oil downturn further weakened Bakersfield office market in late ’15 – report – The downturn in oil hit Bakersfield’s general office market hard as 2015 drew to a close, according to a new report. The fourth quarter update says locally operating oil companies shrank so much in the final three months of last year, the most recent period for which numbers are available, that the city’s office vacancy rate jumped a full percentage point, to 8.34 percent. Bakersfield Californian article

Jobs and the Economy

Turlock farmers market operators walk away from bidding war – After a contentious meeting stretching nearly five hours, city leaders voted 4-1 to encourage contenders for the Turlock farmers market to collaborate instead of fighting, but supporters of existing nonprofit management said they want no part of the for-profit proposal. Modesto Bee article

58,000 California drivers have traffic fines and court fees cut under amnesty — Tens of thousands of California drivers have had traffic fines and court fees reduced under an amnesty program pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown to help the poor. State court officials said Tuesday that more than 58,000 drivers have received cost reductions in the first three months of an 18-month program that started in October. AP article 

Fresno County supervisors don’t vote on Coalinga cannabis oil plan – Fresno County supervisors did not take a stand Tuesday on a cannabis oil manufacturing plant proposed in Coalinga, despite opposition from the county’s top law enforcement officer. Fresno Bee article

Kern supervisors to use appointment power to pressure pension board – Kern County supervisors will hold a special meeting, tentatively scheduled for Friday, in an attempt to exert political pressure on the governing board of the county’s pension investment agency. Supervisors and county administrators are miffed with the Kern County Employees’ Retirement Association Board for reversing a long-term practice of giving the county an $8 million discount on its retirement contributions if the county pre-paid that contribution each year. Bakersfield Californian article

Audit shows Atwater’s progress in recovery from audit – A financial audit from an independent accounting firm this week comes as a reminder of the difficult financial conditions for the city of Atwater, which has been working its way back from the brink of bankruptcy since 2012Merced Sun-Star article

Modesto committee to wait on decision to give nonprofit $900,000 – Top Modesto officials Monday said they want to wait until they have a better idea about the city’s finances before deciding whether to endorse a proposal to give $900,000 to a nonprofit that would use the money to teach neighborhoods how to organize, become stronger and solve their problems. Modesto Bee article 

Name changes, but goal still the same: San Joaquin supervisors endorse focusing on children – The intent to support county youth is there, but the title of the document expressing that support is now changed. The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 4-1 to approve a Resolution of Commitment to the Children and Youth of San Joaquin County, a document that serves as a statement that the community will work together to promote an environment where children and youth become thriving and contributing members of society. Stockton Record article 

California to receive $20 million in CalPERS bribery settlement – California officials accepted $20 million Tuesday to settle charges over the CalPERS bribery case. Arvco Capital Research, the Nevada investment bank owned by the late financier Alfred Villalobos, agreed to pay the state $20 million to settle a civil lawsuit accusing Villalobos of bribing officials at CalPERS. The sum includes $10 million in attorneys’ fees. Sacramento Bee article

Kern County planning director gets lower-than-proposed raise – A divided Kern County Board of Supervisors reduced a proposed raise for its planning director Tuesday, saying the optics of a 12.1 percent pay hike looked bad in the middle of a county fiscal crisis. The board approved a 6.6 percent, or $19,760, raise for Kern County Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt instead of a 12.1 percent, or $35,724, one. Bakersfield Californian article

Turlock chamber names Moss new leader – Karin Moss will lead the Turlock Chamber of Commerce forward as it emerges from a difficult transitional year. Modesto Bee article

CalPERS and other big investors sue VW for $3.57 billion – Volkswagen Group’s big institutional investors, including California’s huge public pension fund, are suing the German automaker for $3.57 billion in damages over its handling of the emissions scandal, which has seen VW’s stock price shrivel by a third. LA Times article

‘Where are we going to go?’ LA homeless sweeps continue despite lawsuit – Just one day after advocates for the homeless filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, work crews and police were out again Tuesday making arrests and removing homeless encampments along a highly visible stretch of the 101 Freeway downtown. LA Times article

Homelessness soars to no. 1 concern in San Francisco, new poll finds – Despite a booming economy, more than half of San Franciscans believe the city is going in the wrong direction, a significant uptick from last year, according to a new poll from the San Francisco Chamber of CommerceSan Francisco Chronicle article

LA City Council gives final approval to DWP rate increases — The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday gave final approval to rate increases proposed by the Department of Water and Power. Officials signed off on the hikes about two weeks after they first considered the utility’s proposals to increase to water and power base rates for the first time in years. Water rates will increase 4.7% each year for five years, while power rates will go up 3.86% in the same fashion. LA Times article

Ray Dezember: Bakersfield businessman known for philanthropy — Rayburn S. “Ray” Dezember, a prominent banker active in Bakersfield business and local philanthropy, died Monday from cancer. He was 85. Bakersfield Californian article

Free Internet access for everyone in San Francisco could cost $867 million – A report released Tuesday on how to provide free Internet access to all San Franciscans found that a public fiber-optic network, while costlier, is more likely to reduce the city’s digital divide, while a public-private partnership would leave much of the work up to private companies. KQED report

LA County’s debt has doubled, mostly because of new accounting rules – Under a required change in accounting practices, Los Angeles County’s projected long-term debt has doubled to $20 billion, largely the result of unfunded employee pension obligations, officials said Tuesday. LA Times article

Folsom call center blossoming as Silicon Valley seeks high-quality service — Voxpro Group, an Irish company that provides tech-support and customer service for tech-oriented companies, is establishing itself as a major Sacramento area employer. The company, which opened in temporary quarters in Folsom last November, just moved into its permanent space. It has ramped up to 200 workers and expects to employ as many as 700 by the end of the year. Sacramento Bee article


California experiencing ‘Miracle March’ says water manager – The northern Sierra has seen nearly double the average precipitation since the beginning of March.  It may seem hard to believe after such a dry February, but some of California’s largest reservoirs have approached flood operations. Capital Public Radio report

Delta growers’ voluntary water cuts reap savings – In the darkest days of the drought last summer, when farmers up and down the Central Valley feared the state would cut off their water supply, a strange thing happened in the Delta. Hundreds of growers agreed to voluntarily give up a share of their extraordinarily reliable water supply, in exchange for protection from the possibility of deeper, mandatory cuts. Stockton Record article

Turlock Irrigation District board doubles water allotment over 2015 – Farmers in the Turlock Irrigation District will get up to 36 inches of water this year, which is double what was allotted in 2015 thanks to the storms of recent months. The district board voted 5-0 Tuesday to set the allotment, which is still short of the 48 inches that is typical in years with ample rain and snow. Modesto Bee article 

Rain boosts Friant’s chances for water – Because of the ample March rains and the need to plan for the irrigation season, Friant Water Authority CEO Jason Phillips thinks the Bureau of Reclamation will announce at least an initial water allocation for farms and cities this week. He’s hoping it will include water for Friant’s eastside farmers for the first time in several years. Visalia Times-Delta article

College of the Sequoias participates in drought project — College of the Sequoias participated with United Way of Tulare County and the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) in a drought relief project. All three organizations on Friday picked up cases filled with gallons of water at the old American Ambulance house on East Cameron Street in Hanford. Adventist Health donated 156 cases of water for the project. The water will go to students and to people whose homes have lost wells in the drought. Hanford Sentinel article

Lance Johnson: Californians must demand accountability for all this wasted water – The former water resources engineer writes, “It’s time Californians ask why their water is being wasted without any proven benefit. They should demand accountability and action by federal and state regulators and legislators who, so far, have failed miserably in addressing any of the other “stressors” killing fish. If they won’t, then we must get used to water rationing – even after the drought. Because soon enough, regulators will come back demanding more water.” Johnson op-ed in Modesto Bee

Walnut industry raises its game to sell bumper crop – California walnut industry officials Tuesday outlined their $17.5 million marketing campaign to boost U.S. and export demand in face of record harvests and weakening global sales, particularly in China. Stockton Record article

Fresno County officials investigate possible pesticide exposure – Fresno County agriculture officials are investigating a pesticide spraying accident near Kerman that affected about 12 workers. Fresno Bee article

United Farm Workers commemorate 50th anniversary of march from Delano to Sacramento – Farmworkers who walked from Delano to Sacramento starting on March 17, 1966, will gather Thursday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic march. Fresno Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Police Commission approves changes emphasizing de-escalation before deadly force by LAPD – The Los Angeles Police Commission on Tuesday unanimously decided to revamp the LAPD’s use-of-deadly-force policy and require the department to specifically evaluate whether officers could have done more to defuse tense encounters. The changes could have a far-reaching impact on how the five-member Police Commission determines whether officers involved in fatal encounters were justified in using deadly force. LA Times article 

Lessons from a CHP horse stable — After the pit bulls attacked CHP horses and one was murdered, Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow knew something had to change. What followed was a two-year quest to build stables at the CHP’s gated West Sacramento academy – and an example of how government spending can go haywire. The seemingly simple and relatively cheap project became a magnet for expensive dreams and costly unforeseen regulation. Sacramento Bee article

Bell tolls for fallen CHP officer during West Sacramento memorial — Hundreds of California Highway Patrol employees attended a solemn ceremony Tuesday to remember Officer Nathan Daniel Taylor. Taylor died Sunday of injuries suffered when he was hit by an SUV on Saturday on snowy Interstate 80 in the Gold Run area. Sacramento Bee articleSacramento Bee editorial

Homeless man shares $150,000 reward for capture of Orange County jail escapees — Four people will split a $150,000 reward for providing information that led to the capture of three escaped Orange County jail inmates in January, officials said Tuesday. The recipients include a homeless man who spotted two of the escapees in a parking lot in San Francisco, two Target store employees and a man who had his van stolen by the fugitives. None of the reward money, however, will go to cab driver Long Ma, who was taken hostage by the escapees at gunpoint. LA Times articleSan Francisco Chronicle articleKQED report

Sheriff Laurie Smith calls for sweeping reform of troubled jails — Sheriff Laurie Smith on Tuesday proposed sweeping changes to slash the use of excessive force and improve medical care in Santa Clara County’s troubled jails that go far beyond most counties, including the appointment of a civilian board and inspector general to provide permanent independent oversight. San Jose Mercury News article


Fresno State names interim director of Lyles Center — Longtime Fresno State professor and administrator Scott Moore will serve as interim executive director of Fresno State’s Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the university announced Tuesday. Former director Timothy Stearns resigned last month after an audit questioned his spending and business practices. Fresno Bee article

Students protest at Corcoran High School — Students at Corcoran High School on Friday held a campus protest against the school board’s decision to lay off a Spanish teacher. Students protested the teacher’s layoff because they think losing a Spanish teacher could take away the Spanish language, culture or heritage at the school. Hanford Sentinel article

Mixed results for higher education bills – The California Legislature has blocked an effort to cap nonresident student enrollment at every UC campus. Meanwhile, smoking and vaping would be banned on public college campuses starting in 2018 under a bill that moved ahead. Capital Public Radio report

UC proposal on intolerance says ‘anti-Zionism’ is unacceptable on campus – University of California officials are proposing to include “anti-Zionism” as a form of discrimination that is unacceptable on campus, according to a long-awaited draft statement on intolerance released Tuesday. LA Times articleAP article

Brianna Joy: Students teach legislators about dating violence – The Enochs High School senior writes, “In Stanislaus County, a group of young people have banded together to end adolescent relationship abuse. The Healthy And Responsible Relationships Troop – called HARRT – is working to educate the public and raise awareness for adolescent dating violence.  On March 1 and 2, the group – composed of Enochs High School and Riverbank High School students – visited the state Capitol in Sacramento to participate in a policy advocacy day and remind legislators about the importance of domestic violence legislation.” Joy op-ed in Modesto Bee

 Julius Edson: UC grad students drive innovation, merit state aid – The graduate student at UC Irvine writes, “If you agree that inspiring undergrads to think big about their future is a worthwhile cause, and if you value out-of-the-box problem solving, then I hope you will join me in telling state legislators that graduate research is an investment well worth making.” Edson op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Accounting firm steps up for Fresno State Student Cupboard — Local accounting firm Morse Wittwer Sampson, LLP is matching every monetary gift given to Fresno State’s Student Cupboard this month.  Led by Fresno State alumni Chris Morse and Ken Wittwer, the firm has agreed to award up to $50,000 during the March Match-Up drive, which ends March 31. The Business Journal article

 California’s largest district faces financial uncertainty despite infusion of state funds — After a year of dire warnings, California’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, is finally taking steps to address budget deficits projected to exceed a half billion dollars by the 2019-20 school year. EdSource article


Troubled waters: California salmon season facing big restrictions – California’s commercial fish industry, already struggling with the devastating loss of the crab season, is likely to see its run of bad luck continue as new and far-reaching restrictions take aim at the state’s salmon opener in May. San Francisco Chronicle article 

Obama scraps Atlantic offshore drilling plans in major reversal — The Obama administration said Tuesday it will not allow offshore drilling in the southeast Atlantic Ocean  a significant reversal from its original plan and a major victory to coastal communities and environmental activists who fought the proposal. McClatchy Newspapers articleNew York Times article 

Steve Lopez: Cursing coastal commissioner offers an accusatory apology — The Venetians were as perplexed as anyone in the room last week when a member of the California Coastal Commission suddenly began speaking in Spanish at a public hearing in Santa Monica. Lopez column in LA Times

Health/Human Services 

Stanislaus County supervisors approve 3-year initiative to reduce suicide rate – Stanislaus County supervisors approved a plan Tuesday for dealing with an increase in suicides. The county hopes to get different sectors of the community involved with the three-year suicide prevention and intervention project. The plan requires approval from a state oversight commission under the Mental Health Services Act. Modesto Bee article

Doctors Medical Center establishes brain and spine center in Modesto – Doctors Medical Center of Modesto makes the bold claim that its Darroch Brain & Spine Institute is the leading neuroscience center in the region. Modesto Bee article

Carmen George: Dog-training program in memory of medic helps grieving parents help veterans — Salvador and Dianna Pleitez recently founded Doc’s Dogs For Vets, which will train shelter dogs to become service dogs for wounded veterans at no cost to recipients. Veterans’ wounds can be physical or mental/emotional, such as veterans coping with post-traumatic stress disorder. The nonprofit will adopt its first four dogs in May. George in Fresno Bee 

San Joaquin Memorial Hospital maintains burn center – San Joaquin Community Hospital will retain a burn center despite an announcement Monday that Grossman Burn Center would move away from the hospital and establish a larger facility elsewhere. Bakersfield Californian article

Going for the gold: $12.5 million in stem cell grants – An Olympic gold medalist, one of “America’s Top Doctors” and the head of the Scripps Institute’s stem cell program are lobbying the California stem cell agency this week to fund requests for $12.5 million in research grants. Capitol Weekly article 

Opioids are bad medicine for chronic pain, say new federal guidelines – Federal health officials speaking in unusually blunt terms Tuesday called on the American medical community to turn away from treating common ailments with highly addictive painkillers, saying the nation’s prescription drug epidemic was a “doctor-driven” crisis. LA Times article 

Marjaree Mason Center raises $160,000 at event — The Marjaree Mason Center (MMC) announced Tuesday that it raised nearly $160,000 at its annual signature fundraiser Marjaree’s Mardi Gras Birthday Soiree earlier this month. To date, the center has become one of the largest domestic violence agencies in California and continues to provide community service for those who are impacted by domestic violence in Fresno County and surrounding communities. The Business Journal article

Land Use/Housing

 Fresno Bee: Transportation board should approve new Fresno trail – The Measure C Citizens Oversight Committee, however, voted to support the Midtown Trail plan in December. We believe the citizens committee got it right. This project is worthy of support from FCTA board members. Fresno Bee editorial

Coalition targeting massive LA developments puts off ballot measure until 2017 — Backers of a ballot measure to crack down on L.A. real estate “mega-developments” announced a sharp change in tactics Tuesday, saying they have rewritten their proposal and abandoned their drive to reach the Nov. 8 ballot. LA Times article


High-speed rail officials realign proposed Burbank to Palmdale route options – The California High Speed Rail Authority redrew its proposed routes for the Burbank to Palmdale section of the planned California bullet train, veering away from the communities of San Fernando and Sylmar, officials announced Tuesday. KPCC report

Los Angeles can claim the worst traffic in America.  Again. — Yet again, Southern California has reclaimed the dubious distinction of having the worst traffic in the United States. Drivers in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana region spent 81 hours idling in traffic last year, the most of any U.S. metropolitan area, according to a new study from the data company Inrix. LA Times article

Regional Transit board eyes November tax measure — The Sacramento Regional Transit board has agreed to hike fares 10 percent this summer to address budget shortfalls. The troubled bus and light-rail agency is nowhere near out of its several-year financial tailspin yet, several members said. Sacramento Bee articl

Other areas

Lois Henry: There is spay/neuter money to use, so use it – There’s no reason not to get your pet fixed with the money and resources out there now. Yet, officials are seeing a slowdown in people taking advantage of some local programs. Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Simonson dispute lingers in Lemoore – The controversy surrounding former Lemoore Parks and Recreation Director Joe Simonson was supposed to have ended when the city paid him $100,000 in a settlement agreement earlier this month. Now a dispute is brewing over personal property Simonson was storing on city land. Hanford Sentinel article

Dean Eller: Next Great Generation is leading the way for all of us – The president and CEO of the Central California Blood Center writes, “I had the privilege recently of witnessing 16- and 17-year-old students at three local high schools converge on their cafeterias in such large numbers that would have reminded us “older” generations of a rush to enlist to serve in the military because we believed in a cause and the safety of our nation. I smiled with pride at this new generation of patriots who lined up and rolled up their sleeves to wait sometimes an hour or more for each of them to save up to three lives with their blood donations.” Eller op-ed in Fresno Bee

Fresno architect Bill Patnaude remembered for iconic buildings — Most valley residents didn’t know the name Bill Patnaude. But it’s likely that many if not most, have experienced his work. From the shimmering stainless steel of Fresno’s City Hall to the massive concrete forms of the Fresno State Madden Library and the university’s student union, his works stand out as iconic buildings on the valley landscape. KVPR report

Cal assistant coach shut out reporter after she refused sex, report says — A months-long probe at Cal that led to the firing of an assistant basketball coach found that the coach ceased communications with a reporter covering the team after she refused his sexual advances, according to an investigative report obtained by The Chronicle on Tuesday. San Francisco Chronicle article

LA County turns to a previous coroner to run department on interim basis — Los Angeles County supervisors announced Tuesday that a former county coroner will return to head up the Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner on an interim basis, following the abrupt departure of the county’s top medical examiner, Mark Fajardo. LA Times article