Pictured: Climate Strike Ventura: Hundreds of Ventura County residents rally at Ventura City Hall as part of global movement demanding action to combat climate change.
by Kimberly Rivers
Climate strike across the county
On Friday, Sept. 20, hundreds of Ventura County residents gathered and rallied as part of a global event demanding climate action. The action in downtown Ventura was organized and led by youth organizers from across the county. People of all ages gathered in Mission Park where concerned citizens and activists spoke about the need for urgent action, then the group marched up Main Street to Ventura City Hall, where the students conducted a “die-in” to draw attention to the dire impacts of climate change. Matt LaVere, mayor of the city of Ventura, emerged from City Hall and signed a letter supporting climate action.
Other climate strike actions took place in Ojai, Camarillo and Thousand Oaks.
Sheriff Deputy arrested for sexually assaulting inmate
On Sept. 22, Leonard Lopez, deputy with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office (VCSO) was arrested on charges of felony sexual battery following an investigation of allegations from a 48-year-old woman being held at the county’s Pre-Trial Detention Facility (PTDF).
On Sept. 7, the woman, a resident of Fillmore, told a jail employee that she had been sexually assaulted by a deputy when she was at the PTDF. Video surveillance evidence and other statements demonstrated on Sept. 6, Lopez had entered the woman’s cell, in a segregated area of the jail separate from other inmates, and “touched the victim’s intimate body parts over her clothing,” according to the statement from the VCSO. Lopez was placed on administrative leave during the investigation and is now out of $20,000 bail.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled in Ventura County Superior Court on Oct. 8, 2019.
Sacramento man convicted of human trafficking in Ventura County
Earlier this month James Arthur Powell of Sacramento pleaded guilty to human trafficking of a minor, pimping and pandering, and was sentenced to nine years in prison. He will be required to register as a sex offender.
Powell was arrested in March of 2018 after an investigation in Camarillo. Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies were working with the Citrus Heights Police Department regarding a reported run-away from the area outside Sacramento who was believed to be in Ventura County. In the course of that investigation three females aged 14, 17 and 22 were found in a hotel room in Camarillo. Investigators believed the women were being trafficked.
The investigation uncovered Powell’s activities including transporting the victims from Sacramento to Ventura and Los Angeles Counties where they were “expected to engage in commercial sex activities,” per the Ventura County District Attorney.
Manager at explosion site pleads guilty
On Friday, Sept. 13 Marlene Faltemier pleaded guilty on all charges related to the 2014 explosion at Santa Clara Waste Water in Santa Paula, which left several fire fighters permanently disabled. Company officials were convicted for illegally handling and hiding hazardous chemicals, leading to the explosion.
Faltemier is the final of 11 convicted defendants in this matter and was the Human Resources manager at the time of the explosion. She was involved in hiding chemicals from inspectors prior to the explosion, and failing to report the presence of certain chemicals that were on site as required by law. She pleaded guilty to two felonies and two misdemeanors including conspiracy to impede an environmental enforcement official and withholding information regarding a real and substantial danger.
Faltemier is scheduled to be sentenced in courtroom 22 in Ventura County Superior Court on Oct. 10 at 1:30 p.m.
Oxnard company fined for illegal waste disposal
The Ventura County District Attorney (VCDA) has settled with Arcturus Manufacturing for allegations of illegally disposing of hazardous waste at local sites not authorized to handle toxic waste. Arcturus disposed of waste at the Del Norte Recycling Center in Oxnard and Gold Coast Recycling in Ventura.
Arcturus is a metallurgy company, producing metal products for the military, aerospace and energy industries with metals such as titanium, nickel and chromium, which have specific regulations regarding how waste products can be disposed of. The District Attorney reports that Arcturus closed the Oxnard facility in 2017 and is now based out of Houston, TX.
The parties have settled upon an agreement, accepted by the court that includes an order to the company to comply with all laws “prohibiting unauthorized disposal of hazardous waste and to develop the appropriate procedures to prevent the release of hazardous waste.” Arcturus has been ordered to pay $500,000 in penalties, and other costs to various agencies, including $25,000 to the Ventura County Environmental Health Certified Unified Program Agency (CUPA), which is responsible for oversight in the county as part of the state program regulating hazardous waste.
Firefighters, Peace officers stand with all SEIU county workers asking for living wage
On Tuesday, Sept. 24, members and leaders of area chapters of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) representing county employees spoke to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors during public comment demanding a living wage and better benefit package including affordable health care.
“We are tired of the way we are treated…we’re done and are going to start fighting back,” said Kevin Aguago, President of the Ventura County Professional Fire Fighters Association. He said they are standing “shoulder to shoulder” with all county employee union members.
“We are fed up with the empty rhetoric,” said Rogelio Cruz, Chair of the Professional Peace Officers Association.
Brian Luskin, with SEIU 721 said a living wage would be a minimum of $40,000 a year, and many county employees are working for less than that.
Two bargaining sessions have taken place so far. SEIU members represent many employees across the county government including food service workers, librarians, mechanics who maintain vehicles, heavy equipment and helicopters, technology and telecom employees.
Fillmore teachers reject contract, back to mediation
The Fillmore Unified Teachers Association (FUTA) has voted to reject a settlement agreement arrived at during mediations aimed at working through failed negotiations with Fillmore Unified School District. The contract included a 2.5 percent pay increase. The teachers were seeking a five percent increase to counteract what they say has effectively been a pay cut due to increases in rising out-of-pocket health care costs.
They point to recent 12 percent pay increase for the school district’s Superintendent, Adrian Palazuelos.
FUTA states a strike would be a last resort action and parties will be returning to mediation.