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Bulletin Boards and Microphones at Rural Human Services in Crescent City, California

April 14, 2017 – In about February 2013, Mr. Mike Costigan was hired to serve as the new Director for Rural Human Services (RHS) in Crescent City, California (1).  RHS is a non-profit that operates a variety of social service programs. Up until recently, RHS operated an employment center called the Workforce Center.  there was also a computer lab.  Most of the time the computer lab was open to the public although who was allowed to use it changed frequently. RHS lost their contract to operate the Workforce Center for reasons that have not been made public to my knowledge (2).  RHS had been operating the Workforce center (possibly under other names) for at least 17 years, as long as I have been in Del Norte County.

Shortly after Director Costigan was hired I submitted a request for a bulletin board to assist the under employed with self employment (Appexdix: A1a )A1b.  Mr. Tim Hoone, the Workforce Center Director (subordinate to Mr. Costigan) responded telling me that the staff really liked the idea.  I started meeting with Tim regularly to plan and organize the bulletin board.  But after a few months Tim’s enthusiasm for the bulletin board ceased rather abruptly.  Then the lobby was relocated (from the West lobby to the East Lobby).  The West lobby was ideally configured for a bulletin board because there was a relatively unused wall (A2, August 4, 2016 picture)

that was long enough for a 24 foot long bulletin board and the receptionist could supervise the bulletin board without getting out of her chair.  The East Lobby includes a teller window and is much smaller. The East Lobby was configured so that the receptionist needed to get out of her chair to approach the teller window.  The receptionists are often elderly and the tendency is to yell across the room about the clients personnel problems.  The last thing Tim said to me before leaving RHS was “how about a small bulletin board.”  To keep the bulletin board idea alive I created a Quiz and submitted it on March 12, 2014 (A3a, A3b, Quiz RHS1a)A3a A3b.  The day I delivered the Quiz, I found out that Tim was no longer at RHS and Ms. Christy Hernandez was taking his place as the Workforce Center Director.

When I placed ads on the bulletin board at the Del Norte County library offering help with yard work, they kept getting removed (this was probably around 2012).  When I asked to speak with the library manager she refused to talk to me.  You would think that with a largely low income clientel at the library, the library management would be eager to help but that is not the case.  Here is a picture of a very well situated bulletin board in front of the Wil Rivers Market, the organic health food store located in Crescent City, but it is NOT available for people who need employment (A4)

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.  I’ve asked the management a couple of times.  Other locations that I think would be suitable for community bulletin boards are ACE Hardware and Home Depot.

While conversing with Ms. Robin Campbell (the primary computer lab attendant) in the computer lab at RHS on Wednesday, August 3, 2016, about 4:30 pm, I looked up on the East wall where the security camera is and I noticed a microphone.  I remarked, “That looks like a microphone.”  Robin stated that it was useful for checking her notes when she couldn’t remember what the clients were saying.  (There was no one else in he room).  I should have pulled out my camera but it didn’t occur to me until that night.  I took another look at the microphone from the middle of the room and returned to my chair at the West end of the room.  My first response was disgust because it seemed so typical of what goes on in Del Norte county.  I made some remark (probably about surveillance) and Robin responded that the security cameras were for our safety.  I find this claim to be absurd.

At this point I should include a little background.  I’ve been assaulted once since moving to Del Norte County and that was by a Del Norte County Sheriff’s Officer, Turner, while walking home from the grocery store and the Post Office while within eye sight of my property. I was detained for no reason.  When I asked the Officer why he was stopping me he had no answer.  When I remarked that he had no reason to stop me, he proceeded to throw me to the ground, push my face into the asphalt, and suffocate me.  I have a copy of the News record from December 21, 2002, Daily Triplicate that states (Arrested) “on charge of resisting arrest.”  When I appeared in court, Judge Follett refused to vie me a public defender or drop the charges and told me that I was being investigated.  Mr. Mike Riese, on the Board of Directors at RHS, was the District Attorney at the time.  While in custody I asked the jailer how many people a night they were arresting.  It was obvious to me since moving in that the police were terrorizing the neighborhood.  The jailer told me that they were arresting about three to four people a night (based upon my notes I think h e was referring to adults).  I obtained some census data and did the arithmetic.  Assuming a mean average arrest rate of 3.5 adults per night, deducting all the minors and priosners, I came p with an arrest rate of about 8% (1 in 12 adults) of the population in Del Norte County every year (A5)A5. About this time a friend told me that a copy in a bar had remarked to him that they were “celaning up the streets for the motels.”

The next morning, Thursday, August 4, 2016, I returned to the computer lab with my camera.  The microphone was gone.  I took seven pictures.  No one else was in the room.  First I took a picture of the security camera on the East wall where I had seen the microphone (A6)

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.  I stood on a chair to get a better picture.  When I turned around to get off the chair I notices that there was another camera on the West wall, right next to where I like to sit (I had forgotten about that camera).  I took a picture of the West wall security camera (A7)

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.  I took some more pictures of the room and the signs that say nothing about microphones (A8 East wall, A9 Robin’s desk looking East, A10 South wall cabinet and sign)

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.  I took a picture of the Linux computers along the South wall that were disconnected (A11)

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.  I then went out in the lobby and asked Ms. Amanda Sharp if she knew anything about microphones in the computer lab.  Amanda told me that she didn’t.  Amanda was a new hire (about 2 months at RHS) whom I have worked with a couple of times in the past at Alber Sea Foods.  She hired me once.  Before leaving I took a pictures of the wall in the West lobby where the Community Bulletin Board was going to go (A2).

On Friday, August 5, about 7 pm, I ran into Mr. Randy Bancroft at First Friday started by the Downtown Divas to promote Downtown Crescent City.  Randy just got laid off from RHS after working there for a couple of years.  Randy also worked for HRS about a decade ago at which time he was my supervisor for an 8 month jobs program.

I asked Randy if he knew anything about the microphone in the computer lab.  He told me that he didn’t.  I told Randy that I was going to go online and see if I could find a picture of the microphone that I had seen.

The microphone that I saw on August 3, 2016, was a black or grey foam rubber ball that had a black enamel perforated (square holes, about 3/8 inch across) plate over the front of it with a round hole in the center.  The initial view that I had from the South Side was not obstructed.  The microphone was on a black base.  I think the base was the camera itself but it could have been a separate unit (my August 5, 2016, notes suggest that the microphone was attached in front of the camera.)  The grate over the microphone reminded me of the microphones in the Del Norte County High school gym.  (I used to work for the school district).  A metal cage is used to protect the microphones from basket balls.

On Monday, August 8, 2016, I went to the library to use the internet and see if I could find a picture of the microphone.  I searched for security cameras, microphones, and gym equipment.  I did not find the microphones that I had seen but I did find pictures of security cameras that resembled the cameras in the computer lab, one on Amazon.com, and the other on Newegg.  Both cameras have Two Way Audio!  The cameras ARE microphones!

On Wednesday, August 10, 2016, I stopped by RHS to talk to Ms. Christy Hernandez, the Workforce Center Director, about the cameras and microphones.  Christy was not in.  I did not go in the computer lab.  (I did not want to get in an argument with Robin and Robin does not work on Thursdays).

Christy has been working for RHS for about a decade.  About a decade ago RHS hired a director from out of town, Mr. Larry Lakes, and a log of nice people were hired at that times (even me, for a jobs program).

On Thursday, august 11, 2016, about 4 pm. I went to the computer lab at RHS.  The cameras in the computer lab matched the pictures of the Coolcam Security Cameras advertised on Amazon.com perfectly (A12)A12.  After completing some work on the internet that I needed to do I went to talk to Christy.  Christy told me that she did not know about the microphones or the audio ability of the security cameras. I aksed Christy if she would go into the computer lab with me and take the security cameras down now! Christy said that she was not authorized to work with the security cameras and that Mr. Scott Feller, the Director of RHS, was in charge of the security cameras. Christy went into the computer lab wit me.  I held up the pictures of the Coolcam from Amazon.com so that Christy could compare the picture with the camera on the East wall.  A moment later, Mr. Chris Kaboos walked in and I asked Chris if he knew anything about microphones in the computer lab.  Chris didn’t seem to know anything about it.  I showed him the picture oft the Coolcam and the specs (audio) and then held the picture up for comparison with the camera on the East wall.

Chris had been working at RHS for about a year or so.  Chris and Randy, as a team, have been fixing up and maintaining the Linux computers.

I also drew a rough unfinished picture for Christy of what the microphone and cover plate looked like (A13)A13.  I didn’t actually recall seeing sides but I was trying to imagine how it was attached.  I did not take the time to draw in the square homes.

Before leaving, I pulled out my camera and took some more pictures (August 11, 2016, East wall camera A14, A15, A16

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; West wall camera A17, A18, and signs A19)

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.  I thought that my August 4, 2016, pictures did not clearly show all the text on the signs.  (As it turned out the pictures were fine and the problem viewing them had something to do with the computer I was using).

When I examined the August 11, 2016, photos closely (with this same computer), I was concerned that the photos still were not clear enough to positively identify the Coolcams.  I had only just started using this camera about a month earlier.  I found the manual for the camera and discovered that there was a zoom feathure!

On the afternoon of Thursday, August 18, 2016, when robin was off work, I returned to RHS to get some better pictures of the Coolcams (West wall camera A 20, A21, East wall camera A22)

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. I spoke with Christy and asked if she had talked to Robin.  Christy told me that she had and that Robin did acknowledge that our conversations were being recorded.  Christy also told me that Robin remarked that the quality was not very good but did not respond regarding the microphone that I had seen.  I asked Christy if she had looked and listened tot he recordings our discussion on August 3, 2016, should be there.  Christy told me that she had not.

I know Christy Hernandez, Randy Bancroft, Amanda Sharp, and Frank (prior computer lab staff), well enough that I cannot imagine them recording our conversations without telling us and I told Christy this on August 11, 2016.  Given my perspective, the next question is how did Robin come to replace Frank in the computer lab.

On September 10, 2016, I spoke with Frank.  I asked him to speak with me about how Robin came to replace him in the computer lab.  Frank told me that the Workforce Center unexpectedly had a large cut in their budget from the contractor that was funding them and that most of the staff was laid off (this confirmed what Christy had told me on August 11, 2016).  Within a month or so Frank was rehired for another program at RHS.  It was Frank’s opinion that Robin does not have access to the security system that would allow her to operate it by herself (tis also confirmed Christy’s opinion of August 11, 2016).

I have not had access to the back of the building myself since the security system was installed but I find it highly unlikely that Robin would be using the security system for her note taking on the clients behalf without the other staff knowing about it.  Also, the Coolcams require internet meaning that anyone with access to the system or enough technical skill could be recording our conversations and activities.  All they need to know is when to look at the record.  In this case, Robin would be simply keeping track of our activities for whoever that might be.

As I recall, Robin started hanging around the computer lab about a year or so before Frank was laid off from the Workforce Center.  Frank claims that Robin was around RHS much longer than that but I don’t remember her.  This is before Mr. Mike Costigan was the director.  Sometimes she sat at the desk and assisted clients but most of the time she played video games on the computers.  I was amazed that staff would be allowed to play video games so much but after six months or so she told me that she was volunteering and was hoping to get a job.  Robin was friends with the current personnel director, Mr. Ron Gastineau, who was very hostile to me. More recently, Mr. Gastineau was the Mayor of Crescent City (3).  Robin was not particularly friendly to me either during this period The RHD Director at the time was Ms. teri-McCune-Oostra, a woman who was previously operating the Saturday Morning Farmers Market at the Fairgrounds.  Teri was the director after Larry Lakes and before Mike Costigan.

When  Frank left the Workforce center, Ron Gastineau took over managing the computers and the job listings that Frank had been preparing every week and sending us.  The job listings for Humboldt County were eliminated from the listings that also included Del Norte county and Brookings, Oregon.  I was also purged from receiving the listings at least three times and I complained about it at least three times.

Shortly after Frank was rehired to another position at RHS, Robin was hired to staff the computer lab and Robin has been the primary computer lab staff person ever since.  Other people do staff the room sometimes.

The security cameras were installed after my April 29, 2013, letter and before my Marh 12, 2014, Quiz.  Initially the security camera in the computer lab was light colored and located on the East wall facing the doorway.  Months later it was replaced with the black Coolcams on both East and West walls.  I believe that the microphone that I saw on August 3, 2016, was an accessory plugged into the East Coolcam.

I don’t know if the Coolcams were installed before or after Scott Feller replace Mike Costigan as the director.  I remember feeling that the installation of the West Coolcam directly above where I liked to sit was a hostile gesture, but I forgot about it after awhile. I was trying to sit as far away from Robin as possible because she seemed to be peering over my shoulder all the time.  I did not know that the Coolcams were microphones.

I see the harm in recording clients communications in a Workforce Center environment like this one being intimidation (people are afraid to talk to each other), retaliation (who has access to the security equipment, it’s usually  secret), and unlawful and retaliatory investigations (if you’re black or complaint about Police lying for example).  Workers should be allowed to talk to each other.  There are multiple employers in this community that  would not have wasted my time with if I had known how bad they would treat me.  RHS has offered job screening for the employers but no one is looking out for the workers.

You may think these security systems are secure but I had an interesting experience recently (February 15, 2017) when I went to get an X-ray at Sutter Coast Hospital in Del Norte County.  The staff was ready to do the X-ray but they couldn’t help me because their computer was telling them to send me to San Francisco. I would expect this sort of advise to come from a hacker not a computer malfunction or Sutter Coast Hospital staff.

As of March 16, 2017, when I checked, Robin Campbell (Career Resource Technician) still works at the new Workforce Center located at 875 5th street. I have been told that Scott Feller is still the Director at RHS.

On March 9, 2017, when I stopped by the new Workforce Center, I asked Amanda where all the cameras and microphones are (I didn’t see any).  Amanda said there weren’t any (I don’t think she was thinking about all the telephone and computers).  When I asked Amanda if she felt safe she didn’t seem to take me seriously.

The following links are lists of the Board of Directors for RHS on or about March 12, 2014, A23 when I submitted the Quiz RHS1a, and on August August 11, 2016 (A24a, A24b)A24a A24b when I spoke with Christy.  For those of you who are not familiar with Del Norte County politics the people on the Board of Directors lists include past and present Mayors, County Supervisors, Police Chiefs, and District Attorneys.

As I understand it, based upon my discussion with Christy on August 11, 2016, the funding for the Workforce Center is as follows:

The money comes from the Federal Government through the Department of Labor.  The money passes through the State of California Employment Developement Department. Then it goes through three layers of private contracts.  First it goes through a corporation called NORTECH.  Then it passes through a corporation called Siskiyou Training and Employment.Then it went through RHS who operated the Workforce Center until recently.  Now Siskiyou Training and Employment (Ms. Joanie Zarzynski) is operating the Workforce Center directly a the new location.

Before I finish this article I’m going to include two other experiences that I believe are relevant to this one.  One of them is having my picture taken at the RHS food Bank and the other is about a provocateur we had at the Del Norte County Library.

I had a page of notes about the Food Bank event but I can’t find it so all I have now is one note with a date on it.  On February 11, 2014, the last time I went to the Food Bank, I went to the Lighthouse Community Center to pick up a bag of food.  When I arrived there, they had a long line.  There were some chairs for the people at the front of the line to sit on.  This was unusual.  In the past we simply signed in, sometimes showed ID, and were then given some groceries and sometimes offered second hand clothing.  I must have waiting at least 20 minutes and then a burly guy, butch hair cut, wire glasses, walked in and sat down. He looked at us for a few minutes.  Then he got up and walked up to about six feet from me and appeared to be taking my picture, or maybe the person next to me.  He then left.  About ten minutes later they started giving out the groceries.  Here is a picture of the loading door at the 286 M Street RHS building (A25, March 22, 2017)

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where food is also distributed.  There are two security cameras above the door on the right.

In about 2008, the Del Norte County Library had one or two card tables set up in the area between the circulation desk and the computers.  the card tables were used for puzzles and games like dominos.  The wars Afghanistan and Iraq were on going and we talked about it sometimes.  On this one occasion, an individual who I believe was not a local, started yelling really loud over and over again, “Let’s get political, let’s get political.”  He was obviously trying to disrupt the library.  The staff, possibly volunteers, weren’t paying attention or didn’t know what to do.  the next time I went to eh library, gene told me that here had been a complaint about noise and that the computer (internet) access was closed down. I believe that Gene was a volunteer at the time.  Internet access at the library was closed down for weeks.  Finally the computers were relocated along the West wall, spread out from each other with one computer positioned in front of each window.  The sun shined in from behind the screen in the afternoons making it painful to see the screen.  We were not allowed to make card board cut outs to cover the windows.   We were told that the library was going to get blinds or curtains, but they never did.  Tis went on for about a year and then the computers were returned back to their original location where they are now.  I’ve only seen the noisy individual once in Del Norte county since and that was shortly after internet access was closed down.  He was driving by my house in a nice car grinning at me wile I was working on my fence and that’s how I get the approximate date.

Normally, I would expect library staff to ask a disruptive individual to stay away for awhile.  Crescent City is  very small town and the people who use the library are mostly regulars.  Recognizing a disruptive person is easy. The staff could pay attention next time if they were not the firs time.  Both the Police station and the Sheriff’s office are within a few blocks if the staff needs help.  But, instead of asking a disruptive individual to stay away, internet access and a social gathering spot was closed down.  The whole thing looked orchestrated to me.  The result of this provocateur event was that I started using computers at RHS.  Now I’m using the library again (bristling with security cameras) because Robin still works at the Workforce Center and the Workforce Center shortened their afternoon hours.

Now we have three security cameras overlooking the circulation desk at the Del Norte County Library and two security cameras over looking the circulation desk at the College of the Redwoods Library. Del Norte Campus.  you would think that if security was what these cameras were for they would be located around the doorways for identifying people instead of watching the public while they talk to each other, use the computers, copying machines, and circulation desk.  I have spent a lot of time around libraries and computer labs in the last forty years of my adult life and I have never felt in danger.  I recently lost a belonging in a San Francisco Bay Area library.  When I called and asked the staff if they could find it, they did.  They explicitly did not want my last name to label it for me to pick it up.

  1. “RHS selects its director,” Jessica Cejnar, The Del Norte Triplicate, January 28, 2013
  2. “New management at employment center,” Jessica Cejnar, The Del Norte Triplicate, July 28, 2016
  3. “Gastineau won’t run again,” Heidi Graham, The Del Norte Triplicate, July 28, 2016

 

David Olkowski

Crescent City, Calif.

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