Dialogues with Vangordon

Most of my posts were directed at the city of Santa Monica. I focused on them because they were the ones killing the squirrels and I hoped to stop them. It didn’t work. Now I will turn my attention to the County.

As I stated before, Santa Monica is not the real villain here, the County is. The City is timid and lazy, which led to ignorance. Ignorance, in this case, led to more timidity.

They are timid because they made no real attempt to question or oppose the county regarding the reasonableness of their order to kill. Staff did not “seriously” question the County on legal or scientific grounds, and certainly not on moral grounds. Elaine Polachek did, half-heartedly, question Vangordon on the legality and the magic number of 2-3 squirrels per acre, but said nothing when Vangordon made her generalistic replies.

Members of Council, namely Ken Genser and Kevin McKeown did raise all these issues and staff dropped the ball. Then, after the killing was going on and I pointed out that Vangordon said there was no penalty for ignoring her order to kill, Mousey Marsha Moutrie invented an undefined “Liability” theory to continue the killing, which sets the unquestioning precedent for endless future killings.

They are timid because the City Manager, Lamont Ewell is timid; he decided to kill them immediately in February to get their numbers down fast, as per the County order, rather than use the trap-and-kill method originally planned for February. Then he decided to kill them this time again—quickly--because he heard there were two squirrels with plague found somewhere in San Diego County.

They were timid because they killed in secret—or at least tried to. I have found two others emails that further demonstrate the extent the City went to hide the killing. Indeed, in February, according to the print media and the emails I received as part of my public records request, they were killing them even when Councilmember McKeown was trying to get a stay of execution from Acting Director Jonathan Fielding, not knowing the killing was already going on.

This time, in August, they decided not to tell their own Parks Commissioners or anyone else from fear of PETA and I assume, ADL and ALF.

They were lazy and ignorant because staff presented almost exactly the same report each time the County ordered the killings. The only change was in the one dated January 3, 2006, where they mention the Animal Advocates.

City staff never did much scientific research regarding the ground squirrels despite the fact that two academics were throwing tons of scientific evidence and legal theory demonstrating the City could oppose the County on legal grounds and scientific grounds.

The City may have been timid, lazy and ignorant, but the County is ignorant, lazy and a bully in the worst way.

Every effort to save the squirrels, from the timid questions from Elaine Polachek, to the strong effort by Kevin McKeown, and the scientific and legal questioning of both the City and Vangordon by two academics, were met by a stone wall erected by Gail Vangordon and Jonathan Fielding. Of the two Vangordon is easily the worse.

She rejected all legal arguments and scientific evidence with casual contempt, ridiculing the academics and persisting in her bullying of the City with the sole argument that she and her staff has a total of 80 years experience in killing ground squirrels and they know best to determine what squirrels are to be killed and when.

Vangordon email, January 10, 2006:

“Section 116130 states in part, "the department, the Board of Supervisors of each county, local health officers, or inspectors appointed by any of them may inspect all places for the purpose of ascertaining whether they are infested with rodents and whether the requirements of this article are being complied with."

Vangordon states, "This wording is, and has always been, interpreted by our department to mean that the existence of "an infestation" (of rodents, including ground squirrels) is a determination we, as inspectors, make based on parameters we have established as a result of 80 years of enforcement and abatement activities."

Well, here she does not even bother to use the term 2-3 per acre, it “is a determination we make…based on 80 years of enforcement and abatement activities.” No room for science here for Vangordon.

Concerning Fielding:

(My note: Palisades Park is 1.5 miles long--about 8,000 ft--and consists of a total of 26 acres of land.)

In a letter to Santa Monica City Manager dated March 23, 2006, Fielding says, "If the populations at the park do not reflect an acceptable level of 2-3 ground squirrels visible at any one time per acre, we will reevaluate the options available to city." Notice he is talking about the whole park, not sub-areas of the park.

Since the park has 26 acres, 2 to 3 squirrels per acre would be 52 to 78 squirrels.

In that same letter he states, "Unfortunately, the suppression efforts employed over several days commencing on February 6, 2006 were less than adequate in reducing the visible ground squirrel population to an acceptable level. An inspection conducted on February 13, 2006 provided evidence of 69 active burrows and a visible ground squirrel count of 68. These numbers significantly exceed the initial counts performed on March 1, 2005 which indicated 47 active boroughs and 38 visible ground squirrels in the original letter of suppression."

Well, it appears that Fielding cannot add. Again, he is talking about the whole park and not some defined sub-area. In 2005, there weere only 38 visible ground squirrels, yet the County ordered suppression. On February 13, after Ayers did his poison gassing, there were 68 squirrels spotted and he said that was not good enough. Or, it shows he didn't know what he was talking about, which is just the area of the bluffs.

In neither case did the inspections reveal a population density exceeding the acceptable limits set by their own criteria of 2-3 visible ground squirrels per acre. This is why I call Fielding an idiot and the city too profoundly timid to challenge his numbers.

(Of course, their June 1, 2006 inspection revealed 175 visible ground squirrels which did fit their definition of infestation, but does not explain the rationale of the 2005 order of suppression nor his statement that the gassing, a month before, was not good enough.)

OK, what is going on here?

The County, as represented by Vangordon and Frood, is ignoring what the County said, as represented by Fielding, and is imposing even more arbitrary and restrictive criteria that leave no recourse except to kill squirrels wherever and whenever they want. They are arbitrarily applying their own criteria of 2-3 squirrels per acre only to the acreage they choose, that on the West side of the Palisades Park fence.

Vangordon to Polachek on August 14, 2006:

"Depending Lefty’s success, Michael will schedule an inspection and conduct a count of visible squirrels. If the numbers fall within the standard that we use, that is, 2-3 visible at any one time per acre, then he will determine the park to be in compliance. Just remember, that standard applies to the individual "hotspots" and not to the overall acreage of the park."

So, not only is the number 2-3 arbitrary, but so is their measurement of space. Given their definition, whenever and wherever they see 4 squirrels, it is a “hot spot,” an “infestation.” All this is just opinion, arbitrary numbers with no science or risk assessment.

How can one argue with Vangordon’s logic? She makes up an arbitrary number of squirrels based on a state recommendation, not an ordinance, then deliberately distorts even that by arbitrarily determining the size of the area involved. That is, she can gerrymander any area geometry she wants in any way she wants, allowing her to order anything she wants, any time she wants, because she says so, and Fielding will support her even if he doesn’t know what is going on.

Another way to look at it, is if there are 175 squirrels visible along the 8,000 ft park, Santa Monica's infestation would then be defined as having one visible squirrel every 46 ft. Since the acreage on the West side of the fence is about 1/2 acre, she wants to kill them until there is only one squirrel visible in the entire bluff area of 8,000 ft. An obvious impossibility, but even more, completely arbitrary.

Over the next few weeks I will point out specific e-mail and letter content that will utterly prove without a doubt, that the County as represented by Gail Vangordon, Michael Frood and Jonathan Fielding is both ignorant and a bully.

One issue I want to bring up is a document, a County “Application - Restricted Materials Permit” signed by Joe McGrath as the applicant, dated February 7, 2006, that allows Lefty Ayers to use poison gas (fumigants) “Throughout the City of Santa Monica,” until December 31, 2006.

This document allows Ayers to use poison gas anywhere in the City, and also allows Ayers to use poison to augment his trapping efforts beginning in August of this year. Some wildlife experts contend that entirely too many ground squirrels are gone to be accounted for by trapping alone. Try finding a ground squirrel in the Park now.

Another interesting document, again a County Application – Restricted Materials Permit, signed by Ayers, requests that he be allowed to use Aluminum Phosphide gas in “Various Locations in Los Angeles County.” Does Ayers expect to get a lot more work in LA County (He lives in Kern County)? What would be his referral sources? Remember, his poison gassing did not do the job in February. I am sure he knew it would not work as all the burrows could not be plugged, but, heck, it was an easy $9,700.

Is there a relationship between the County and Ayers? I don’t know, but maybe a new request for documents is in order to find out. Of course, if Lefty wants to tell me, I'll print his response exactly as he tells me.

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