This is a very long and complicated discussion showing in great and documented detail how Vangordon used the threat of Plague to justify her orders to kill ground squirrels in Santa Monica in 2006, when in fact, when questioned, she admits it is only her own and her field inspectors' (Joe Ramirez) opinions that the squirrels should be killed. She admits that her orders to kill are hers alone, not based on science, but on the single fact that Health Code 116125 gives her the authority to order their killing. All the below emails were gathered from a Request for Public Records to Santa Monica. I don't expect any reporter to read it to the end except Dana Bartholomew.
This is what the media was told about the County order to kill the squirrels: They are a health risk for plague; if the City does not kill them, the County will either sue the City or come in and kill them themselves.
Santa Monica Daily Press, June 18, 2004:
CITY HALL A contentious dispute over whether Santa Monica 's ground squirrels should be poisoned to prevent outbreaks of the bubonic plague has pitted local leaders against Los Angeles health authorities.
Officials from the Los Angeles County Health Department twice recently demanded Santa Monica kill off its resident ground squirrel population, saying if City Hall doesn't do the work, they will.
Santa Monica Daily Press
By Carolyn Sackariason
City Hall’s latest plan for the resident squirrels here: Trap them, gas them and feed them to the birds. It’s not a pretty picture, but a necessary plan, according to city, county and pest control officials. Because the squirrels carry fleas which can lead to bubonic plague, they are considered a health threat, officials said. And because Palisades Park is overrun with the rodents, City Hall has been mandated by the Los Angeles County Health Department to kill them. If City Hall fails to comply, it could be sued.
Santa Monica Daily Press
By Kevin HerreraS
Squirrels and other rodents are known to carry fleas which could spread disease such as the bubonic plague, county health officials said. After receiving a summons Jan. 16 from the county Health Department regarding non-compliance with the health and safety code, City Hall was ordered to kill the squirrels or face legal action.
Santa Monica Lookout, July 29, 2006
By Jorge Casuso
"As you know, the City was ordered to suppress the ground squirrel population" by the County, the mayor wrote. "The coastal belt of California is one of the high-risk areas for plague. Keeping the ground squirrel population down is a precaution against humans and pets being infected."
One can only conclude that both the County and City appear to share a common public face: the squirrels in Palisades Park are a plague and health issue, nothing more, nothing less.
Even in correspondence between the City and County, we find the same reasoning and logic.
From a report dated February 9, 2006 to the Mayor and City Council from the City Manager, Ewell states:
The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services environmental health inspectors have been monitoring the presence of ground squirrels in Palisades Park for a number of years and have on several occasions, most recently in the spring 2005, directed the city to reduce the ground squirrel population for reasons related to public health. Fleas on ground squirrels are carriers of disease and ground squirrels and coastal areas tend to have more fleas as a result of human conditions. Proper management of both ground squirrels and fleas is vital to reducing the potential for human disease.
Second Notice to the City to kill the squirrels from the County (Vangordon), dated July 25, 2006:
"More importantly, ground squirrels are implicated in the transmission of plague to humans. For 80 years, human plague cases have been associated with diseased outbreaks among ground squirrels throughout California . (My note: Last was 1925 in Los Angeles County) Proper management of both ground squirrels and their fleas is vital to reduce potential for human disease."
E-mail from Joe McGrath (Parks manager for Santa Monica ), dated January 4, 2006:
"Management of California ground squirrels and their fleas is mandated by the County of Los Angeles Department of Health Services in order to reduce the potential for transmission of human disease, especially plague."
From Vangordon to Elaine Polachek, Parks Director in Santa Monica, August 2, 2006:
"To clarify, plague is known to circulate in ground squirrel populations within Los Angeles County , and preventing conditions that enhance the risk of an epizotic is a primary goal of our program. As such, this is the standard (2-3 visible squirrels/acre) we have used for over 25 years to determine when notices abatement should be issued. We avoid selective enforcement by applying a standard countywide. [And, this standard is based on the State’s Plague Compendium.]
In a January 10, 2006 email to Dr. Wolch, Urban Wildlands Group, an academic, Vangordon states:
“Our history, and the procedures we employ in addressing rodent infestation Z. include roof rats, Norway where rats, house mice and ground squirrels, can be traced back to the plague outbreak and Norway rat episodic in Los Angeles in 1924-1925. Our ground squirrel inspection and monitoring program was established in 1978 in response to a case of human plague in the city of Diamond Bar."
Therefore, this is all about plague isn’t it? The County is ordering to city to kill the squirrels because of a plague threat, right?
I have an email from Animal Advocates that sample squirrels would be trapped on April 19-20, 2006 and flea samples taken and sent to a State lab to check on the presence of plague bacillus, Y. Pestis. Animal Advocates was to notify Joe McGrath ONLY if a sample were positive. There was no positive finding email sent to McGrath. Therefore, there does not appear to be the remotest threat of plague. Also, there has never been a case of squirrel or human plague throughout Santa Monica ’s history.
So, if it is about plague, what does Vector Management’s own literature recommend to control the threat?
The County’s own Vector Management Program (Vangordon as Supervisor) has published a brochure, entitled “Facts about plague in Los Angeles County ,” which states:
"Health authorities will institute preventive measures when animal plague is found in areas with human exposure. Warnings will be posted. After careful evaluation, the area may be quarantined and insecticides may be used to reduce the risk of flea bites to humans. Insecticide dust is applied into rodent burrows and/or into tube-like containers called “bait stations.” Rodents enter the bait stations and get flea powder in their fur. They also carry the insecticide in their fur back to the nest, killing fleas inside the burrows. This method of flea control is very effective, uses a minimum of insecticide, and does not harm the rodents."
) (THIS BROCHURE HAS BEEN TAKEN DONE BY COUNTY)
When her own publication was brought to Vangordon’s attention by Elaine Polachek in an e-mail dated February 13, 2006, Vangordon states:
“The title should speak for itself: "Facts about plague in Los Angeles County ." The sole topic of the bulletin is plague, not ground squirrel suppression techniques nor does it make any reference to our policies on code enforcement. It is modeled after the States’ Plague brochure, but is specific to plague as a disease that is endemic to Los Angeles in particular. It was never meant to be a technical bulletin on how or why to control ground squirrels.”
“It is not meant to be a guide to managers of natural areas, Parks or other open spaces. As such it is a mistake to think of it as a statement of our policies that relate to violations concerning ground squirrels.” [Ed: Violations concerning ground squirrels?]
“Just to clarify, the presence of ground squirrels in Palisades Park is a violation as stated in both the Los Angeles County and California state codes: 11.30.010 and 116125, which states ‘every person possessing anyplace that he is infested with rodents, as soon as their presence comes to his or her knowledge, shall at once proceed and continue with good-faith to endeavor to exterminate and destroy the rodents, by poisoning, trapping, and other appropriate means.’"
WOW!! She made a sudden flip-flop. The department's own literature about how to control for plague describes nonlethal insecticide applications to destroy the fleas, not the squirrels, is not a statement of their policy on controlling ground squirrel populations!!! Instead, their order to kill relates to LA County health code section 116125 which requires the abatement of a rodent "infestation."
What a shock, plague has gone away as the cause of the need to suppress squirrels, and has given way to a regulation, using an undefined term "infestation" as the real cause to order the suppression of the California ground squirrel population in Palisades Park in Santa Monica !!
In other words, all of the previous talk about the risk for plague, is a red herring, a distraction that makes the killing of endless numbers of ground squirrels a public health threat, and more palatable to a deliberately frightened public, when in fact, it is just a violation of County code, cloaked in the magic term "infestation" which is not defined either on a County or State level. It is a purely arbitrary determination made by their field inspectors in County Vector Management!!
From an e-mail from the academic, dated February 3, 2006, to Kevin Mckeown, the academic (Dr. Wolch from Urban Wildlands Group) states,
"Vangordon states that the source of density requirement of one-to squirrels/acre cited by the County was derived from the States Plague Compendium. [My note: Here Vangordon is citing a State Plague Control compendium as justification of her squirrel density numbers—again, we are back to Plague to set the density requirements.] Based on an e-mail from Dr. Curtis Fritz, of the states Department of Health Services, this recommendation is 2-3 rodents/acre in locations where plague is present. Plague is not known to be present in Palisades Park and has not been known to be present at sea level in Urban Los Angeles since the 1920s. It therefore appears to be an inappropriate application of this state recommendation, which is only recommendation, and not found in any regulation, to require the city of Santa Monica to achieve 1-2 squirrels/acre. The only possible enforceable regulation is Section 116125 which hinge on the definition of ‘infested’."
“In light of the clarification below from the state of California on the absence of any standard for ground squirrel densities in non-plague areas, it would seem to be completely legal and appropriate for the city of Santa Monica to pursue its nonlethal squirrel management program without need to be a standard set by the County health inspectors it is not found in any regulations."
From Van Gordon dated January 10, 2006 to the academic:
To maintain conformity and applied to code uniformly we have relied upon those values stated in the California Compendium of Plague Control. [Plague again!].
The academic (Dr. Wolch, Urban Wildlands Group) encloses a response from the author of that Compendium, Dr. Curtis Fritz, DMV, Ph.D.:
Dr. Curtis Fritz states:
“As part of our statewide surveillance and control of plague program, we have recommended that grounds rural populations in non-campground public areas not exceed 2-3 rodents/acre. These guidelines are included there our Plague Compendium. It is important to bear in mind that these are recommendations only. There are no enforceable regulations regarding rodent population in public areas at the state level, although local jurisdictions and municipalities may develop their own. In areas where plague is not enzotic in rodent populations, these recommendations would not apply.”
To the academic (Dr. Wolch) regarding the plague content Plague Compendium cited, Vangordon replies:
"To further clarify, the health and safety code  does not mention plague, the potential for its existence, or any risk associated with the in the wording of those sections we applied. The justification for suppression of rodents, including ground squirrels, does not hinge solely on the potential for plague. The section is designed to address all and/or any of the damages that rodents can inflict." She goes on to state that the suppression is required, "when it determines that it is necessary to prevent great and irreparable damage to crops or other property."
Huh! Now it appears that the reason to order the suppression of the ground squirrels in Palisades Park , is not plague, but that they might cause great and irreparable damage to crops or other property.
Well, what would be the crops in Palisades Park ? What about the property? The City never complained to the County about the squirrels causing damage to the Park although Holbrook mentions it. So what skin is it off of Vangordon’s back? There is no plague, there are no complaints from the owner of the property, the City, about the squirrels causing damage—at least in the numerous emails I reviewed.
Well, well, well, notice how Vangordon shimmies and shifts the grounds of argument, as well as her logic, as well as failing to provide any facts whatsoever. Now it is all code and regulations. The 2-3 squirrels per acre, is based on a plague control recommendations for areas where there is plague, and is now being applied to Palisades Park, where no plague exists, or has existed-ever!
She shifts to property damage and “infestation,” which is nowhere defined.
Vangordon states in a January 10, 2006 e-mail:
"16130 states in part, "the department…. of each County, local health officers, or inspectors…. may inspect all places for the purposes of ascertaining when they whether they are infested with rodents.”
"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 over 80 years of enforcement and abatement activities."
And now the new central core of her argumentation, that this is a completely arbitrary determination that her department makes. In an e-mail dated January 6, 2006, to the academic:
"We also have the latitude to apply the Los Angeles county safety code 10.30.010 (Notice to abate). This section of the County code is intentionally broad, it makes no mention of any standard, or need to define and infestation.
"It states, in part, ‘no person shall occupy, maintain, or cause or permit another person to occupy or maintain any building, lot, premises, vehicle or other place, in such a condition of construction or maintenance as will permit the breeding or harborage therein or thereon of rodents, fleas, bedbugs, cockroaches, lice, mosquitoes or any other vermin."
She states further, “The lack of legally defined standard in the California code means that we, as health officers, have the authority to define standards, and this authority is provided in section 116130."
Which brings up what I quoted in her January 11, 2006, e-mail to the same academic:
“My staff are career professionals who are well qualified to make informed judgments. The state codes we enforce are not outdated; they are intentionally broad to permit application under various conditions, by properly trained, qualified and responsive individuals whose actions are continually monitored by supervision and upper management."
That is, all of her argumentation is based on a threat that does not exist, using criteria recommended by the state if there were a plague emergency, and when called upon to reconcile her actions with her own plague brochure, states that the order to abate rodents has nothing to do with plague, but is a judgment call of their field inspectors.
That is, “Do as I say, because I say it and demand it. You are nothing but an academic (or City employee) and do not have our expertise. You are a jerk and I can still tell anyone I want, any time I want to, to kill anything I want as long as it's a rodent, bed bug or other vermin, because this is my legally defined area and I intend to keep my job.”
Vangordon is a liar and unprincipled bully whose grasp of logic and science is non-existent, and who has demonstrated an intolerable malevolence such that she certainly should not remain in a position of authority in the County’s Vector Management Program. She should be fired and you should tell the County Supervisors exactly that.
Phone: (213) 974-4111
(213) 974-3333 / Fax (213) 625-7360
Phone: (213) 974-4444
Michael D. Antonovich
(213) 974-1010 fax
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