P E  Y  T  O  N     W  O  L  C  O  T  T
By Peyton Wolcott -
Oct. 12, 2006/1 am
Canto Del Sol (Puerto Vallarta,
Mexico) - Site of GCOE supe's
English-immersion training.
Sacramento Valley
publisher Tim
confirmed this
past week that the
California Attorney
General’s Office
investiga- ting the
Glenn County Office of
and GCOE
supe Joni Samples.   
Glenn County's Office
of Education is located
in Willows, California,
near Chico.
By Peyton Wolcott
Oct. 11, 2006/11 pm
About the Glenn County Office of
Education -

Glenn County Office of Education provides
administrative, community and educational
services in a variety of areas:

Business Services
Child & Family Services
Human Resources
Information Technology
Library / Media Center
Senior Nutrition
Student Services
California Att'y General
Bill Lockyer
"Is this
appropriate on
asks  Sacramento
Valley Mirror publisher
Tim Crews of the
heavily edited photo
above.   One clue might
be the caption
accompanying the
photo:  "You've been
tagged by the 'Yummy'
Good Luck Angel!"

Writes Crews,
"Certainly acceptable
on private computers
and perhaps some
very loose business
environments, but
pictures of naked
people are frowned on
when housed in public
computers."  Especially
those belonging to
public school districts
and offices of
Crews, secretary of the
board of directors of
California Aware, the
Center for Public
Forum Rights,
filed a
series of public
records requests
which led to uncovering
circumstances and
practices within the
Glenn County Office of

According to Crews,
Assistant Attorney
General for the
Criminal Law Division,
has disclosed that
Mike Farrell,
attorney in her division,
will handle the case,
assisted by
investigator Chuck
Graves "has con-
firmed that Depart-
ment of Justice
investigators are
looking at Samples’
travel, the use of
GCOE credit cards,
election issues,
destruction of records
and labor issues,"
said Crews, adding,
"this news comes at a
time when GCOE has
slammed the door on
public inquiry, while
planting favorable
stories in friendly
papers and shutting
out critics."
He also points out that
"many major compan-
ies scrutinize
the contents of
employees’ e-mails,
one, to prevent
material, and, two, to
get a measure of how
much times is wasted
'surfing' or chatting."  
Biography for superintendent Joni (pronounced

(530) 934-6575 Ext. 20
Affectionately known as “Dr. Joni,” our
Superintendent is a renowned parent involvement
expert. She is the author of Taking the Guesswork
Out of School Success: A Standards Approach
(2004). She leads parent involvement workshops
throughout the state and writes a column for three
local newspapers, where she shares her
expertise through stories, humor and wisdom
gained from her years in education and as a
parent of four children.  

She is Past President of the California County
Superintendents Educational Services
Association (CCSESA) and was recognized by
them as the California County Superintendent of
the Year in 2003-2004.

County Superintendent is an elected office. Dr.
Joni has been the Superintendent since 1995.
Her term expires in 2006.
Joni Samples (R),
Tim Crews
(AP photo)
Tracking the
Yummy Good
Luck Angel
through GCOE
Through public
records searches,
Crews has turned up
the following:  "On
Monday, March 27,
2006, at 4:29 p.m.,
[GCOE employee
Coleen] Parker

forwarded the file she
received before
work that day from
Kathryn Hood of
GCOE, who had sent it
to Mrs. Parker and a
number of colleagues:

 Elizabeth Kelly; Gloria
Carcione; Joy Amaro;
Kristin Roe; Mary Ann
Hagan; Nadine Viet;
Sierra Grossman;
Vicki Taylor."  

And, last but not least,
Parker sent it to her
future mother-in-law,
GCOE supe Joni
Would District
Att'y Holzapfel
really "take care"
of Joni?
"Was the fix in, or did
Joni Samples just think
it was in?" asked

"Several people heard
the voice mail of Aug.
14 in which the Glenn
County Superintendent
of Schools says that
her attorney is 'also
calling Bob Holzapfel
and he’ll take care of
whatever we need,'”  
said Crews, noting this
statement is in the
second paragraph of a
transatlantic telephone
call ordering the delay
of California Public
Records Act releases
The ties that bind
1.  The name of the
district attorney looking
into the Glenn County
Office of Education and
its supe Joni Samples
Robert Holzapfel.  
Robert Holzapfel's
Judy Holzapfel,
is a health services
specialist and Local
Consortium coordinator
for Medi-Cal
Administrative Activities
for California's Region
2 (Northeastern)
Siskiyou, Modoc, Trinity,
Shasta, Lassen,
Tehama, Plumas, Butte
and Glenn Counties--at
the Glenn County Office
of Education.
 Coleen Parker is
running for Joni
Sample's office.  
Coleen is employed by
GCOE as director of
adult education and
literacy programs at
Glenn County Office of
Education; she is also
an alternate
commissioner.  Coleen
is also the
daughter of
Joni Samples' fiance
Bob Parker.
$244,000 ON
By Peyton Wolcott -
Sept. 21, 2006 -
Updated Mon., March
12, 2007 - 1 am
A series of public
records searches

have led to the
Sacramento Valley
publisher and
Tim Crews'
unprecedented look
into the operations and
actions of a county
school district and its
superintendent, Joni
of the Glenn
County Office of

While administrators
tell us again and again
that it's "all about the
children," again and
again their actions
would appear to belie
their words.  

Here's an email
Samples typed last
summer on a
district-owned laptop
and sent to herself on a
district email service
while visiting
as part of an
training at the
Famoso Instituto de
Glenn County
locals have questioned
the value for Glenn
County's students of
Samples' attendance at
such an institute given
that the trip occurred
only six months before
her term of office
ended, plus given that
Samples had already
announced that she
would not run for office
 [Email above
right in pink boxes]
32nd District PTA
Please join us at this marvelous opportunity to
network and hear from dynamic parent
involvement expert and author, Dr. Joni Samples,
Glenn County Superintendent of Schools.  
"Parent Involvement: From Homework Help to
Leadership Roles."

7:15 Keynote Speaker: Dr. Joni Samples, Glenn
County Superintendent of Schools

Meeting location:
Contra Costa Office of Education
Joseph A. Ovick, Ed.D.
6/25/06:  I am
sitting in this
gorgeous location
in Puerto Vallarta
[Canto Del Sol].  I don’t
want to go to the pool.  I’
m not into pools.  I like
looking at the beach, but
I’m not into sitting on the
beach with all the sand. I
went to walk through the
stores and watch the
people. I like that.
Canto Del Sol, Puerto Vallarta
This is still
I can’t shut
my head off to play
when I’m still working
and taking this class is
still working. I can shut
it off when I get back for
a few days. Then when I
leave for a week I can
really shut it off
because it will truly be
vacation, but I can’t do
that here.
I’m still doing
deals and thinking
about the office
and my books
I need to call
**** and set up the
prining [sic]. I wonder
how long it will take him
to print books I think I’m
only going to do English
right now.

I won’t need more
 I will need
some Spanish, but I
should have enough
unless the schools are

"I’ve just sold
worth of books
and training."
Joni Samples
That could change, but I
don’t care about the
parties and the

I like what I do.

I am accepting what I do
as just fine for me.

Bob is a great match for
me. He likes to do what I
like, but will let me do the
other stuff too. I don’t
have to run off to work
everyday with him.

I can stay and write and
enjoy my writing and let
go of all the old stuff.
Canto Del Sol diners
People here just like to party. He likes to
work often enough that he gets some big stuff
done, but still take time to enjoy people, especially
family, and traveling. I like the traveling and people
as well as other things we do.
Poor Joe. I could easily have ended up with Joe
[Contra Costa County supe Joe Ovick, below]. He
likes me. I know he does, but he’s very married. I
would make a great compliment to him as well as
being a good wife for a senator.  Joe was my
mainstay for getting through all of this. I figured we’
d work things out eventually. ****’s cancer has kept
us close, but sort of like Lancelot-just out of reach
and rightfully so. She’s a wonderful lady and I
wouldn’t do anything to hurt her. He wouldn’t
either, but I think we both probably thought that
might work for us. I didn’t expect Bob to come
along and sweep me off my feet.

Certainly Joe is more good looking and
or so I think, but I know he doesn’t
have the resources Bob does and he’s certainly
more inhibited that [sic] Bob. Just a couple
conversations let me know that.

I don’t want inhibition right now.  Right now I want
free and easy. That’s not what I’ve know [sic], but I
like it. Bob doesn’t drink and Joe does. We still
have to go through some surgery for Bob, but Joe
has to deal with **** and her needs for a while
longer. God I know you’ll work this out just like it’s
supposed to be. It’s up to you.
Canto Del Sol pool
I can also depend on him to take care
of my financial needs.
 That’s a first. I sure
haven’t had that before. Usually I have to take care
of it all.

This is a real treat to sit at the window and watch
the beautiful scenery and write.

I don’t have my writing down yet, but I will. I could sit
for hours and do this. I’m not distracted by the view,
it’s soothing and pleasant and I can write and think
and play in my head. I’d rather play in my head than
play outside it. I wonder what Bob is doing today.
Maybe the grandkids came over. If ***** or ****
came over they’d want to know about taking me to
the airport. ****** will have all kinds of things to say.

this is not
It’s sprinkling a bit. That’s okay with me.
I like the rain and everything here is so
green, it has to rain some to get it that

How we take back our children's education:
one person, one question, one school at a time.
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Copyright 1999-2009 Peyton Wolcott
Then-GCOE supe Joni Samples' emails to
herself from Puerto Vallarta
She sold '$75,000 worth' of her personal books &
training on taxpayer-funded jaunt to Mexico
By Peyton Wolcott Copyright 2007 Mon., Mar. 12, 2007 - 1 am
When you use a
county-owned laptop and
send yourself what
appears to be a stream-
email using your office
email service, your email
becomes a public
record.  The following is
an excerpt from such an
Joni Samples sent
to herself  while visiting

Puerto Vallarta
as part
of an English-immersion
training at the
El Famoso
Instituto de Espanol:
Glenn County locals have questioned
the value for Glenn County's students
of Samples' attendance at such an
institute as the one described at right
in Puerto Vallarta given that the trip
occurred only six months before her
term of office ended, plus given that
Samples had already announced that
she would not run for office again.
Judge Byrd
GCBE actions v.
By Tim Crews
Sacramento Valley Mirror
March 3, 2007

Willows—A decidedly
grumpy Superior Court
Judge Don Byrd
yesterday dismissed
the counter actions
against this
newspaper.  In the
complex aftermath of
the Sacramento
lawsuit against the
Glenn County Office of
Education, the Glenn
County Board of
Education refused to
join in a settlement, a
victory for the
newspaper — and for
access to public

The board, a
beast awakened when
Arturo Barrera took
office as the new
Glenn County Schools
Superintendent, tried to
drag to unresolved
matters. They
mumbled about
“enforcing a temporary
restraining order”
when none was
issued. (One of the
several judges
involved, Judge Golden
said that GCOE
attorneys needed to
describe the behavior
they wanted prevented.
And that would all boil
down to prior restraint.)
The board seemed to
want the MIRROR
punished for revealing
embarrassing things
about GCOE,
destruction of records
and the like.

In the end Judge Byrd
told the new GCOE
attorneys that if GCOE
wanted an injunction,
they’d have to file it.
And that way lies a
great peril: Prior

The board seemed

MIRROR attorney Paul
Boylan observes, "I
have been working
with the California
Public Records Act for
years advising public
agencies on how to
respond to requests
for public records.
When I agreed to
represent the MIRROR,
I really believed that I
could negotiate an
agreement where the
MIRROR received the
information it asked for
and the GCOE privacy
and confidentiality
interests could be met.
That is the way 99.9
percent of public
records disputes are
resolved. But not this
one. After six months of
The real deal
about public
Generally &
By Peyton Wolcott -
Monday, March 12, 2007 -
2:17 am
Updated Thurs., Mar. 15,
2007 - 5 am
Tim Crews
To speak with
any credibility
about goings on in
your local schools,
you've got to have
hard facts to back up
what you say.

The quickest and
surest way to get hard
facts is to file public
records requests as
we generally are not
able to count on
information from
either our local
schools or our local
papers for reliable
information beyond
sports scores.  

One notable
Publisher Tim Crews
at the award- winning
Sacramento Valley
has worked
tirelessly and
fearlessly this
past year to expose
goings-on in the
Glenn County Office
of Education,

including GCOE credit
card expenditures.

Via a series of
contested public
records searches,
Crews found charges
by then-GCOE supe
Joni Samples and her
staffers amounting to
at least $244,000;
items included
Samples' travel such
as trips to Texas
which although
financed by GCOE
taxpayers appear to
have been linked to
promoting her book,
"Taking the
Guesswork Out of
School Success."    

There was also the
trip to Puerto Vallarta
with the stream-of-
email from Joni to
Joni using her GCOE
laptop and the GCOE
email service.  (See
pink boxes at far right.)

While Crews faces
the same economic
pressures other
small-town presses
do to publish only the
"good" news about
local public education,
he has stood strong
against those
pressures despite
arson during the
height of his
investigation in the
building next door.        
Fortunately, this time,
the good guys have
Here's The San Francisco Chronicle's
article on Tim Crews; it makes clear
the power of the individual --
especially a committed investigative
journalist -- to improve a hometown
Small-town journalist
makes big-time impact on
Central Valley community
Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, March 19, 2007 / (03-19) 04:00 PDT(Pge A-1)
Willows, Glenn County -- Tim Crews looks
like a jolly fellow, with his thick white beard,
suspenders and jiggling belly, but many
Glenn County officials probably see his
rosy visage in their nightmares.

The 63-year-old owner, editor, reporter and
editorial voice of the Sacramento Valley
Mirror has a habit of sticking his nose
where it isn't wanted. He has written
exposes that have infuriated politicians,
law enforcement officials, jailers,
educators and developers.

He has, in short, yanked the cloak of
secrecy off Glenn County bureaucracy.

"We're s -- disturbers. It's what a small
county needs," said the bespectacled
editor as he sat at his cluttered desk in his
office, fielding calls and listening to a
police scanner. "It is really important for a
place like this to have somebody hold up a

The kind of scrappy journalism Crews
does may become harder to find if current
media trends continue. With classified
advertising usurped by the Internet,
newspapers across the country are facing
mounting losses and, in many cases, cuts
in staff and resources.

First Amendment scholars fear that
investigative journalism may die as
newsprint fades away. Crews won't have
any of it. He is a country editor whose little
paper is influencing public opinion on a
shoestring budget.

A maverick, old-school muckraker, Crews
is notorious in this rural farming
community of 6,220 people and the
governmental center of Glenn County.

In 2000, he was jailed for five days after
refusing to name his sources for a story
about a former California Highway Patrol
officer charged with stealing a gun, a case
that received national attention. Depending
on who is talking, his financially strapped
newspaper is either a beacon of
journalistic integrity or an unsavory scandal
sheet run by a scoundrel.

"I would prefer a little bit of the good news
for a change rather than the dirty laundry all
the time," said Forrest Sprague, a local
developer and former county supervisor,
echoing a common lament. "We all know
that controversy sells newspapers. The
sad part is that local newspapers can fall
into that trap of yellow journalism."

Despite the criticism, the twice-weekly
Mirror is surprisingly influential for a paper
with a circulation of 2,944.

Almost everybody in the community reads
it, more than pick up the Willows Journal
and Orland Press Register, which have a
combined circulation of 2,122 and are
distributed twice a week by the Tri
Counties Newspapers chain.

The Mirror is, readers insist, the most
comprehensive source of information for
the citizens of Glenn County, a historic
agricultural county formed in 1891.

Some 30 percent of the 27,000 people in
Glenn County are Latino, and many people
live in virtual poverty. The median income
for a household in the county is $32,107,
according to the 2000 census.

Crews has written about farms and
businesses failing, more children
dropping out of school and the rising
illiteracy rate. He has documented the slow
deterioration of the downtowns in Willows
and other Glenn County communities and
lamented the movement of people to other
places, such as Chico, in neighboring
Butte County. He has castigated officials
for taking years to build a promised soccer
field for Latinos and pushed for the
construction of an Indian casino as a way
to revitalize the community.

"The function of newspapers is that by
reporting the truth we will make you better,"
he said. "When I came here, there were
twice as many hardware stores, there were
music stores, a department store. Half of it
is gone. I care a lot about this community,
and want to make it better."

For his efforts, he has been snubbed and
threatened, and seen advertising pulled
and his beloved dog die in 2004,
apparently with poisoned meat that he
believes was left by an angry sex offender
he named in the paper. An arson fire was
set recently in an office adjacent to his

There have been several attempts to
silence Crews, but he has moles virtually
everywhere, and the plots themselves
invariably end up in print. The most
infamous involved a series of hard-hitting
stories last year about Joni Samples, then
the superintendent of the County Office of

The stories detailed Samples' alleged use
of county resources for vacations, personal
speaking engagements and financial
deals with friends. Crews accused her of
campaigning at work for her chosen
successor, using the office computer for
private business and trying to cover it up.

Samples and her colleagues got so fed up
that they held a brainstorming session on
how to shut Crews up, according to
statements in the Mirror from people who
were there.

"How do we quiet the lion?" screamed the
front-page headline shortly after the
closed-door session. It was a direct quote
from an assistant superintendent as she
kibitzed with Samples and other officials.

"The public records act has been broken,
individual constitutional rights violated,
thousands of dollars of taxpayer money
spent on controlling a political scandal,"
Crews wrote. "And now they want to 'quiet
the lion,' or, put more plainly, silence this

The California Department of Justice is
looking into some of the allegations in the

"We've been investigating allegations of
wrongdoing involving the Glenn County
Office of Education for several months
now," said Nathan Barankin, spokesman
for the California attorney general. "I know
there has been a lot of reporting there on
the subject."

Samples has denied any wrongdoing and
defended her 40-year record as an
educator. She said she could not comment
about the allegations because of pending
court proceedings, but her supporters have
characterized the articles as a smear
campaign fueled by wild exaggerations.

"I loved education. I still do," said Samples,
whose chosen successor was defeated by
the man Crews supported after she
announced she would step down in

Born in Aberdeen, Wash., Crews grew up
in Olympia. He spent three years in the
Marine Corps and, after his discharge in
1963, enrolled in Central Washington State

He was a bit too rebellious to get a degree
and instead worked for a logging company
and a steel mill, and also did commercial
fishing. He got his first newspaper job in
the mid-1970s with the Santa Barbara
News & Review.

He worked for publications in Texas and
Colorado before moving back to
Washington in the early 1980s, where he
wrote for two newspapers. After a stint as a
documents expert at Boeing, he went to the
Middle East as a freelance writer.

Crews returned to California in 1988, and a
year later he was hired as general
manager and editor of the Tri Counties
Newspapers, covering Willows and
Orland. Soon after that, he heard that
certain officials had been issued
concealed-weapons permits, so he
published a list of several questionable
permits issued by the county.

That infuriated the sheriff and other law
enforcement officials, who, with political
supporters, met with the publisher and
demanded that Crews be fired. When the
publisher sided with the sheriff, "I said
screw these people," Crews said.

He got a divorce, his fourth, and with $35 in
his pocket started the Mirror out of a motel
in the hamlet of Artois. The first issue
came out on Christmas Eve 1991. The
paper recently moved to Willows.

He has won numerous journalism,
photography and press-freedom awards,
including the Bill Farr Freedom of
Information Award from the California First
Amendment Coalition and the California
Society of Newspaper Editors.

Still, critics claim Crews mixes his
opinions so liberally with the facts that it is
impossible to decipher the truth.

"Frankly, I can't rely on stories he's written
as being factual," said Denny Bungarz, a
former county supervisor, who gave
several examples of how he believes
Crews jumped to conclusions about
county actions before he knew all the facts.

Even some of Crews' supporters
acknowledge that his prose often reflects
his point of view.

"He's an excellent writer, almost a novelist,
if you get my drift," said Roy McFarland, a
retired judge. "He can take an incident and
make it pretty big."

But Jim Bettencourt, a landscape
contractor and former Glenn County
supervisorial candidate, said Crews'
aggressive reporting has kept the public
involved in government.

"Tim is the conscience of our community,"
said Bettencourt, who, like many locals,
regularly stops by Crews' dusty office. "He
addresses issues that others choose not
to. He has empowered the downtrodden
and instilled fear in the majority of the old
guard in this community."

Sacramento Valley Mirror online
To see what Tim Crews is writing about,
read the Sacramento Valley Mirror online at

E-mail Peter Fimrite at
Status of California
Attorney General's  
investigation of
former GCOE supe
Joni Samples
Wed., Oct. 10, 2007
By Peyton Wolcott

California AG Jerry
Brown's media guy,
Gareth Lacy, has not
yet responded to
queries with a status
update.  In all fairness
to Brown's former
deputy campaign
manager, Lacy may
still be busy dodging
questions regarding
Brown contributor
Norman Hsu.

On the other hand, we
note the following
from Samples' GCOE
official bio:
the nastiest litigation I have ever been part of, I still don't understand
why the GCOE fought so hard to keep these records secret. Why pay
four different law firms so much money to keep so little secret? It just
doesn't make any sense.

"This should have been an uncomplicated, straight forward court
proceeding. The court was going to decide a very simple question:

Did the GCOE reasons for keeping documents secret outweigh the
public's interest in that same information and the public's right to
know? If yes, then the GCOE would have won. If no, then the MIRROR
would have won. Simple. But the case got complicated when the
GCOE attorneys — the ones hired to handle all of the MIRROR's
requests — gave the MIRROR huge amounts of student and
personnel information that the MIRROR didn't ask for.

“How on earth did such an incredible mistake happen?  These were
the experts hired to stop exactly the sort of thing that they ended up
doing. It makes no sense. But then the case got even more
complicated when the GCOE tried to get that information back — as if
that was even possible — and wanted the court to order the MIRROR
not to report on the information the GCOE attorneys gave the MIRROR.

“They knew or should have known that the MIRROR would not
cooperate with any attempt to compromise its First Amendment
rights to get the news and report the news," Mr. Boylan points out.
Last year, then-Superintendent Joni Samples appointed a
Sacramento attorney as a public records chief, and an expensive one
at that. Mark Ellis released a disc to the MIRROR that continued
seven years with of special education e-mails.

The e-mails were supposed to have been swept clean of confidential
information. They weren’t. We later learned that the attorneys couldn’t f
figure out how to open them. So they were tossed in a box with
spending records.

And even later GCOE lawyers were supposed to have gone back and
produced “clean” versions for us.

They never did.

The MIRROR reported that instead of protecting confidential
information, the lawyer had negligently released it.

And then we did a story on the failure of special education
management to report suspected child abuse, a story with
fictionalized names and the special education children protected, Mr.
Ellis sought to have us punished. For his error.

We had earlier turned over the discs, in a stipulated agreement we
entered into most reluctantly. We did not agree to turn over our hard
Friday, Judge Byrd scolded both sides and complained about the
complex litigation but congratulated both sides for an agreement.
With Mr. Ellis appearing by telephone, Judge Byrd reviewed matters,
noted that Mr. Ellis had filed for a TRO and “I denied that request.”
He asked what GCBE wanted and Donald Anthony Velez Jr ., of Miller
Brown & Dannis suggested that the information be eliminated from
the MIRROR’s computers, perhaps by the appointment of a “tech
savvy” referee.

Judge Byrd waved that off, grumbled a bit more and said he was
returning the cart load of records and discs to GCOE.

The Mirror obtained the information legally. We retain it.

Mr. Boylan notes, "We tried to end this nonsense - this huge waste of
time and money. The MIRROR offered to settle many times. It didn't
do any good. But then Superintendent Barrera fired his attorneys and
negotiated an agreement that gave the MIRROR the records the
MIRROR asked for in exchange for dismissing the Brown Act and the
public records claims against the GCOE and the Board. We thought it
was over. The issue of those confidential records - the ones the
GCOE's attorney's gave to the MIRROR - was still out there. And no
one seemed to know what to do about it.

"Judge Byrd solved that problem. He is an excellent judge. He did for
the parties what the parties could not do for themselves — he ended
the case by dismissing the actions against the MIRROR. I am

                                                   # # #
She is Past President
of the California County
Educational Services
Association (CCSESA)
and was recognized by
them as the California
County Superintendent
of the Year in 2003-
Given the tendency of
such groups to circle
the wagons and protect
their own, wondering if
General Brown has
bowed to CCSESA
lobbyists and quietly
filed this investigation
under "Allow to Die a
Quiet Death Away from
Public Scrutiny."  

We'll keep you posted.
H o w   w e   t a k e   b a c k   o u r   c h i l d r e n ' s    e d u c a t i o n :  o n e   p e r s o n ,   o n e   q u e s t i o n ,   o n e   s c h o o l   a t   a   t i m e .        
Publisher Tim Crews, 'conscience of
the community,' honored by California
Newspaper Publishers Association
By Peyton Wolcott
Friday, October 31, 2008 - 6:04 a.m.
Valley Mirror Publisher Tim Crews raises the hand of Willie Olivarez,
in new duds, on his release from the Glenn County Jail where he was
kept in virtual solitary confinement for weeks.
They say character is what you do when no one's
looking.  If this is true, Sacramento Valley Mirror
publisher Tim Crews has plenty.
In addition to bringing
public scrutiny to the local
county office of education
for the first time -- never a
pleasant pursuit for anyone
involved -- he also chose to
take on an injustice being
done to one of his area's
most modest residents, an
elderly indigent mentally
retarded man, Willie
Ollivarez who had been
placed in solitary
confinement in the local jail.

Making a difference
As Tim will tell you, a
decade or two ago getting
to look at public records in
Glenn County, California
was a rare and unique
event, one likely to land
requesters in jail.  But then,
Tim's from the old school of
journalist who works every
day because he has a
passion for truth and is
willing to spend time in jail
to protect a confidential

Read all about it along with
a description of the award:
Mirror honored for
Journalism, Freedom
of Information
Valley Mirror reports
October 26, 2008

Sacramento Valley Mirror
Editor and Publisher Tim
Crews was among those
honored in Los Angeles
Saturday at the California
Newspaper Publishers'
Association 2008 Better
Newspapers Contest.

The MIRROR took first place
in its division for
Reporting and first place in
the Freedom of Information

The MIRROR was honored
for stories that resulted in
getting a developmentally
disabled elderly man
sprung from jail after more
than 40 days in solitary

Here’s a bit of one of the
stories explaining the plight
of Mr. Olivarez:
One needn't travel to Third
World prisons to find human
rights abuses. Consider the
case of Willie Olivarez.

Elderly and infirm, Willie
Olivarez has been in solitary
confinement since he was
jailed Jan. 26 on charges
involving pointing a BB gun
at a neighbor.

Willie Olivarez, 71, has the
mental capacity of a five-
year-old, has Alzheimer's-
like dementia and a severe
infection in both his legs.
“And all day long in his
isolation cell, where there is
no television, no toys, no
picture books, Willie
Olivarez rocks and chants.

And sleeps.

He is, in fact, being
punished for being
developmentally disabled.

The cell is perhaps six feet
by 10 feet. The concrete
blocks are painted a
seasick yellow. He sleeps
on the floor, his head
resting on a folded blanket.
He rejected a cot.

Willie Olivarez has been
deemed incompetent to be
tried for a crime that's
deemed most questionable
— he can’t have the ability to
form criminal intent — and
could have been released
long ago, says the district
attorney, if the Glenn County
Health Department had
gotten off the dime.

His court-appointed attorney
didn’t raise an eyebrow, let
alone his voice, when the
disabled man signed away
his rights in court. He can
sign his name but cannot

“When these awards come
in,” Mr. Crews said last
night, “it is vital that people
understand that this is a
group effort. There’s a lot of
folks working incredible
hours to put out a newspa-
per. This is especially
difficult in a chronically
crippled economy and in a
time when many people
really don’t know how the
system works. It is our job to
reflect, to tell the stories that
make a difference.
Freedom of Information
The FOI award for all
weeklies and twice-
weeklies of 11,000 and
under, was for lawsuits
against government
secrecy and coverage of
campaigns prying
information from Glenn
County and the Glenn
County Office of Education.

The MIRROR was
represented in these drives
in court by Paul Nicholas
Boylan of Davis.

Mr. Crews said yesterday,
“This honor is for our whole
team, and especially Mr.
Boylan. Without his help
we’d still be getting stiff-
armed by government
attorneys and, in the case of
GCOE, we’d perhaps have
done time for violation of a
non-existent court order.”

He noted that the access to
government information is
vital to an open society.

Thousands of entries for
dailies and weeklies were
winnowed to finalists.

The winners were judged
and announced by the a
select national panel

Chris Peck,
Memphis Commercial-

Maura Casey,
Editorial Writer,
The ew York Times

Dave Offer,
Retired Editor,
Augusta & Waterville, Maine

Barbara King,
The Plain Dealer,

Suki Dardarian,
News Managing Editor,
The Seattle Times

Jack Ronald,
Editor & Publisher,
The Commercial Review,
Portland, In.

Deanna Sands,
Retired Managing Editor,
Omaha World-Herald

David Hawpe,
Editorial Director,
Louisville Courier-Journal

Reid Maccluggage,
Retired Editor,
The Day, New London, Ct.
Samples' admission that
she transacted personal
business on
taxpayer-funded junket
I will be in places
like this to visit
and train and give
keynote speeches
if I want.
I can be in
places to write and
enjoy. I can go with Bob
[fiance Bob Parker] all
over the country and see
places and talk to
people and write and

Bob can go or not. That
will be up to him.

Sometimes he will go
and sometimes, like
this one, he won’t.

he doesn’t seem to
want to go out of the
country much.

I like going out of the
country to see places
like this, but I enjoy
sitting here and
watching and writing
right now.
predominately Spanish speaking.

I hop [sic] we can do this without a lot of problem.
[sic]  I need to set up my computer so it will work
well out of the area. It isn’t doing that yet and I want
to be sure it will.

I may also way [sic] to buy and new one
like this for me so I’ll have a travel
computer. If I do I will want it to connect
easily and I’ll want Larry to make sure it
does before I leave.

Then I’ll switch to ***** and his brother. I will want
them to maintain my setup and make it easy for me
to work. That will be great if I’m in Chico because
they’ll be close by. I think I want to work with them
more closely. I can’t help but wanting to work. I will
work no matter where I am, but I can work the way I
want to work and write the way I want to write. I won’
t have to worry if someone doesn’t like it. Bob will
like it. It will be fine with him. I just need to do what I
want to do.
NOTE:  To read more from then-Glenn County
Office of Education superintendent Joni Samples'
email to herself using a taxpayer-funded laptop
and sent via GCOE-funded email service, while on
a taxpayer-funded trip to Mexico at which in her
own words she sold $75,000 worth of personal
business, contact the Sacramento Valley Mirror.
NOTE:  "Conscience of the
community" is a quote
from The San Francisco
Chronicle," article
(above right).
Glenn County Office of
Education's check register
is online
I’ve talked to some of our group and I liked that. I
could play cards. I can speak Spanish. I talked to
the merchants. I liked getting to know new people. I
like people. I like watching the ocean and the
clouds and the wind in the palm trees. I don’t care
about surfing or snorkeling or mopeds. I could drive
in a car and stop and see the stores or the people,
but I don’t really care about playing that much. I
worked a bit. It’s what I do. Now I’m writing. It’s what
I like to do. Accept that that’s what you like and do it.
I took a nap. I liked that. It was so pleasant to do
that. I slept a couple hours and feel quite rested.
Others went out to parth [sic] last night. I don’t party,
but that’s okay.

That’s why I’m a superintendent of
schools and they are teachers and
maintenance people.

They are nice, but they won’t do what I’ve done
because they won’t work at it. I am in the nicest
place in the world with a nice group of people. I
prefer to be here writing and watching and enjoying
what’s going on I like Lupe. [sic] She’s fun and full
of life. I’m not Lupe. I don’t want to be Lupe. I like
Marne. She’s 78 years old and going strong. She
wants to learn Spanish to talk to her tenants.
Conservative Commentary - Glenn County Office of Education (CCOE) - California
Tim Crews (L) accepting California Press
Association's Newspaper Executive of the
Year Award (December 2009).
Tim Crews, the bulldog publisher of the Sacramento Valley Mirror, has been named Newspaper
Executive of the Year by the California Press Association.  Crews, who has served as publisher of
the Willows-based paper since 1991, will be presented with the award in December. He is the 43rd
recipient of the annual award named for Justus F. Craemer, former president of the California Press
Association.  This isn’t the first prestigious award the Valley Mirror has received. It’s also been given
the CNPA’s Freedom of Information award three times, and Crews has won similar awards for his
paper’s impact on the community, especially by uncovering local government’s secrets.  “Well, I’m
flummoxed. Dumbfounded,” Crews told friends, according to a report in the Valley Mirror.
Chico News-Review)    
Presenting Tim Crews, the source of the reporting on this page,
called "
California's most courageous newspaperman":