.Federal Investigators Hone in on Napa County Government

Judging by three fat subpoenas that federal investigators just handed to Napa County government officials, the feds seem to suspect something majorly fishy has been going on within the county. TBH I’m having trouble parsing through all the legal jargon, but from what I can tell, the FBI and federal prosecutors are looking for inside info on the Upper Valley Waste Management Agency, which handles trash disposal for most of the upper Napa Valley and oversees the beleaguered Clover Flat landfill outside Calistoga (long plagued by accusations of crappy working conditions and bad environmental practices); a plan to revamp the county’s airport for private planes; and dozens of other county dealings with powerful local businesses, people and entities — including top wineries, sports moguls and a mysterious LLC reportedly involved in making a controversial land deal for one county supervisor’s family. Local wine-industry reporter W. Blake Gray, who has some great insight into this whole thing on his “wine-searcher” blog, writes: “The subpoena about the dump is the most detailed and, unlike the other two, it was sent to the Napa County Public Works Department. It appears to be more about the process of awarding the contract than about the dump itself. The contract was reviewed in 2020 by the county after a series of mishaps, including the dump catching fire 13 times in eight years, the release of contaminated water into a Napa River tributary, and mishandling of radioactive waste leading to a worker being hospitalized.” And the San Francisco Chronicle reports: “The reason for the federal action is not known, but many of the wineries and vintners named in the subpoena have links to or have donated money to Alfredo Pedroza, an embattled politician who was at the center of a vineyard development controversy. The subpoena orders a representative of the county to appear before a federal grand jury in San Francisco Wednesday, and demands that it produce ‘any and all documents’ related to 40 individuals, businesses and entities — a list that includes some of the most elite names in the Napa Valley wine world.” The Napa Valley Register notes that “all three subpoenas mention federal grand juries,” and explains that a grand jury’s “principal function is to determine whether or not there is probable cause to believe that one or more persons committed a certain federal offense within the venue of the district court.” Also: “A federal grand jury decides whether a person or persons should be indicted for an alleged federal crime and stand trial. It doesn’t determine guilt or innocence, but rather probable cause.” When a reporter from the Register asked a county spokeswoman whether the county has “reason to think it is the subject of federal investigations,” she answered: “Napa County is only the holder of information regarding the three federal subpoenas.” So take all that for what you will! (Source: Wine-Searcher & North Bay Bohemian & Napa Valley Register & SF Chronicle & Press Democrat & Press Democrat; paywall)

1 COMMENT

  1. Big donors are in the crosshairs! Here in neighboring Solano County, Chuck Wagner contributed $30,000 to a local city councilman, Chuck Timm, in his failed run for Solano County Supervisor in the last election cycle. Our BOS voted for the sky high contribution limit in 2019, led by our corrupt former supervisor Spering…a big supporter of Pedroza. Chuck Wagner had moved the bulk of his wine production from Rutherford to Fairfield in 2013, following his legal settlement with Napa County. Only the wealthiest of vintners can make a $30,000 political contribution, and it indicates pure corruption is at play. Spering and Pedroza are both representatives on MTC, from which federal transportation funds flow. Misuse of public funds for private project development— road improvements leading to new winery projects, bribes, favors…it’s very obvious this investigation will be precedent setting.

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