Wed, Nov

A sophisticated computer virus that attacked Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office early morning April 19, then spread to computers in every department of county government, appeared to be under control Friday, April 22.

Yavapai County Administrator Julie AyersCounty computer technicians believed they had the virus under control numerous times in test environments during the past few days but quickly determined it was still present, Yavapai County Administrator Julie Ayers said.

“It’s been extremely challenging,” Ayers said. “We will be working throughout the weekend. We have our fingers crossed that we have a solution. It has been successful in the lab environment and we began to roll it out to departments [Friday] morning.”

“It’s a very sophisticated virus. It is very good at hiding itself. It has multiple ways of promulgating itself and hiding within the servers,” she said.

The Treasurer, Human Resources and Board of Supervisors offices were up and running on a limited basis Friday as technicians tried to determine whether the fix was successful, Ayers said.

The selection of departments to be cleared of the virus first was not based on priority, but proximity to technicians, she said.

Known as Qakbot, the virus probably made its way into the system through an email attachment sent to YCSO, despite up-to-date antivirus software, Ayers said.

The attack did not appear to be directed at Yavapai County specifically since government computer systems were simultaneously impacted in other areas of the nation, Ayers said.

“I don’t know how public others affected are being about it, but we are not alone,” Ayers said.

The virus is normally directed at financial institutions, she said.

County computer technicians were aware of the presence of the virus almost immediately as errors and glitches began showing up on screen in the YCSO and then elsewhere around the county.

The only county departments not affected by the virus are the Superior Court, Clerk of Court, and Juvenile Probation departments because those systems are separately tied into the state judicial system network, Ayers said.

Work performed by any county employee using computers between 6 and 7 a.m. April 19 was lost. The county’s computer system was shut down almost immediately after the virus was discovered, she said.

A ban on Internet use by county employees continued through Friday as the three department systems were operated in a test environment to determine whether the virus was still embedded.

Ayers said she was extremely proud of the way county departments found ways to work around the problem, although several employees whose jobs are limited to use of a computer were sent home on vacation.

“For example, the health department has gone back to charting medical records by hand, the same type of system they used 20 years ago,” Ayers said.

The county, which has crisis management plans for fires and floods, will devise a similar plan for computer system crashes to handle any similar situation that may arise in the future, Ayers said.

Recently released numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show that while Yavapai County and the Verde Valley grew in population, in some places like Camp Verde the growth was less than some people were expecting.

Late last year, the 2010 census, mandated by the U.S. Constitution to be conducted every 10 years, revealed that America’s population grew by nearly 10 percent from 2000 to 308,745,538.

Late last year, the 2010 census, mandated by the U.S. Constitution to be conducted every 10 years, revealed that America’s population grew by nearly 10 percent from 2000 to 308,745,538.Arizona accounts for 6,392,017 of that figure, a nearly 25 percent jump from population figures released in 2000. It was enough to give the state an extra seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, which divides up the set number of 435 representatives based on population. When one state gains a seat, another state loses one.

Population in Yavapai County also exploded nearly 26 percent from 167,517 in 2000 to 211,033 people counted in 2010. That growth also has representation repercussions because state law requires counties with more that 175,000 residents to be governed by a five-member board of supervisors. The county currently has a three-member board and has been looking at options for county redistricting.

On every level of government, including counties, cities and towns, population plays a role in how much funding from federal and other sources a local government may be eligible for.

In the Verde Valley, every municipality in the region gained population except for Sedona.

The city in the red rocks lost 161 over the last three years with a 2010 population of 10,031.

In Camp Verde, officials had been expecting much more growth that what the numbers actually revealed following a decade that brought a good bit of housing construction at its midpoint.

While there are a few more houses in 2010 than there were in 2000, the population grew from 9,451 to 10,873 over the same period.

The number represents a 15 percent growth rate, one very close to what the census bureau was projecting. The bureau’s 2009 estimate of Camp Verde’s population was 10,871.

“I’m a bit disappointed we didn’t get more people,” Camp Verde Mayor Bob Burnside said. While people have had many different opinions how to approach growth, Burnside said he’s looking for ways to bring more dollars into the community, and higher a census number might have helped. “I think something is going to turn around eventually,” Burnside said.

In Cottonwood, population grew by nearly 22 percent, pushing Cottonwood ahead of Camp Verde as the most populous town in the Verde Valley.

Cottonwood’s 2010 population stands at 11,265, up from 9,179 a decade earlier, a gain of 2,086 people.

Clarkdale also enjoyed near 20 percent growth, with recorded population numbers jumping from 3,422 to 4,097 over the past 10 years.

That’s fewer people than the census bureau predicted, as it estimated Clarkdale was home to 4,252 people in 2009.

Jerome, once one of Arizona’s largest cities, has no doubt had the most experience with population swing. Still, the town that once dwindled to only 50 or so people decades ago continues to attract more residents.

The year 2000 had been another decline for the mountainside town, dropping to 329 people from 403 in 1990. But the past 10 years have brought even more people back into the community, with 115 new residents swelling the population to 444.

The Camp Verde Journal and Cottonwood Journal Extra will continue to analyze the wealth of data released about the Verde Valley in the coming weeks.

With a jury now in place, opening arguments are expect-ed to begin this week in Camp Verde in the manslaughter trial of motivational speaker and self-help author James Arthur Ray.

The trial, which is expected to last for the next few months, will also be broadcast on live television.

James Arthur Ray, 53, was charged with three counts of manslaughter after Lizbeth Neuman, 49, of Michigan, Kirby Brown, 38, of New York, and James Shore, 40, of Wisconsin, died after exposure to conditions inside a sweat lodge at Angel Valley Retreat Center in October 2009Ray, 53, was charged with three counts of manslaughter after Lizbeth Neuman, 49, of Michigan, Kirby Brown, 38, of New York, and James Shore, 40, of Wisconsin, died after exposure to conditions inside a sweat lodge at Angel Valley Retreat Center in October 2009.

The center was the site of a $10,000-a-head retreat hosted by Ray’s organization, James Ray International.

Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow gave the go-ahead last week for the trial to be broadcast by “In Session,” the daytime court segment on TruTV, formerly Court TV.

Darrow granted permission over the objections of Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, who argued live broadcasts, if seen by witnesses expected to be called, could have an effect on their testimony.

Darrow issued a reminder to both the prosecution and the defense to inform potential witnesses to avoid media coverage of court proceedings.

David Bodney, an attorney for the television network, argued live coverage would advance “Arizona’s tradition of courtroom access.”

In a motion filed late last month, Bodney argued the network has covered several high-profile trials over the years without incident, including the trial of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Opening arguments are expected to begin Tuesday, March 1.

In the meantime, Ray’s defense team continues to seek to prevent audio recordings made during the retreat from being entered into evidence.

The recordings, according to a motion filed by the defense, include five days of personal sessions between Ray and event attendees, culminating in an orientation session just before the sweat lodge incident.

The defense argues everything prior to the sweat lodge orientation session is irrelevant to the criminal charges against Ray and some of the recordings contain sensitive personal information about participants at the event.

The state argues the recordings are “highly relevant” to illustrate both Ray’s mental state and the mental state of the people who were participating in the event leading up to the sweat lodge ceremony where three people died. The state also claims the participants were told to act like “samurai warriors” preparing for the “ultimate battle,” and they should devote themselves 100 percent or “exit dishonorably.”

The state’s response to the defense motion to prohibit the recordings from evidence paints a picture of an event where participants were told to prepare to experience “altered states” and follow the rules as laid down by Ray.

“Excluding the audio from this case would be like excluding the meeting of bank robbers where the plan to rob the bank was discussed,” Polk wrote in her response to the motion.

The defense is also hoping to limit other potential evidence and testimony citing a lack of relevance to the actual crimes with which Ray is being charged.

Darrow has set aside more than 60 days for the trial, excluding Mondays.

Many believe the Verde Valley’s growing wine industry boosts the local economy, but not until a University of Arizona economist studied the issue was its impact fully understood.

In 2009, the industry added nearly $4 million to the Verde Valley economy in terms of sales tax revenue and wages paid to local workers, according to Erik Glenn, University of Arizona assistant agent for community resource development.

Kevin Grubb, an assistant tasting room manager, collects a soil sample for a presentation on common aromas and flavors of wine Friday, Feb. 18.Glenn announced the figures while summarizing the conclusions of his report at Cottonwood City Council’s regular meeting Feb. 15.

The full report is nearly finished and will be presented to the Verde Valley Wine Consortium soon. The consortium will decide whether and when to release it to the public, Glenn said.

More than 50,000 gallons, or 21,000 cases, of wine was produced in the Verde Valley in 2009. Production for 2010 is expected to show a 25 percent increase, according to a study prepared by Glenn for the Verde Valley Wine Consortium.

“The wine industry contributes a great deal. It has a huge impact,” he said. “It creates commodities to be sold and resold, creates experience other service providers can use, spends money with private business and employs people, almost all of who live in the area and spend their paychecks here.”

There are currently 13 federally licensed wineries in the Verde Valley that use grapes grown at 14 local vineyards. Including 10 local businesses that sell Arizona wine. The industry employs 124 residents on a full or part-time basis, Glenn said.
That equates to nearly $3 million in wages paid and $750,000 in sales tax collected, he said.

These dollars, together with those spent by wholesalers, retailers, tourists, restaurants and grocery stores, mean an estimated $31 million changes hands in the local economy thanks to the wine industry, Glenn reported.

“There are also noneconomic benefits,” Glenn said. “Wine producers preserve open space and preserve the agricultural heritage of the Verde Valley. They contribute to the community’s positive image.”

Even through the current recession, winemakers have been expanding their operations, he said.

“There are challenges ahead but many opportunities. The future looks bright if we all do our part to support winemaking in the Verde Valley,” Glenn said.

“Wine is also a heart-healthy drink,” Councilman Terence Pratt said. “[Economic Development Director] Casey Rooney should be commended. He’s helped Cottonwood a lot through his work with the consortium.”

Pratt said a constituent told him on Feb. 12 there was a line of people waiting to get into a wine-tasting room in Old Town that extended out onto the sidewalk.

“It brings people in from out of town, wine aficionados from all over the country. It’s created a sense of place,” Pratt said.

“The study does show it is a great economic engine for Cottonwood and the Verde Valley,” Mayor Diane Joens said.

Attorneys are scrambling to file final motions and make last-minute preparations as James Arthur Ray prepares to go to trial Wednesday, Feb. 16.

Ray, 53, is a motivational speaker and self-help author facing three counts of manslaughter in Yavapai County Superior Court.Late last month, attorneys for both the prosecution and defense made attempts to have certain witnesses excluded from testifying at the trial.

Ray, 53, is a motivational speaker and self-help author facing three counts of manslaughter in Yavapai County Superior Court.

The charges stem from a fatal incident at an October 2009 weeklong event held at the Angel Valley Retreat Center outside of Sedona.

Lizbeth Neuman, 49, of Michigan, Kirby Brown, 38, of New York, and James Shore, 40, of Wisconsin, died after exposure to conditions inside a sweat lodge, a large tent-like structure heated to high temperatures.

Many, particularly medicine men, in the American Indian community have objected to the tent being called a sweat lodge, arguing a true sweat lodge is part of a sacred religious ceremony, not something like Ray’s $10,000-a-head retreat.

Ray, who is based out of California, turned himself in to authorities in Prescott in February 2010. He made bail after a short incarceration in the Yavapai County Detention Center in Camp Verde and has since been given permission to not come to court hearings unless absolutely necessary until his trial begins.

The case has involved legal back-and-forth over the past year over everything from financial records to audio recordings. Last week, Ray’s defense team made efforts to have testimony from one of the state’s expert witnesses excluded.

The witness in question is Rick Ross, a man the defense describes as a “self-proclaimed expert in ‘destructive cults, controversial groups and movements.’”

The defense is concerned Ross will explain to a jury Ray used specialized techniques to “control” participants in the sweat lodge ceremony, keeping them inside the tent even if they started to feel ill.

The defense argues Ross’ testimony is irrelevant, since it presumably will focus on the issue of why participants felt they couldn’t leave the tent, something the defense contends no one will testify to.

“Because Ross’ testimony is based on a counterfactual scenario,” the motion reads, “it is irrelevant and has no probative value whatsoever.”

The defense goes on to argue Ross has no basis to testify to the motivations of the participants in the sweat lodge incident, and he’s never even talked to one of them. Furthermore, the defense calls into question prior problems Ross had with the legal system, including a 1991 jury that the defense claims found Ross responsible for kidnapping a man for a religious deprogramming; that jury order Ross to pay $2.5 million in compensation, according to the motion.

In a motion filed by the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office, the state is seeking to prevent the defense from introducing “irrelevant and unduly prejudicial evidence” against Ross. The state points out Ross has testified as an expert witness in no less than 10 states, and he’s extremely knowledgeable about persuasive techniques that can cause people to act at odds with their common sense.

The state addresses the 1991 jury decision, which involved a case with the Church of Scientology, and argues Ross has not been involved with the forceable detention and deprogramming of adult cult members since 1990, although he still does similar work with juveniles at the request of parents or child protective services.

The defense is also hoping to prevent the state from using the testimony of Steven Pace, an expert in corporate
risk management.

The defense argues expected testimony from Pace on acceptable corporate risk practices has no bearing on Ray’s criminal proceedings. Furthermore, the defense contends there is no evidence the three deaths in October 2009 were related to the absence or presence of risk management policies.

Furthermore, even if it were found Ray’s company had a duty to institute the “gold standard” policies they expect Pace to describe, the defense argues it would still have no bearing on Ray as an individual.

The trial is set to begin Feb. 16 in Yavapai County Superior Court in Camp Verde. Judge Warren Darrow has set aside more than 60 days for proceedings.

Arizona cities and towns want a civil dialogue with state legislators, but at least two laws proposed by Arizona Sen. Steve Pierce [R-District 1] alarm local leaders, who plan to meet the senator to discuss state budget issues Monday, Feb. 7.

Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig, who also serves as vice president of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said communication with legislators is much improved since the league passed a resolution encouraging collaboration with the governor and Legislature to resolve budget issues.

However, Senate Bills 2020 and 2021, proposed by Pierce, could so fundamentally alter funding for municipal services, local leaders hope to persuade the senator his legislative goals can be accomplished without the legislation he supports, Von Gausig said.
The league’s formal analysis is not completed, but both proposals could wreak havoc with the way cities and towns pay for roads, parks, recreation and other services, said Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens, a league member.

Senate Bill 2020 would freeze state revenue sharing for 20 years, denying cities and towns a portion of the income tax collected on their behalf by the state.

Revenue sharing came about as a way to discourage cities and towns from imposing municipal income tax. Instead of imposing their own income tax, Arizona cities and towns are given a share of income tax collected by the state, Von Gausig said. The proposal would deny municipalities their share of any increase in income tax collected by the state through 2040, he said.

“I don’t know if he really understands what the impact will be,” Von Gausig said. “We’re trying to quantify what the impact might be on services we render and products we provide the public.”

Senate Bill 2021 would limit the type of taxes a city may collect to those imposed by the state. For example, if the law passed, Cottonwood and Clarkdale would no longer be allowed to tax rental income, as they presently do, because the state does not tax rental income, Von Gausig and Joens said.

“That bill is a huge concern,” Joens said. “It would eliminate the ability of cities and towns to respond to local issues. It would force a one-size-fits-all approach for the entire state. Citizens who live in Verde Valley communities have lots of different ideas about how they want to live their lives. The state seems to feel they know that better than local people. I don’t understand that.”

Both Joens and Von Gausig said the actual impact of the law in terms of dollars has not yet been determined. Neither of Pierce’s proposals is contained in the governor’s proposed budget, Von Gausig said.

The league’s new approach to communicating with the Legislature is less adversarial. It has made a positive change in the relationship. A two-hour lunch meeting between league officials and state legislators in January was dominated by talk about how to collaborate, Von Gausig said.

“People on the league like the new philosophy and are committed to it and the Legislature really appreciates it too,” Von Gausig said. “It’s not a panacea, but the communication is a lot better than it was.”

Verde Valley Food Council will give a Valentine’s Day present to area farmers when it meets with food bank representatives and local food growers Monday, Feb. 14.

The We Love Our Farmers presentation at Mingus Union High School starts at 6:30 p.m. The purpose of the meeting is to bring local growers together with “food system” representatives like restaurant owners, school lunch providers, hospital cafeteria operators and food bank volunteers, according to the council’s executive director, Debra Emmanuelle.

“We want to show our local farmers how much we appreciate them,” Emmanuelle said.

The council also wants the meeting to start a conversation among key food providers that leads to an increase in the amount of locally grown food, she said.

“In my dealings with different farmers, stores and restaurant owners, I kept hearing why we couldn’t grow more and distribute more locally, so I thought, ‘why don’t we get people together to brainstorm solutions?’” Emmanuelle said.

Farmers say they are not going to grow more because they don’t know if they have a market for their produce. Food system operators complain they can’t buy local food because there’s not enough produced here, she said.

Emmanuelle said she interviewed local farmers who say they have more land than resources to cultivate it. Conversely, there are others “who are just dying to have land to farm on,” she said.

Compared to times past, when much of the Verde Valley was tilled, roughly 5 percent of the area is used for agriculture today, Emmanuelle said.

“We will have to put the green back in Verde,” she said.

Ultimately, food system businesses like restaurants, grocery stores, school lunch programs and hospital food programs all need to commit to area farmers that they will buy as much locally grown food as possible.

The need for more locally-produced food is greater than ever before because of the dramatic rise in the number of people who need emergency food supplies. A recent study conducted by the council showed 1 in 7 Verde Valley residents do not have food security and must turn to food banks for assistance, Emmanuelle said.

In 2009, 15,000 people out of 72,000 Verde Valley residents were relying on food banks. Each bank is supporting more than 1,000 people per month, not including other emergency food providers like Meals on Wheels programs and local churches, Emmanuelle said. Nationally, 1 in 4 children lacks food security, she said.

“We need support from the farmers and food providers to keep up with the numbers,” she said. “The number of Verde Valley residents who rely on emergency food supplies increased by 50 percent every year since 2008.”

A Yavapai County Health Services spokeswoman for the Women, Infants and Children program will also attend the meeting to discuss what county government might be able to do to assist.

“Many of the roadblocks to grow and serve locally grown food come from government regulations that impose limits,” Emmanuelle said. “Having somebody from the health department to hear from people at the grassroots level could help.”

For more information, contact Emmanuelle at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 282-8738.

The Jerome Grand Hotel will likely reopen Thursday, Jan. 20, thanks to an order by Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley.

Ainley ruled Jerome town officials lacked cause when they declared the hotel unsafe Dec. 8, hotel co-owner Robert Altherr said.

Ainley entered a preliminary injunction against the town Friday, Jan. 14, following a hearing at which town officials attempted to justify their decision to revoke the hotel’s certificates of occupancy. The hearing was continued from Jan. 7, when hotel owners Robert and Larry Altherr presented evidence to show the town’s actions were improper.

Attorney and expert witness fees reportedly cost the hotel at least $50,000, costs the hotel owners will ask Ainley to order the town to pay. Hotel attorney John Phillips is expected make a formal request for payment of costs and fees as a result of the Jan. 14 court ruling, he said.

A lawsuit filed against the town asking for damages caused by the closing continues. Altherr said his attorney had not heard from town officials since the Jan. 14 ruling and no negotiations with the town were planned as of Monday, Jan. 17.

Larry Litchfield, a safety engineer who once headed building departments for the cities of San Francisco and Phoenix, testified Jan. 7 the hotel is safe and should not have been closed.

Litchfield testified the hotel was in “very, very good shape.” It should be considered “non-combustible,” he told Ainley. “It will not burn.”

“It’s the safest building in Jerome,” Larry Altherr testified.

Town officials argued the building was unsafe based on inspections conducted in August and September by Fire Chief Rusty Blair, Police Chief Alan Muma and Chief Building Code Official David Stiever.

Altherr testified the business and building together were valued at $7.5 million. Closure of the hotel was costing roughly $17,000 a month and $2,000 a day in lost revenue. Hotel employees who had to be laid off have applied for unemployment insurance, he said.

“We haven’t been taking reservations for more than a month, so we’ll start hiring back employees incrementally,” Robert Altherr said Jan. 17. In the meantime, he and his son anticipate working 12 hour days to get the hotel reopened.

Ainley’s ruling allowed Robert Altherr to plan an open house for the reopening on Thursday and Friday, Jan. 20 and 21, from noon to 3 p.m. A live radio broadcast from the hotel is also planned for Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 22 and 23, from noon to 3 p.m.

Gifts and prizes will be given away during the broadcast, Altherr said.

Town of Jerome officials could not be reached for comment.

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