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Work shut down at controversial Sebastopol vineyard project

Winemaker Paul Hobbs has been ordered to stop work on his controversial orchard-to-vineyard conversion near Sebastopol after inspectors found that hundreds of yards of blackberry bushes and bay laurel had been cleared illegally from a protected zone above a creek.

State court upholds Sonoma County’s firing of ag commissioner

A state appeals court has ruled that Sonoma County had the authority to fire former Agricultural Commissioner Cathy Neville last year. County supervisors dismissed Neville after she allegedly created a toxic work environment, lied in a county-led investigation and failed to show leadership.

Draft rules out on hillside vineyard tree removal

Sonoma County grape growers aiming to convert forested hillsides with neat rows of vineyards will have to prove their projects won’t damage local waterways under draft regulations released Thursday. The new rules, proposed by Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar, would prohibit tree removal on the steepest of slopes.

Moratorium sought on vineyard development

Growing unease about a wave of vineyard projects that call for clear-cutting forested hillsides has Sonoma County officials calling for an emergency halt until new regulations are crafted. Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar has proposed a four-month moratorium on vineyard projects that would remove trees from ridge tops or slopes greater than 15 percent.

Sonoma County hires Mendocino ag commissioner

Tony Linegar, Mendocino County’s agricultural commissioner, has been selected to take the same job in Sonoma County. His appointment, announced Tuesday, comes eight months after the county fired Ag Commissioner Cathy Neville in what has become an ugly and protracted legal battle.

Former ag commissioner appeals judge’s ruling on firing

Former Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Cathy Neville is appealing a judge’s ruling that upheld the county’s decision to fire her.

Neville vows to keep fighting for old job

Former Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Cathy Neville vowed on Tuesday to appeal a judge’s ruling that upheld the county’s decision to fire Neville for alleged misconduct in office. Superior Court Judge Patrick Broderick formally denied Neville’s demand that she be reinstated to her job.

Judge: County had power to fire Neville

Former Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Cathy Neville’s bid to get her job back was dealt a blow Monday when a judge tentatively ruled that county officials had the power to fire her. Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Patrick Broderick wrote that state laws do not prevent counties from taking action against agricultural commissioners who are deemed unfit for office.

State looking into Neville firing

The state Department of Food and Agriculture is reviewing documents that detail the county’s decision to fire Agricultural Commissioner Cathy Neville. A lawsuit filed by Neville contends that supervisors acted illegally in retribution for her politically unpopular decision to fire Amy Cooper. The suit is the first test of state laws outlining procedures for the early dismissal of agricultural commissioners, who are appointed to four-year terms.

Documents detail firing of ag chief

Hundreds of documents made public this week reveal some of the dynamics that led Supervisor Efren Carrillo to fire former Ag Commissioner Cathy Neville. Several employees reported that Neville acted erratically and disparaged them. Neville’s attorney is questioning the credibility of the main source for those allegations, saying it was an agriculture department employee who was passed over for a promotion and who is in a relationship with Carrillo.

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