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The Fort Bragg Fires


by Mark Heimann and Bruce Anderson for the Anderson Valley Advertiser
February 3rd, 1999

Edited by Peter J. Mello, December 29th, 2017


Publisher’s Note:
Early in the morning of September 20th, 1987, three brazen Fort Bragg arson fires destroyed the Ten Mile Justice Court, the adjacent Fort Bragg Library and, just down Main Street, the venerable Piedmont Hotel and restaurant. No one was ever prosecuted. And these three blazes, spectacular and as disheartening as they were, were only three in a series of arsons-for-profit that plagued Fort Bragg in the 1980s. We're re-posting the five-part series on these unprecedented Mendocino County events as they appeared beginning in February of 1999. This first installment can be confusing; essentially, it describes the startling financial machinations, and related matters, orchestrated by a rogue loan officer employed by the Savings Bank of Mendocino in their Fort Bragg branch office.

The Money Trail
This week's AVA begins the first in a series of stories on the Fort Bragg fires of 1987. We have identified the arsonists and will name them. Several of the individuals responsible for the fires still live in Fort Bragg. Two of them are prominent. The first three installments will consist mostly of background information necessary to understanding the motives and financial machinations of an unusually brazen but clumsy band of conspirators. They became known because they involved too many people in their scheme, and some of them talked too much. Some of them are still talking. They think they've gotten away with it; it appears that they have. The statute of limitations on the fires ran out years ago but there's no statute of limitations on murder. It's too late to send anybody to jail for the fires; it's never too late to indict a killer for murder. The bumbling of the authorities at first delayed, then prevented prosecution of the Fort Bragg Gang of '87, as they might be called. The safety and well-being of the citizens of Fort Bragg was traded by an indifferent District Attorney for her failed budget dispute with four equally indifferent supervisors. Fourth District Supervisor Liz Henry, much maligned by the Coast social milieu in which the Fort Bragg arsonists still prosper, tried to push the investigation forward but was out-voted.
Our series over the next few weeks will revisit the crime scenes and name the criminals. The police — local, state and federal — have known who did it almost from the night of the most spectacular arsons. Lots of Coast residents know who did it, and soon you will too. We will also describe the arsons which preceded, but were related to, the destruction of the Fort Bragg Library, the Ten Mile Justice Court and the Piedmont Hotel — the heart of old Fort Bragg, the town's history, its collective memory. We must say here that copies of the story have already been made available to the authorities. We are prepared to defend it and ourselves if it should come to it. We have no illusions about the ruthlessness of the people we are about to reveal.
* * *
In the late 70s Fort Bragg's Noyo Harbor had three homey restaurants with panoramic views of the mouth of the picturesque Noyo River. Viewing the ocean was not, back then, a big draw for the well-to-do Mendo-tourist we see today lingering over truffle mousse and brandy in viewless Mendocino. The people who got the best ocean views where hard working locals who made the water's edge restaurants, and especially bars, an integral part of their working and social life. Fishermen made up the bulk of the patrons at Fort Bragg's ocean view bars and restaurants
Noyo Harbor was once a busy port for the West Coast salmon fishing fleet before big timber wrecked the salmon spawning rivers. Not only was the little harbor busy with the seasonal fish runs, any small boat that ran into trouble or a big storm had no choice but to seek refuge in Noyo, the only harbor in the 350 miles between Bodega Bay and Eureka. During rough weather, the Noyo break at the mouth of the river is one of the most dangerous wave formations off the Pacific coast. Negotiating the break in a 45-foot fishing boat is a matter of life and death, a test of nautical skill even many experienced fishermen have failed.
From the comfort of the three Noyo Harbor restaurants, fishermen, temporarily safe from having to negotiate the Noyo's turbulent and treacherous mouth, would monitor the break's rhythms and tantrums, calculating when they could make a safe run in and out of the Pacific.
Inez's Cliff House, with its huge wraparound picture windows, was perched on the south cliff overlooking the mouth of the harbor. Sollini's Restaurant and Bar (mostly bar) sat on the north side of the river on its overlooking cliff. The Wharf Restaurant, down in the basin, provided an eye level, head on view of the break.

Salmon fishing was a loner's occupation and fiercely competitive. It was in these restaurants, over long days and nights of bad weather that knowledge and experience were freely exchanged among the fishermen who regarded the three establishments as their homes away from the sea.
On land, it was the proprietors of the restaurants who carried on a fierce competition. Not for the fish, but for the fishermen. Fort Bragg, with around 5,000 year-round residents, many surviving on off-season unemployment checks, couldn't sustain any restaurant year round. Bed and breakfast tourism of the type now thriving on the Mendocino Coast was, in 1987, just beginning.
From May to September catching fishermen's wallets was the primary goal of Noyo's mini-food service industry. Loyal followings were chummed by local restaurateurs who broke out all the stops catering to the needs of their sea-going clientèle during the salmon season.
The major patronage of Inez's restaurant were mostly the coffee-house fishermen, fishermen who had retired and fishermen who just couldn't quite get it together to actually go out and fish. Along with the working fishermen, the landlocked fisher-folk would enjoy leisurely breakfasts and talk about fishing while consuming gallons of coffee in the morning and gallons of beer in the afternoon, all the while looking down at the mouth of the river to see whose boat was coming, and whose boat was going.
Perched on the cliff opposite Inez's, was Sollini's, a bar and rock 'n’ roll dance hall where the younger deck hands and inland loggers spent their fat pay checks on Friday and Saturday nights.
When the fish were biting off Fort Bragg, as they often were back then, the cash flowing through these three in Noyo Harbor restaurants was unreal. The tiny port would be awash in cash. Boats would come into the harbor to unload their catches all about the same time. Checks were cut by fish buyers right on the piers, and upwards of $10,000 per boat was paid out, every seven to ten days over the six month season. And there were a lot of boats. Captains would pay their one or two deckhands in cash. Fuel, bait, ice, supplies and repair accounts were also settled in cash. And the party was on.
The Wharf Restaurant, built on pilings over the Noyo estuary by Jim Cummings and eventually leased by Tom Wisdom, was the social epicenter of this free flowing cash-heavy activity in the harbor. The Wharf had tie-ups for salmon boats and a row of motel rooms for visiting fishermen to play with their girlfriends. A fisherman could unload his catch, take on fuel and ice next door, then step off his boat into a full bar where he was greeted by popular bartenders and attractive waitresses. Behind the welcoming crew at the bar was an upscale dining room that served several course dinners (prime rib being the specialty of the house) and a dance floor to work off the over-indulgence. Bankers in town knew that several million dollars, easy, would flow into the Wharf every fishing season.
Competing restaurateurs thought that by imitating the Wharf's high-end formula they could steal its customer base and get some of the fish money too, especially if the competing places had picture windows overlooking the entrance to the harbor.
In the late 70s Jim West, part owner of two of Inez's coffee shops, one located in Willits and the other in Fort Bragg, wanted in. But West saw himself as the host of a fine dinner house serving Fort Bragg's solid citizens, not necessarily fishermen. In 1980, West traded his mother his part ownership of Inez's in Willits for Inez's Cliff House overlooking Fort Bragg's busy little harbor.
West's first move was to close the Cliff House's popular breakfast service and scale back lunches; he thought he didn't need the coffee-drinkers who made the place their hangout. A second cup to anyone sitting at the counter during the dinner hour was prohibited. One waitress recalls, “I was warned that if I gossiped with any of my regulars I would be fired. I wasn't allowed to seat anyone in working clothes in the dining room. After Jim ran everybody off, those of us who didn't want to ditch our uniforms and dress-up were let go. It was awful, I'd only have four tables on a Saturday night. Everyone was gone, not just the old regulars.”
In 1981, West, found his new enterprise overlooking the harbor mouth in survival mode. He needed money. He thought a re-model would revive his business, so he approached Bill Dunham, Assistant Vice-President and Bank Manager for Mendocino Savings Bank in Fort Bragg, for a loan.
Dunham was a young man in his middle 30s with a young wife who taught elementary school in town. He was amiable, seemed to know everything about money, had an energy that older people envied but younger people assumed was chemically derived, and he sported a groovy guy perm, then all the rage among fast track males, urban and rural. Dunham enjoyed hanging around with the fishermen down at Noyo, especially when the fishing fleet was in. There were lots of unattached women around and enough cocaine to keep all of Mendocino County boogie-ing for weeks on end. The young banker was right where the action was.
It was a wild time, and Bill Dunham fit right in. Although married, there were trips to the exotic spas of the Caribbean and Mexico (which were also known as major money laundering centers) with ladies who did not appear to be Mrs. Dunham. The madcap whirlwind of the Savings Bank's Fort Bragg loan desk so alarmed a young assistant who'd just joined the bank that the new man called his strait-laced superiors at the bank's Ukiah headquarters and told them that either Dunham had to go or he would resign. “We'll all go to jail if this keeps up,” the young banker told Ukiah in a plea to the main office to rein Dunham in because Dunham was making what appeared to be large loans to businesses with no visible means to pay them back.
One of many bizarre episodes with Dunham at the center occurred when Dunham was briefly placed under arrest by federal authorities on charges which quickly disappeared, along with the records of the detention. It wasn't only Dunham's young assistant who was suspicious of the banker, law enforcement was interested in him, too.
Dunham was eventually sent down the road by the Savings Bank. The bank officers refused to say why their Coast money man was fired. Banks seldom fire a manager; a sudden dismissal at the management level shakes confidence in the prudence and, by extension, the stability of the institution.
But Dunham was fired.
Meanwhile, back at the Jim West's Cliff House, with banker Dunham at his elbow just before Dunham was sacked by the Savings Bank, West wanted to redecorate the place, his thinking being that its decor was the reason he couldn't attract customers. West was a non-drinker who discouraged the sale of beer and wine to his dinner customers, a fatal miscalculation in hard-drinking Fort Bragg. According to a lawsuit against the Savings Bank later filed by West, West said that Dunham had told him he would qualify for a $400,000 loan. Even West knew this was a ludicrous amount of money for a property and business worth — at best — about $200,000 in the market of 1987. Nevertheless, according to West, Dunham urged him to take out the loan, assuring West that he would have great success in what had been merely a coffee shop when it became a “fashionable restaurant.” Dunham told West he had experience in the restaurant business and would help West manage the place.
West was hooked.
Dunham went to the Small Business Administration without West's knowledge of the details of the ensuing transaction and got a guarantee from the SBA to back up the Savings Bank's out-sized $400,000 loan to West. According to West, Dunham then inserted himself into the renovation of the premises and distributed portions of the loan where the banker thought it should go. It finally occurred to West that Dunham had become his de facto business partner.
West received $125,000 for the renovations and $235,000 to purchase new kitchen equipment — walk-in refrigerators, enough stainless steal pans to cook for a hundred customers at a time, several commercial ranges, enough dishes to host half the fishing fleet, and a brand-new cash register to ring up all the new business. West was also promised $40,000 in cash as working capital to pay the more immediate bills, and to tide over his cooks and waitresses until the “up-scale” dinner crowd began arriving.
West claims he was never informed what his interest payments were going to be on the $400,000. Running a traditional loan amortization schedule at 8% interest, West would have needed to come up with around $7,000 per month, which is a lot of shrimp cocktails. But according to the recorded deeds on Inez's Cliff House, West also had a payment to make to his mother, and another one to Crocker Bank on a mortgage of about $36,000 with payments for both totaling $3,000 a month. West, then, had to generate some $10,000 a month, every month, in a town that literally closed down (except for the bars) during the six-months that salmon fishermen and loggers were at home either living off their savings or drawing unemployment.
No banker would make this loan. No rational loan recipient would want it. But West thought somehow he could handle it.
The energetic Dunham also helped West run the business. Under Dunham's direction, West changed the menu from "deep fried to sautéed." A waitress recalls that West had a chart on the wall on which waitresses and dishwashers were to record the number of dishes they broke. More than five plates was grounds for dismissal unless the fumble fingers responsible paid for the broken crockery. "We all thought the chart was a hoot because there were no customers. The only way dishes are broken in a restaurant is when the place is jammed with people and dishes are moved at warp speed in order to keep up with the business."
West never got the $40,000 cash draw Dunham had promised him to pay those first bills. West also claims that Dunham informed the SBA in 1982 that "West had a problem generating sufficient sales as a result of increased competition in the area."
And the competition did increase, thanks to banker Dunham.
In 1982, through the Mendocino Savings Bank, Dunham had also gone into business with long-time Mendocino County restaurateur, Vince Sisco. He lent Sisco $140,000 via a 90-day promissory note payable on demand for Sisco to buy the defunct Sollini restaurant located on the north side of the harbor, directly opposite West's struggling Cliff House restaurant. On whichever side of the Noyo he happened to be standing, Dunham could see a restaurant he and the Savings Bank was funding.
Sisco had been a business partner with Patrick Finnegan in the Wharf Restaurant down in the harbor, but had had a falling out over lease payments with Finnegan and the property’s owner, Jim Cummings. Finnegan, born and raised in Ukiah where he was a high school football star, and was described as "brilliant" by people who know him well, became an attorney with a thriving practice in Ukiah. But the cocaine devil got him and Finnegan self-destructed in a blizzard of legal trouble, including a terrible automobile crash near Fort Bragg. He was sought for years by various creditors, including a Ukiah bail bondsman.
Finnegan sold Sisco's interest in their business at the Wharf to Tom Wisdom, who jealously guarded the Wharf's popularity by requiring a "covenant" from Sisco to not steal his customers by owning or operating another restaurant within ten miles of the Wharf.
Sandra Tonstad, Sisco's daughter, provided cover for her slippery father. Since dear old dad had agreed not to operate another restaurant within ten miles of the Wharf, loyal daughter Tonstad would front for dear old dad. She soon negotiated the purchase of the Sollini Restaurant and Bar just a short walk up the hill from the Wharf. She negotiated directly with Sollini, but her dad, Vince Sisco, was the real owner in violation of the deal he'd signed with Wisdom promising Wisdom he wouldn't run another restaurant in the area.
The grossly inflated purchase price for the crumbling, ramshackle Sollini property was $460,000 at 13% interest. But Sisco, who knew first hand about the success of the Wharf, nonetheless found the usurious deal attractive. According to a Mechanic's Lien filed on the Sollini enterprise, Sollini had halfheartedly tried to renovate the place after a fire damaged the building in 1981, but couldn't come up with the $20,000 to complete the job. Sisco lent his daughter Tonstad the $75,000 down payment to buy Sollini's. Sisco, always strapped for cash, especially large amounts of cash, got the money from the promissory note fronted by banker Dunham. Sisco and Tonstad finished renovating the restaurant, bar and dance floor and renamed the place Agustino's and, of course, were in instant competition with both the lucrative Wharf and Mr. West's clueless Cliff House.
Banker Dunham and Vince Sisco were in business. Dunham was now funding competing restaurants on both sides of the mouth of the Noyo, thus betraying his other client, Jim West, while Sisco, disguised as his daughter, betrayed the deal he'd made with Tom Wisdom not to compete in the local restaurant business.
After the flurry of renovations and optimistic grand openings were over at the two eating establishments at the mouth of the river, West's Cliff House and Sisco-Tonstead's Agustino's, the bleak reality of impossible monthly payments for both establishments became obvious. Dunham had engineered loans for mortgages totaling twice the value of the Cliff House and Agustino's properties and the failing businesses inside them. The Mendocino Savings Bank could only sit and wait for the inevitable collapse of both.
Dunham didn't have to wait long.
West filed for bankruptcy in 1983 on Inez's Cliff House. According to West during the bankruptcy proceedings, Dunham informed the SBA that "the reason for West's nonpayment was that West was a poor business manager and was not operating his business with good business judgment or efficiency."
Like West, Sisco and Tonstad also had some $10,000 a month in payments to make on their respective mortgages and loans. Unlike the straight arrow West, Sisco had other ideas about how to hold on to his restaurant besides filing for bankruptcy.
Lurking around the periphery of this cut-throat game of restaurant Monopoly was a new guy in town, Dominic Affinito. Affinito was from Sacramento where his family sits atop a small but lucrative real estate empire. Affinito brought more cash to Fort Bragg than any single individual in the town's history.
Affinito immediately purchased the Tradewinds Restaurant and Motel on Main Street, Fort Bragg, for $2 million cash; the sale was made in 1981. By the end of 1982, Affinito had completed construction of the motel's new meeting room and swimming pool. Located on Highway One in the center of town, and within walking distance of the harbor, the Tradewinds offered 60 inexpensive rooms and a bar at the entrance to its coffee house and restaurant. The Affinito complex caught the overflow business from Noyo and the long-haul truck drivers and low-budget tourists passing though town. With the closing of the once popular Cliff House breakfasts, the Tradewinds became the place for lots of fishermen and working people to meet and have coffee in the mornings.
Less than a mile to the south, overlooking the Noyo, West's new kitchen was the talk of the town. “We had more people visiting the kitchen than we had customers,” recalls a waitress.
West claimed Dunham, in 1983, brought Dominic Affinito, the new guy in town, into his restaurant to show him the new $235,000 kitchen. Affinito liked the kitchen, liked it a lot, liked it so much he wanted to own it. Meanwhile, Dunham thwarted West's only opportunity to redeem his investment via bankruptcy proceedings by treacherously asserting that West “was a poor business risk.” Dunham had doomed West's chance, albeit a slim one, to redeem his business via financial reorganization but, in the Savings Bank-friendly County courts West was denied that slim opportunity. Ironically, West had looked good enough to Dunham for the original $400,000 loan, so good Dunham himself took over much of the re-modeling of the restaurant, but Dunham stabbed West’s chance to recover with a lower re-payment schedule by describing him as a poor businessman.
The Savings Bank of Mendocino soon foreclosed on West lock, stock and well-equipped kitchen.
Guess who bought it?
Dunham, in 1985, then sold West's remodeled Cliff House to Affinito for $340,000, considerably less than the value of the property, which now had a brand-new kitchen and other essential improvements. West lost everything and finally gave up completely in 1990, withdrawing the suit he brought for fraud and usury against Dunham and Mendocino Savings Bank in 1987. West had gotten in way over his head in deep water with big sharks. Affinito got a state-of-the-art restaurant overlooking the Noyo. With tourists beginning to arrive in greater numbers year-round, Affinito came out way ahead, as he would in lots of real estate deals in and around Fort Bragg.
Right from the beginning of their false front enterprise on the bluff opposite Affinito’s new restaurant, Sisco and Tonstad were having a tough time making their monthly property payments to Sollini, and just as tough a time paying their help. They borrowed heavily from their bookkeeper, Ruth Johnston, in order to try to stay current. The ubiquitous restaurant lender, Mr. Dunham, helped them out by lending them another $53,000. This sum was in addition to the original $140,000 loaned in 1982 on which Sisco had never made a single payment. Sisco and Tonstad, father and daughter, went ever deeper into the red. Sollini, who held the first mortgage, was going to foreclose and take back the restaurant which, like the Cliff House, had been substantially remodeled.
With Sisco, the Savings Bank was in a much more dangerous financial position than the dubious deals Dunham had done with the unsuspecting West. In West's case, Savings Bank was in the “largest lender” driver's seat, pushing the outcome to where West lost his $200,000 equity while Affinito acquired the property and improvements for $100,000 less than they were worth; the Savings Bank of Mendocino, SBA and Crocker would also come out whole in the end. West lost everything.
Lenders who engage in ruthless acquisition lending do so in order to make money from the interest and sale profits based on an increase in the new appraised value of property enhanced by the duped entrepreneur — West, in this case. But when West went under, the interest realized by Mendocino Savings was a pittance because of the short term of the loan. The property sold for less than the value of the loans and West's equity, hence no profit for Savings Bank. One must look at who benefited most to understand what Dunham was up to, who he was really working for, and it wasn't the Savings Bank of Mendocino.
In Sisco's case, the Savings Bank was in precarious second position behind Sollini's $385,000 first mortgage on Dunham's $193,000 unsecured loan to Sisco. If Sollini foreclosed on Sisco and Tonstad it was likely that Mendocino Savings would lose the $193,000 it had loaned Sisco. Tonstad and Sisco had virtually no other assets other than their heavily mortgaged Sollini's, re-born as Agustino's. Sisco had lost his Redwood Valley home to foreclosure some years before, and Tonstad's home was mortgaged to the hilt. The Savings Bank would have to purchase the $385,000 Sollini note in order to protect its $193,000, but this wasn't an attractive proposition because the property and failing business couldn't be sold for an amount totaling the combination of the two loans — Sollini's and Sisco's — of almost $600,000. Worse still for the Savings Bank, per a lawsuit filed against Sisco later on, the Savings Bank, through Dunham, had advanced Sisco that $193,000 on promissory notes with no collateral to back them up. Sisco never had a better friend than Dunham, and the Savings Bank was about to eat it for $193,000 plus the interest on the cash that Sisco had never paid.
Dunham tried to rescue the deal before everything went to hell when Sollini foreclosed. Savings Bank filed suit against Vince Sisco in 1985 for fraud even though the Bank's boy Dunham had facilitated the Bank's relationship with Sisco, a man whose ability to get money from banks and insurance companies bordered on the miraculous.
The Savings Bank claimed that Sisco never did have an ownership interest in Agustino's and had misled Dunham into making the purchase and renovation loans back in 1982. The bank refused to believe that Sisco's daughter, Ms. Tonstad, was fronting for her father. But she was.
In reality, the suit against Sisco by the bank was to get a court judgment that legally tied the $193,000 loan directly to the Agustino's property and business, the first step necessary to take over the property. The Savings Bank prevailed in 1986. But by then Tonstad was $135,000 in arrears in her mortgage payments to Sollini.
In May 1986 the Savings Bank, apparently unaware of Tonstad's relationship to her father, the man the bank had just sued, lent Tonstad $120,000 (payable at $1,000 a month interest) to help bring first mortgage payments current and to stop Sollini from foreclosing. This reduced the principal on Sollini's first mortgage, and also brought the Savings Bank a little closer to equal loan positions with Sollini. But the only possible way Dunham could make Savings Bank whole on his loans to Sisco and Tonstad (now totaling $313,000) was for Sisco and Tonstad to pay off Sollini. This would move Savings Bank into the first mortgage position where it would either be paid off or it would get title to the property through foreclosure if Sisco and Tonstad defaulted on their loans from the Bank. Through Dunham's scheming, Sisco and Tonstad would, in essence be paying for the Agustino's property twice, once from Sollini and again from Savings Bank.
On September 19th, 1986, Agustino's burned.
The cause of the blaze was attributed to a smoldering cigarette. The restaurant was badly damaged. City of Fort Bragg records show that Sisco and Tonstad soon obtained approval for $75,000 worth of fire damage remodeling. After completion of the work Agustino's re-opened in April of 1987 as the Waterfront Bar and Grill.
* * *
Affinito, again Johnny On The Spot, bought the Waterfront Bar and Grill in 1991 after its series of suspicious fires and duly paid insurance claims as suspicious as the fires. The property was assessed at $244,000. Affinito purchased the property for $425,000, $35,000 less than what Sisco/Tonstad had paid nearly ten years earlier. Affinito now owned the restaurants on both sides of the mouth of the Noyo. Sollini's mortgage seems to have been partially paid off through Tonstad's financial recovery from fire insurance and was finally paid off by the Savings Bank. The Savings Bank then foreclosed on Tonstad and sold the property to Affinito.
The Savings Bank was owed at least $313,000 and probably more when it paid off Sollini. It the bank made any money from its mercenary transactions it wasn't much. But Dunham was out from underneath what could have been a $300,000 lending deal gone very bad, and Affinito had himself another piece of prime real estate on the north side of the Noyo to go with his prime piece of real estate on the south side of the Noyo.
* * *
Following the Cliff House fire August 4th, 1987, Affinito received "no hassle" approval from the City of Fort Bragg through its city manager, Gary Milliman. Milliman, also acting as head planner at the time, gave Affinito the go ahead to renovate the Cliff House based on plans partially approved by the City six months before the Cliff House fire. Affinito expanded his new acquisition by 50% during a building moratorium for the south section of Fort Bragg. The moratorium prohibited all businesses from expanding more than 10% of their existing square footage because (ironically) there was not enough water pressure in the City's water lines to comply with fire code requirements for fire suppression.
At the same time Milliman was doing everything for Affinito short of back rubs, he put Sisco and Tonstad through the City regulatory wringer. Milliman refused to sign off on their building permit on various construction items, disconnected Agustino's from water service because it was allegedly "out of compliance" with city codes, conducted hearing after hearing alleging that the business had opened without an occupancy permit or a business license. Already in way over their heads, thanks to Dunham, Milliman now pushed Sisco and Tonstad right over the bluffs and into the river. There is no evidence that the City ever exercised its regulatory muscle as zealously with any other business in Fort Bragg before or since. In fact Affinito's currently non-compliant Cliff House North motel, (built where the Sollini's/ Waterfront/Agustino's used to stand) "approved" by the City in 1991, is now an infamous example of the City's arbitrary regulatory blind eye.
After engineering several subsequent tax funded "business deals" for Affinito, in 1996 Milliman went into the Skunk Train business with Affinito after being removed from his City Manager's job for routing public redevelopment money to a private enterprise he partially owned.
If Affinito had a better friend in Fort Bragg than Gary Milliman, it had to be the Fort Bragg City Council. The fire gods were also good to Affinito.

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The Fort Bragg Fires

by Mark Heimann and Bruce Anderson for the Anderson Valley Advertiser February 3rd, 1999 Edited by Peter J. Mello, December 29th, ...